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 in the late 19th and 20th centuries 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 calorific intake [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 to a community is one of the most fundamental and immediate steps in becoming self-sufficient. We selected food crops based on efficiently providing maximum nutrition for the community while using the minimum land area, water and energy input. We are developing an algorithm which uses inputs of human nutritional requirements, vitamin and mineral contents of foods, as well as yield and production data of various plants to analyse which plants are the most beneficial. Advanced agricultural techniques such as “aquaponics” and “hydroponics” will be used to 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. The residues from the crops (and other kitchen waste) can be used to feed a worm farm (vermiculture), and in turn these worms can be used to feed the fish, creating a closed cycle. Nutrients lacking from the fish farm can be supplemented by adding “worm tea” from the worm farm. In addition, restudies such as meat and faeces that cannot be fed to the worms can be used to breed soldier flies who efficiently convert the waste 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, nutrient levels etc., 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.

There are some plants (like large fruit trees and bamboo) than cannot be grown indoors using hydroponics/aquaponics. These will be grown outdoors in a “food forest” 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. As with all the systems and technology being implemented in the Kadagaya project, the agricultural systems will be holistically integrated with other systems. For example, using the food forest for filtering and cleaning waste water.

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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