Due to the globalization of the food industry, when I walk into the supermarket, I am able to buy goods from all around the world. But do I really need to buy these food items which have not only travelled thousands of food miles but are also very expensive. Yes, food miles – it is simply a measure of how far our food has travelled before we buy it. Do you know that our food transport, storage and processing contribute to one- third of global CO2 emissions?
Food travels up to 1,500 miles from farm to your plate generating great amounts of greenhouse gas emissions. Whether food is flown in by plane from another state, or even another country or whether it travel thousands of miles by truck - all modes of transport and most forms of storage and production consume fuel which contributes to one- third of global CO2 emissions. Apart from the economic and environmental cost, it also raises the question of nutrition. The nutritional benefits of vegetables and fruits decrease over time, so, eating fresh food within a few days of harvesting is healthier for you.
The popularity of locally grown food and sustainable food production, along with government food security regulations has strengthened the demand for fresh fruits and vegetables in many parts of the world.
Fresh, local produce is now becoming a mainstream trend, with more and more people wanting fresh, local options for produce and other foods. In the face of rising demands, we will have to look for options like urban farming in protected environments for creating a truly sustainable agricultural system with available finite land and water resources.
Fresh produce provides several benefits
It’s better for the environment because it reduces food miles - the distance food travels from farm to consumer and reduces CO2 emissions.
Urban farming has the potential to disrupt food production supply chains and bring healthy, fresh food to urban areas. Being close to markets, fresh and locally grown produce has a smaller carbon footprint in transportation costs. Because it is grown in protected environment, it is comparatively pesticide-free, requires less water and land to produce and offers year-round production.
Let’s look at innovative ways to grow fresh food through urban farming:
In vertical farms, plants are grown in vertical layers in a controlled environment, complete with artificial sunlight and sourced nutrients. Vertical farms can help to create a sustainable environment by making better use of vacant urban space, and growing plants twice as fast by using less water and resources. Some grocery stores in Germany and United States have vertical farms displays which allow customers to buy fresh produce directly from the farm because the farm is in the grocery store.
Hydroponics - the technique of growing plants without soil is also gaining popularity and can play a key role in the sustainability of urban farming. By combining the benefits of precise supply of water and nutrients via drip technology with optimal controlled environment and soilless cultivation, growers can grow high-quality plants.
Controlled-environment food production in greenhouses can provide year-round supply of fresh fruits and vegetables to customers. In greenhouse cultivation, you can efficiently manage temperature, the air humidity and the light. And by using drip irrigation to irrigate greenhouse crops the plants get the precise volume of water and nutrients directly to the roots for grow high quality yields.
Growing food in cities can actually help save water, as well as cut down carbon emissions, and food waste. Faced with water shortages, efficient use of water resources via drip irrigation seems to be the only sustainable way to support urban farming. Because of its efficiency and accuracy, drip irrigation system not only conserves water but also ensures higher quality crops, larger yields and better protection against diseases and pests.
Drip by Drip solution – a joint partnership between Netafim and Bayer - utilizes Netafim’s drip systems to deliver Bayer’s chemical and biological crop protection products. This solution delivers higher yields and more environmentally-friendly products for farmers and consumers. And it is ideal for use in urban farming to grow fresh produce because of efficient use of water, low environmental impact and healthier crops which are relatively pesticide-free.
While urban farming can increase the access to fresh produce, when we talk of food security, we usually talk about commodities- Wheat, Maize Rice potatoes- basic food crops. This is not possible with urban farming because these crops are grown on a large area. However, the good news is that we can increase and improve production significantly by using smart irrigation solutions like Drip Irrigation.
Click here to see why we should eat fresh, local produce?