Future Food Film - Clean-Tech Indoor Student Farming
After 2 years developing veggie LED grow lights, our film profiles passionate elementary to university student farmers across America.
Future Food Film - Clean-Tech Indoor Student Farming
After 2 years developing veggie LED grow lights, our film profiles passionate elementary to university student farmers across America.
Your funding helps produce our documentary film + 50 schools get advanced LED grow lights to promote Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) education.
Our film is a quest to shed light on a new generation of farming and a new generation of farmers. We see the need for cost-effective sustainable food production and the need to advance STEM education for American students. While students are learning and challenging the agriculture-industrial complex, they will also have the ability to eat the superfood “fruits” of their efforts. We are not feeding students, but we are giving them the tools to feed their minds and bodies and help change the food supply paradigm.
This overview has 5 Sections: Film > Food > Tech > Team > and Support Info:
We’ve been eating too much processed food from corporations over the past half century. Today, the technology is available for healthy, local production. A new generation of student farmers is bringing fresh perspective to develop chemical and pesticide free, affordable, and sustainable food practices.
Our film takes you on a journey across America from elementary schools into the laboratories of universities. See how students of all ages are testing the latest technology to push the envelope, experiment, measure results, challenge each other, and run cost-benefit analyses for indoor farming. The results will astonish and inspire you.
Who is on the quest?
Our two co-host “Guides” will navigate the landscape and introduce you to inspiring student farmers across America. Izaiah Bokunewicz (left) is majoring in Plant Sciences at Penn State and has completed his undergraduate research with raft-system hydroponics and LED grow lights. He is also the co-director of the Student Farm Club. Charlie Szoradi (right) is an architect and LED lighting manufacturer, who earned his master’s degree from the University of Pennsylvania and served three elected terms on the Board of the Sustainable Business Network. Their friendship, collaboration on prior agro-projects, and range of life experiences are coupled with their passion to activate the content of our film.
What was the inspiration for the film?
Almost a decade ago, Charlie Szoradi developed a profound love of food documentaries. In 2010, as the founder of GREENandSAVE, he was asked to join a panel of fellow sustainability professionals for a screening of the documentary Food, Inc. He said, “I was simply blown away. Since then, I have continued to digest as much information as possible about the hidden layers of complexity and misinformation surrounding what we feed ourselves, our families, and our friends.” Many food documentaries address the current problems with our food, but Charlie saw an opportunity to share additional information with clean-tech and student interaction.
What makes this film different?
Our film is different from others in that we are aggregating information from students in K-12th grade as well as college and graduate students. In each case, the students are rolling up their sleeves and using advanced light-emitting diode (LED) technology to grow vegetables indoors. We feel that the future of food is about both technology and the future farmers that will implement the technology. Student feedback on the ease of use, performance of the technology, and other first-hand insights and ideas for improvements, will hopefully guide and inspire the viewers of our film. Additionally, increased awareness about the advantages of indoor farming and specifically fast growing, nutrient rich, microgreens may help bring the cost down by increasing the number of growers and the resulting supply. We are going into the production of this film to challenge preconceptions, including our very own!
Why should I support and then watch this film?
We are crowdfunding this film and also crowdsourcing some of the data and footage from the student subjects of the film. You will get to watch the best of 50 teams of students, challenge the very core of the massive agriculture-industrial complex. This is a “David and Goliath” story. The farming corporations are collectively the huge giant, and we are arming the students with technology and knowledge to win the fight for sustainable food production. Light-emitting diode (LED) technology is like having the sun in your hands. LED grow lights are one of the most powerful agricultural tools since the invention of the plow. LEDs are weatherproof and can be used anywhere, in any season, at any time of day to grow food.
We are giving 50 schools (one in each of our United States) this high-tech “plow." For the film, we expect to include production site visits to at least five of the schools that excel in student-driven experimentation. Imagine if a high school student team incorporates reflectors that amplify plant growth to a whole new level. The selected schools will include a combination of public, private, charter and STEM at each level. The final selection will come from a combination of our research and the interest of the schools to engage in the program with the video documentation. Your backing of this film increases the likelihood of sustainable solutions for generations to come. The answer is out there, and the students are going to help find it.
MICROGREENS - What are they?
Microgreens are one to three inch tall vegetables harvested within 14 days of germination, with more flavor and up to 40 times the nutrients of their mature counterparts. They look like “bean sprouts,” and they are often used in fine dining restaurants for enhancing the flavor of appetizers and entrees. To date, microgreens have been too expensive for the general market, and most grocery stores do not even carry microgreens.
