Urban Seed is a organization that hopes to revolutionize the way we purchase and move fresh produce. Originating in the middle of a desert, Urban Seed’s home base is in Las Vegas, Nevada. This company is attempting to alleviate issues that arise when dealing with a global food system, and have chosen a local, greenhouse based approach. This article will briefly highlight some of the global agriculture issues that Urban Seed sees as problematic and address the relevancy of currently arguments against a local based system. Ultimately, our question lies in wondering if this local, greenhouse based approach will create impact on the limitations of a global agricultural market, and if it is a model that can be applied to a wide array of communities.
While it is not explicitly stated on their website, Urban Seed notes that transportation plays a large part in the global agricultural system. And while transportation is a necessity for a global economy, we can derive a few thoughts from the inefficiency and problems that could arise in this formative stage of the system as a whole. Starting with a plants inception, if it is known that the product will have to go a further distance until it meets its home, there may be several factor that affect how it is grown. There may be some genetic modification that happens to ensure that its color or composition will not deteriorate over the travel time. If it is produce we are discussing, the time that it is harvested may be sooner so that its peak ripening phase does not happen mid transport. Thirdly, the physical mode of transportation often comes at a high cost. This resource from the FAO outlines the details that are required for transportation and may lend more insight as to why certain decisions are made when transportation is concerned.
Post Harvest Production
The restaurant industry often relies on supplier to buy product in bulk, so that they as a smaller entity can pay a lower price for the highest quality foods. The next issue that Urban Seed is addressing deals with the limitations of post harvest production. In taking that step out of the process, they are hoping to foster relationships with local restaurants that can buy their product wholesale. This eliminates nutrition loss, a middle man and moves product from origin to destination at a faster rate.
The above mentioned issues are both rather resource intensive. Urban Seed hopes to lessen agricultural impact in overall resource emissions and reduce the need to source in the ways that now seem to be commonplace.
Is a Local System the Answer?
According to this freakenomics post a “locavore” diet is overall equally, if not more resource intensive than one that the global food market currently offers. It can be equally as challenging to source with local groups according to this report by HBR. How can we be sure that the companies we are using for sourcing are necessarily upholding proper and effective environmental and sustainability practices ?These article assume that we will need to produce the same types of crops as we do now such as corn, soy and wheat. It does not consider a shift in our “cash crop” mentality to one that considers a diverse cropping system that takes in produce that is natural to the local ecosystems. It also does not consider the potential that alternative growing methods such as greenhouses, aquaponics and permaculture based systems.
Ultimately, there is not enough data to say with confidence what the “correct” answer will be, however the approach that Urban Seed is providing is one that creates interesting diversity for future agricultural development.