Steelheart International Foundation (501c3), formed in California in 2017, is engaged in providing affordable housing and food security in California and Uganda. Our sister company, Steelheart International LLC, founded in 2011, is essentially engaged in the same, coupled with additional services on demand for exports and other for-profit activities. The needs are largely the same in California and Africa for food and shelter, albeit the solutions differ owing to income levels.

In California, the need for affordable housing constitutes a humanitarian crisis. There are roughly 160,000 homeless, of which almost 11,000 are veterans. The backlog for housing grows at about 180,000 a year. The governor has called for 3.5 million houses to be built in the next five years. The population of retired people 65 and over is expected to grow by 4 million in the next ten years. There is a dire need for more rental housing for working class families, students, ag workers, et al. It is no longer a question of vying for share of market, rather a need and opportunity for all builders to step up and help fill the void.

We have developed a concept called the Village Farm, which combines affordable housing with hydroponic and organic farming. The idea is that the farming provides food for the residents and the income from selling the balance helps offset the cost of housing. The houses are clustered in a tight knit community, where residents live, work, play and assist each other. Ideal for the homeless and seniors who want to age in place, but applicable to all target groups.

Given the shortage of water and need for food security worldwide, hydroponics are definitely part of the future of farming. Growing plants indoors in a controlled environment year-round produces much more food than outdoor cultivation, and uses only 1 to 5% of the water. Produce like leafy greens, micro greens and herbs do very well, but vine crops, cucumbers, squash and other vegetables also do well. Another aspect that is good for elderly people or some who are partially impaired is that is easier, (i.e. no weeding) and can be managed part-time. Hydroponics is essentially growing food without soil. There are variations, such as aquaponics which combines fish with the farming, aeroponics whereby nutrients are sprayed on the roots, horizontal farming and vertical farming. We are currently focused on vertical farming with Zip Grow, because it uses the cubic rather than just the horizontal space in a green house. However, we may use all three.

In Uganda, where average incomes for the masses equate to about $60 a month, the solution for housing is different. One option is an Ecoshell, like the one shown here. These are build with local concrete and labor at about $2 a day. An Ecoshell for a family of 8 people can be produced for $3,000 to $5,000. We are exploring other options for panelized housing as well.

In all we do, we seek profitability to sustain our efforts, but feel good about the social benefits and contribution to helping those in need of food and shelter.