Each type of microgreen has a distinct flavor and nutrient set. Some of the most popular types of microgreens are highlighted here in bold: Amaranth, Arugula, Basil, Beets, Broccoli, Cabbage, Carrots, Celery, Chard, Chia, Chives, Cilantro, Cho, Cauliflower, Dill, Fennel, Garden Cress, Kale, Kara, Kohlrabi, Mint, Mizuna, Mustard Greens, Orach, Parsley, Radish, Sunflower, Wasabi, and Watercress.
MICROGREENS - Why focus on them for the film rather than other vegetables?
In addition to great flavors and up to 40 times the nutrients, microgreens grow fast in one week vs leafy greens that often take a month or longer to grow to harvest. This makes microgreens excellent for creating variable experiments in the STEM curriculum for our film. Plus, microgreens are less than three inches tall, so indoor farmers can grow them on vertical racks and save space in a school or reduce the leasing cost on real estate. To date, many indoor farmers have tried and failed to build systems that are economically viable, and the failures have come in part because they tried to grow too many different types of vegetables or focused on “commodity” vegetables like leafy greens and lettuce. The challenge with lettuce and other leafy greens is the artificially low cost due to migrant labor in areas like California. Microgreens provide a means to maximize Return on Investment (ROI) for health and economic sustainability.
What makes LED grow lights so special? Saving energy and increasing plant growth time to harvest is key to make indoor farming cost-effective. Light-emitting diode (LED) technology can accomplish both. Light is the fuel for photosynthesis.
Our strategic LED manufacturing partner, Independence LED Lighting has been using their photosynthetic photon flux density (PPFD) meter to customize wavelengths and optimize growth. Across the red, green, and blue (RGB) light spectrums, plants typically use less green for photosynthesis, and they bounce back the “G” which is why so many plants look green to humans like us. Our optimized LED grow lights typically have more red and blue than green to save energy and maximize growth. The Support Information section of this overview includes more details and figures about the LEDs.
TEAMWORK - Making a Great Film:
When it comes to capturing stories and inspiring others, we are so fortunate to have a dream team for the film production. Charlie Szoradi has been long-time friends or worked directly with the key members of our Future Food Film team.
Michael Schweisheimer is the founder of Primitive World Productions (PWP Video), a full-service production company specializing in video for nonprofits and green/sustainable businesses. PWP creates innovative media that is educational, entertaining, and genuine. They focus on their clients' missions, as well as their passion to produce quality videos. Charlie has worked with Michael on various media projects starting in 2007. The work has included a video series on energy efficient homes, interviews on clean-tech leadership, and a recent 2018 project on “mission” inspiration for triple-bottom line companies focused on positive social, environmental and financial impact.
For our Future Food Film, PWP will have an integral role given the extensive volume of HD video footage “crowdsourced” from the students and science teaches that will use the LED grow lights for the indoor farming experiments at their schools.
Tammy Tiehel-Stedman is an Academy Award winning filmmaker and producer. While attending AFI film school, Tammy produced a short film called My Mother Dreams the Satan’s Disciples in New York, which went on to win the Oscar for “Best Short Film – Live Action.” See her Oscar win here and one of the interview articles, that includes some of Tammy’s tips for young filmmakers. Another example of critical acclaim includes her film "Suburban Cowboy," which won the Best Of Fest, Best Acting and Audience Award for the 48 Hour Film Festival. In addition to film work, Tammy has produced over 100 hours of television programming for the Discovery Channel and TLC. Charlie has been friends with Tammy for over a decade, and along with his wife helped fund one of her latest films, "Slow Learners."
Over recent years, Tammy and members of the PWP team have participated in teaching the workshop at the Greenfield Youth Film Festival. These interconnected relationships are a terrific benefit for our Future Food Film project to streamline communications and execute on a shared vision. As an advisor to our Future Food Film, Tammy brings over 25 years of experience with tremendous creative and organizational firepower to the project.
For our Future Food Film, we welcome Tammy as an advisor to shape the production.
Seth Kramer is an award-winning film producer, director, and the co-founder of Ironbound Films. Seth’s documentary films have aired on PBS and in theatrical release, earned EMMY nominations, and won top 10 pick recognition from numerous sources. Charlie has been friends with Seth for over 20 years. The relationship started in 1995, when Seth produced and directed The Hut documentary that won the Director’s Choice Award at the Black Maria Film Festival. The Hut followed Charlie’s quest with two friends to transform several abandoned buildings, in a distressed Philadelphia neighborhood, into the springboard for a thriving new arts community. Watch this interview with Seth Kramer, about his “fascination with stories of invention.” Click here to learn more about: Seth's film experience.
