In-Store Vertical Farms Coming to One of Nation's Largest Retailers
From Philadelphia's skyscrapers to the Windy City, vertical farms are sprouting in some of the most unlikely spaces. Soon, you might be able to pluck fresh, vertically grown greens right from your local Target.
According to Business Insider, the big box store is kicking off its vertical farming pilot project in a handful of U.S. stores in spring 2017. If the trials are successful, Target stores across the U.S. will likely start selling vertically-grown leafy greens with the possibility of in-house grown potatoes, beetroot, zucchini, peppers and even rare tomatoes down the line.
The ambitious project is part Target's Food + Future CoLab, a collaboration with MIT's Media Lab and international design firm IDEO, to explore urban farming, food transparency, supply chain issues and health.
"People like to say things like, 'the best strawberries come from Mexico.' But really, the best strawberries come from the climate in Mexico that creates expressions like sweetness and color that we like," said Caleb Harper, director of the Open Agriculture initiative at MIT's Media Lab. "We think there is tremendous opportunity to democratize climate through control-environment agriculture and we look forward to kicking off this work with Target."
In the video below, Harper gives a tour of his "Food Computer" that creates the perfect climate to grow food.
EcoWatch has mentioned previously how vertical farms are an ideal food security solution, especially with Earth's rapidly changing climate and growing population. Produce is usually grown indoors with less water and without pesticides. In some of these indoor farms, produce is grown under LED lights that can mimic outdoor growing conditions and help accelerate plant growth. For swelling cities, vertical gardens help meet the demand for healthy food all year round, and usually with less food-miles to get from farm to plate.
"Down the road, it's something where potentially part of our food supply that we have on our shelves is stuff that we've grown ourselves," Casey Carl, Target's chief strategy and innovation officer, told Business Insider.
As Forbes reported, many industry insiders are exited about Target's new vertical farming initiative.
“Vertical farming is genius," Jasmine Glasheen, publishing editor of Off-Price Retailing Magazine commented on a RetailWire BrainTrust article. “Vertical farms are more resistant to climate changes and storms. Plus, the holistic aesthetic of an organic vertical farm will allow Target to compete for natural foods customers."
“I like the idea," added Paula Rosenblum, managing partner at RSR Research. “Even better, if they structurally could support it, would be growing this stuff on the roofs of the stores."
However, others have commented that this project might be too difficult and expensive to pull off.
"This is not a new idea," said Mel Kleiman, president of Humetrics. "Fiesta Supermarket built a store in Houston more than 30 years ago with a vertical garden. It looked great, got a lot of attention and cost a lot of money. Five years after they opened that store, the garden was gone."
"Good for marketing and PR, but the scalability, execution and ultimately the ROI (return on investment) may prove to be a significant challenge," Peter Sobotta, founder and CEO of Return Logic, wrote. "That said, I like the concept and it is a step in a good direction."
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By D. André Green II
One of nature's epic events is underway: Monarch butterflies' fall migration. Departing from all across the United States and Canada, the butterflies travel up to 2,500 miles to cluster at the same locations in Mexico or along the Pacific Coast where their great-grandparents spent the previous winter.
