Milwaukee has been named one of twenty-four cities worldwide to receive a $400,000 IBM Smarter Cities Challenge grant. The city’s pioneering urban farming programs helped win the award over 200 cities in 40 countries.
The grant will specifically look at the sustainable economic model launched by Sweet Water Organics, an initiative which has developed an innovative aquaculture system producing fish and vegetables in an urban, converted warehouse setting on the city’s industrial south side. The concept of a closed system that conserves water was unveiled three years ago by Growing Power, a non-profit urban farm founded in Milwaukee by Will Allen, winner of a 2008 MacArthur Foundation “Genius Grant.” Sweet Water Organics is the first viable commercial test of the system, and its success was the subject of a major feature on NBC’s Nightly News last year.
“We’re getting some really smart people to help us as we move our urban agriculture system to the next level,” said Mayor Tom Barrett. According to Sweet Water co-founder James Godsil, Milwaukee won the award,“… by virtue of our commitment to learning to feed ourselves.”
Both Sweet Water Organics and Growing Power provide a source of fresh vegetables, perch and tilapia to a growing number of Milwaukee markets and area restaurants, as well as providing jobs and educational opportunities to a diverse urban population. Local partnerships also include breweries that provide mash compost to these urban farms.
IBM will provide a team of specially selected IBM experts, researchers and consultants who will study the role that intelligent technology can play to analyze and strategize project goals. According to Stanley S. Litow, IBM vice president of corporate citizenship and corporate affairs, "The cities we picked are eager to implement programs that tangibly improve the quality of life in their areas, and to create road maps for other cities to follow."
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