Grow Your Own: The Future of Farming

We are currently using 80% of the earth’s arable land to grow our food—which amounts to a chunk of land the size of South America. With current farming practices, by 2050 we will need an additional chunk of land, larger than Brazil, to feed the additional 3 billion+ people that will be living on earth by then. What does all this mean? — That we all, collectively, have a problem. Dr. Dickson Despommier writes about some creative solutions in his book, “The Vertical Farm, Feeding the World in the 21st Century”.

We are currently standing on a farming precipice, peering over the edge—wondering what to do. Even here in expansive Canada we’re not immune to the problem (especially since much of our food—especially meat—comes from the Global South where arable land is running out), but we are behind the times in a solution that is popping up around the globe—vertical farming.

Currently, here in Canada, we are being left behind as the world outpaces us in vertical farming. The most impressive versions exist in South Korea, Japan, Singapore, Sweden and the Netherlands. Japan has created a hydroponic vertical farm that doesn’t require soil and uses significantly less water than traditional farming (most vertical farms use less water than traditional land-based farming). Sweden has a 17-storey vertical farm and the Netherlands has a three-storey, underground garden that is experimenting with lighting possibilities. Even the U.S is getting onboard with vertical gardens springing up in Chicago and Wyoming.

Why We Dig Vertical Farming
Here at the Edison Institute we dig vertical farming and encourage our students and graduates to spread the word, for many great reasons: it’s environmentally-friendly, is impervious to  droughts and other negative farming weather conditions, it makes better use of our precious fresh water and doesn’t steal land from our wilderness. Vertical farming can also be created modularly; then shipped to areas after a natural disaster or civil unrest.

Also, we know that the quality of food has declined due to soil depletion, unsustainable farming practices, overproduction of crops and the use of pesticides and herbicides. We can no longer count on fresh produce providing all of the vitamins, minerals, enzymes, and phytonutrients needed by eating a multitude of fresh produce—even if you’re eating organically. Not surprisingly, a calorie today will provide you less nutrition than a calorie from 100, or even 50 years ago. Vertical farming techniques can put that nutrition back into the food.

Another reason we dig vertical farms is that they act as a larger scale example of how we can all contribute and play a more conscious role in growing our own food at home.

Our Contribution
At Edison Institute, our goal is to inspire innovation by familiarizing our students with concepts like vertical farming and encouraging sustainability, such as growing food at home.  We are big advocates of a revolutionary product called the Tower Garden. Tower Gardens are small, vertical, container gardens that can be used to grow vine-ripened fresh produce, with up to 20 plants per garden. The Tower Garden can be used to grow fruits and vegetables such as: lettuce, vine-ripened tomatoes, strawberries and fresh herbs for a start. The sky’s the limit.

We encourage all of our students and graduates to get involved with growing your own produce and whenever possible, inspire your nutritional clients to do the same. Just think what a dramatic impact this could make on our future if we all played a more active role in cultivating our own food.