Is Urban Agriculture Utopian? | The Dirt


Urban agriculture is a phenomenon today,” said Farham Karim, an architectural historian at the University of Kansas, at the Environmental Design Research Association (EDRA) conference in New Orleans. Upwards of 70 million people are now involved around the globe — on Farmville, at least, the popular game app, he laughed. But, in reality, there are many millions involved it in on the ground, too. With all the growing interest, Karim played devil’s advocate, wondering: is urban agriculture scalable? And who is going to be doing all this urban farming? And if we know it’s not a realistic solution for solving the world’s food problems, why the persistent interest?

Food and urban life have been deeply intertwined ever since humans moved into settlements. In the modern era, there have been new conceptions of the relationship. Frank Lloyd Wright came up with his Broad Acre concept, with a “vast suburban landscape” that would be farmed. During World War II, urban agriculture actually took off, as “food production contributed to the wartime food supply.”

In different eras, there have also been “communal self-sufficiency movements.” Karim traced those all the way to contemporary artist and activist Fritz Haegand his Edible Estate project, which aims to “attack the front lawn,” turning it from a useless, decorative object into a productive, agricultural space. Karim said new activists like Haeg “want us all to come together to toil the land.” They seeing gardening in urban areas as a way to “empower social groups and create a strong sense of community” in an age when nature and culture seem in opposition. But Karim also argued Haeg and others promote urban gardens for social benefits are really just like the 20th century avante-garde, creating “idealized prototypes.” Can we go beyond these and create a “useful model for urban agriculture?”

The central plank of Karim’s critique of urban agriculture is that in its promotion, it “mystifies human labor.” Urban agriculture in reality is “sweaty, painful labor.” Engaging human labor in cities over the long-term to farm is not easy, practical, or cost-effective. “Who is going to maintain these farms — a marginalized population? The working poor don’t have time.” Karim concluded that urban agriculture, at least in the West, is for the middle class who volunteer because they have time. It’s a luxury many can’t afford.

Many of Karim’s arguments are contradicted in a fascinating new book, Farming Cuba: Urban Agriculture from the Ground Up by Carey Clouse. She argues that Cuba’s unique model of urban agriculture may provide lessons for the rest of us. “Alternative models for self-sufficiency demand our attention” given that “ending the era of cheap oil threatens global food security” and current industrial food practices.


After the U.S. began its embargo against Cuba and the Soviet bloc fell apart in the late 1980s, leaving Cuba without any trading partners, the country initiated a massive campaign to turn cities into places for not only living and working but also producing food. “In the face of resource scarcity, Cubans responded by rethinking land use, implementing organic farming practices, and developing low-input agricultural systems, and honing techniques for independence on an island without oil.” By 2002, some 86,450 acres of urban Cuban land was being farmed, creating 3.2 million tons of food. In Havana alone, some 12 percent of the city was being cultivated, with 22,000 urban and suburban producers at work.

All that local food production has not only created calories but also boosted resilience, largely because the system is so decentralized. “This is a ground-up movement in which growers have the power to choose the food they produce, the seeds they save, and the land they cultivate, and consumers gain increased control over the quantity and quality of food access.” And all that local control has also increased “social and civic engagement.”

The system of socialist self-sufficiency extends into all aspects of Cuban urban food production. Farmers are using animal traction, organic soil amendments, biological pest control, and “biofertilizers” or “biopesticides,” which are microbial formulations nontoxic to humans.

Clouse does a great job of explaining to the reader all the different farming types, bringing the diversity of the system to life through these clever diagrams. For each type of farm, we learn the spanish and english names, the average size of these places, their prevalence, the products they create, the materials they are made of, and the kinds of people who farm them.

And then photographer Andrew Cook really brings this agricultural infrastructure to life.

Clouse explains that “Cubans hail urban agriculture as a boon for community, occasionally in all too-idealistic terms.” But the reality on the ground, all that “sweaty, painful labor” Karim spoke about, doesn’t come through in this book at all.

06/13/2014 by J. Green

+ artículo publicado en The Dirt


The Livestock Of The Future Will Be Insects | io9

When you think of livestock, cattle, pigs, and sheep are probably the first animals to spring to mind. But it might be time to start thinking smaller. No, not chickens. Even smaller: Insects.

Entomologist, and edible insect expert, Arnold van Huis joined us today to take our questions about why (and how) we would all be adding bugs to our diets in the future, and also gave us a run-down of some of the environmental perks which are move towards “mini-livestock” would bestow.

