Agrisource : an Open-Innovation Platform for Climate-Smart Agriculture

With 10% of the world facing food and water scarcity, any viable solution to meet the challenge of global food production must extend beyond field-level problems and encompass a wider, science-based approach.

The main practical problems encountered across the entire seed-to-shelf spectrum are:

–          lack of communication and transparency between the players of agriculture

–          needs for advice, knowledge and actions

–          need of better life cycle evaluations for the value chain.

These problems have also been strengthened in the context of deep climate change.

How to solve the problem?

Agrisource aims at bringing together all actors (businesses, institutions, associations, farmers…), stimulate debates on innovative technologies and technics, and act as a catalyst for new local or international projects. It is a mine of resources for those who seek information, and a network hub for those who come with an idea.

In order to do that, an Open Innovation Platform has been created for the purpose of encouraging a more efficient innovation into the agricultural sector by sharing best practises, experiences, knowledge and information. That may also be seen as a place where to spread and discuss strategies regarding both the reduction of GHGs emissions and the adaptation of the agricultural practises to climate change. At the same time, value chain players may also influence each other in the decision making processes and, finally, share the risks of changing food systems.

Data are collected using specific sensors and intelligent data collection devices, combined with hundreds of other data inputs, including satellite and drone imagery. Multi source data are used to monitor the full spectrum of agricultural and operational activity and solve specific agriculture and business problems (such as increasing brix in grape and sugar cane crops, optimizing irrigation scheduling for water sustainability). In this way, both yield and revenue are increased by improving crop health, food quality and safety, but also wages and profitability.

These data are then combined with advanced artificial intelligence and machine learning. Armed with this information, that provide a full range of economic, climate, infrastructure, and operational insights, officials in government or enterprise farm management teams can optimize water, electricity, nutrient, chemical, and fuel usage and make more informed forecasting and investment decisions in order to maximise the final output.

AgriSource is the Europe’s first open innovation platform for climate-smart agriculture, operating with the support of the CSA Regional Boosters, an original initiative from the European Climate-KIC, that focuses on CSA solutions on specific business areas.

The platform is still young and launching and there’s a lot to do to make it completely intuitive and efficient. The operating team from the INRA, the CIRAD, and the startup eKoal – as the lead developer, Marc Nougier claims in an interview for Daily Planet – is facing the challenges of now spreading the use of AgriSource by all kinds of users and in order to do that, the first step required is that users subscribe, contribute, bring their input… and their feedback on things that can be improved.

European Mobility Week

On the 16th of September was lunched the European Mobility Week!

This year EU will focus on ‘Smart and sustainable mobility’, focusing on the link between transport and economics. The main idea is that having a smarter mobility across our society,  from the public to the private sector, benefits the entire economy.

In 2016 there are 50 countries partecipating, for a total of 2286 cities. You can check here if your city is in the list: www.mobilityweek.eu/2016-participants

Every year the Mobility Week focuses on a particular topic related to sustainable mobility. Local authorities organise activities for their citizens based on the theme. Moreover, they launch and promote permanent measures that support the specific year’s goal.

Why is sustainable mobility important?
From a governamental point of view, better infrastucture, avoided traffic jams, better air quality, fewer cars on our streets, more efficient public transport – the list can continue – mean less managing costs, public money saved and ultimately an economic boost. Having a smarter mobility in your city is a benefit in every aspects, both for the private and the public sector. Indeed, just think that houses’ value in the area with good cycling facilities and efficient public transport tends to be higher; furthermore, children who walk or cycle to school have higer school performances.

So jump on your bikes steamgreeners and make your city smarter and more sustianable.

If need more info, including how to make your city partecipating and possibly winning the EMW award for the city that best implement and encourage smart and sustainable mobility, look at the main website: www.mobilityweek.eu

Sustainability Tips: how to ace September and a new lifestyle!

September is approaching, and to some of us this beginning is at least as heavy as the 1st of January.
After all, a new year, may it be academic or work-related, is about to get started.
If not, vacations are over. And if no vacation had been on sight… it could be high time also for you to stand up for a new beginning. A sustainable one, of course.

