Like an intertwined spider web, the traditional food system involves growing, processing, delivering, and people consuming food throughout the entire nation, and world. To get food from a farm to your fork is a truly daunting task, and traditional food production across the globe is facing a mammoth crisis. With the changing global environment, an increase in the world’s population, the obesity problem in Western countries, and extreme rural poverty around the globe, there is a need to revolutionize the way the world grows, processes, and disseminates food so that all people have access to healful plentiful choices.
Facing Food Shortages
The population forecast predicts 10 billion people living on this planet by 2050. Many of these people live in poverty, spending a vast amount of their salary on food. According to the Oxford Martin Programme on the Future of Food, though there has been some progress in the last thirty years to reduce hunger across the globe, there are still “800 million people without access to enough food, many in failing states and conflict zones. A further two billion people lack key micronutrients, particularly iron, zinc, vitamin A and iodine (this is known as the ‘hidden hunger’).” Without adequate food and nutrition, the global population will continue to suffer.
Additionally, natural resources, especially fresh water, are being taxed to the limit. With so many mouths to feed, and declining natural resources to do so, the world’s food systems are in trouble.
Failing Food Systems
The current food system is antiquated and will need to increase food production by 70% if it is to keep up with the population increase. But as natural resources get scarcer and the line between rich and poor gets more distinct, a solution must be sought. The Oxford Martin Programme on the Future of Food, “The challenge for agriculture is to increase production, especially of nutrient-rich foods; to do so in ways which reduce inequality and are economically efficient, and to reverse and prevent further resource degradation and environmental impact.” Agriculture also must consider how to reduce food loss and waste, how to find innovative distribution methods such as markets, and improve diet and nutrition, whether finding nutrient rich foods for impoverished third world countries or vitamin and mineral-laden foods in developed countries where obesity is an issue.
Thinking “Inside” the Box
In order to grow sustainable, nutritious food amidst this global backdrop, farmers need to think outside the box, or is that INSIDE the box? To reduce costs and food loss, the food should be grown closer to where it is consumed. Following the California Cuisine method of farm to table is a plausible tactic to keep fresh food close. The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations said, “As more consumers become educated about the food chain, we expect a four times increase in demand for locally-grown food as soon as 2025.” One of the reasons so many people in the world are nutrient deficient is that they do not have access to fresh healthy food in their local area. If time, money, and distance preclude rural people from getting fresh fruits and vegetables, then farmers must take the garden to them. The other important element of overhauling food systems is that fewer natural resources should be expended, and hydroponic gardening would answer both the proximity challenge as well as the drought of natural resources.
Hooray for Hydroponics!
Hydroponics gardening has many selling points. Hydroponics farms use only 10 percent of the water of traditional farming because the water is recycled; this makes growing fresh vegetables in drought-ridden areas more possible. Because there is no soil, there are no bugs and therefore no need for pesticides. Hydroponic vegetables are extremely efficient because the nutrients go straight to the roots. For this reason, there is a higher yield of fruits and vegetables and they grow faster.
In places like sub-Saharan Africa, where access to leafy green vegetables is often limited, hydroponics is a miracle that can grow 3 to 10 times more crops in the same amount of space as conventional farms, with no need for soil and very little water. Even in the United States, which uses about 80 percent of its water for agriculture, the savings and efficiency of hydroponics would help immensely with water conservation. The bonus of hydroponics is that there are 7 to 14 times more growth cycles than traditional practices. Because crops can be grown indoors and year-round, no matter what the climate, this further helps the cause of food insecurity.
Growing Food on Location
The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations is already using hydroponic farming in those regions like Latin America and Africa that lack quality soil, fresh water, and a growable environment. Vertical hydroponics designs are the answer. Created to save space, they can grow an immense amount of fruits and vegetables with the expenditure of very few natural resources. If you build a vertical system yourself, you will not break the bank and could provide food for an entire village or neighborhood.
“The largest vertical farm is being built in Dubai, covering 130,000 square feet of land and aiming to produce 6,000 pounds of food per day, “using 1/2500th the amount of water as an equivalent soil operation”. For a city that imports 85% of their food, this will greatly revolutionize the way the city eats.” When food is grown closer to home, it is less expensive, fresher, and retains more nutrients.
Not every town or village can afford the vertical farm system Dubai has. If you want to do this on a smaller scale, growing food in a deep water culture system could be your answer. With many autonomous families in developing countries, a small hydroponic system can offer them the nutrition they need. Citizens could also be taught to use the Kratky method of hydroponics, which is definitely on a smaller scale but would feed a family. Developing a hydroponic container farm is also a strong contender for a new food system. This freight system is built in a large freight container brought right to the site. No matter what type of system you want to use, getting started is the biggest hurdle. Use these tips to bring fresh fruits and vegetables to the people who need it most.
The Future is Now
For the 800 million people without enough food in this world, hydroponic gardening is the answer. Bringing the garden to the people saves time, money, resources, and nutrients. There are many types of hydroponic systems that will help impoverished people, and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations is working diligently to make positive changes. You don’t have to be a governing body to do so, however. Hydroponics can be grown in your own backyard to offer fresh, nutrient-laden foods to your family and friends, and you can be part of the solution.