Written by Tinia Pina
The question has always been there: city life or country life? However, in the 1850’s, in response to a rising urban population and as a result of improved transportation methods, the suburbs began to sprawl out from large metropolises. Now, roughly 80 percent of Americans live in urban areas. Yet, the demand for closed-loop food processes continues to increase. Urban area citizens still want access to sustainable and healthy food systems.
Defining Closed-loop Systems
By definition, a closed-loop system is one in which the operation is regulated by feedback. To clarify, feedback, in this sense, means that a portion of the output is fed back into the system to act as part of the excitation. The output cannot exist independent of the feedback.
Closed loop food systems produce high-quality, healthy foods using less energy and less water. When locally-sourced, their production and sale contributes positively to local economies and develops pride within the community.
Agrihoods and Access to Healthy Food
Enter agrihoods: the community feeling of suburbia mixed with the progressive thinking of the city, sprinkled with the splendor of the country. There are several reasons people are drawn to this style of living. First and foremost is access to locally grown, sustainable food. A close second is the closed-loop process: the inhabitants enjoy the crop and the remains are composted for use as fertilizer. There is an eloquent beauty in the cyclical nature of closed-loop food processes.
In addition to providing a sustainable, locally-sourced food, agrihoods provide steady work for farmers who gain access to affordable farm land in exchange for their services. Most farmers rarely enjoy a steady salary; this is not true for those employed by agrihoods. Most earn a salary of $35,000 to $100,000 annually and receive free or reduced housing.
While these little utopias are springing up all over the country, they remain out of reach for many Americans that either cannot afford the amenity of living in a neighborhood with a resident farmer or who simply prefer to live in the bright lights.
However, the opportunity for a closed-loop food process can exist even in the middle of Manhattan, giving urban areas access to healthy food. Soilless systems provide a closed-loop, sustainable method of food production that is as valuable to communities as it is to farmers. Soilless systems can be established indoors or out and can take on any size. Additionally, it requires less water to produce foods in a soilless system than in a traditional, soil-based system because water is continuously circulated; not lost to runoff.
Soilless Systems Provides Healthy Food Access for Urban Areas
Recent studies have shown that indoor, soilless systems require up to 90% less water than traditional farming methods. By keeping the plants at optimum conditions throughout the growth cycle, they are better able to utilize nutrients and produce more fruits and vegetables per a gallon of water used.
Consumers reap the benefits of locally-sourced, organically grown produce while farmers enjoy a sustainable production method. These systems remedy some of the challenges presented to those that attempt to bring in healthy, locally-sourced produce to urban areas; such as zoning and infrastructure.
However, what has been missing in most soilless systems is true feedback. The fertilizers and growth nutrients used in most systems are petroleum derived and chemical based. They are produced in a lab and have nothing to do with repurposing food waste. They fail to take advantage of the nutrients that exist in the food waste.
Access to high-quality, bio-derived agricultural materials is challenging, especially for farmers and hobbyists that utilize alternative growth methods. Re-Nuble was developed to meet this need. Re-Nuble products are 100% bio-based, sourced from vegetative food waste, meaning that everything that goes into making Re-Nuble comes from plants; there are no petroleum-based ingredients. As we continue to carry out our own R&D, we hope to identify even more ways to help soilless farms regulate their operations through feedback, providing urban areas with access to healthy food.