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Design Food

Beehive Fences in East Africa Protect Farms from Elephants

December 7, 2015

Christopher Jobson

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All photos courtesy The Elephants & Bees Project / Lucy King

When trying to protect farms in east Africa from elephants, it would seem that nothing short of a giant reinforced fence or a chasmic ditch could safely keep the largest land animals on Earth away without causing harm. Unfortunately, building such barriers around every field is impractical, and the interactions of people protecting their crops frequently leads to accidents or even death of both farmers and elephants. But zoologist Lucy King had a much smaller idea: bees.

It turns out elephants are terrified of bees because when the insects sting the inside of their trunks the pain is excruciating and there’s little they can do about it. The sound of buzzing alone is enough to make elephants leave an area immediately. King wondered what might happen if a string of suspended beehives at every 10 meters around a field might be enough to keep elephants away. A pilot program in 2009 proved widely successful and soon The Elephant and Bees Project was born.

There are now active beehive fences in Kenya, Botswana, Mozambique, Tanzania, Uganda, and Sri Lanka. Not only do the fences help pollinate crops and safely deter elephants, they also become an additional revenue stream for farmers who harvest honey and sell it locally, a fascinating example of interspecies landscape engineering.

The Elephant and Bees Project is currently trying to raise funds to greatly expand the program. You can make a donation here. (via Neatorama, Nag on the Lake)

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Art

Artist Stan Herd Plants a 1.2-Acre Field Inspired by Van Gogh's 1889 Painting "Olive Trees"

September 23, 2015

Christopher Jobson

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We’ve seen a number of interesting projects lately that attempt to bring art from inside museums into the outdoors. Artist Stan Herd has been doing just that for years by using fields as his canvas for both original compositions and interpretations of historical art. His latest work is a monumental 1.2-acre interpretation of Van Gogh’s 1889 Painting “Olive Trees” planted in Minneapolis. The piece was commissioned by the Minneapolis Institute of Art and involved weeks of mowing, digging, planting, and earthscaping to create the piece viewable from the air near the Minneapolis airport. If you happen to see the piece when flying into the city, you can head to the museum to see the real thing.

Herd’s first outdoor land art piece (he refers to them as “earthworks”) was an ambitions 160-acre portrait of Kiowa Indian chief Satanta, that he physically carved into a Kansas prairie in 1981. He’s since created dozens of works around the world, and notably inspired Japanese artists in Inakadate province north of Tokyo to plant a series of incredible rice paddy artworks.

The Van Gogh field will be on view through the fall in Minneapolis, after which Herd plans to mow it down in concentric circles similar to the Dutch artists’s iconic painting style. You can read more about the piece in the StarTribune. (thnx, Randy!)

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Design Food Science

An Underground WWII Bomb Shelter in London Has Been Converted Into the World's Largest Subterranean Hydroponic Farm

September 10, 2015

Johnny Waldman

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Over 100 feet below the bustling streets of London is a cavernous, abandoned space. Originally built to serve as a bomb shelter during World War II, it was designed to house and protect the lives of nearly 8,000 people. The space remained abandoned for close to 70 years until entrepreneurs Richard Ballard and Steven Dring decided to turn it into the world’s first subterranean farm called Growing Underground. And surprisingly, where the sun doesn’t shine turns out to be an ideal setting for a garden.

The vertically stacked hydroponic beds are best for growing small, leafy greens that have a short growth cycle like watercress, Thai basil and Japanese mizuna. And with a state-of-the-art computer controlling temperature, lighting and nutrients the subterranean farm can deliver consistent produce without sunlight (or pesticides!) and with 70% less water than conventional farms, hence the company’s parent name: Zero Carbon Food.

With the help of chef Michel Roux, the operation is now partnering with local restaurants to deliver farm-to-table produce in under 4 hours. Once fully operational, it’s estimated Growing Underground will be able to produce between 11,000-44,000 pounds of crops annually. (via Bloomberg)

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Food Photography Science

Fascinating Satellite Photos of Seaweed Farms in South Korea

April 30, 2015

Christopher Jobson

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NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center just shared these fascinating satellite photos taken in January 2014 over the shallow waters around Sisan Island, South Korea. The tiny patchwork of small squares are entire fields of seaweed that are held in place with ropes and buoys to keep the plants near the surface during high tide but off the seafloor in low tide. Via NASA Earth Observatory:

Since 1970, farmed seaweed production has increased by approximately 8 percent per year. Today, about 90 percent of all the seaweed that humans consume globally is farmed. That may be good for the environment. In comparison to other types of food production, seaweed farming has a light environmental footprint because it does not require fresh water or fertilizer.

You can see much more of what’s happening at NASA lately by following the Goddard Space Flight Center on Flickr.

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