Farmers in Kashmir Try Growing Saffron Indoors

Dar Yasin wrote . . . . . . . . .

As climate change impacts the production of prized saffron in Indian-controlled Kashmir, scientists are shifting to a largely new technique for growing one of the world’s most expensive spices in the Himalayan region: indoor cultivation.

Results in laboratory settings have been promising, experts say, and the method has been shared with over a dozen traditional growers.

Agriculture scientist Nazir Ahmed Ganai said indoor cultivation is helping boost saffron production, which has been adversely hit by environmental changes in recent years.

“If climate is challenging us, we are trying to see how we can adapt ourselves. Going indoors means that we are doing vertical farming,” said Ganai, who is also the vice chancellor of the region’s main agriculture university.

Kashmir’s economy is mainly agrarian and the rising impact of climate change, warming temperatures and erratic rainfall patterns has increased worries among farmers who complain about growing less produce. The changes have also impacted the region’s thousands of glaciers, rapidly shrinking them and in turn hampering traditional farming patterns in the ecologically fragile region.

Strife in the region has also impacted production and export. For decades, a separatist movement has fought Indian rule in Kashmir, which is divided between India and Pakistan and claimed by both. Tens of thousands of civilians, rebels and government forces have died in the conflict.

For the last three years, saffron farmer Abdul Majeed Wani has opted for indoor cultivation. He said his experience has been satisfying and the technique “has benefited us in a good way.”

“We faced some difficulties initially because of lack of experience, but with time we learned,” Wani said.

A kilogram (2.2 pounds) of the spice can cost up to $4,000 — partly because it takes as many as 150,000 flowers to produce that amount.

Across the world, saffron is used in products ranging from food to medicine and cosmetics. Nearly 90% of the world’s saffron is grown in Iran, but experts consider Kashmir’s crop to be superior for its deep intensity of color and flavor.

Source: AP

 

 

 

 

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Pizza Hut Canada Trials Robot Delivery in Vancouver

Michael Wolf wrote . . . . . . . . .

This week Pizza Hut Canada announced they are partnering with sidewalk delivery robot startup Serve to run a two-week pilot program in Vancouver, B.C.

The trial will send the Serve robot to select customers’ doors when they place an order via the Pizza Hut app. Customers selected for the trial will be able to track the robot’s location via the app and will use a one-time pin to retrieve their order from the Pizza Hut-branded robot. You can see the robot navigating the streets of Vancouver in the video below.

While various Pizza Hut franchise owners have dabbled in using robotics to make pizzas, this is the first time that we’ve seen the chain use a robotic delivery vehicle. The partnership also marks a first for Serve Robotics as it’s the first time the startup has deployed its delivery bot in Canada.

For now, the two companies are not giving any indication of whether this trial could extend beyond the initial trial. My guess is if things go well, we could see more Pizza Hut locations utilizing the Serve delivery-bot.

Source: The Spoon

 

 

 

 

More Consumers Buying Organic, but US Farmers Still Wary

Scott Mcfetridge wrote . . . . . . . . .

In the 1970s when George Naylor said he wanted to grow organic crops, the idea didn’t go over well.

Back then organic crops were an oddity, destined for health food stores or maybe a few farmers markets.

“I told my dad I wanted to be an organic farmer and he goes, ‘Ha, ha, ha,’” Naylor said, noting it wasn’t until 2014 that he could embrace his dream and begin transitioning from standard to organic crops.

But over the decades, something unexpected happened — demand for organics started increasing so fast that it began outstripping the supply produced in the U.S.

Now a new challenge has emerged: It’s not getting consumers to pay the higher prices, it’s convincing enough farmers to get past their organic reluctance and start taking advantage of the revenue pouring in.

Instead of growing to meet the demand, the number of farmers converting to organic is actually dropping. Last month, the U.S. Department of Agriculture committed up to $300 million to recruit and help more farmers make the switch.

“It feels good,” said Chris Schreiner, executive director of the organic-certifying organization Oregon Tilth, referring to the government help. “It’s a milestone in the arc of this work.”

Schreiner, who has worked at the Oregon-based organization since 1998, said expanding technical training is important given the vast differences in farming land conventionally and organically. Schreiner noted that one farmer told him that converting a conventional farmer was like asking “a foot doctor to become a heart surgeon.”

The key difference is the use of synthetic fertilizers and pesticides as well as genetically modified seeds. Most conventional farms rely on those practices but they are banned at organic farms. Instead, organic farmers must control weeds and pests with techniques such as rotating different crops and planting cover crops that squeeze out weeds and add nutrients to the soil.

Crops can only be deemed organic if they are grown on land that hasn’t been treated with synthetic substances for three years. During that period, farmers can grow crops, but they won’t get the extra premium that accompanies organic crops.

According to the USDA, the number of conventional farms newly transitioning to organic production dropped by about 70% from 2008 to 2019. Organic comprises about 6% of overall food sales, but only 1% of the country’s farmland is in organic production, with foreign producers making up the gap.

In the U.S, “There are so many barriers to farmers making that leap to organic,” said Megan DeBates, vice president of government affairs for the Organic Trade Association.

While farmers seem hesitant, U.S. consumers aren’t. Annual sales of organic products have roughly doubled in the past decade and now top $63 billion, according to the Organic Trade Association. Sales are projected to climb up to 5.5% this year.

That growth is clear to anyone pushing a cart in an average supermarket, past bins of organic apples and bananas, through dairy and egg sections and along shelves brimming with organic beef and chicken.

