Can we solve our food crisis with technology?

By Bryan Griffith

You hear about it almost every day and it seems to follow you everywhere. Your mom used it as an argument to get you to eat all the food on your plate, or it’s been used to guilt trip you into stopping all the waste in the cafeteria. You’ve heard this before, but we have a major food crisis in the world and we need solutions now. Like my last post showed, our population isn’t getting any smaller. On the contrary, it’s getting bigger and it’s getting bigger faster. As a result, the demand for food is growing, but our effectiveness at producing necessary supplies to meet this demand are not. How can technology help us? Well not surprisingly enough we have the technology and the ability to create new systems to grow food that will produce higher quantities and healthier products, with less time needed.

The first technology that I think could change this world dramatically in terms of producing more food is something that most people haven’t heard of, but should. This revolutionary technology is called aquaponics. Aquaponics is a tertiary ecosystem that combines water, fish and plants to create a balanced system that works with each other. Here is a quick video that gives a better visual understanding on how this system works. The amazing part of this technology is that the plants do not need soil to get the nutrients needed to grow. Instead, the fish provide the nitrogen by excreting waste, which then get transported to the roots of the plants via the water. The result creates plants that are much larger than plants grown the traditional way. These plants are also grown faster, are found to be healthier and because the roots are in water they can be placed next to each other much closer in proximity. This means that for the same amount of space you can grow a larger amount of food. Small do-it-yourself videos can be found all over the Internet if this interests you. It’s something that can be made personally or can be turned into a giant factory-sized operation. Aquaponics is here now, and you can go out today and buy a small system for under $300. It’s a great alternative to growing food, and it has many benefits with little drawbacks.

Let’s take a step into tomorrow’s way of growing food. In my opinion, this is the way of the future. It’s called vertical farming and it’s going to change the world. Vertical farming is a pretty easy concept to understand. Farms today use farmlands to grow crops. Basically this means that we are growing our food in a horizontal way. The more crops you want to grow, the more land you need to purchase. Vertical farming does the opposite. Its purpose is to create farms that use a 3-dimensioal aspect to get the most use of our space. Instead of using the land to grow foods, the future will be to build skyscrapers with the sole purpose of growing food. Here is a video that explains this better than I can.

The skyscraper’s infrastructure and exterior will be designed to capture the highest amount of sunlight. The glass will be engineered to not only give sunlight to the plants but also capture the energy needed to run the entire building. Nanotubes in the structure will be able to absorb water from the atmosphere without the need for expensive external water sources. Similar to aquaponics, the system will be mostly automated with little need for employees, which dramatically cuts costs. Some estimates state that one building that takes up the space of one city block would be able to provide enough food for the whole city. Imagine a world where cities didn’t have to import their food. Food wouldn’t get wasted, nor would people go hungry.

These are just two simple solutions to such a complex problem. These technologies need to get more awareness and be talked about by everyone. The biggest problem I find about these solutions is that they diminish the need for farmers. Some people don’t like this idea because it is putting people out of work. I understand this point of view, but did people care when the cotton gin came out? Or did people rally against Henry Ford when he put the horse and buggy out of business? The answer is no because these ideas, like aquaponics and vertical farming, will dramatically redefine our society in a positive way. Check out these additional videos for other ways to address this dire problem, or check out my Twitter @BryanGGriffith.

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