Thursday, September 30, 2010

Income Levels and Food Production/Person

This amazing website, Gapminder, has assembled hundreds of thousands of pieces of data into a massive database where you, the user, can compare just about anything you want against just about anything else you want.  Was that clear enough?  If not, check out the website--it's definitely worth it to play around with the graphs yourself. 

Here's one I came up with. (Follow the link, then click the "Play" button in the bottom left hand corner of the graph.)

If this whole operation works how it's supposed to, then the graph you're looking at show the income per capita on the X-axis versus the net production per captia of food--countries USA, India and China are in yellow, blue and red, respectively, each one's 2005 population level reflected in the size of its bubble.  Get used to these graphs, because I'm  sure I'll be coming back to Gapminder again to find some more interesting stories. 

Next graph idea: by country and year, $ spent on fertilizers versus $ spent on crop insurance.  Can a graph highlight the economic wastefulness of our present food system?  I'll come back to this tomorrow.

If you have any good ideas for using Gapminder, please, share them in the comments section below...

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Boat + Botanic = ?

(Photo from David Report and also here.)

I just caught wind of Boatanic, a company created, as its website puts it,
...When [we] were walking around Amsterdam and realised that the typical tourist boat resembles a greenhouse. What if you replaced tourists with basil or tomatoes? The Boatanic was born.
Sounds great to me.  Why don't we float some greenhouses down our canals?  And while we're at it, let's power them with sun and wind energy, and maybe even integrate the food float with one of Mitchell Joachim's River Gyms.  Anyway, let's keep these good ideas flowing, and let's get some deep pockets convinced that creativity in food production is what it's going to really take to propel our species into the future.  We might be fine today, but if McDonald's wins over vertical farms and greenhouse boats, our grandchildren will never know the beauty of real food

What do you think?  How much would you pay to float through Amsterdam on one of these greenhouse boats?

Wednesday, September 1, 2010


The FAO of the United Nations has recently launched a campaign to get people riled up about the one billion stomachs that don't get enough to eat. 

If you want to sign the petition (like I did), head on over here and make your voice be heard.

(Caveat: with all its resources, this viral campaign is the least the UN FAO can do to stop the terrible, terrible inequity which is the 21st Century hungry human.)

Guest Blogger Series: Intelligence at the Supermarket

Leading up to the release of the book (available for pre-order on, the Vertical Farm Blog will be accepting guest blog entries via email ( from our readers around the world.  The only condition is that your submission has to touch on some aspect of vertical farming--be it multi-use buildings or conscientous shopping choices--and it would be great if you could include pictures (people love pictures). 

The first article in our series is written by Dan Grifen, a blogger over at Everything Left.  Take it away, Dan.

Sustainability Through the Consumption of Things Conserved
"In other environmental issues we tell people to stop something, reduce their impact, reduce their damage," - US Ecologist Gary Nabhan

Since the beginning of the green movement, there has been a rise in the number of organizations and businesses that are doing their part in the promotion of sustainability through conservation. As human beings, we're told to reduce our carbon footprint, consume less unhealthy foods, and spend less time in the shower! But let's take a minute to step back and look at this from a different perspective; one that Gary Nabhan strongly suggests.

Gary Paul Nabhan, PhD., is a Arab-American writer/conservationist whose extensive farming work in the U.S./Mexico borderlands region has made him world renowned. Specifically speaking, Nabhan is known for his work in biodiversity as an ethnobotanist. His uplifting messages and attitude towards life and culture has granted us access to multiple beneficial theories including his latest of eat what you conserve.

According to The United Nations' Food and Agriculture Organization, about three quarters of the genetic diversity of crops been vanishing over the last century and that a dozen species now gives 90% of the animal protein eaten globally. In accordance, just 4 crop species supply half of plant based calories in the human diet.

Nabhan claims that by eating the fruits and vegetables that we are attempting to conserve/save, we're promoting the granular dissemination of various plant species. But this goes beyond what we typically buy in supermarkets, particularly because of price and abundance. We must remember to try new things and immerse ourselves in the very concept of diversity. Keep in mind- the benefits of splurging for that costly fruit/vegetable supremely outweigh the cons. Not only are you promoting biodiversity and further eliminating the needs of farmers to remove rare, less purchased crops off their agenda, but you're also effectively encouraging healthier lifestyles.

Agriculturist Marco Contiero mentioned, "Biodiversity is an essential characteristic of any sustainable agricultural system, especially in the context of climate change."[1] With sustainable crop efforts being lead by the CGI (Clinton Global Initiative) and the IRRI (International Rice Research Institute) the duo plans to provide a more sustainable crop that can withstand natural disasters, avoiding food shortages like Haiti is experiencing. Contiero goes on to state "We need to ensure this is the basis for the future…" – This is exactly what Doug Band, the CGI, and the IRRI are doing by engaging in sustainability efforts.

So remember, next time you're in the supermarket picking out a common varietal of navel oranges or strawberries, turn your attention to something that's a bit more exotic in nature. The same goes for salads/salad ingredients; shop outside the norm, picking spices and vegetables that you wouldn't normally incorporate into your everyday diet. During such economic downtime it isn't always easy to maintain the same level of grocery shopping intrigue, but we must also not forget that in this sundry of foods we can find fun!

Dan Grifen – Supporter of all things green and progressive.