Posted by Andrew McGuire | November 16, 2016
There is a new style of urban agriculture appearing around the world. The efforts differ in details, but they all use buildings or structures not originally designed to grow plants – no greenhouses. Carried out in old shipping containers, warehouses, and high-rises, perhaps even in an old factory or two, these “farms” bring agriculture fully indoors. Without sunshine, these farms rely on artificial lights shining on plants 24 hours a day in some cases. Without soil, plants sit in plastic pipes, or float on polystyrene rafts, stacked in tiers. Without rain, nutrient enhanced water is cycled to the plant roots through piping, pumps and filters. Without wind, fans provide ventilation, ducts and vents deliver heated or cooled air for year-round production.
All this requires energy. These farms are plugged in, reliant on outside power. Outdoor farm fields are off the grid, at least for the production portion of the food chain. Even a continuous corn crop, the scorned example of “industrial” agriculture, is not affected by a blackout. While an outdoor “industrial” crop is still subject to the biological realities of crop growth cycles and seasons, crop production in these indoor farms can be sped up and streamlined. All it takes is lots pipes and tanks, cables and lights. Read more »
Explore Anaerobic Digestion investment options before investing a cent! A Quick Introduction to the AD System Enterprise Budget Calculator
Posted by Gregory Astill | March 10, 2016
Gregory Astill, PhD Economics, Economic Research Service, U.S. Department of Agriculture. The views expressed are the author’s and do not necessarily reflect those of the Economic Research Service or the USDA.
Ever struggled with deciding whether to invest in new technology, and which of a range of technology options would be a better fit to your operation? The Anaerobic Digester (AD) System Enterprise Budget Calculator is a tool that is intended for dairy owners, AD system industry experts, and AD researchers to explore such options. The tool will calculate the net present value of your investment in an AD system, under specific technology and price scenarios. And though we cannot guarantee that you will achieve the results generated by this tool, you can explore the economic benefits of different AD technologies. Just make sure that all price, input and output quantities, and other details accurately reflect your unique situation. Read more »
Posted by Jaimi Lambert | January 14, 2016
This year CSANR sponsored registration for several WSU students to attend Tilth Producers of WA annual conference. We will be posting reflections written by the students over the next several weeks. Please feel free to comment and give these students your feedback.
I am currently a graduate student at WSU earning a Master of Science degree in Agriculture. My focus is on sustainable agriculture and soil science, so having the opportunity to attend the Tilth Producers of Washington annual conference was very exciting!
I was able to attend many interesting workshops including one discussing water use and irrigation management given by Dr. Troy Peters – a WSU Extension Irrigation Specialist/Associate Professor in Prosser, WA. I looked forward to this workshop expecting to learn more about current water management knowledge and practices that I could use to help develop my fledgling research proposal that, if funded, would be my project for a PhD. Well, I did learn basic irrigation set-ups, uses and maintenance tips for water use efficiency. I also realized that water use and management is connected to other sustainability issues, like energy use and food production. Read more »
Anaerobic digestion can be an excellent tool to convert waste into renewable energy; so why isn’t everyone using it?
Posted by Shannon Mitchell | December 2, 2015
For those of you less familiar with the terminology anaerobic digestion, let me first introduce this process. Anaerobic digestion (AD) is one option to treat concentrated organic waste streams, such as sewage sludge, manure, and food processing waste. The process is driven by anaerobic microorganisms, which means that microbes decompose the waste material while growing and reproducing in an environment void of oxygen. These organisms will die if oxygen is present. Anaerobic digestion is like composting, but instead of maintaining a good aerobic (with oxygen) compost pile, the organic waste is put in a completely sealed container void of oxygen (for more detail see the new WSU Fact Sheet: Mitchell et al., 2015). Read more »
Dairy Waste Biorefineries: An Innovative Way to Further Reduce Greenhouse Gases on Dairies in Washington State
Posted by Nicholas Kennedy | September 3, 2014
Washington State, 10th in milk production nationally, is also at the top of the list for greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions produced from dairy cattle. According to the latest statistics by the EPA, in 2012 Washington State ranked 8th in methane (CH4) emissions from dairy manure management and 12th in nitrous oxide (N2O) emissions (EPA, 2014). Understanding the effect the dairy industry has on climate change has led the state to leverage its many public research institutions and agencies including the Washington State Department of Agriculture (WSDA), Washington State Department of Ecology, and Washington State University’s Center for Sustaining Agriculture and Natural Resources (WSU CSANR) to help dairy farmers better manage and mitigate GHG emissions on large scale dairies also known as concentrated animals feeding operations (CAFOs). Read more »
Posted by Chad Kruger | August 28, 2014
A new paper published in Environmental Science & Technology (DeLucia et al., 2014) suggests that scientists have drastically underestimated the earth’s theoretical potential to produce biomass – by as much as 2 orders of magnitude! That’s going to take a minute to wrap my mind around.
Posted by Craig Frear | August 11, 2014
Nobel Peace Prize recipient and Director of the Purdue University Climate Change Research Center, Dr. Otto Doering, recently gave a keynote speech where he highlighted his definition of Wicked Problems facing the globe and the US.
In brief, he used US struggles regarding affordable health care and the debate regarding the Affordable Health Care Act as a prime example of a Wicked Problem. Regardless where one might stand politically on such an issue, it is clear that the issues of affordable health care and potential policy solutions are of great importance to many, with its tentacles reaching into vast and diverse sectors of our society. No clear consensus on how to solve the problem appears to be present, due to the complexities and interrelationships involved. In particular, solutions can be shown to result in a cascade of unknown consequences, either positive or negative, with individual stakeholders holding a diversity of economic, personal and social viewpoints. Read more »
Posted by Georgine Yorgey | July 2, 2014
There are a number of sustainability issues getting a fair amount of attention these days: climate change, regional and local food systems, and soil health, to name a few. While this is obviously good, there are also issues that may be getting somewhat less attention than they deserve. And closing the nutrient loop is one of these. Read more »
Posted by Craig Frear | January 22, 2014
In recent years, increasing numbers of consumers have become interested in making sure the food system is more sustainable. However, the bulk of effort and attention has gone toward the part of the food system that leads up to their forks. Much less attention has been paid to the “post-fork” part of our food system. This part of the food system is big. In 2008, food losses were estimated to be 30% at the retail and consumer levels in the U.S., with a total estimated retail value of $165.6 billion (Buzby and Hyman 2012). Other estimates are similar, ranging from 25–40%. Read more »
Posted by Chad Kruger | June 18, 2013
The fertilizer plant explosion in Texas a few weeks back provided a stark reminder of one of the downsides of energy technology – that they can be dangerous. More recently, a “backyard” entrepreneur in Washington State discovered the same while experimenting with hydrogen fuel – though thankfully with no loss of life. As reported in the Bellingham Herald.
While one of the frequently celebrated aspects of many renewable fuels is the potential for decentralized, local (and even home-based) production, please let these recent stories be a reminder that experimenting with any source of energy or fuel, even a renewable, can be extremely hazardous. If you are uncertain about what you are doing, it would be best to exercise caution.