Food Justice: Are Nanofarms the Future?

(Nanofarms in action. Courtesy of Replantable.)

Entrepreneurs and food justice activists have been cultivating new and innovative ways to get healthy, nourishing vegetables into the hands of urban dwellers and underserved communities. Vertical Farming – for example – could revolutionize the way the basic needs nonprofits acquire stocks to feed those in need through inventive kiosks that grow food in-store (or, potentially, right in the food pantry of a soup kitchen).

A similiar product is currently in the works through a Kickstarter campaign that has raised nearly half of its $50,000 goal.

Two forward-thinking designers in Atlanta founded Replantable, a startup that looks to produce and begin marketing nanofarms that can grow food right in your own home. Through LED lights, the small boxes provide nourishment to greens and utilize unique fabric pads to retain moisture. Better yet, nanofarms provide a way for people to grow healthy foods – including arugula, bok choy, and beets – without the use of pesticides or other chemicals.

The devices only require users to apply water and to trigger a timer. The hands-free operation involves a notification light that helpfully informs the user that plants are ready for harvest.

Ruwan Subasinghe, one of the designers behind the project, has more details:

The nanofarm lets people harvest minutes before eating, and only pick what they’re about to eat. The rest stays alive and growing rather than decomposing and shrinking. Our customers have shown us that they’re able to harvest every last bit of produce from the nanofarm

The nanofarm will sell for about $350, which may seem steep to many consumers. The devices, however, can produce greens for up to five years, and they work during all seasons. Nonprofits and basic needs providers could assist poor communities in procuring nanofarms, delivering constantly renewing, healthy foods to the neighborhoods that need it most.

Vertical Farming: The Future of Basic Needs Nonprofits?

Basic needs organizations may have a new model to emulate that could provide a fresh and constantly renewing source of produce to help those in need.

INFARM, a German firm, has expanded upon the common design of vertical farms which have enabled growers to ship produce over shorter distances. The company’s “Kräuter Garten” is made for in-store use, providing on-site, functional farming to generate fresh produce.

The company’s vision is to create self-sustaining cities, capable of cultivating food sources with out taxing far away land-bases. The implication for basic needs groups could be enormous. If the design proves feasible, then charity organizations could maintain low-cost, renewable food sources to provide healthy produce to those with food insecurity.

While seemingly complex, the system is controlled through a smartphone application, indicating a small learning curve for nonprofit service providers.

As INFARM CEO Erez Galonska remarks,

We believe our food system should be de-centralize and production should get closer to the consumer. This is essential in terms of the impact on the environment as well as for significantly improving the safety and quality of our food.

Those very qualities could make a massive impact on underserved communities, who could benefit from cutting out the production, transportation, and retail steps from the food distribution process, instead enjoying direct access to charity pantries operating vertical farming systems.

Watch INFARM’s informational video below to learn more: 

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