Creating Sustainable Agriculture

What do we think of when it comes to the future?  It seems to always be white skyscrapers with blue windows and green plants everywhere else.  These ideological cities are fascinating to think about, the one where even parking lots are farms.  This future always seemed like a fantasy, but as our agricultural system becomes more demanding, this sci-fi future might be the right one.

Think about it.  69% of worldwide water withdrawal is sacrificed for agriculture, and its consumption is estimated to rise 19% every year by 2050.  This is truly inopportune, considering global water demand is gauged to go up 55%. Bucolic or not, our seemingly irreproachable farms are killing the planet, and we are all oblivious.  We cannot keep relinquishing all our resources to this. We need both food and water, something must change.

The key is aquaponics.  This arcane soilless technique is how we modernize agriculture.  It utilizes 1/10th of the water, by using fish. To give plants nutrients, fish waste is converted by microbes and worms into plant food or nitrates, which is soaked up by the plant roots through the water.  The plants then symbiotically filter the water for the fish. “A kilogram of fish food produces at least 50 kilos of vegetables,” the New York Times states. Additionally, plants grow ⅓ faster without pesticides or the possibility for soil-borne diseases.  Furthermore, since soil is superfluous, the grade of land does not signify anything. They can be built anywhere, from parking lots to African deserts. And close to consumer also ensures lower shipping costs and therefore less pollution. When in the past 40 years ⅓ of our arable land is degraded, we need sustainability.  

There are crops not yet compatible with this though, so I discovered through the Agricultural Market Resource Center how many acres each crop compatible required, not finding numbers on bananas, mint, or basil, and added it up.  If we cut down on half the land used for farming these crops (2,657,217.5 acres), there would be enough room for over another Yellowstone, or 13 New York Cities. Think about how much life could find a home if we moved forward with this sustainable mindset.  Additionally, going off trees per acre of New England forest, we could plant over 12 billion trees in that land. Deforestation, water, pollution, pesticides, disease, hunger, land degradation, all helped by this simple solution.

That eco-city future does not have to be just a dream anymore.  It comes when we face this ineluctable issue full on and save another Yellowstone.  Our world is our only one, and we must farm conscious of that.

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