By the year 2050, there will be more than 9 billion people on earth. At the same time, arable land and water resources are declining. Now, this is a major threat to world food security.
The graphs by WHO indicate how the two parameters are changing. Ideally, there must be constant relations, but it is the opposite. Now to feed the world, we need to think of alternative ways to cultivate more in less space. Worldwide researchers and entrepreneurs are working on technologies to optimize land usage and new methods to grow edibles.
Commercial agriculture has taken a massive toll on earth’s natural resources, and the limits are near. About 70% of the freshwater is used in agriculture, while 70% of water contamination also comes from agriculture. Pesticide overuse has deteriorated soil health by killing beneficial microorganisms. The soil is no more capable of filtering out pesticides and rendering them inert. This has caused the toxicity of soil and runoff. Runoff leads to water contamination killing aquatic life too.
Degradation, infrastructure, and biodiversity loss are all getting impacted. Moreover, the carbon emissions caused due to commercial agriculture and distribution are another matter of concern. The process of growing itself is energy-intensive, and the distance between the farm and the cities is vast. Transportation leads to high emissions. Nutritional content is also lost during transportation and cold storage.
The biggest thing we can do is minimize our food waste. Unused food must be donated to food banks and soup kitchens. There are still challenges here, and processes are unregulated. Here is where there is a scope for startups who can simplify this and bring credibility.
What we as ordinary people can do is reduce food waste on our level, like cooking in measured quantities—giving away unused food to the needy.
Increasing crop production with a limited amount of land is what we need now. Vertical farming is an excellent solution. Vertical farming optimizes the usage of resources while giving an amazing yield.
Using CRISP-R technology or gene editing, we can selectively breed a plant to get desired traits like higher yield, drought, and pest resistance.
The crop yield depends not just on nutrients, but also on soil quality of holding the nutrients, texture for proper root growth, and water holding capacity. Degraded soils must be improved by methods such as agroforestry, incorporating trees on farms and pastures to boost yields and improve the soil.
Organic farming has the potential to improve soil health and increase yields over time. Using organic matter to nourish the soil and eliminate pests is the best way to keep soil healthy. Moreover, the product obtained has higher nutritional content than commercially grown ones.
Various urban farmers have developed new techniques like hydroponics and aeroponics, to enhance yields and grow in compact spaces. Another thing we can opt for at home is kitchen gardens. There are no significant requirements for space, and you can also produce some on your window sill. Many startups are willing to help you in this domain. Many terrace spaces can also be converted into edible gardens. City people who have lesser spaces can start with microgreens.
Considering the current statistics and solutions, there is a possibility on both sides. The need of the hour is to start adopting the solutions as mentioned above and move towards sustainable practices. Awareness and action is the key!
About the author: Palak Kumar is an insatiably curious Mechanical Engineering student, passionate about flying, clouds, literature, and plants. Working towards revolutionizing Indoor Vertical Growing.