 7 New good habits to adopt for a fresh start

 

  • Recycle your cooking water.

    flowers-1291770_1280

    When you boil pasta or even better, vegetables and pulses the habit is the one to throw away the water so easily that we do not even know how many litres  we were handling. Well, on average that amounts at 1 litre for each portion.  Perfect for watering your plants:  they will gain also from the nutrients spread in this enriched water.

  • Tidy up your place.

    Before getting started everything, one way to do it better is to have everything under control. Tidying up your place will let your room be full with good vibes. Furthermore it is a good way to be acknowledged of the amount of objects you own: some of them are useless by now, or even better some were forgotten and be used again instead to consume and buy a similar item.

 

  • Adopt  a plant.

    aloe-vera-918662_1920

    Taking care of the green has been proved to cause relief and relax. It moreover helps us to understand and know a rural world that is very far from our everyday urban life. What is unknown to some, is that plants depurate the indoor air. For example aloe barbadensis emits oxygen during the nighttime and absorbs  formaldehyde, which is a substance that can cause cancer but is part of common items in houses such as insulating parts or paints.

 

  • Walk whenever you can.

    Walking often is a way to exercise, meet new people, get to know the place where you live, do not waste fuel and last but not least it is inspiring.

  • Add an e- to your mail.

    horror-1299193_1280

    having your bills and ordinary mail become electronic is comfortable, practical and most of the time easy. It will not only save paper and trees, but also save your time as it is an immediate exchange of information and it is usually connected with online payment.

  • Download smart apps.

    Apps, if used cleverly can enhance you sustainable lifestyle. For example: Sustainable Canned Tuna is an app released by Greenpeace that helps you recognise a responsible brand when it comes to tuna (some species are critically endangered). Or we already talked about greenApes here.  There are, instead, plenty of apps that helps you with recycling: iRecycle, Differenzia (in Italian), or the game Recycle Ranger.

  • Eat less animals

    We all know that eating meat instead of vegetable based dish can weigh as musch as 10 times (sometimes even more) on the environment in terms of water, pollution and not only.
    So, try to replace some of your meat-based favourites with some new nutrient vegetarian dishes: I suggest you lentils meat-free-balls or easily fried tofu with seal salt on top. Tasty, green and  regret-free!

    So, Let’s go!

When The Food Industry Settles Down in Silicon Valley

 

Just a few data. According to the UN, livestock emits alone the 14.5% of GHGs and occupies the 30% of icefree landmass. Furthermore in order to produce a kilogram of beef it takes 10 of feed, the other components  of the ordinary cattle follow with modesty, still accounting for less than what received.
Yet we all know population is going to hit, according to The Economist’s forecasts , 9 billions humans by 2050. What to carve out of this messy perspective? Economic opportunity according to some California- based visionnaires.

 

The Unbearable Light of Meat

If scrolled along sustainability guides and advices, it is clear, the interested reader will find at first eliminating meat as a necessary step. This is one of the reasons why in the United States 2% of the population is, according to the eminent The Economist, at least vegetarian or vegan. And more and more are required to respond the call if the world we want is a more populated and a sustainable and greener one. The issues is that not everyone is willing to separate eating into utility versus pleasure.  And here comes the role of Startuppers: choosing will not be necessary in the near future.

 Good…Ideas

Groceries by now already offer quite an amount of solutions for veggies to have a ready-to-go solution for hamburgers. Those, however, may meet the tastes and utility of part of that 2%, but for sure not the other 98% of general population. That is why the new start ups in the food industry aim at people who love meat and dairies by achieving to create plant-based products which taste even better than the item they want to emulate.

