Author: Janet Colston

Lion’s Mane Hericium erinaceus Can you believe this white ‘pom pom’ like fungus has properties that regrow nerves? This has been proven in several peer reviewed studies. Remarkably, this mushroom can grow larger than a baseball in under two months given the right controlled environment.  Substrates for Lion’s mane are commonly straw or sawdust based, but could just as easily be ground spent coffee beans. Setting up a container sized space, the main controls to be aware of for optimal growth are temperature and humidity. Lion’s Mane mushrooms are rich in protein, fiber, vitamins, and minerals. They are particularly prized…

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Did your grandfather inspire you to become a farmer? Mine did, but it took me another forty odd years to recognize it! People often have a link to their passion for CEA from a generational farming background. My forefathers were crofters living off the land in whatever way they could in the Hebridean islands off the north-west coast of Scotland. In the Western Isles the land mass is harsh, with rocky terrain, few trees for cover and battered by Atlantic swells. Crofters like my grandfather reared sheep, and the land was cultivated for hard crops like potatoes and turnips. My…

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I’ve recently been eating Driscoll’s new highbush blueberries from Morocco. Guess what, they have only gone and supersized them! It’s like eating a cross between the original berry and a small kiwi but without the fuzz. I like mine on cereal, but smoothies and muffins also do the trick. Whatever way you eat them, the anthocyanins in the dark skins play a vital role in reducing many lifestyle diseases, and consuming just one cup of blueberries a day will cut your chance of a heart attack or stroke. Supersized blueberries could be good for CEA growers Breeding is a big…

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One dominant variety of ginger, Zingiber officinale, is often used to flavor our home cooked stir-fry’s, but did you know there are more than 1200 species in the Zingiberaceae family? Myoga ginger or Japanese ginger (Zingiber mioga) has become a popular greenhouse grown CEA crop. This beautiful and unusual plant is native to Japan, China and South Korea and produces flowering buds at its base that are used in oriental cooking. In Japan, this plant is revered because it is connected to spiritual events related to a good rice harvest. Myoga translates as ‘divine protection’. Myoga contains the terpene alpha-pinene, known…

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With phytonutrients trending, we want to delve into what we mean by ‘bioactives’ and how they could impact Controlled Environment Agriculture (CEA). Put simply, bioactives are physiologically-active compounds located in plant organelles with the potential to positively impact human health. Studies indicate that consumption of a diet rich in bioactive compounds with antioxidant activity, including vitamins, phytochemicals and phenolics such as flavonoids and carotenoids, can diminish the risks associated with diseases such as cancer, heart disease, diabetes and other age-related degenerative conditions. No one disputes that tomatoes are good for heart health, especially if you follow the Mediterranean diet. This…

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Photo: Somewhere mysteriously in California Grapes are an economically important commodity, supplying fresh, dried, and processed markets worldwide. Although grapes are not a crop you immediately consider a beneficiary of CEA technology, it may be possible to adapt field agriculture, putting in measures to circumvent climate change and disease. The last few years I’ve been attempting to grow my own grapevine indoors, so when Chris Higgins shared the main photo I felt excited to learn how they were using LED lights to help fruit mature on vines in California. Could CEA also work for my grapevines? Scotland is not known…

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The role of light and spectrum on plant growth and metabolite production in CEA We know light exerts a powerful influence on plant growth. These effects can range anywhere from seed germination to leaf expansion and from flowering to fruiting. But, did you know it’s not only plants that benefit from changes caused by light? Human health can also be boosted by light induced changes in the fruits and vegetables we eat. These systems are interconnected. Read on to find out how CEA farmers could hold the key to both higher crop yields and better human health through the smart…

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“You should never hesitate to trade your cow for a handful of magic beans. “ — Tom Robbins Protein Replacement is a hot topic Nutrition and protein replacement in particular is a global health concern with implications for the future direction of the planet, not least because the tide could be turning on less sustainable types of food production. We have had some in CEA evangelizing about the power of CEA to feed us all in the future, but the reality is that we need all agricultural practices to work together where appropriate to create resilient sustainable supply food chains…

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Some people suggest saffron is a spice made of red gold. We ask three important questions: what makes it so special, why is it so expensive and should we try to adapt it for growing in CEA? Zafferano Siciliano Crocus produces large saffron stigmas. Saffron (Crocus sativus L., a member of the Iridaceae family) is prized for its unique yellow color in culinary dishes and loved by chefs for its flavor in many of our foods. The high cost comes from the fact that it needs to be grown in a particular climate and the long red stigma must be…

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They say history repeats itself.  Scotland has a great positive circular story that encompasses history, design, engineering, innovation, agriculture, skills, regeneration, energy, health, wellbeing and net zero. This is the story of how a group of visionary students redesigned the iconic Provan Gas Works into a vertical allotment to show off a greener side to Glasgow As the dust settles on COP26 some of Glasgow’s student professionals plan to design a greener, healthier city. For more than a century Glasgow’s iconic gas works have been a significant feature from the north east entry to the city. Despite being redundant for…

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We know people with underlying health conditions are at an increased risk of becoming sick if they catch COVID-19. Although vaccines have been rolled out, new coronavirus variants including the latest Omicron, continue to emerge. Even the most positive amongst us are struggling with endless restrictions on our daily activities. Inevitably our health care institutions and economies are struggling to cope under the strain of continued pandemic surges and are in dire need of help. STOP AND READ! One does not have to move wholly to a vegetarian or vegan diet to gain much of the health benefits discussed in…

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Plants grown in controlled environments can give newly diagnosed cancer patients more locally available fresh options Editor’s Note: Urban Ag News fully understands that many of these crops are not currently grown in greenhouses, hoop houses, high tunnels or vertical farms. But, that is not as important as the fact that they could be if the consumer and the farmer found equal value in exploring local production. Cancer touches us all. One in two people are expected to have some form of the disease in their lifetime. Despite these statistics it is not inevitable nor the curse it was and…

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Would I recommend an entrepreneurial life to anyone? Absolutely if you have a desire to change the world we live in for the better and want to join the millions of highly skilled entrepreneurs already navigating the journey. Challenges and rewards of being an older entrepreneur With a health warning in place, being an older entrepreneur is not easy and it can be a lonely, isolated existence, especially if you are a woman. It can be frustrating if you took a sabbatical to rear your children, or changed career direction and have lost years of networking and experience which can…

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Read our comprehensive article Wasabi Japonica, which describes the unique medicinal properties in Wasabi. “Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food” — Hippocrates For the past year we have been talking about how to boost the immune system with plant phytonutrients and how this can present new opportunities for farmers, particularly if plant pharmaceuticals can be extracted from plants grown in a controlled environment. With an increased knowledge of downstream processing, farmers could learn to take advantage of plant pharmaceutical power quickly and naturally and boost their market share. More than half our medicines come from plants…

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