- 416 949 5944
Urban Farms Organic, Inc. (UFO)
I am an agricultural engineer (PhD from Ohio State University, 2005). As a researcher I experimented with ways to convert organic waste to something useful, or prevent it from being a nuisance. Recycling organic waste is a popular practice, and can be high-performant if it's based on scientific principles.
Science is currently under-utilized in the area of processing organic waste. One example is the the assumption that composting, or vermicasting is the only way to extract nutrients from organic waste. In fact some plant nutrients in food waste are already mineralized, and can be leached from waste in minutes by various methods. Composting and vermicasting remain methods of creating new soil and mineralizing immobilized nutrients in organic waste. They are just not necessary when leaching fertilizer from food scraps in order to grow new food.
Another example of under-utilized science in processing organic waste: if optimal amounts of earthworms (and starting medium) were used in vermicasting systems, these would process waste faster than they currently do. Excel apps that I created bring that fact to light: it automatically calculates optimal proportions of waste, medium and worms, based on daily food waste production rate.
Easy-to-make organic fertilizer will result in more organic urban gardens, which is the goal I like to help achieve. In a recent pop science article (and conference paper) I reviewed the reasons Why Urban Farming Needs to be Organic. In this OMAFRA vermicasting factsheet I summarized facts from earthworm-scientific research, including my Soil Biology and Biochemistry and Biosystems Engineering publications.
Why I do what I do:
Converting organic matter to fertilizer helps make food production more ecologically sustainable, and less dependent on decreasing world-reserves of water and synthetic nutrients (some of which are fossil-fuel based). Recyling organic matter however needs to become convenient, and socially acceptable. It should not require self-sacrifice, or too much time or labor. Currently composters don't fit in urban settings, because of their side-effects. In my start up, UFO, I develop food waste-processing appliances that solve this problem. I hope that the tools UFO creates will increase the popularity of growing organic edible plants in-house. I farming no-longer happens out of sight and out of mind, it will motivate inventors to create technology that simplifies growing food while protecting the environment. If the mainstream gardens, it will also fund a more intensive kind of R