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The growth sector

Artists rendering of a Plantagon greenhouse (Handout)

Technology

The growth sector

Urban farming gets off the ground

As urban populations grow, so does the need to import fresh food from farms that may be hundreds of miles away. The emerging practice of urban farming could provide city dwellers with fresh, locally grown food without the large environmental footprint and logistical requirements typically associated with grocery chains.

The Plantagon CityFarm, set to open in early 2018, occupies the cavernous basement of a 26-story office tower in Stockholm. Plantagon will grow green vegetables in vertical towers under LED lights whose heat is captured by an elaborate system of water coils and then used to heat the entire building, according to Fast Company. Carbon dioxide produced in the offices is pumped down to the farm, which returns fresh oxygen from the plants to the office spaces.

“[The building owner] agreed to give us a free lease for three years, so we don’t pay one single Swedish kroner for the room,” Plantagon co-founder Hans Hassle told Fast Company, noting that finding affordable space is often a challenge for urban farmers. “If you really want to grow things in the city, you have to find new business models that actually make the food not too expensive in the end.”

Indoor urban farms eliminate the cost of transporting produce hundreds or even thousands of miles. Plantagon will grow greens without herbicides or pesticides and says its system will use a fraction of the water of a conventional outdoor farm. It will sell the produce at an on-site grocery store, to restaurants located in the high rise, and to other grocery stores in the neighborhood.

The company intends to start 10 underground urban farms over the next three years in Stockholm. It plans to open a 16-story “plantscraper” in Linköping that will grow food throughout the building.

(Fotosearch/Getty Images)

Addiction app

For the millions of people recovering from addictions to opioids and other substances, timely intervention by mental health professionals may mean the prevention of a relapse. But too often, no one is aware that a patient is in crisis until it’s too late.

A Chicago startup called Triggr Health is tackling this problem using artificial intelligence and a smartphone app. A team of recovery specialists works with Triggr Health to monitor patient participants using the app: The specialists collect and analyze data from participants’ smartphones—data showing screen engagement, texting patterns, sleep history, and location. The data help identify patterns that might indicate the need for intervention.

The platform operates around the clock, seven days a week, according to MIT Technology Review. The system alerts the recovery team when a participant’s pattern of behavior suggests he may be relapsing and should be contacted.

Triggr’s machine learning algorithm becomes smarter over time as more participants use the app: Within one year, Triggr’s accuracy in predicting when a client is likely to relapse within three days went from 85 percent to 92 percent.

Triggr won’t divulge how much the platform costs to use. However, some clients told MIT Technology Review it costs them less than two dollars a day. A recent study of 162 academic hospitals found that between 2009 and 2015, the average cost per opioid overdose admission increased from $58,500 to $92,400. —M.C.