Disasters across the world are getting worse, much worse. According to a new report by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), 91% of all disasters between 1998 and 2017 were from floods, storms, droughts, heatwaves and other extreme weather events.
While slightly alarming in thinking of the global impact from extreme weather, it’s even more frightening when thinking about what that kind of weather event can do to the world’s food supply. According to the UN, this information highlights the pressing need for farmers around the world to alter their agricultural methods and crops in favor of ‘disaster-resilient’ farming.
With these types of catastrophic weather events becoming more frequent and intense, and the global population increasing rapidly, it’s more urgent than ever to safeguard our food supply.
In a report published the same week, the UN’s Global Assessment Report 2019 warned us of favoring certain crops, and how dangerous it is to rely on monocrops when any number of natural disasters could wipe them out.
Essentially, disaster-resilient farming means adopting agricultural methods that allow for these disasters, without catastrophically harming the global food supply. Examples are planting drought-resistant strains of crops, planting mangroves to buffer coastal areas from floods, installing rooftop water collection systems and planting flood-resistant rice.
Disaster-resilient farming techniques can be economically and environmentally beneficial, as well as easy to implement. The study shows reducing agricultural risk to natural disasters generated incomes more than twice as high as traditional agricultural practices. Disaster-resilient farming methods produce benefits like less pollution, decreased greenhouse gas emissions, and increased carbon sequestration.
But traditional agriculture can only take us so far. Perhaps not surprisingly, the UN insists only complete adoption of the Paris Climate Change Agreement can prevent us from the worst impacts of climate change.
So, in the face of natural disasters like these, can indoor vertical farming help increase our resilience?
If the weather-related agricultural disasters come from floods, drought, storms, earthquakes, extreme temperatures, landslides and wildfires, and the way to mitigate them is to implement climate-friendly agriculture that also use less resources… then indoor vertical farming falls under the definition of ‘disaster-resilient.’
In fact, we believe the global adoption of indoor vertical farming will revolutionise food production and distribution.
Seeded, grown, harvested, processed and packaged in an uninterrupted cold chain, produce from indoor vertical farming is monitored and controlled for precise optimisation of variables like lighting, ventilation, humidity, temperature and CO2 to provide perfect growing conditions for produce year round.
Hydroponic watering systems provide the plants the precise amount of water and nutrients without wasting a single drop. Because the production techniques are so efficient, indoor vertical farms have no CO2 emissions and drastically lower supply chains than traditional agriculture.
When compared to traditionally grown produce in open-field agriculture, produce from indoor vertical farms:
- Offers predictable and stable yields and shorter crop cycles,
- Lasts up to twice as long, is fresher, retains more of its nutrients for the consumer and is available fresh and local year-round,
- Uses 80% less water use and 90% less land,
- Grown without pesticides, herbicides or fungicides,
- Allows for constant optimization of quality and yield through precise delivery of nutrients and ultimate control of environmental variables,
- And indoor farms can be built anywhere, regardless of environmental conditions.
Revolutionising global food systems will not come without significant hurdles. The challenge to innovate and change a functioning, yet broken, system may not always be smooth.
Yet the vertical farming industry continues to make important breakthroughs in improving the way indoor farms operate and maximise efficiency. With the knowledge they may be a key aspect to safeguarding our global food supply, we’re more sure than ever indoor vertical farming is a technology and industry to watch carefully for new opportunities.