Impossible Foods  has been working on plant imitations of  cheese and meat for 4 years long, its team numbering biotech and physics experts. The biggest challenge is the one to recreate muscle and fat tissues typical of meat consistency; as a matter of fact they were able to isolate a heme protein from the roots of legumes , in order to recreate at least the meaty tastes.
Impossible Cheeseburger
Beyond Meat is already marketing its chicken strips and burgers, claiming that they have been often mistaken for its real alter egos.

beyond meat
The most revolutionary idea belongs, however to Soylent. Soylent is proposing actually a new no-lifestyle: on the occurrence, the powder sold is to be mixed in water. The outcoming beverage is the meal, providing all the nutrients needed and no recreational break.

soylent

Eat and meat

These ideas are probably not becoming the revolution they promise. A meat lover, after all, would have few reasons to abandon its custom on the basis of what is right; however these entrepreneurs do have quite a merit: the one to try to challenge a cultural barrier, which represents the real wall. Not only: science and intuition have already created cheap  and nutrient solutions to fight the hunger in the world. And not only the future one.

The Sustainable Community! Let’s go Apes

We all well know how much time you like spending on Facebook! Posting pictures of your amazing vacation, or sharing videos and posts! It has been estimated that the global average of time spent on your favourite social network is more than 20 minutes per day!

Today the green column wants to give you an alternative! Of course a GREEN ONE!

Lately I found out this amazing social network: greenApes. You can download the app from your app store or from the website https://www.greenapes.com/en

Basically it works as a normal social network, and even the outline is very similar to its most famous sibling. So it is easy to get friendly with it!

What makes it different is its scope! On greenApes you share your green actions and ideas, such as a vegetarian meal you have cooked or a bike ride to your workplace; you can explore the sustainable venues around you thanks to its map: that helps me to find interesting spots in my city I didn’t know! You can connect with other “apes in the jungle” building your network of environment friendly buddies!

Greenapes

The funny things is that each time you do something sustainable you get rewarded collecting BankNuts that helps you to grow from a small tiny monkey to a earth protector gorilla! Moreover, the special “coins” you earn can be used to have discount in sustainable shops and access to beautiful rewards!

Look to this explanatory video!

The project is expanding very fast and we can all help out sharing this amazing idea with our friends! Just connect and start your journey!

Remember you are not alone in the jungle! 

Sustainability tips: how to behave during SALES.

The second week of sales is about to finish, at least here in Italy.
And while I am wandering along the streets of Milan, a fashion destination recognised worldwide, I spot a lot of buyers with giant bags filled with cheap items. Or, better, cheap thrills?
Because that is the thing that I notice: the moment you buy it, it is all about feeling an evanescent sense of rewarding, that after some time disappears. Not worthy of the amount of pollution emitted in the production process and neither of the waste created thereafter.
But… how to resist cheap occasions to look like your persona, because of your environment and social sensitive side?

Some tips for SA(i)LING adventures.

The most sustainable shopping you can do is of course buying second hand or vintage clothes: check out the thrift stores in your town. Alternatively I suggest you to try etsy.com, an online market place dedicated to handcrafts and vintage.

If those options do not happen to be your case, then:

  1. Before you throw yourself out in the wild, check your closet. Just to have a quick reminder of the things you own, and therefore you do not need. It is so easy to forget, and the best thing you can do to renew value to your belongings is to keep them in your own order, so that everything is under control and the moment you are in a store about to buy a black blouse, you can easily picture the similar one you hang yesterday in your room.
  2. Honestly, skip the fast- fashion stores and brands. They are pure temptations, with prices so low you will not think about what you are buying and why you are doing that.
    Invest in quality: buy less but choose more. An interesting quote I read in  a Banana Republic store resembles like  “Buying something classic will give you a dress that you will wear forever”.  When you grab something that might look like your style, think about:
    – the fabric: is it a good one and suitable to the season you want to wear it? Is it environmentally demanding? Where does it come from?
    – the model: is  it the anthem of the season? So strange and unfitting to the other pieces of yours you are not going to wear it again in the years to come?
    – the company: do you know it? How do they produce? Do you like their philosophy?
    Ultimately, try to think about the use of it: what you are going to match, how long you think it is right to make clothes last. What are you going to do in the years to come? Think about your lifestyle.
  3. Choose to pay more. This way you will buy less, stay focussed on choosing, and you will enjoy and appreciate your purchases longer and better.
  4. Remain true to yourself and beliefs.


