Tech Firm Promises 1500x More Cattle Feed Using 5% of The Water

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The extreme weather effects of climate change are here, with “historic” droughts and “once in a lifetime” floods and fires coming hard and fast. It’s a scary time, but humans are nothing if not adaptable, and one Utah tech firm is hoping we’ll be able to science our way out of drought-fueled food shortages with a new spin on vertical farms that promises fifteen-hundred times (!) the food production of a conventional farm with just 5% of the water use.

That “spin” on what you probably know of vertical farming is a literal one, too. The two-story cylinders at Grōv Technologies’ “Olympus Farms” slowly but steadily rotate squares of wheat or barley grass through a rapid growth cycle that takes the crops from seed to feed in seven days.

Seven days. One week. That’s a timetable just seems staggering, even to someone who considered themselves well-versed in indoor farming and hydroponics!

Image courtesy The Salt Lake Tribune.

In February, tornadoes and ice storms swept across Texas. Millions lost power during the storms, over 200 people died, and the damage claims have exceeded $195 billion (so far!). It was a shitty time to be a Texan, but if there was any kind of silver lining to that damage and the statewide corruption that followed, it’s that a number of previous climate deniers have started to come around, and part of that coming ’round is leading farmers to more efficient systems like this one. “One of our clients is the owner of a big cattle ranch outside of Amarillo, (TX),” said Steve Lindsley, president of Grōv Technologies in Vineyard, Utah. “He lost half his herd in that storm. He said he knew he had to go indoors. “If I can’t keep my animals healthy and safe in Texas anymore, I can’t do it anywhere.”

The beef and cattle industry is huge everywhere, with some estimates putting total beef consumption at 340 million tons, annually. The carbon cost of clearing land for those animals — and transporting their feed! — is well over 5.2 billion tons of green house gasses. As such, it’s easy to see why the beef industry is often pointed to as one of the largest carbon polluters, Utah’s largest dairy farmer is working with Grōv Technologies to demonstrate a more efficient and environmentally friendly way to feed the world. “With this system,” explains Lindsley, “we feed the cows fresh nutritious grass year-round, grown without pesticides, and minimal water and fertilizer with no runoff to rivers or lakes.” With a system like Grōv’s, that grass production can happen on-site, or even underground on the farm, cutting the carbon cost of transporting that feed to zero while greatly minimizing the amount of grazing land needed per cow.

What do you guys think? Is improving efficiencies a better way to cut the cattle industry’s carbon emissions, or will it be easier to keep people away from beef with newer, plant-based substitutes? Scroll on down to the comments section and let us know!

Sources | Images: The Salt Lake Tribune, Fast Company.

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