How Innovation and Technology are Improving Sustainable Farming Practices
It’s a new year, and the world continues marching forward. Global warming continues to announce its arrival, despite the detractors and deniers. Our population continues to grow and live longer, and citizens continue to innovate and implement healthier and environmentally positive techniques into their everyday lives and industries. Agriculture and sustainable farming practices are enjoying a new predominance in the public eye, and with the developing technology of the 21st century, our farming practices will continue to evolve as time goes by.
Science will affect the future of agriculture in a significant way — whether this future includes aquaculture techniques, raising livestock, healthy crop growth or off-world agriculture techniques for the purposes of space exploration. While plenty of techniques and practices are currently being implemented and experimented with, here are a few to pay attention to in the beginning of 2018.
There’s something incredibly enjoyable about getting your hands on produce out of season. Growing summer and spring produce during the winter isn’t a new concept, but the methods have become refined with time and knowledge.
Centuries ago, rulers and lords would collect healthy soil during the spring and pack it into wheelbarrows or portable wooden beds. Then, during the winter, servants would cart the portable farm into the sunlight, then cover the garden to trap the warmth. This way, they would grow their favorite produce year-round.
These days, heated greenhouses, small “low tunnels” and hoop houses are how we grow crops out of season. Farmers are refining these practices even further to produce vegetables in a myriad of climates and areas to make growing food possible nearly anywhere, at any time.
The practice of bioremediation translates beyond agriculture. The process is useful for both crime scene and oil spill cleanup procedures. However, for the purposes of this article, we’ll focus on its benefits toward farming — specifically, the cleanup of contaminated soil.
We walk on it every day and dismiss it after planting our crops or completing our construction projects, but soil has a delicate balance. Overuse, mismanagement and human activity will result in the introduction of toxic substances into the soil and groundwater. Bioremediation takes those chemical contaminants in the soil and uses them as an energy source through oxidation-reduction reactions. The process metabolizes the target contaminations, converting them into usable energy for microbes.
It’s a completely natural process that has little to no harmful side effects, works quickly to convert soil and water into useful elements and costs very little to maintain or begin. Also, with continued experimentation and refinement, the process may just prove essential for agriculture on other worlds, as well.
It turns out large-scale agriculture isn’t exclusive to open plains. The metropolitan landscape of the future has begun to take shape in the form of solar power windows, rain catchers and wind-resistant blockades. It’s entirely plausible 2018 will be the year in which we take the first real steps toward the development of the world’s first 100 percent renewable city.
It’s a simple idea — engaging the spacious rooftops of a metropolis to install beneficial agricultural gardens. Building-integrated architecture, or BIA, deals with myriad longstanding issues that negatively affect metropolitan life, as well as addressing the inevitable global problems on the horizon. For instance, modern agriculture uses 70 percent of the freshwater supply, and consumes a massive amount of land.
Meanwhile, in the United States alone, the numbers are impressive, with buildings making up more than 30 percent of energy use, more than 60 percent of electricity consumption, 12 percent of water consumption and more than 30 percent of carbon dioxide emissions. By 2030, the human population will probably exceed 9 billion, and the resulting increase in global warming will create global food, water and arable land shortages.
By cultivating large-scale gardens on the rooftops of existing buildings, the inactive real estate will become profitable. The delivery needs of healthy, naturally grown produce to urban areas will be cut in half, which will, in return, diminish the possibilities of traffic congestion, air pollution and carbon emissions. Finally, BIA represents a natural way to reduce air pollution in large urban areas.
Regardless of the year, whether 2018 or 2028, our practices in the world require improvement and advancement. The way we farm — the methods, techniques and technologies — must change with the times, as breakthrough techniques continue to challenge our assumptions.