food production resource-based economy Kadagaya

Technological advancements have been increasing agricultural yields and reducing human labour for thousands of years, from the use of animal power to steam engines, and the rapid industrialisation resulting from developments in machinery and fossil-fuel-based fertilizers and pesticides. With our current level of technology, we already produce enough food to provide everyone in the world with more than the daily recommended calories [1]⁠.  World hunger is not due to an inability to grow enough food, but rather the inability of the monetary system to provide employment so people can “earn” the food they need. The existing market forces make it profitable to waste good food (creating scarcity to keep prices high), promote mono-cropping (to the detriment of biodiversity and the environment), and grow potentially unsafe genetically-modified (GMO) crops. Traditional agriculture uses around 37% of the land [2] and 70% of the fresh water on the planet [3]. Agriculture generally makes up only 1-2% of the energy use of developed countries [4], [5] a small amount compared to industrial and transport use. However, it is not sustainable or wise to use dwindling fossil-fuel supplies to fertilise crops and transport food around the world. Providing a safe and reliable supply of nutritious food is critical for a healthy and stable society. Meanwhile, there is much scope for the use of appropriate technologies to create agricultural systems that efficiently provide sufficient nutrition, while improving the health of the soil and increasing biodiversity, rather than destroying the environment and our health. 

The main agricultural activities at Kadagaya are as follows. All of these systems are being holistically integrated considering the nutrient cycles.

  • Theoretical modelling of crop combinations for efficiently providing maximum while using the minimum land, water, and energy. We are developing an algorithm using inputs of human nutritional requirements, vitamin and mineral contents of foods, and crop yields. Crops appropriate for our climate in tropical Peru are being trialled.
  • Aquaponics systems (indoor agriculture)
  • Food forests (outdoor agriculture and soil regeneration)
  • Rearing animals
  • Crops for feeding animals
  • Commercial crops and reforestation
  • Crops to provide technical materials (link)

 Aquaponics

Advanced agricultural techniques, such as “aquaponics” and “hydroponics” make it possible to grow a wide range of crops using less land than traditional farming. These methods do not require soil as the plants are grown in a controlled indoor environment in a flow of nutrient-rich water. In the case of hydroponics, the nutrients (purchased or made from compost) need to be added to the water. However, in the case of aquaponics the system is combined with a fish farm which provides the required nutrients. We plan to breed soldier flies, who efficiently convert a wide variety of waste (agricultural waste, kitchen scraps, even meat and faeces) into high-protein larvae that can be fed to the fish. This type of agriculture is not dependent on the quality of the soil or the weather, and can be protected from insects and diseases (meaning most pesticides/herbicides are not required). In addition, by controlling the temperature, water supply, and nutrient levels it is possible to produce higher yields (per year and per hectare) of the crops using 70% less water [6] compared to traditional soil-based agriculture.

 Food forests

There are some plants (like large fruit trees and bamboo) than cannot be grown indoors using hydroponics/aquaponics. We are continuously planting and maintaining “food forests” using permaculture techniques, which simulate the biodiversity of a natural forest. Integrating many different layers in the food forest e.g. canopy trees, vines, groundcovers, root crops and fungi, in a strategic way allows the natural symbiotic relationships to occur, providing natural protection from pests, improving soil quality, and providing habitat for other organisms. In a few short years, we have seen major improvement in the soil quality by introducing a wider variety of trees and strategically mulching.

 Animals

While it is debatable whether the consumption of animal products is necessary or beneficial for health, and many avoid eating animal products for ethical or environmental reasons, we see various advantages in raising animals as a part of a holistic agricultural system. For example, while our chickens provide eggs and meat, they also give great value in preparing the soil, reducing pest populations, and providing manure. In an attempt to design a closed nutrient cycle, we aim to grow all food required by our animals. We are trialling a moringa plantation for feeding the chickens, which is also a highly nutritious multi-purpose crop that has can be used for oil production, water filtration, human consumption, and medicinal purposes. A combination of soldier fly larvae and moringa is expected to provide a complete food for the chickens.

Commercial crops

While commercial crops are not a focus at Kadagaya, we are evaluating the economic potential of several crops, such as moringa. As a part of the reforestation of our land, we are planting timber trees that could bring an income in some years. A major motivation for investigating commercial crops is to offer better solutions for our neighbours. We are located in an agricultural region that is dominated by cash crops. Until recently, the region mainly grew coffee, but was hit hard by a global disease that put many small growers out of business. Now, the pineapple industry is rapidly growing, and we foresee future problems with the high level of monoculture and surplus of fruit on the market. In addition, we are seeing a lot of deforestation and high usage of pesticide and synthetic fertilizers on the pineapple farms. Therefore, we would like to evaluate alternative crops that are economically viable, sustainable, and appropriate for the region.  

Technical materials

While not a current focus, we plan to trial the growth of several crops that provide technical materials for construction following the “grow your own house” concept. More information can be found here.

food production holistic integration resource-based economy Kadagaya aquaponics

 

[1]    J. Diouf, “Millennium Lecture Towards a Hunger-free Century,” Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, 1999.

[2]    World Bank, “Agricultural land (% of land area),” 2015.

[3]    OECD, “Water use in agriculture,” 2015.

[4]    J. Woods, A. Williams, J. K. Hughes, M. Black, and R. Murphy, “Energy and the food system.,” Philos. Trans. R. Soc. Lond. B. Biol. Sci., vol. 365, no. 1554, pp. 2991–3006, Sep. 2010.

[5]    A. C. Patrick Canning, “Energy Use in the U.S. Food System,” USDA Econ. Res. Serv. Rep. No. ERR-94, 2010.

[6]    P. H. Diamandis and S. Kotler, Abundance: The Future Is Better Than You Think. Free Press, 2012.

 

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