The Future of our Food System: Trick or Treat?

Posted by Amy Storey on October 31, 2014

 

A closer look at the system that feeds you

While most look at the current state of our food system and feel discouraged or overwhelmed, we here at Bright are encouraged seeing all the beautiful, innovative farms popping up around the world. They are a reminder that even though the future of our food system is often painted with a dark and stormy brush, the power of the human mind is alive and well in the field of unconventional agriculture.

Since it is Halloween though, let's take a closer look at the food security and the problems with the current food system.

It's no secret that the relationship between us and our world is in a state of flux. Our response should be to look forward to anticipate and plan for the challenges that we may be facing in the future.

Ready for a little spook?

Let's look at some stats on:

  • Food security
  • Food demand
  • Deforestation
  • Undernourishment
  • Waste
z2 CGIAR has done a great job on these stat graphics. Check out the whole show.

 

Can we adapt to new growing conditions?

Growing seasons are getting shorter.

Will this negatively impact agriculture? We don't think that it has to.

Every challenge has the potential to cause either downfall or growth. We believe that by using the right tools, we can turn these challenges into something beautiful.

Vertical hydroponics offers two solutions to this problem:

  1. The first solution is that we start growing more food in the time we do have by growing crops with higher densities. Vertical growing towers offer three to five times as much production potential. What's a 5% loss in growing season when that growing season yields three times as much as it used to?
  2. The second solution is that we extend the growing season to make up for lost time. You can extend your growing season by growing in a greenhouse. You can use an unheated greenhouse, which can add about 6 weeks to a growing season, or a heated greenhouse, which can keep you growing year round.

Shorter seasons may not be so spooky after all. Let's talk about another spooky fact: global food needs are rapidly increasing.

Meeting the Growing Demand for Food

food demand

60% sounds intimidating, right?

Maybe you're thinking about your own farm and trying to imagine that much production.

Maybe you can't. But we can. In fact, we can see you producing 300%-500% more on your farm.

We're optimistic about the future of food.

You see, invention is our forte.

Over the ages, mankind has adapted quite nicely to the curveballs Mother Nature has thrown at us, and population growth will be no exception.

We've been working on more efficient practices and better food for centuries, and the recent developments in vertical growing and hydroponics are just the beginning to a bright future. (We don't think that a diet of insects will be necessary.)

There are hundreds of corporations, non-profits, individuals, and small businesses like ours that are not only willing to help but who are passionate about improvement in this area.

Granted, the magnitude of population growth that is expected to happen in the next few decades has never been seen before. We've never been faced with a challenge this unique.

And unique is the word, isn't it? Not "scary". Certainly not "impossible".

We will meet the needs of our planet by rising to the challenges presented to us, not by being afraid of failure.

Here at Bright Agrotech, we believe that solutions often happen in sets, setting each other off like a chain of dominoes.

For example, let's look at the problem of deforestation. Now that we have one solution (to a shorter growing season), we might just find that this solution also helps the deforestation challenge.

Growing Farmland by Clearing Our Forests?

 

Deforestation

Let's re-evaluate land needs with vertical farming in mind.

The more food we need, more farmland we need... right?

Will this need be a trick or a treat? Most would say a trick, but we believe that vertical farming could eliminate the need.

You wouldn't have to clear more land to grow more food.

Clearing land is a one-dimensional approach to the problem. Why would we expand our food production horizontally when we can expand vertically?

If we tackle the problem vertically, a whole lot of new possibilities open up for us. Agriculture is no longer limited to large spaces.

In fact, agriculture isn't even limited to wide open spaces. Suddenly, gardens are possible on fences and porches and apartment balconies. Farms are possible in basements and on walls.

Fresh food is everywhere. Which brings me to the next part of our challenge:

 

Improving the Quality of our Diets

undernourishment

waste one third

Healthy food can be hard to find, especially in urban areas. As a result, a larger portion of the diet is filled with convenience store foods- foods with long shelf lives.

These rarely include fresh vegetables and fruits.

USDA dietary guidelines state that the average adult's diet should consist of about 50% fruits and veggies. The difference between the average American's diet (above) and the guidelines, however, requires a shift in the system that bring vegetables and fruits to the consumer. Something's gotta give.
We think it should be the sales model. Current sales models create a temporal chasm between the farm and the consumer. Inside this gap, labor, money, and nutritional value are lost. These sales models are not beneficial for the consumer or the farmer. Our solution: live sales models.

While ZipGrow technology allows growers to farm in compact and cramped spaces, live sales models allow farmers to save precious time and money on harvesting and packaging. Instead, the vertical tower itself is brought to market. The consumer harvests, the consumer packages, and the farmer simply replaces the tower.

Suddenly, the future of food isn't so gloomy.

Overwhelming Food Waste: Trick or Treat?

So- we've examined four not-so-spooky facts about the future of food. It turns out that vertical greenhouse farming has a lot of versatility when it comes to solving the problems of the future.

Shorter growing seasons? No problem. 60% more food? High-density production allows us to grow more with less space, which not only allows 60% more production, but in turn addresses the deforestation issue and allows farms into the city. And with farms spread throughout both urban and rural areas, undernourishment can be battled.

But there's one final challenge to conquer: Waste.

We already know that less transit time means less waste (video) of food. The other major areas of waste are in water and fertilizer. If you've read this blog post or grown with hydroponics before, you know that hydroponic growing uses about one twentieth of the water that traditional soil growing does. And because the water and nutrients in a recirculating system are reused, fertilizer is conserved as well.

 

Trick or treat? The decision is yours.

What do you think about these spooky facts? We're feeling pretty good about it. Bright Agrotech is committed to improving the future of food with space and labor efficient technology. We'll even take it one step further, and teach you how to succeed with those tools.

But we can't do that without the ag innovators out there. Folks like Upstart Farmers are taking action on a local level to create change, leave an impact and bring more opportunities to their communities.

The future of food is in your hands.

How do you want this to turn out?

 

Great resources to check out:

Research Program on Climate Change, Agriculture, and Food Security

CCAFS's Big Facts site- Special thanks to CCAFS for their incredible site and graphics!

Looking Ahead in World Food and Agriculture

FAO Statistical Yearbook 2013

 

 

 

Topics: Industry

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