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The video is based on a new issue brief by Alex Reich, a graduate research assistant at Institute on the Environment and one of the creators of MinuteEarth, and IonE director Jonathan Foley. Among other things, the brief, Food Loss and Waste in the U.S.: The Science Behind the Supply Chain, reports that roughly 40 percent of the U.S. food supply is never eaten, with much of the waste occurring when edible food is discarded at home or in restaurants and cafeterias.
MinuteEarth offers mini science lessons via YouTube to engage the general public in science and environmental issues.
"Farmers care just as much about the environment as anyone, but there are financial realities," says Nick Jordan, a resident fellow with the Institute on the Environment and an agroecology professor in the College of Food, Agricultural and Natural Resource Sciences.
Tim Gieseke, a fourth-generation Minnesota farmer with a background in environmental science, explains that it's just not that easy to plant multiple crops on a landscape. "Adding crops means more work, more equipment, more time. Plus, lots of third- and fourth-generation farmers don't know how to grow crops other than the ones they've been growing," says Gieseke. "The level of expertise for the crop they know is high and the margin of error is tight. You only get one season, one chance."
How can these interests be reconciled? With the help of two cool technologies, Jordan and a cross-disciplinary team from the University of Minnesota are bringing farmers and conservationists together in an attempt to satisfy both economic and environmental bottom lines.
Minnesota farmers spend more than $400 million per year on nitrogen fertilizer. To keep more dollars in the Gopher State and reduce fossil fuel consumption in agriculture, the University of Minnesota's West Central Research and Outreach Center is using wind energy to produce anhydrous ammonia that can be used as fertilizer. The project was funded through an IonE Initiative for Renewable Energy & the Environment grant.