For our Future Food Film, Seth has the perspective to guide projects from concept to theatrical release.
In 2009, Charlie found an unconventional way to bring main stream exposure to sustainability. For our Future Food Film, we will also look to attract attention in new ways to new audiences. As the founder of GREENandSAVE, Charlie met with Leilani Münter, a biology graduate turned race car driver and environmental activist. In February 2010, he put the first all-eco-sponsored race car on the high banks of Daytona International Speedway. The race generated outstanding media coverage and hundreds of article mentions. In addition to Leilani’s following, the race was the ARCA debut for Danica Patrick, and celebrated Grateful Dead founding member Bob Weir signed the GREENandSAVE race car’s quarter panel. Leilani is an advocate for renewable energy, solar power, electric cars, plant-based diet, and animal rights. Her latest VEGAN STRONG initiative ties in directly with our vision for sustainable indoor veggie production.
Charlie Szoradi is Future Food Film's Executive Producer. Charlie is the founder of Independence LED Lighting, one of the first authentic U.S. manufacturers of high-efficiency LED fixtures and a lighting solutions. He is the author of Learn from Looking and brings multiple decades of hands on experience to sustainability, dating back to the early 1990s, when he wrote his Masters of Architecture thesis on Energy Intelligence – “Eco-Humanism.” Charlie is a graduate of the University of Virginia, and he earned his Masters from the University of Pennsylvania. He is a LEED AP (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design – Accredited Professional), a Certified Building Performance Institute (BPI) Energy Auditor. In 2009, Charlie was elected to the Board of the Sustainable Business Network and selected as a member of the Green Economy Task Force, with direct participation on the Capitol Hill Delegation.
Our team includes a dynamic range of passionate individuals with diverse backgrounds. We work well together, because some of us have multiple decades of experience in advanced technology and lighting while others have fresh perspective on indoor farming and sustainability practices. As an example of thought leadership: Dr. Eric W. Stein is one of our Strategic Advisors, who holds an undergraduate degree in physics from Amherst College and a Ph.D. in managerial science from The Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania. Dr. Stein founded the high tech urban farm e3 garden and recently completed the Feasibility Study for a Center of Excellence (COE) for Indoor Agriculture. Learn more about our team here: bios.
Thank you for supporting our Future Food Film at any level!
How long is the film?
We are targeting the film at the length defined by PBS's documentary series POV at 51 minutes, 50 seconds or PBS's Independent Lens 56:40. Given the amount of content to cover, we may also consider the 86:40 length. Each of the 50 schools that receives the LED technology and the curriculum will agree to providing at least 20 minutes of HD video for us to review and include in the film. This will give us 1,000 minutes (16.6 hours of footage to work with) for a shooting to edit ratio of over 10:1. Plus, we will supplement the content with whatever additional footage we may need to shoot from the production site visits by our Film Guides.
REWARDS - Why wear this gear?
We have strength in numbers! Our hope is that you see the value in spreading the word to build more awareness. We created these shirts intentionally to serve as conversation catalysts. The shirts will be available in S, M, L, and XL in white and dark grey organic cotton and for both men and women.
REWARDS - Why read this book? Learn from Looking – How Observation Inspires Innovation may inspire you. The book challenges pre-conceptions and identifies cost-effective ways to promote environmental stewardship. In 2017, our Executive Producer, Charlie Szoradi, completed this book that includes over 20 years of his travel drawings and insights on sustainability from around the world. Chapter 14 specifically focuses on the Sustainable “Perpetual” Food Machine. See: www.LearnfromLooking.com
What is the food impact for the schools in this project?
We are providing 50 American schools, across a range of student age and socioeconomic diversity, with LED grow light systems that are each capable of growing over 3,000 lbs of microgreens per year. The 4’ x 8’ LED systems cover 6’ x 10’ of grow area (60 sq ft). At 1 lb of microgreens per sq ft per week, the yield is 60 lbs per week. 52 weeks per full year = 3,120 lb of vegetables. Given summer break and other vacations, the 8-month yield is still a massive 2,400 lbs of microgreens. At 60 lbs per week and 1/2 oz per student per lunch, the consumption is 2.5 oz per student per week. Each lb (16 oz) provides microgreens to 6.4 students. The 60 lbs feeds 384 students per week. While this is not enough for a large high school, it is certainly enough for participating science students and members of environmental clubs or like-minded other groups. The microgreen yield for almost 400 students each week can cover many middle and elementary schools as well as college and graduate students studying plant sciences.
