Indoor Soilless Farming: Phase II: Moving from theory to action

Download the report.

Indoor soilless farming aims to reduce many of the more harmful effects of conventional field farming, including decreasing pressures on land, biodiversity, natural habitat, and climate. However, these indoor farms often have large energy footprints, are still figuring out the best way to support local communities and need support to share experiences and move the industry forward.

In the Phase I Innovation Analysis, WWF looked at how we might address some of these challenges and help bring these systems to scale.

In Phase II, WWF has used that research as a springboard for action. This report describes Phase II activities, including:

  • forming the St. Louis Controlled Environment Agriculture (STLCEA) Coalition;
  • analyzing innovative energy systems utilizing various stranded assets;
  • exploring potential partnerships;
  • soliciting and evaluating proposals from indoor farms interested in building and running a pilot indoor farm;
  • choosing an indoor farm partner to bring an integrated system to the St. Louis region;
  • exploring the feasibility of a Center of Excellence (CoE) on indoor farming in the St. Louis region; and
  • kicking off the CoE’s initial projects and developing a long-term vision.

Midwest cities have plenty of vacant lots. So why can’t urban farmers buy that land?

Read the full story from KCUR.

Urban farmers are trying to buy vacant lots for their farms to bring fresh, healthy food and green space to their neighborhoods, but they face challenges in acquiring that land.

Growing rooftop spinach in CO2 recycled from building ventilation quadruples growth

Read the full story at Anthropocene Magazine.

In buildings with lots of people, CO2 emissions from human respiration is surprisingly high; a research team wondered if HVAC could be unlikely companion to food production.

Forestry leaders scramble to turn massive new funding into trees

Read the full story at Stateline.

Foresters, nursery managers and urban planners have long sought funding to grow more trees, replant burned areas and help marginalized communities prepare for the effects of climate change.

Suddenly, the money isn’t the problem — it’s figuring out how to spend it.

Extreme weather is soaking New York City. Community gardens can help.

Read the full story in the New York Times.

New York’s network of more than 550 community gardens has long been a refuge for cramped apartment dwellers, offering space to grow fresh vegetables and soak up sun and fresh air. Increasingly, they have also become neighborhood outposts in the city’s efforts to control flooding.

Many have added rain gardens and bioswales (trenches with vegetation designed to absorb water), and collected water from sheds, gazebos, pergolas and even the rooftops of neighboring buildings with “rainwater harvesting systems” like the one installed at Mobilization for Change.

What are public food forests?

Read the full post at Sustainable, Secure Food.

Imagine a space in your downtown – no matter the size – where fruit is grown. Planners have intentionally planted woody, perennial plants as key components of a community food production system. That’s a public food forest.

Public food forests can vary in their design. An ideal design would use the vertical space of the forest well. Low shrubs with tall trees. Ground cover could be replaced with herbs.

Each species plays a different role in this type of agroecosystem. These multiple storied polycultures (i.e., growing multiple crops at once in the same space) can optimize yields in a sustainable and regenerative way.

Tomatoes, but not farm workers, gardeners, safe from soil lead

Read the full story from the University of Illinois.

Scientists don’t know much about how vegetables and other crops take up and accumulate lead in real-world settings, but new research in Chicago backyard gardens shows tomatoes are likely safe to eat, even when grown in highly lead-contaminated soils.

The unlikely ascent of New York’s compost champion

Read the full story in the New York Times.

An ad led to Domingo Morales falling in love with compost. A windfall is helping him spread the word.

How public libraries are seeding America’s gardens

Read the full story at Eater. See also the University of Illinois Library’s Seed Libraries Research Guide. If you live in the Champaign-Urbana area, check out the Urbana Free Library’s Seed Exchange.

Seed sharing at public libraries date back to at least 2010, and while no one tracks just how such programs many there are across the, but it’s likely the number has now reached into the hundreds. Many started after the pandemic forced people outside and encouraged them to find ways to be more resilient, especially in how they procure food.

Grow tomatoes, not carrots and other tips for keeping lead out of your garden produce

Read the full story from WBEZ.

Chicago soil can contain high levels of lead and other heavy metals. Check out this guide to making gardening safer.