Big-business high-tech supply systems can and do grind out the freshness of food. Did you know supermarket apples can stay edible up to 11 months, thanks to special treatments that arrest ripening while in transit? By the time you eat ‘an apple a day’ for your health, the natural goodness and flavour of the fruit may be in question.
It’s a wonder why we cannot solve these imbalances. Thankfully, there are clever minds at work to develop new growing methods and more efficient sources of quality food. Farmers in Europe use digital real time monitoring to track the health, wellbeing and productivity of farm animals raised for dairy and meat. Precision agriculture or satellite farming uses GPS and camera drones for growth measurement, weed mapping and weather damage assessments. Sensors collect temperature and moisture data, nitrogen and phosphate levels.
Beneath special LED computer monitored lights, the people at Green Sense Farms harvest twice a week, spend no money on pesticide and enjoy a 365-day annual growing season – whatever the weather brings. That’s because Green Sense and others like them are operating hydroponic indoor vertical farms, where they grow delicious fresh produce such as micro greens. The plants are fed nutrient-rich water in a controlled environment and need no soil.
Green Sense happens to be located 40 miles from Chicago, but the technology behind vertical farms is easily adaptable in or even under city centres.
There’s no doubt that technology has an important role in our daily lives and has to do with growing, processing, delivering, buying and cooking.
Closer to home, the fresh produce of PT Cibadak Agri under the ‘Highland’ brand is the result of careful investment in production technology that ensures consistency in fertigation (combined irrigation and fertilizer systems), cleaning, sorting and packing – which the company believes differentiates its products and making them of the highest quality.
Fans of berries will know the local brand ‘All Seasons’. Their farm in Puncak has modern, hi-tech greenhouses covering seven hectares, containing over 80,000 mother plants, 200,000 seedlings and more than one million fruit-bearing plants. The plants are grown using computer-controlled climate and irrigation systems with rainwater reservoirs sufficient for the entire year, even in the dry season.
‘Javara’ Indigenous Indonesia works with 50,000 farmers to provide better technology, equipment and knowledge, such as dehydrators to help dry spices for the perfect texture, colour and aroma, whatever the season or weather condition. Javara also provides farmers with solar panels to ensure reliable energy supply for their dehydration and humidifying equipment in remote island locations where access to sustained, affordable electricity is limited.
As intriguing as these ideas may be – we might be guilty of ignoring the troubling facts: imbalances in global food supply, the inequity that is hunger and the unsustainability of global supermarket supply chains.
What if there was one answer for all of this? Well, that might just be in the making.
Known as the ‘Open Agriculture’ initiative at MIT in the USA, it is a vast digital database that profiles every aspect of plants as well as their performance. It uses aeroponics to supply each plant with the right mix of water, air and minerals. The results are astonishing – plants growing four or five times faster than what is possible in outdoor, conventional soil beds. By using data to ensure an exact recreation of the original growing conditions, farmers can grow plants anywhere. Think of how much one can save on transport and storage costs!
Lots of time and money will be needed to spread such clever ideas. In the meantime, there are great examples of making more of what nature has given us.
It’s a reminder that each of us can actually contribute to nurturing our natural resource base using ‘technology’ that has been around since mankind stopped hunting and started farming. Now that’s food for thought!
Written By, Petty Elliott