Innovative Solutions for the Food Security Crisis

Rice Farmer in Nepal <br />(CC BY-NC-SA 2.0 by CIAT)

Rice Farmer in Nepal
(CC BY-NC-SA 2.0 by CIAT)

Guest blog by Kaitlyn Stalnaker (2015 summer intern | LinkedIn Profile), student at the University of Maryland, College Park

For the past three months I have been scouring the internet in search of interesting ag tech news for my company’s Twitter. What I noticed along the way was a growing concern for food security. As so many articles point out, the human population is growing such that the Earth will need to provide 50% more food by the year 2050. This means that farmers must increase yields among constant (or even declining) land and water availability. Seems like a tricky task, but farmers, scientists, and agricultural explorers have gotten really creative. Here are a few of my favorite solutions to addressing the food security crisis.

Urban Farming

A lot of urbanites have taken action to secure their own food. Pam Warhurst’s TEDx Talk explores the importance of urban farming as her town of Todmorden was transformed into a green sanctuary. All available lands, from along the sides of roads, to cemetery grounds, to the landscaping of city buildings were beautified with edible plants. Herb gardens, vegetable beds, and fruit trees were planted throughout the city using the planting expertise of gardeners along with the creative capacity of artists. As such, community gardens and produce soon became a staple of the city.

Another way that people have been implementing urban farming is by farming on rooftops. Not only does this resourceful idea provide abundant plants and vegetables for the community, rooftop greenery also helps purify the air, cool down the city, and soak up storm water. Moreover, in a time where fresh water is getting harder to come by, rooftop gardens can support a variety of resilient plants that can withstand drought and stress (Mayer, Foss, and Ahluwalia). These innovative farming ideas are sprouting up all over the world. The National Youth Service has initiated the concept of multi-storey farming or sack gardens in Kibera, Kenya to address food security. This initiative consists of sacks that are filled with stones, soil, and manure to facilitate the growth of edibles such as kale, spinach, onions, tomatoes, vegetables, and arrowroot. This urban initiative is said to help increase food availability, affordability, and nutrition- a win-win-win for Kiberan sack farmers (Mayoyo).

As outdoor urban farming continues to provide for city dwellers in countless innovative ways, another form of urban farming is taking root…indoors.

Indoor Farming

Indoor farming is on the rise, as a variety of initiatives have taken interest in food security. Articles such as “From chips to salad: the electronics companies making hi-tech lettuce” and “Farming in the Sky,” explore the capabilities of vertical farming, that is, farming indoors in hi-tech greenhouses that fill buildings such as factories. These vertical farms use a series of controls to monitor temperature, air quality, and humidity, along with fluorescent lighting to nurture the growth of many different fruits and vegetables. Not only does this effort attempt to fill in a gap of food availability, but it also saves both energy and water, as conventional farms lose a lot of water through evaporation, run off, and flood irrigation.

Thus far, indoor farming claims to produce a cleaner crop with the same great taste, without the use of pesticides. This expands beyond even factories! New ventures such as Freight Farms, are taking indoor farming to a local level. Now, cities can grow crops in freight containers, insulated against the harsh weather conditions of the outdoors. These freights are equipped with hydroponic systems and LED lights that enable plants to grow in rows of peat moss (as a soil substitute). The creator of this concept, Shawn Cooney, claims better yield for his time, better taste, and better texture in his crops.

Underwater Farming

In what I consider to be the most fascinating food security venture, is a research project in Italy known as Nemo’s Garden. This project utilizes underwater pods with desalinization systems, heating and cooling systems, and LED lights to grow food in the ocean. Placing the pods between 5 and 15m from the water’s surface allows ideal growth for the herbs and vegetables in these pod ecosystems. Luca Gamberini of the Ocean Reef Group claims that not only are the ocean pods capable of growing plants, but the plants grow faster in this environment (McEachran).

As you can see, the world of farming is ever expanding and revolutionizing. Though it is my belief that conventional farming can never be replaced, these great farming endeavors may be able to fill in some of the gaps in the growing need for food, perhaps taking some stress away from our hard working farmers. Here’s to the great thinkers of alternative growing, and to many more to come! If you would like to learn more about these great projects, I encourage you to please visit the original articles that have inspired me, as they are cited below.

Works Cited

Guest blog by Kaitlyn Stalnaker (2015 summer intern | LinkedIn Profile), student at the University of Maryland, College Park

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Categories: asia, krishi janani, solutions

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