The new USDA effort would include $100 million toward helping farmers learn new techniques for growing organic crops; $75 million for farmers who meet new conservation practice standards; $25 million to expand crop insurance options and reduce costs; and $100 million to aid organic supply chains and develop markets for organics.

Nick Andrews, an Oregon State University extension agent who works with organic farmers, called the USDA effort a “game changer.” It should be especially attractive to farmers with small parcels of land because the added value of organic crops makes it possible to make significant money off even 25 to 100 acre (10 to 40 hectare) farms — much smaller than the commercial operations that provide most of the country’s produce.

“I’ve seen organic farmers keep families in business who otherwise would go out of business,” Andrews said.

Noah Wendt, who in the past few years has transitioned 1,500 acres (607 hectares) of land in central Iowa to organic, noted the shift has been “rocky” at times for him and his farming partner, Caleb Akin.

But he and Akin recently bought a grain elevator east of Des Moines to use solely for organic crops, the kind of project the USDA program can assist. They hope the elevator will not only be a nearby spot to store grain but provide a one-stop shop to learn about growing and marketing organic crops.

Seeing all the organic activity is gratifying for George and Patti Naylor, who farm near the tiny central Iowa community of Churdan. But they say they still value most the simple benefits of their choice, such as evenings spent watching hundreds of rare monarch butterflies that flock to their herbicide-free farm.

As Patti Naylor put it, “It really helps to believe in what you’re doing.”

Source: AP

 

 

 

 

McDonald’s Is Selling Happy Meals to Adults — with a Twist

Jordan Valinsky wrote . . . . . . . . .

The Hamburglar is back at McDonald’s. But this time, it’s just for adults.

McDonald’s is bringing back its family of recognizable figurines in a new adult Happy Meal, which, yes, includes the toys. Beginning October 3, customers can order a Cactus Plant Flea Market Box — a Big Mac or 10-piece chicken McNuggets, with fries and a drink. The meal is a collaboration between the streetwear brand and the fast food chain as it digs deeper into nostalgia.

The food will be served in a specially designed box that should trigger memories of Happy Meals from the old days. Toys include redesigned takes on McDonald’s famous mascots, including Grimace, Hamburglar and Birdie, plus a new one named Cactus Buddy.

“We’re taking one of the most nostalgic McDonald’s experiences and literally repackaging it in a new way that’s hyper-relevant for our adult fans,” said Tariq Hassan, McDonald’s USA chief marketing and customer experience office in a release.

Cactus Plant Flea Market is a streetwear brand that has been popularized by Kanye West and Pharrell in recent years. Complex has described its aesthetic as a “fluid and eccentric combination” mixed with “playful graphic imagery.” And its elusive origins are a major appeal for the brand’s fans. Hoodies from the brand can sell as much as $1,000 on the online marketplace StockX.

McDonald’s has found success with its celebrity collaborations, often crediting them for boosting sales. Past partnerships include BTS, J Balvin and Travis Scott, with the latter being so popular that it ran out of meals.

Source: CNN

 

 

 

 

Company to Debut New Shrimp, Scallops and Crab Cakes Made with Kelp

Alt seafood brand Mind Blown Plant-Based Seafood and kelp producer Atlantic Sea Farms announce they are partnering to incorporate new kelp ingredients in Mind Blown’s award-winning product line.

Beginning in mid-October, Atlantic’s umami-rich kelp will be added to Mind Blown Dusted Shrimp and Dusted Scallops, followed by Mind Blown Crab Cakes in 2023. The new products will launch at all 300+ Sprouts Farmers Markets across the US.

Grown via Atlantic’s regenerative aquaculture, kelp is a carbon-negative and hyper-efficient crop that requires zero inputs from fertilizer, pesticides, feeds or fresh water. Kelp seaweed is also one of the most nutrient-dense foods on the planet, with high levels of iodine, antioxidants, potassium, iron, and the highest natural concentration of calcium found in any food.

Both Mind Blown and Atlantic Sea Farms are women-led, impact-driven companies on an eco-conscious mission. Mind Blown was founded in 2020 and sells a popular line of plant-based shrimp, scallops and crab cakes. In 2022, the brand attracted celebrity chefs Spike Mendelsohn and Tom Colicchio as investors and launched US nationwide distribution at Sprouts.

Restoring oceans

Based in Biddeford, Maine, Atlantic Sea Farms sells fresh, dried, and fermented kelp products that help to mitigate the effects of climate change by absorbing carbon from the sea. In four harvest seasons, the company and its partner farms reportedly removed 260,000 of carbon from local Maine waters.

“We’re thrilled to work with Monica and her team on these outstanding new products,” said Atlantic Sea Farms Founder Bri Warner. “We are two women-run companies working tirelessly to help diversify coastal incomes, improve our food system and restore our oceans in the face of climate change. In my view, it doesn’t get much more transformative than that.”

“Incredible ingredient”

“With my deep roots in the Chesapeake Bay, and lifelong ties to its fishermen, my mind was blown when I was introduced to Atlantic Sea Farms and was incredibly inspired by the mission of Bri Warner and her team,” said Mind Blown Co-Founder and CEO Monica Talbert. “We’ve always thought ‘anything seafood can do, Mind Blown can do.’ Now that we’re incorporating this incredible ingredient straight from the waters of Maine, it’s more true now than ever.”

Source: Vegconomist