World Population Day 2019: Creating Solutions for a Growing Population
Currently the world’s population is over 7.5 billion. According to the United Nations, this number will jump to 9.7 billion people by 2050. The current agricultural system would need to double its output to face the projected stresses ahead. In a world facing more extreme weather, this means disruptions in the food supply is the biggest way people will experience climate change firsthand.
So, the simple solution that you may be thinking of is just to plant more crops. Just plow some more land, throw some seeds in and watch it grow. But, it’s not quite that easy. It’s actually not easy at all.
Why not just plant more crops?
While that sounds straightforward enough, the unfortunate reality is that the current industry is facing widespread challenges and complications because of farming methods. Agriculture as a whole is one of the largest contributors to global warming and climate change. For example, cattle emit large amounts of methane — a greenhouse gas that warms the atmosphere — and fertilizers used to grow crops are responsible for nitrous oxide emissions. But, perhaps the most problematic area that needs to be addressed is the effects of tearing down forests to plant crops and graze animals. Deforestation, or the destruction of forests, causes around 10 percent of overall emissions (mainly carbon). This, confounded with challenges like the overuse of pesticides and monocropping, have led to a significant loss of the world’s arable land.
Something has to change
Business as usual is no longer a mantra that works for the way we consume and use the earth’s resources. Climate change is being referred to as a climate crisis now as a result of the damaging floods and wildfires that have been happening around the world in recent years. We all must work together to create sustainable solutions that are not just as temporary solve.
The good news is that there are already several companies and innovations trying to make the switch to more sustainable practices by using advancements made possible by technology.
Technology in agriculture
Blue River Technology has invented a new way to keep weeds down and manage the usage of herbicides. Their See & Spray technology is able to pinpoint which plants are weeds and which are crops in real time, and only apply herbicides directly to the weeds.
Companies that help monitor soil health are also crucial in the fight to maintain arable land. Teralytic invented technology that uses soil probes to help farmers monitor the health of their soil — down to extremely precise numbers. This allows farmers to know exactly what nutrients their soil needs to grow crops, preventing over-fertilization.
Here at Bowery Farming, we believe indoor farming is also a crucial component in the fight to feed a growing population that will mostly live in and around cities. Our indoor farms are able to provide a controlled environment for crops, only providing precisely what they need, conserving water and eliminating pesticides for a safer, more secure food supply year-round.
Creating solutions in your own life
If some farmers and companies are already working hard to make sure everyone will have enough food, what can you do? Support companies that have sustainability practices by buying their food, and if you don’t know where a restaurant or grocery store sources their food, ask. The food industry responds to demand, and if we begin demanding sustainably produced food, that will encourage change.
Hungry for more? Amanda Little’s latest book, The Fate of Food, provides an in-depth look at various industries tackling how we’ll feed a growing population.