The Golden Rule

However, what is really making the difference it to reuse and repair, as SteamGreen already enlighted in this article. So do yourself  a favour: find yourself a good tailor. He will be your best  environment-friendly friend: your old clothes will be renewed and the vintage clothes will be refreshed. Accompanied with a lot of satisfaction, throughout the whole year. So long sales!

DIVE…sting

It is a a few days’ a go news that Cambridge University declined its students’ and staff’s  call to divest the fossil fuel industry while Catholic Church Orders are increasingly doing the opposite, encouraged by Pope Francis’ second encyclical “Laudato Sì”, published one year ago.

 

What is Divesting?

Divesting is actually nothing more than the opposite of investing: just taking own money away from a financial product. It has become popular since it  has been associated to the bigger fossil fuel free campaign:  this people movement claims that big private companies in the sector are one of the main contributors of climate change, therefore one strategy to counteract it is to stop the financial support to them.  There are two ways of doing so: individually re-manage own financial portfolio or asking within a bigger movement, through petitions and protests, to determining  investors to modify their behaviour.
in fact, it is  very much probable that your actual money is currently being put into fossil fuel industry. You would not define yourself an investor, but your bank account or your university fee may have been reinvested in such a manner, accordingly to the institution’s policy, without your explicit consent.

 

Scenario

Recent debate has shed light also to the strictly financial concern: as it has been estimated that 2/3 of the existing fossil fuel reserves need to be kept in the ground in order to be able to stay within the boundary of +2° C, money needs to be gradually redirected to other sectors. Except that it is not happening.
The picture below shows the trend till 2013, but the fossil fuel share is still accounting for the majority on a global scale nowadays, according to IEA.

IEA data on investment in different sources of energy
Taken from IEA

 

Ultimately there is the threat of a financial bubble, that sooner or later will burst, probably causing unexpected and disastrous phenomena (as in 2008 with the mortgage one) to the whole economic system.

However

The divestment campaign still remains a people’s movement for the people, hence it is about casting  a moral and political message, more than an economic and financial strategy.
As a study published by Oxford University (http://www.smithschool.ox.ac.uk/research-programmes/stranded-assets/SAP-divestment-report-final.pdf) proved, this aim is to be confirmed in the consequences: the divestment campaign is about mining the reputation and the licence to operate of dirty industries. No direct consequences are probable on debt or equity.

The Effects of Divesting according to a study of Oxford University
The Effects of Divesting according to a study of Oxford University

Taking action

There are plenty of initiatives on the web in order to actively contribute to the flow. One of them is “Move your money” (http://moveyourmoney.org.uk/good-money/)  which helps you to contact your bank and ask information, lobby a change  and possibly redirect your savings.

 

You used to call me on my…UNfairphone!

Agbogbloshie.

This is the name of a city in Ghana, whose big part of livelihood is based on the electronic waste – e-waste-  management.  Typically,  a few km away of a soccer field, there is a slum where the e-waste boys  are burning wires in order to get some copper and re sell it.
Agbogbloshie is not alone: developing countries are fastly becoming pollution havens, because the world still doesn’t know how to efficiently manage the quantity and the quality of the e-waste produced.

kg of ewaste per capita (source: Un University)
Kg of e-waste per capita (source: Un University)

In 2016  each citizen threw away 6,3  kg of technology  which was either unused or misfunctioning.
Environmentally speaking it actually  does not make any relevant difference, because the tech device or its components are so precious and costly that it is pretty much logical to recover and give them a second life. Only that, economically speaking it is very much logical to export it to developing countries where legislations on the safety of workers managing hazardous wastes is inadequate.  Greenpeace reports that in 2005 inspections of 18 European seaports found as much as 47 percent of waste destined for export, including e-waste, was illegal.
And here we come back to Agbogbloshie and co.,where you can find along the streets  locally repaired printers flown there from Rome, toxic ground waters and  e-waste boys bearing a cancer.