Millions of People Care About Monarchs<p>I will never forget the sights and sounds the first time I visited monarchs' overwintering sites in Mexico. Our guide pointed in the distance to what looked like hanging branches covered with dead leaves. But then I saw the leaves flash orange every so often, revealing what were actually thousands of tightly packed butterflies. The monarchs made their most striking sounds in the Sun, when they burst from the trees in massive fluttering plumes or landed on the ground in the tussle of mating.</p><p>Decades of educational outreach by teachers, researchers and hobbyists has cultivated a generation of monarch admirers who want to help preserve this phenomenon. This global network has helped restore not only monarchs' summer breeding habitat by planting milkweed, but also general pollinator habitat by planting nectaring flowers across North America.</p><p>Scientists have calculated that restoring the monarch population to a stable level of about 120 million butterflies will require <a href="https://doi.org/10.1111/icad.12198" target="_blank">planting 1.6 billion new milkweed stems</a>. And they need them fast. This is too large a target to achieve through grassroots efforts alone. A <a href="https://www.fws.gov/savethemonarch/CCAA.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">new plan</a>, announced in the spring of 2020, is designed to help fill the gap.</p>
Pros and Cons of Regulation<p>The top-down strategy for saving monarchs gained energy in 2014, when the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service <a href="https://www.fws.gov/southeast/pdf/petition/monarch.pdf" target="_blank">proposed</a> listing them as threatened under the Endangered Species Act. A decision is expected in December 2020.</p><p>Listing a species as endangered or threatened <a href="https://www.fws.gov/endangered/esa-library/pdf/listing.pdf" target="_blank">triggers restrictions</a> on "taking" (hunting, collecting or killing), transporting or selling it, and on activities that negatively affect its habitat. Listing monarchs would impose restrictions on landowners in areas where monarchs are found, over vast swaths of land in the U.S.</p><p>In my opinion, this is not a reason to avoid a listing. However, a "threatened" listing might inadvertently threaten one of the best conservation tools that we have: public education.</p><p>It would severely restrict common practices, such as rearing monarchs in classrooms and back yards, as well as scientific research. Anyone who wants to take monarchs and milkweed for these purposes would have to apply for special permits. But these efforts have had a multigenerational educational impact, and they should be protected. Few public campaigns have been more successful at raising awareness of conservation issues.</p>
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The Rescue Attempt<p>To preempt the need for this kind of regulation, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service approved a <a href="https://www.fws.gov/savethemonarch/pdfs/Monarch%20CCAA-CCA%20Public%20Comment%20Documents/Monarch-Nationwide_CCAA-CCA_Draft.pdf" target="_blank">Nationwide Candidate Conservation Agreement for Monarch Butterflies</a>. Under this plan, "rights-of-way" landowners – energy and transportation companies and private owners – commit to restoring and creating millions of acres of pollinator habitat that have been decimated by land development and herbicide use in the past half-century.</p><p>The agreement was spearheaded by the <a href="http://rightofway.erc.uic.edu/" target="_blank">Rights-of-Way Habitat Working Group</a>, a collaboration between the University of Illinois Chicago's <a href="https://erc.uic.edu/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Energy Resources Center</a>, the Fish and Wildlife Service and over 40 organizations from the energy and transportation sectors. These sectors control "rights-of-way" corridors such as lands near power lines, oil pipelines, railroad tracks and interstates, all valuable to monarch habitat restoration.</p><p>Under the plan, partners voluntarily agree to commit a percentage of their land to host protected monarch habitat. In exchange, general operations on their land that might directly harm monarchs or destroy milkweed will not be subject to the enhanced regulation of the Endangered Species Act – protection that would last for 25 years if monarchs are listed as threatened. The agreement is expected to create up to 2.3 million acres of new protected habitat, which ideally would avoid the need for a "threatened" listing.</p>
A Model for Collaboration<p>This agreement could be one of the few specific interventions that is big enough to allow researchers to quantify its impact on the size of the monarch population. Even if the agreement produces only 20% of its 2.3 million acre goal, this would still yield nearly half a million acres of new protected habitat. This would provide a powerful test of the role of declining breeding and nectaring habitat compared to other challenges to monarchs, such as climate change or pollution.</p><p>Scientists hope that data from this agreement will be made publicly available, like projects in the <a href="https://www.fws.gov/savethemonarch/MCD.html" target="_blank">Monarch Conservation Database</a>, which has tracked smaller on-the-ground conservation efforts since 2014. With this information we can continue to develop powerful new models with better accuracy for determining how different habitat factors, such as the number of milkweed stems or nectaring flowers on a landscape scale, affect the monarch population.</p><p>North America's monarch butterfly migration is one of the most awe-inspiring feats in the natural world. If this rescue plan succeeds, it could become a model for bridging different interests to achieve a common conservation goal.</p>
The annual Ig Nobel prizes were awarded Thursday by the science humor magazine Annals of Improbable Research for scientific experiments that seem somewhat absurd, but are also thought-provoking. This was the 30th year the awards have been presented, but the first time they were not presented at Harvard University. Instead, they were delivered in a 75-minute pre-recorded ceremony.