We live in a growing world.
The United Nations predicts that the world population will exceed 9 billion by 2050, and as much as 80% of that figure will be urbanized. While the number of hungry people has declined in the last decade, 805 million ( 1 in 9) still go hungry, and current population trends will continue to strain our current food production systems as farmers struggle to keep up with rapidly growing populations. The strain of large, urbanized populations on our food system manifests in the proliferation of food deserts– urban and rural neighborhoods with extremely limited access to fresh food. An estimated 23.5 million Americans, including 1 in 4 Hartford residents live in food deserts. Traditional agriculture is land and labor intensive, and with fewer people living in rural areas, an aging labor force and depleted natural resources, will not be able to feed the population of the near future.
How can we support both a universally higher quality of life and a growing world population?
For starters, cities need to take action and remove some of the burdens off of rural farmers. Farmland has been declining nationally year over year and with the previously mentioned rising age of the average farmer we are seeing more and more farmers go into retirement without a successor to tend the fields. With advancements in technology and the development of new agricultural techniques, we can now more easily than ever start producing food in urban environments.
Technology Can Help Lead Us to a Sustainable Urban Model
Aquaponics is currently one of if not the most efficient method of urban food production that exists today. While other urban farming methods also use closed environments and soil-less growing techniques, aquaponics ups the ante by including a protein source (fish) within the same farm space, further concentrating production and impact. This is significant because cities need more than just greens and herbs to survive. Any sustainably raised protein cities can generate goes a long way to unburdening the strain put on rural farmers for protein production. This combination is more than just space efficient. Housing fish and plants in the same closed system allow for the elimination of pesticides, herbicides, added fertilizers, and antibiotics, which represent additional costs and ecological impact. Additionally, in a controlled environment, aquaponic produce grows faster and more densely. Urban farming also manages to reduce the cost to consumers and the environment by reducing the miles from farm to table. Shipping is a significant cost in the production of food grown hundreds or thousands of miles from its destination, as large-scale shipping requires huge quantities of expensive fossil fuels.
The answer lies not in the world’s rural bread baskets, but rather in the concrete jungle. Urban farming techniques, aquaponics among them, redistribute food production from large, rural regions to local, high-density-output operations within large-scale population centers. Urban farming aims to make food production more local by bringing production closer to consumers, to increase total output and increase sustainability by using less land, water, energy and various other natural resources. The innovative technology exists to make these green, self-sufficient cities a reality, from vertical farming to hydroponics to our own preferred method: aquaponics.
Sustainable Cities Will be a Future We Will Live In
Urban farming is now gaining traction. It is seen as a viable alternative to large-scale field agriculture. So the next step is to generate repeatable and scalable models that lead us to the ability to actually create a City that Feeds ItselfTM. That’s our mission here at Trifecta Ecosystems. There’s enough space in urban environments to grow a surplus of food and remove the burden of production off of overstressed rural farms. Sure not all things are practical to grow in an urban environment, at least yet, so rural agriculture will likely always have its place. Still, every city has the resources, and the abundance of hidden farmers to grow what is practical to 100% of the cities demand. That’s what we are striving to achieve as a company and as an industry.
Our growing cities and shrinking resources mark a watershed in the history of agriculture. It is critical that we invest in sustainable food production in order to continue the progress we have made toward the elimination of hunger. Urban farming and aquaponics, in particular, have enormous potential to solve the problems facing us. The future of food is at stake. Aquaponics provides a sustainable solution to feeding the world. It is a foundation upon which we can grow and scale to the point that a City can Feed ItselfTM.