 

Changing the world, one device at a time

What us consumers can do in order to counteract this stiggering phenomenon is to:

  • Repair misfunctioning devices
  • Reduce our i-tech expenditure, and do it smartly

    Source: ifixit.com
    Source: ifixit.com

 

When it comes to repairing even dummies (falling in the cathegory the writer here) have a chance thanks to the amazing project of iFixit, which is  a  Californian company whose mission is the one to teach the world how to repair everything: on fixit.com  20k+ opensourced manuals are available for free, while they gain on the store which sells repairing kits and tools.

However, if you are planning to change your device there are some interesting alternatives you may consider. Fairphone is a hot topic and one of them.

fairphone

The Dutch company defines itself as a social enterprise, which produces smartphones improving the electronics value chain focusing on

  •  Mining,  integrating as much as possible responsibly mined materials
  • Designing, based on modularity
  • Manufacturing,  caring for workers
  • LCA (Life Cycle Analysis),  getting it easy to use, resuse and recycle
  • Social entrepreneurship, through CSR disclose, engage and show consumers how it all gets done.

Fairphone 2 was recently released and we asked one of its users to give us his eminent opinion.

Maicol Urbinati, from the MAKERN association in Rimini (http://www.makern.it), who is doing an awesome work to spread the word in Rimini about technological innovation, Open philosophy and Do It Your Self:

For years now, through my activism in several movements ( zeitgeist , transition town , decrease happily , purchasing groups ) and the Association MakeRN  I have been carrying out a battle for a more ethical and sustainable economy and against the planned obsolescence of products , particularly in the technology sector , which are designed to break and to be changed frequently in order to let the companies increase their market shares . Hence,  as soon as I heard about the project of an ethical smartphone I had my eyes blinking! However I did not buy the first version, since then  I got  my own fully functional smartphone.

And so how has been your experience with FP2 so far?

 To convince me was the fact that in addition to the ethics behind it, there is its modularity logic: its  pieces  are easily replaceable and interchangeable and even replacing the screen does not need any screwdriver but just opening   two clips and remove it! This will also keep updated the hardware part of the smartphone without having to replace it entirely with another to keep up with the times,  but simply by updating the form that interests us, and this should provide a lifetime of at least 5 years! In such a way the seemingly high price is more than justified and it becomes a really great investment. Another positive note is that its original back cover protects the screen already and it does not need any additional of it, so you are saving resources while respecting the environment. Additionally, I must say that the smartphone works well and even a few days ago they released the software (based on Android) with an open source license, which would enable the online developers’ community  to improve it further and make it even more efficient and powerful!

What can you ask for more?

Flydende By – Copenhagen Floating City

North-west Copenhagen, a huge warehouse. Tons of material, iron sheets, old clothes, an electric organs. Add a creative and highly motivated bunch of people and what you have is the Floating City.

Fydende By, translated in Floating city, is a climate project started in 2008 in a scrapped candy factory. Less than one year ago this small community was evicted by the Copenhagen Council. Still this did not stop it, and now it carries on its project in a new location close to the recycling center of the capital. A perfect sites to have more resources to work!

But what do they do there? At a first glance what you see is just a lot (a lot!) of wasted materials, old things. Yes, the type of “”Stuff” the majority of us will trash. However, with some inspiration, a screwdriver and colourful paint, this guys give to this forgotten objects new life. Their aim is to create a sustainable society from below. They have built crazy and spectacular floats, Arks, with newly developed and inspiring methods of building. With a revolutionary technical methods mixing fibre enforced concrete and recycled materials – all of this is done with their own hands!

The Floating City is also actively involved in the food recycle. Thank to some “trash-divers”, they collect huge amount of food from supermarkets’ bins and than distribute it to the homeless people of the city and the local social canteens. You will not believe what they could find in the garbage! And this seriously hit my mind! How much food do we squander everyday!

