Innovating food growth

There is no one solution to ensure that 9 billion people can be sustained nutritionally into the future. The solutions are with existing and new generations of farmers.

 

The key to innovating food growth will require traditional wisdom in sustainable agriculture and horticulture, assisted by new and evolving technologies. 

 

Sustainable agriculture strives to recover the land and environment and contribute to sustainable food systems without using harmful chemicals. It conserves water and energy, emphasises local production, decreases inputs, utilises resources more efficiently on site, values biodiversity and ecology, and works within natural resource limitations.  

 

Farms need to be profitable through maintaining land, knowledge, practices which promote healthy biodiversity, and sensible management to maintain the balance of the planet. 

What you can do

Across the globe in rural and urban areas, agriculturists, scientists, community gardeners, and individuals are moving to find solutions.  Here are some of the ways people are engaging in to regenerate the land for food.

Hydroponics are considered as innovative food growth without soil, with plants grown in direct nutrient solution and suspended in water.  The growing process is controlled so crop yields are higher, and is becoming popular even in urban settings, attracting younger people.

 

Aquaponics combine raising fish with the growing of hydroponic crops. The fish waste in water increases nutrients, while plants clean the water to be reused by the fish. This forms a closed loop system. 

What others have done

Permaculture concept originated in Australia bringing together practices of indigenous cultures around the world, combining with ecology, design approaches and appropriate technology. The ethics are to care for the earth, people, and fairly share its produce. Benefits include revitalizing local economies, energy systems, water supplies, housing systems and food production. It uses local crops and shrubs that function together in a natural ecosystem.

 

Biodynamic agriculture takes a holistic, ecological and ethical approach to farming, gardening, food and nutrition.  This was first taught by philosopher Rudolf Steiner in 1924. Farms are managed as one living organism, having biodiversity of plants, animals and beneficial insects that create a resilient ecosystems.  Biodynamics generates its own soil fertility through practices of composting, using manure from farmed animals, cover crops, and rotating complimentary crops. 

 

Agroforestry aims to achieve ecologically diverse and socially productive output from the land.  It is a practical and low cost way of managing land, reducing human impact, and promoting long- term sustainable and renewable forest management especially for small scale producers.  Agro forestry involves growing trees and shrubs amongst crops or grazing land which create a microclimate, soil humitdity, stabalise and improve soil structure, and stop nutrient run offs. This is an important way of farming in desertified regions.

Farming Leafy Greens
Image by Nick Fewings

A checklist

Create

Food Forests or Forest Gardens follow permaculture design systems consisting of multilayered edible forests with perennial food plants.  Food forests include taller plant canopies along with smaller fruit shrub layers, perennial herbs, mushrooms and vegetables on the ground, climbing plants and root vegetables underground.  Food forests systems are productive due to diversity of plants and their coexistence within the system.

Polycultures

Polyculture farming grows multiple crop species, usually complementary to each other, in one area.  This yields greater diversity of crops and utilizes resources of one plot. 

Crop rotation  

Grow different types of crops in the same area in sequential seasons.  This is effective way of preventing loss of fertile soil.

Both methods prevents pests and disease of crops and reduces the need for harmful fertilizers or pesticides.

Call for change

Support farmers to grow heirloom and older varieties.  Over the last 100 years the world has lost almost 90% of the fruit and vegetable seeds that were once available.  

 

What this means is there are fewer genetic varieties amongst food crop species which reduces the opportunity of those species to resist climatic change, disease, and pest conditions in the environment.  This has happened because the industrialized global food system only grows a few varieties of food plants commercially.  

 

Create a market demand for traditional varieties.  There is urgency to grow older varieties to preserve in seed banks otherwise plant varieties could be lost forever.    

Image by Christian Joudrey