More info on FOOD
MICROGREENS - What are they good for?
The short answer is that microgreens are great with EVERYTHING. Since the flavor comes from the different types of plants, the students will get to mix and match to meet their needs and enjoy the “taste testing” along the education path. Microgreens offer a fast and easy way to enhance omelets in the morning, boost up a sandwich for lunch, make a healthy snack in the afternoon, and create spectacular dinner entrees.
MICROGREENS - Why aren’t they more popular if they are so versatile?
Most of America and the world do not know about the advantages of microgreens, so they do not ask their grocers to stock them. The few stores that carry them often charge over $2 per ounce, which is almost 10 times the cost of spinach and lettuce at $.20 per ounce. We hope that our Future Food Film will help increase awareness to increase the adoption of microgreens in all of our diets.
MICROGREENS - How healthy are they?
We have issues with obesity and heart related diseases in America and around the world due to processed foods, overconsumption of meat, and pesticides with unknown future impacts. Adding microgreens to a diet is just a common sense way to get the nutrients that our bodies naturally need. Here are just a few sample ABCs of microgreen health:
A: Arugula: protein, fiber & vitamins: A, B6, C, K, Thiamin, Riboflavin, Pantothenic acid, and Folate, for eye health, controlling blood pressure, and weight loss.
B: Broccoli: tons of vitamins like Arugula + B12, D, Niacin, with cardiovascular health benefits, anti-aging, and improving gut health.
C: Cauliflower: also loaded with vitamins, plus minerals like Potassium, an electrolyte, which counteracts the effects of sodium for blood pressure maintenance, and it balances acids and bases in the body.
It may sound too good to be true, but mother nature has given us the tools to survive and thrive for hundreds of thousands of years. The post WWII industrial era shifted us to more processed foods and pharmaceutical “solutions” when a plant-based diet is healthy and at hand.
FARMING VEGETABLES – Why focus on vegetables over meat?
Our film will explore how shifting to a plant based diet is better for humans and the plant. A vegetarian diet just once a week has the equivalent impact of sparing 1,000 miles of driving and the resulting CO2 emissions. Plus, a 1/3 lb hamburger requires about 600 gallons of water to produce.
FARMING INDOORS - Why focus on indoor rather than outdoor farming?
For certain types of vegetables like microgreens, weatherproof indoor farming is a global winner over traditional outdoor farming, which is susceptible to floods and droughts. Indoor farming with hydroponics or aquaponics use 90% less water than outdoor farming. Given the dramatic increase in global population to over 7.6 billion, relative to 1 billion when the United States was started in 1776, we may run out of fresh water before we run out of fossil fuels.
FARMING LOCAL - Why focus on local vs national farming?
Currently 90% of vegetables in America are produced in California and shipped, in some cases, over 2,500 miles from the source. The transportation impact on the environment is high given the CO2 emissions. Plus, nutrients and flavor are depleted in the time that it takes to move the food. Local vegetable production is simply better for people and the environment.
More info on LED TECHNOLOGY
The advanced American made LED system that we are using for this project leverages proven technology to maximize performance. LED grow lights are typically one of the most expensive and mission critical technologies for indoor farming, and we have a competitive advantage through our Independence LED manufacturing.
Figure 1 illustrates the cross section of the Linear Module.
Figures 2, 3, and 4 illustrate the cross section of the End Housing (modular retractability as demonstrated in the video for this for this project.)
Figures 5, 6, and 7 illustrate a cross section of the Grow Racks with the integration of natural light and optional reflectors.
Figures 8 and 9 illustrate a cross section with reflectors and air flow.
Where does the Future Food LED Grow Light System go?
For the schools that we have met with, the science classrooms seem to be the front runners. Some schools have “flex” areas and storage rooms that they have considered converting. Since the 4’ x 8’ LED system covers 6’ x 10’ (60 sq ft) of grow area it is not much larger than a single sheet of plywood. Many schools are over 100,000 square feet, so finding the right place is mostly a matter of navigating the internal decision-making landscape.
FUTURE FOOD - BUDGET
With over 2 years of research and development and several hundred thousand dollars invested in time and material, our LED grow lights are delivering terrific results. Indoor farmers are growing microgreens as well as leafy greens like basil with our technology, However, schools typically do not have budgets for LED grow lights as part of their STEM curriculum. The schools that we have met with want the technology, so this project is our way of providing it and documenting the implementation.
