Sunday, March 20, 2011

Rooftop Farming

I love crazy ideas. Especially crazy ideas that have the potential to make the World a little better.

What can be better than green rooftops? Green rooftops that you can eat.  

Hats off to Mohamed Hage and his team at Lufa Farms in Montreal.

They built a 31,000 square foot greenhouse on top a Montreal office building where they grow 25 varieties of vegetables and plants without using pesticides or herbicides of any type.

The farm uses a variety of hydroponic and drip farming techniques and by doing so, gives the plants exactly what they need for optimum growth and results in the same crop yields of a farm more than 10 times its size.

The farm also incorporates many energy and sustainability features – among them: collecting rainwater for use on the farm, recirculating all irrigation water, and providing an energy-saving shield to the office building below.

Here's why they decided to become urban farmers:  
We concluded that the fundamental problem getting fresh food was that food is often grown far away from where it is eaten. This meant that our food – whether grown in Quebec or in South Africa – would be handled, packaged, shipped, stored, refrigerated and reshipped perhaps dozens of times before it could appear on our dinner plates. And all along the way, it would become less fresh, less nutritious, less tasty, and be exposed to more potential hazards. The obvious truth was that it would be almost impossible to be truly fresh. 

Our vision is a city full of rooftop farms.  Some see our farm as small, but we have discovered that it has a big potential. It does more than grow vegetables. It allows land previously lost to urban development to be farmed again. Its year-around farming operations help and the roofs they protect will combat the warming of our cities. It minimizes the distance, time, and handling of food between you and us and it allows us to grow traditional and highly nutritious produce instead of only semi-tasteless varieties that ship and store well. Not least, it directly involves the consumer in a relationship with a local farm.

And there's another very good reason to grow more food locally: reducing transport.

1. This gives fresh, local and organic food an advantage over food imported from halfway over the World.
2. It reduces pollution emanating from transport.
3. It significantly reduces future transportation costs.

Let me explain. The price of gas will go nowhere but up in the future as we have passed World Peak Oil Production in 2005. Oh, sure, there is plenty of as left. Maybe for another 30 to 50 years, but it's farther, deeper and of lesser quality than what we've been extracting so far thus, it will be more expensive. 

I bet that in the near future, we'll see more and more urban farmers.

Saturday, March 12, 2011


All men dream: but not equally.
Those who dream by night in the dusty
recesses of their minds wake in the day
to find that it was vanity: but the dreamers
of the day are dangerous men, for they may
act their dreams with open eyes, to make it

- T.E. Lawrence, The Seven Pillars of Wisdom

Sunday, March 6, 2011

The Greatest Tool In The World Has No Owner's Manual

"The brain is the most complicated material object in the known universe. If you attempted to count the number of connections, one per second, in the mantle of our brain (the cerebral cortex), you would finish counting 32 million years later. But that is not the whole story. The way the brain is connected – its neuroanatomical pattern – is enormously intricate. Within this anatomy a remarkable set of dynamic events take place in hundredths of a second and the number of levels controlling these events, from molecules to behavior, is quite large." – Nobel laureate Dr. Gerald Edelman, director of the Neurosciences Institute

When I was a kid, we were told that the average human used less than 2% of his brain's real capacity. Looking at the World today, it think it might be even less.

However, we can try to do better. And with that idea in mind, the compulsive reader that I am has read a couple of books on the subject.

Here are three that stand out and can help you learn a little more about your brain and how to use it more efficiently. They are he closest we have to an owner's manual.

1. Making a Good Brain Great - Daniel G. Amen

2. Brain Rules - John Medina

3. Seeking Wisdom, From Darwin to Munger - Peter Bevelin

Read them. You'll be AMAZED.

And please, spread the word.

If enough people make an effort, maybe we can reach 3%...