Ask An Entomologist Whatever You Want About Eating Bugs


Arnold van Huis is a tropical entomologist at Wageningen University in the Netherlands. He’s…Read more

They (as mini-livestock) are much more sustainable than conventional livestock: 1. They have a high feed conversion efficiency because they are cold blooded (e.g. for one kg of beef you need 25 kg of feed and for one kg of edible cricket you only need 2.1 kg of feed); 2) they produce much less greenhouse gases (methane and nitrous oxide); 3) they produce much less ammonia (causing acidification of the environment and eutrophication of waterways); 4) they can convert low value organic side streams into high value protein products.

But their potential use isn’t just as livestock, but also in raising livestock. Or, to put it another way, as food for food:

Concerning insects as feed for livestock and fish, I expect a bright future. Fishmeal, currently used, is getting too expensive (overexploitation of the oceans) and therefore the feed industry is really looking for alternative protein sources. Housefly and Black Soldier Fly are excellent candidates. These species can transform low value organic side streams into high value protein products.

Of course, there’s still the queasiness-barrier to overcome before insects starts to rival chicken or beef for America’s hearts, minds, and stomachs. Though, that time may not be quite so far away. van Huis tells us that in his own blind taste tests, mealworm meatballs are currently beating the traditional version nine to one.

Image: Fried spiders in Cambodia, Mat Connolley

By Ria Misra

+ artículo publicado en io9

Naturopolis – la série | arte

Comment les mégalopoles tentent de se réconcilier avec la nature. En quatre volets, une vaste réflexion sur les défis environnementaux qui nous attendent

Plus de la moitié de l’humanité vit désormais en ville. Parallèlement, la faune et la flore investissent de plus en plus les milieux urbains. Avec une conséquence surprenante : les relations entre les animaux et les hommes n’ont jamais été aussi nombreuses, denses et riches ! Pour la première fois, l’exploration de la biodiversité est placée au cœur de la ville et des activités humaines. Et pour la première fois, la ville est appréhendée au travers de la nature qui s’y déploie. Dans Naturopolis, acteurs, penseurs, scientifiques, rêveurs et bâtisseurs de demain nous invitent à explorer les richesses naturelles méconnues de quatre mégalopoles : New York, Paris, Rio de Janeiro et Tokyo

Réalisateurs : Bernard Guerrini et Mathias Schmitt
Producteurs : Docside Production, ARTE France

+ artículo publicado en arte


Documento marco: Defensa alimentaria: Un reto para el sector agroalimentario |

Mientras que la seguridad alimentaria tiene por objetivo proveer alimentos sanos y seguros frente a la contaminación natural o accidental, el objetivo de la defensa alimentaria es proveer alimentos sanos y seguros libres de contaminantes añadidos de forma intencionada con objetivo criminal o terrorista, por alguien de la organización, o ajeno a ella, ya se trate de agentes NBQ, o cualquier otro tipo de agente físico.
Debido a la amenaza de contaminación intencionada se hace necesario instaurar un Plan de Defensa Alimentaria en la organización o instalación que minimice o anule las amenazas de contaminación intencionada, en cualquiera de sus posibilidades, sobre la cadena alimentaria en todas las fases de producción. Resultando fundamental realizar un análisis de riesgos, así como integrar el concepto de defensa alimentaria dentro del programa de seguridad alimentaria y del programa de autocontrol, identificando y caracterizando los peligros, así como evaluando la exposición y riesgos. Para lo cual se evaluarán las vulnerabilidades de la instalación, así como el grado de concienciación de la organización en todos los niveles, resultando fundamental el uso de herramientas de apoyo a la decisión para alcanzar el objetivo de Defensa Alimentaria.

Documento elaborado por Alberto Cique Moya.

Descargar pdf

+ artículo publicado en ieee-Instituto Español de Estudios Estratégicos

The Soylent Revolution Will Not Be Pleasurable | NYTimes


May 28, 2014

I just spent more than a week experiencing Soylent, the most joyless new technology to hit the world since we first laid eyes on MS-DOS.

Soylent is a drink mix invented by a group of engineers who harbor ambitions of shaking up the global food business. Robert Rhinehart, the 25-year-old co-founder and chief executive of the firm selling the drink, hit upon the idea when he found himself spending too much time and money searching for nutritious meals while he was working on a wireless-tech start-up in San Francisco. Using a process Mr. Rhinehart calls “scientific,” the firm claims to have mixed a cornucopia of supplements to form a technologically novel food that offers the complete set of nutrients the human body needs for survival.

You can live on Soylent alone, Mr. Rhinehart claims, though in practice he said customers would most likely use it to replace just their “staple meals,” by which he meant most of the junk you eat every day to fill yourself up. Mr. Rhinehart argued that Soylent, which costs about $3 per serving, is cheaper, easier to prepare and more nutritious than much of the food that makes up the typical American officer worker’s diet today.


+ artículo publicado en NYT