The Earth is warming.
The ice caps are melting. We, as a race and as a society are quite simply running out of time, and it’s easily foreseeable that the warming the earth is experiencing could lead to all-out Armageddon within my lifetime. But even as science has accepted these facts as they come, we as a global community, as stewards of the planet we call home, have yet to even begin the drastic changes vital to the long term survival of our species.
In my city, Milwaukee, Wisconsin, urban agriculture is becoming a growing part of day to day life for many, and even some college students are getting involved. Today I will be looking at some new and upcoming innovations in urban agriculture, and explore how these innovations are sure to change the very face of farming. It is my belief that at the end of the day, the changes that will save the world will start with all of us working together, and I think that urban agriculture is the way to feed the future.
Defining the Premise: Urban Agriculture for the Modern Human
Urban agriculture is not a new concept, for almost as long as we have had cities, there has been urban agriculture. Across our history, it has been a shelter from sure disaster, from the victory gardens of the great wars to the modern day food startups changing the way we eat, we have often been kept afloat by the liferaft of urban growing.
But urban agriculture is almost as nebulous to define as it is unknown by most. Urban agriculture is a sort of one size fits all approach to farming, where everyone is farming, so no one has to be a farmer. At least, that is the dream of some (and nightmare of others). Your backyard garden is urban agriculture, your community garden is urban agriculture, the planter box outside your apartment window is urban agriculture, the dill and thyme you grow in your kitchen is urban agriculture.
Fish and Plants: A (Certified) Organic Ecosystem
Will Allen is an extraordinary human being. A MacArthur Genius Grant winner, an honorary Doctor of Agriculture, and even a part of the Obama’s food outreach, Mr. Allen has been on the forefront of Urban Agriculture since the early 1990s. One of his most recent projects is a reimagining of one of his greatest, a fish farm utilizing a symbiotic relationship between plants and fish to craft organic fish and vegetables for human consumption.
These types of systems are the way of the future, but are truly difficult to maintain in an effective manner. Through a series of research and innovations, Mr. Allen has found a way to make the process simpler, and better functioning, and as he has done in the past, he will once again revolutionize the way we think about food and fishing through organic and pesticide-free food available at a much lower cost.
The Massachusetts Institute of Technology continues to amaze people with technological and material advancements unfathomable to most people. One such product is their so-called “Food Computer” which just launched version 3.0. The Food Computer, designed in the MIT Media Lab monitors and adjusts all the conditions necessary to grow food automatically.
The new technology utilizes sensors to determine and compensate for the exact needs of each individual plant, from pH and temperature to lighting and carbon dioxide, every variable can be measured, and every supply adjusted.
Systems like this one are more efficient, and make better use of space and supplies, allowing more and better food to be grown in a way that is good for everyone, including the earth. On the MIT website for the project, you can even find the directions to build one of these for yourself and have an opportunity to experience first hand the food supply chain of tomorrow, today.
Farm to Face: The Shock and Awe of a Wisconsin Peach
Did you know that Milwaukee, Wisconsin is growing peaches? Juicy, delicious, nutritious, farm-fresh peaches. They are grown in controlled environments, plucked from the tree by gentle hands at optimum ripeness, and delivered to the mouth of the consumer in less than half of a day. That is the miracle of a Wisconsin peach, a fruit that according to most guides would struggle to even grow through the winter is cultivated in small batches, in temperature monitored environments, and is presold to the consumer, so that they know exactly what they are getting before they get it, and have the opportunity to interact with the food growing process on a primary level.
Another one of the features of the modern urban farm is the economy behind it. In the case of the Wisconsin peach, the eater has elected to buy it months before it’s even bloomed and knows the risks and rewards that such a gamble can be. But by funding first, it allows the farmers to do the best they can, because they are paid to, as opposed to the modern industrial farm, where food is sold after growth, and riches or bankruptcy can ride on a single growing season.
In The End, It’s About Much More Than The Food
Beyond the awe of a peach grown in one of the northernmost states, beyond the novelty of a computer monitoring your garden, and beyond fish and proprietary trade secrets, you have a community of growers. Every person can contribute to the global food effort. All it takes is a terracotta pot, a seed, and some soil, and you can grow your own fruits and vegetables, reducing strain on a global market, and reducing your own personal carbon footprint, a goal we can all live with.