Sample issues addressed in the film:
Highlights on Trends > Problems > Solutions > Results
Our team has been tenaciously pursuing innovations in indoor farming since 2015. The slide show from the photograph above is an example of a presentation that Charlie gave to students. Here are some highlights that we plan to address in the Future Food Film:
8 Problems to Solve:
1: On average, organic food costs 47% more than non-organic food.
2: The transportation cost of organic produce is 29% of the combined farming and shipping cost.
3: Seasonality and droughts impact the cost and availability of organic produce as well as agriculture products overall.
4: Water shortage problems can be overcome with high-efficiency indoor hydroponic systems.
5: In the U.S. alone, spoilage and waste in the food supply chain result in the loss of 23-25% of fruits and vegetables post-harvest.
6: America has an alarming health problem as one of the “fattest” counties on earth, with obesity levels over 35% for adults and over 18% for children.
7: Current farming practices often harvest early and “truck ripen” with farm to table lag time that reduces the nutritional value and taste of fruits and vegetables.
8: The emissions from trucks that move food around America contribute to climate change. Meat lover diet: highest CO2 footprint at 3.3 tons vs Vegan diet: lowest CO2 footprint at just 1.5 tons.
STEM – DATA
The chart above is from the U.S. Department of Education (https://www.ed.gov/stem), and it speaks to the tremendous career opportunities in certain STEM fields. We hope that our project will help advance the careers of students that engage and inspire the ones that see the film.
EDUCATION – TEST RESULTS: We can do better!
The Pew Research Center has provided alarming data on how America has slipped in key education categories. We are 24th in Science, 39th in Mathematics, and 24th in Reading.
STEM – SAMPLE CURRICULUM
Solving problems within the existing food industry will take a team effort that includes input and insights from students with fresh perspective. The LED lighting systems provided to the schools are modular, making it easy for students to experiment and test different aspects of the STEM curriculum. Our film will profile the students that undertake experiments such as these:
1. Timing: Optimal ratios of daylight to rest per plant type (e.g. 16 hours on with 8 hours of rest, 8 on with 4 off, 4 on 4 off, 2 on 2 off, and many other variables)
2. Natural cycles: Advantages of mimicking sunrise and sunset since the LEDs are dimmable.
3. Lighting height: Fixed height of LEDs above the plant compared to elevation as the plants grow.
4. Lighting density: Linear module density at 6”, 12”, 18” and 24” spacing.
5. Lighting directionality: Lighting from the side and below as well as from above.
6. Reflectors: Different beam angles by attaching mylar curtains or other reflective materials.
7. Measurement testing: Root length, plant height, weight of leaves stalks etc.
8. Post-harvest testing: Taste, texture, leaf thickness, shelf life with and without refrigeration.
9. Performance goal setting: Evaluate lifecycle cost per ounce relative to grocery store vegetables.
10. Mother nature vs Technology testing: Can LEDs help outperform mother nature?
The STEM curriculum for this project will include a range of biology/plant science experiments regarding air temperature, nutrients / biochar soil, and other factors. Our hope is that the project makes it fun and interactive for more American students to engage in STEM education while also discovering new cost-effective ways to grow fresh vegetables indoors.
STEM - JOBS What type of careers can come from this project?
According to the U.S. Green Building Council and many other organizations, clean technology has the potential to create hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of new jobs across America. STEM is an increasing focus at education and professional levels, and we look forward to inspiring a generation of indoor "agro-tech" farmers.
Advanced System: If and when any of the schools would like to develop an “Advanced System” beyond the grow lights provided for inclusion in this film project, our team will work with them on the coordination. The budget for this Future Food Film does not include the additional technology, but many schools may already have some solar panels and other technology, such as fish tanks for aquaponics, in their current science curriculum to integrate accordingly.
We are excited to document in our film the best that students offer when it comes to re-imagining our current food supply chain.
Risks and challenges
Each school that accepts the LED grow light system and the accompanying curriculum may not have science teachers or students that are as interested as they expressed prior to receiving the technology. This means that they may not take full advantage of the technology. We have prepared for this contingency by including language in the program agreement. In short, if the school does not use the technology and provide any performance data and video footage within the allocated period of time January through March 2019, then we reserve the right to have it picked up or pay to have it shipped to another “wait list” school. While our technology has a proven track record growing microgreens and other vegetables, the lights are a tool that does not guarantee that the faculty and students will advance in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) education. Having worked with multiple farmers on optimizing vegetable growth with our system, we can overcome the challenges by providing consulting to any of the schools that need support. Ultimately, we want them to succeed, because we see this project as a stepping stone to an increase in the adoption of indoor farming and awareness of the advantages of microgreens.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
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