Jonathan Rubin Takes Vertical Farming to New Heights

Jonathan Rubin Takes Vertical Farming to New Heights


Alumni Highlight: Jonathan Rubin Takes Vertical Farming to New Heights

Brett Essler
|June 6, 2023

jonathan rubin bending over plants under grow light

Jonathan Rubin graduated from the MPA in Environmental Science and Coverage program in 2020.

This story was initially revealed by Columbia’s College of Worldwide and Public Affairs.

Jonathan Rubin’s deep-rooted affinity for nature and the atmosphere blossomed throughout his youth in Florida. From volunteering at a sea turtle hospital to embarking on exhilarating bike rides by the awe-inspiring Everglades, he cast an unbreakable bond with the pure world.

After transferring to Israel — the place he studied authorities, diplomacy, and technique as an undergraduate — Rubin pursued a profession in coverage roles, each within the Israeli parliament, often known as the Knesset, and in US congressional internships. Seeking to mix his political expertise together with his love for the atmosphere, he enrolled within the one-year MPA in Environmental Science and Coverage program, which is obtainable collectively by Columbia’s College of Worldwide and Public Affairs and Local weather College. As a pupil, Rubin was one of many leaders of the Israel Trek, a week-long journey that uncovered him to groundbreaking practices reminiscent of water recycling, photo voltaic farms, and algae farms. These revolutionary sustainability approaches strengthened the invaluable classes he discovered within the classroom.

“At SIPA, a number of our programs had been centered on economics, environmental coverage, and biology,” Rubin remembers. “In a single course, [adjunct professor] Howard Apsan confirmed us vertical farms. And I stated, ‘OK, let me deal with vertical farms from all these completely different angles.’ So at any time when we needed to write papers, as an alternative of specializing in completely different environmental spheres so massive, I centered particularly on vertical farms.”

Rubin obtained Columbia journey grants to additional analysis sustainable farming. Amongst different issues he studied aquaponics, an built-in rising ecosystem the place fish and crops coexist harmoniously, with the fish waste serving as a pure fertilizer for the crops. In return, the crops filter and purify the water.

Rubin’s aquaponics experiment laid the muse for a hydroponic system, which cultivates crops in a nutrient-rich water resolution with out the necessity for soil.

In 2021 Rubin launched Contemporary Florida Farms, which grows non-GMO hydroponic lettuce, microgreens, sprouts, herbs, and different leafy greens in Boca Raton — supplying contemporary merchandise to caterers, eating places, supermarkets, and meals banks in South Florida.

Rising crops in vertically stacked layers will increase crop yields whereas lowering the quantity of area, water, and power required in comparison with conventional agriculture and permits for year-round crop manufacturing. As a result of crops are grown in a managed atmosphere, there may be much less want for pesticides and herbicides.

Contemporary Florida Farms, Rubin says, now has the capability to supply 100,000 heads of lettuce per yr in “a really small area.”

The outstanding development of the vertical farming business, projected to achieve $9.7 billion in income by 2026 (up from $3.1 billion in 2021), is a testomony to its potential.

“There are numerous elements to being a farmer. Solely 30 % is definitely rising the product. Rather a lot has to do with coverage, logistical assist and coping with the meals security laws. Farmers can even spend a number of time researching and collaborating on initiatives with the USDA.”

Whereas vertical farming undeniably advantages the atmosphere, Rubin, together with his astute understanding of coverage issues, emphasizes its broader geopolitical implications.

“Many international locations are exploring the viability of creating vertical farms in hope to handle rising meals prices and nationwide meals safety threats,” he explains, pointing to UAE and Singapore, which have little farmable land. “Many smaller international locations could import over 80 % of their produce. If there have been to be a warfare and borders had been to be closed, folks would starve. Vertical farms have the potential to decrease prices of farming making contemporary produce extra reasonably priced for the lots.”

Rubin is entrepreneurial, for positive — all the time seeking to maximize development occasions, area capability, and even designed his personal automated watering system — however Contemporary Florida Farms additionally has a social mission. Rubin works with particular wants college students to show them concerning the farm and donates surplus crops to native meals banks.

“I believe it’s a lovely factor to see when the neighborhood comes collectively and is ready to assist profit completely different points of the inhabitants,” Rubin says. “There are numerous social advantages, apart from environmental advantages from this type of operation.”

He’s additionally keen to take care of his ties to the Columbia neighborhood, providing recommendation to present and future college students occupied with launching their very own sustainability ventures: “Discover a professor to mentor you and assist information you in find out how to get alongside additional, community at occasions, attempt to win grants.” And, after all, eat your leafy greens!


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