Current levels of food production are hampered by several issues including climate change, and cannot meet the demands of an increasing global population. Meeting these demands requires identifying and addressing the limiting factors. Mission 2019 focused on land and water, and the interface with the crops one chooses to grow.
Climate change presents huge issues to our agricultural future, from increased precipitation extremes, to a greater risk of natural disasters, to the spread of pests and diseases and the promotion of human conflict. These effects are difficult to predict however as they create a complex set of positives and negatives that are also hinged on the path we take going forward in our climate future. The solutions we have created are very much adaptative to the “slow” rate of climate change, and crafted to capitalize on the opportunities climate change offers while not exacerbating the negatives. The final step to addressing the climate conundrum is the “mitigative” aspect, which is very much in some ways beyond the scope of our mission. However, we recognize the critical nature of aiding in reducing our greenhouse gas emissions in our solutions and hint at how we might address the larger climate problem.
As the population increases, people cluster around the food sources and therefore land that is fertile is often turned into cities, and agriculture is moved to an arbitrary location that may be less than ideal. Allocating areas to agriculture before development can ensure that fertile land is used by farming. The land to be saved for agriculture depends on evaluations of:
- Soil quality
- Rainfall patterns
- Protection from natural disasters
- Degree of current development
To keep the preserved land from being developed for monetary gain, implementation and enforcement of the zoning must be done by non-local parties.
45% of the Earth is not currently amenable to farming due to some degree of desertification. This strains the food supply and could cost countries 563 billion USD over the course of twenty years, compared to the 213 billion USD that is estimated to stop desertification and reclaim a large portion of it for crop production. Countries affected by deserts benefit economically through reversing 52% of the deserts through:
- Limiting the number of ruminant, or grazing, species on land at risk
- Planting plants with branching root systems on land at risk or as a pioneer species
- Planting liman trees or creating rock cages that catch runoff water and form oases
- Diversion of runoff water into underground aquifers to prevent evaporation
- Biotechnologies that turn sand into rock and can therefore collect standing bodies of water.
Reversing desertification can take between five and fifty years, and even then there are areas that are too costly to rehabilitate. Methods can be developed for planting in drylands to prevent the loss of production yield when land is less arable. These include:
- Planting local crops
- Using agroforestry
- Minimizing waste
- Looking into innovative technologies for closed-loop farming where possible.
In order to accomplish the necessary increases in food production, we must utilize all land available to us, including that in urban areas. Urban farming grows food and fuel in or near cities and sells them at local markets. Due the decrease in transportation and storage, this results in:
- Increased income for low-income farmers
- Reduced waste
- Improved air and water quality
- Reduced energy consumption
As well as a reduction in urban squalor through increased community self-esteem, self-sufficiency, and greater employment levels.
Obstacles to urban agriculture center around legality and lack of awareness and knowledge, which could be addressed through greater support from policymakers and local authorities.
The constant use of pesticides has had a significant negative effect on crop yields and the environment. In order to combat both pests and the negative effects of pesticides, farmers should be given subsidies to reduce the use of pesticides and implement crop rotations.
Irrigation methods differ between developed and developing countries depending on cost and technology required. In developing countries, the introduction of irrigation could increase yields to the same level as developed countries. In developed countries, the emphasis should be on minimizing the environmental impact of irrigation, including land erosion and water waste. As technologies in sustainable irrigation advance, the cost of it is expected to go down and then one can start to replace systems in developing countries.
Hunger is not the only problem we are addressing; the lack of proper nutrients takes a toll on countries’ productivity as well. While increasing food production, we must be careful to increase nutrition as well. This can be accomplished through:
- Food supplementation
- Development of infrastructure to provide fresh foods to people in remote areas.
Knowledge of nutrients and what the human body requires is vital to telling what needs to be planted to keep the world healthy.
While genetically modified organisms (GMOs) have focused on high yield and pest resistant crops, providing only calories is not enough to feed the world. Malnutrition and natural disasters must also be addressed, especially in developing countries. These two problems can be alleviated through biofortification, respectively enhancing the nutrient content of staple crops and using drought- and flood- resistant crops. This method may also apply in areas of developed countries that face more localized concerns than just a broad need to produce more food.
Many small farmers cannot afford the prices of Genetically Modified (GM) crops. A public-private partnership model should be employed wherein the company funds development of a GM crop by public institutions suited for the needs of farmers in a developing country (the target country) and relinquishes their strict ownership of the seed in the target country so that farmers can acquire it for an affordable price and collect the seeds for future planting. In return, the company will gain all rights to sell it in their home country.
Due to climate change, natural disasters are rising in frequency and magnitude. While large scale farmers can deal with the resulting losses, small farmers do not have the resources to do the same. Forming cooperatives, small farmers can get a better price on shared supplies and tools for this end. The better prepared farmers are for disasters, the more reliable crop production will be.
Overfishing damages future harvest yields, depletes biomass, and affects the equilibrium of ecosystems. Aquaculture is a promising solution, but there is a need to invest in Research and Development, especially in artificial fish feed. In addition, governments should increase their support of small scale fishing and farming by creating more local markets. To address environmental impact, organizations should invest in cheaper solutions for aquaculture, and enforce regulation of proper fish farming.