P1260647 cropped web
The Pancake-Bike

 

 

To support their project, the people of this laborious community also organise work-shops, and work out small activities like selling pancakes with the Pancake-Bike.

 

 

 

 

Their dream,  however, is threatened again by an eviction notice. As in the area the council is planning to build a new residential area, close to the channels, the presence of this “outsiders” is not welcomed.

Obviously the experiment of new ways of producing and living in a sustainable status faces always some barriers, even in one of the most sustainable city of Europe.

Our hope is that Floating City will expand its network and the number of people involved, as it carries out its gigantic life-changing project.

For more info visit www.facebook.com/flydendeby/timeline and if you are in Copenhagen just pass by!

 

Music and Sustainability – a loyal and fruitful link

Sustainability, sustainability everywhere.
That could be the incipit of  the nightmare of an oil tycoon. Or maybe it is just the reality.
How come that the latest Coldplay music videos are starring more and more natural assets? Why does Jack Johnson ask directly to his fans to commit for the protection of environment?
But above all, what is happened to the Michael Jackson’s Thriller mood of music industry?

Madonna in Material Girl Video
Madonna in Material Girl Video

 We are all intellectual Material Girls

The easy answer to these question is: men are sons of their time.
Hence when Madonna popped up with Material Girl in 1984, asking on the phone for expensive diamonds’ necklaces, wearing  a snow white fur (for sure not eco-friendly!)  and stealing from the pockets of his various boyfriends, she was just performing an economic analysis! In fact, 1984 the US were experiencing finally a moment of relaxation, after holding a long breath throughout the end of the 70’s with a discrete economic recession and  an oil price crisis in ’79. Back then  was time for Reagan election,  deficit spending and corporate earnings. Sweet sweet 80s.
As a consequence it is natural that music, as a form of art and communication is expressing the human commitment towards the environment. After all, Paris Agreements have reached a major objective: spreading the word of climate change. And Princeton University published a paper  estimating that the two  major predictors for climate change awareness are education and access to means of communication.
So green music equals good news,  isn’t it?

Green Music Washing

Easy answers are often incomplete answers.
Not only art is the result of the historically epoch artist are living in, art is a  business.
If not, given the time we are living in our songs should mostly depict and treat fear of terrorism and protection for the environment. Indeed Rihanna released her video Bitch Better Have My Money starring a very much fancy and lush life.
By the way, also Coldplay sponsored the expensive Beats by Dr. Dre Speakers in between their natural videos. Is it just reducing to a commercial strategy,  pretending  to act green while it is just a marketing move? Certainly not.
However it is an undeniable tendency. Take Coldplay: they were born as an alternative brit-rock band, and now they are hitting the tops  with every single, that ultimately, look alike everytime.
From an article of John Harris at The Guardian: after the terrorist attack in NYC of 2001(ndr) “Almost every Coldplay record since has dealt in much the same qualities: reassurance, redemption, an insistence that what it is to be human will somehow see us through…their songs seem to become lighter and more blithely optimistic in direct proportion to the troubled nature of the world. The worse everything gets, in other words, the more they seem driven to reassure us, in language often so banal it beggars belief.”. An addictive pill?

Silver Linings

The United Nations in 2010 established the Music & Environment Initiative which aims to leverage the power of music to address some of the most pressing environmental problems facing the planet, bringing together musicians who want to be part of the solution. So, music is considered also by the of the most influential global institutions part of the solution.
However, the link between environment and music leads us to another bittersweet truth: market is the invisible hand, setting the scene,  once again. So listening to green music could  be a benefit as it is influencing at least positively contemporary philosophy. Nevertheless one must also check the consistency to this commitment: are the practices of music production sustainable?
Music industry accounted in 2015 for 48.1 billion $ in revenues (Pwc datas); no data on sustainability in this sector are available. Imagine how much of an impact would be making that amount of money sustainably.
To have an hint check out Jack Johnson’s campaign. Making alternative music… is still possible.