At first I wouldn’t have believed that my area will suffer from a food shortage in present years, but the future can sometimes be a harbinger of terrible things. Given where I live it’s extremely difficult to imagine a place without food where I’m surrounded by an abundance of farmland and woods, let alone an age where we would run out of food.
However, if you take into account the immense numbers of people becoming
dependent on areas like mine, once their own food supplies have been exhausted, you quickly realise that everyone is at risk. Much of the UK used to be covered by vast forests centuries ago, untouched by industry and overpopulation. Now I only have to travel a few miles before I encounter civilisation; a jungle of grass and woodland mostly replaced by a concrete landscape with towers of bricks and mortar to support hundreds of people, if not thousands. This presents a problem with the beauty our country has because, by just beyond 2100AD, it is thought that 1.8 billion extra people will inhabit our little island. On the other hand, just because we have the monstrosity of cities all around us doesn’t mean opportunities don’t exist for agriculture.
One idea would be to only depend on 25% of resources from the
countryside (protecting remaining natural resources), and focus on Urban Farm systems. The University of Sussex have been examining this issue in great detail, trying to find a solution where the prospect of “vertical farms” are simply too expensive to produce. In areas like London where giant, disused natural gas silos exist, their ability to control the temperature and pressure could allow their internal spaces to be converted into facilities designed for Fruit and Vegetable farming. With a good harvest a small percentage of seeds could be held back to replenish the stores and create more crops, not relying on packaged seeds from suppliers. It is also possible that, if animals were part of these facilities, there wouldn’t be so much a dependency on artificial fertiliser. Through the support of Dairy farming in such structures, the waste could be transformed into fertiliser for use with the crops; thereby making them cheaper to maintain since the raw materials to enable food production are all created onsite. After the crops are produced they are then shipped to wherever they are needed...
Sites such as this are very hard to find in the UK, but other countries such
as Argentina have explored the idea themselves in creating Solar Farms that use an 8-year rotation cycles between beef and grain – five years for beef on grass, and then three years of grain farming. During this process the cattle produce vast quantities of Nitrogen in waste as a bi-product, which is a natural nutrient essential for plants to grow effectively. The principle is similar to how a greenhouse works, except that it is thousands of square feet in a skyscraper as opposed to laid out on a field somewhere in the open air.
With the amount of rainfall we receive each year,
coupled with the sewage produced on a daily basis, this presents another opportunity for self sufficiency: the water collected can be used to irrigate the crops as well as revitalise the animals’ intake, instead of being dependent on water supplies used by humans. Sewage also creates great amounts of algae as it build up, so Algae Processors recently developed by NASA can be used to create biofuel and fresh water as it is consumed.