We continue with the conclusion to our first guest blogger, Robert Davis, Tech4agri Team member. His last question…Do we need land to grow crops?
The answer may not be as obvious as you think. A group in New York City has come up with a novel solution to the arable land question. The project known as Swale which is half public art project and half tourist destination is a floating food forest built onto a 100 X 30ft barge in the middle of the Hudson River.
The barge was launched in June of 2016 and will dock at six ports along the Hudson River, including Governors Island, Yankee Pier, and Brooklyn Bridge Park, spending at least one month in each.
The goal is of the project is to branch out and reach more communities. Mary Mattingly, one of its organizers explains that “On land, we would have been more localized, working in one area with one community… but because we can travel, we can reach a lot more people and generate a lot more excitement.”
A major part of the project is in addressing agricultural adaptability and all the challenges of building a food forest on a barge brings.
For example built into the design of the food forest Mattingly and company have designed the lay out of the food forest to include a saltwater marsh around the edge of the barge where salt tolerant plants such as tomatoes and artichokes will be placed inside the initial perimeter and used to protect the food forest from sea spray and to clean and desalinate the water from the Hudson River that will be used to irrigate the plants.
“We’ve adopted specific methodologies for growing food in modern culture but with the threat of rising sea levels and climate change, we’ll be dealing with more issues of agriculture adaptability… We have a lot to learn about how food production can regenerate the landscape; this kind of experimental education will help,” explained Sean Walsh owner of the New Jersey-based edible landscape company AppleSeed Permaculture. They as one of the collaborators assisting with design and plant sourcing.
The project plans on planting mature persimmon and paw-paw trees, gooseberries, autumn olives, chives, artichokes, Swiss chard, tomatoes, and dozens of other varieties of fruits, vegetables, herbs, and nuts with an estimated yield of around 6,000 pounds expected within the first year.
Mattingly hopes “at its core, the floating food forest is more than an agricultural experiment—it’s a political statement.” Walsh agreed stating “Swale will help elevate conversations and get people thinking about how we can approach problems in our food system from a vastly different perspective than we did in the past.”
The project has been a collaborative effort by dozens of farming, gardening, urban revitalization, and arts organizations throughout New York City. As of April 28, 2016 the nonprofit’s Kickstarter campaign has raised $32,000.00 US.
Thanks to Rob for not one but two posts. Read the first part of his contribution right here on Tech4agri.com!