An article covering new farming methods & technology which provide better means to produce food. The goal of this article is to reduce the gloomy (& mistaken) idea that the world can’t produce food for its population, & to get the reader to wonder what could actually (potentially) be done. Discussing farming is becoming more like describing a foreign phenomena that most North Americans cannot relate to. We have more bus drivers than farmers. Less than one percent of the population are farmers in North America.
POINT OF COMPATIBILITY. Actually there are more Americans than one might realize who have common ground with farmers. 43 million American households (37%) have food gardens, and about 105 million Americans do gardening. A food garden is no different than the small farms that historically covered the globe…no different except that the small farmer raised part of his produce to sell or barter, & today’s typical food gardener uses their own produce or gives it away. (A few have wonderful road side stands.)
THE REAL DEAL. Farmers, in contrast to rich Wall St. brokers, produce real goods! We all depend on farmers, whether we realize it or not. In America, 79% of farm productivity comes from family farms. Returning to the idea that the world is short of food…14% (1 billion) of the world overeat(!) while 28% eat too little. When one calculates food wastage, there is no shortage of food. It is a distribution problem, and with the new technologies & methods, even with wastage the planet could take care of its food needs.
SUPPRESSED TECHNOLOGY. A great deal of energy technology has been suppressed. One of the drawbacks to food production are the energy costs. Imagine what could be done with free energy. In spite of all this suppressed technology, what I will share will you in this article about available technologies will still excite you.
NEW URBAN LAND. I often read authors stating that we are not making any more land for farming. Wrong. Urban farming is on the increase where urbanites transform their roofs into farm land. There is a lot of potential here, & it raises the food right where the people are. Industrial parks have the potential for large scale farming, and yet have been slow to accept urban farming. Roof farming can benefit from residual building heat also. Certain crops do better on roofs…fruit veggies give better yields than leafy veggies. But leafy veggies can be grown indoors with incredible yields. More on that later. Besides adding urban areas to farming, marginal rural land is being built into farmland in places around the world…so the amount of farmland can increase.
THE GREEN REVOLUTION. Rice is the most important food crop in the world. Wheat is also important. Both rice & wheat doubled in production in Asia from the 1960’s to the ‘90’s. I remember the terrible predictions of mass starvation by the ‘90’s…it did not happen. Food production increased, and this increase was called the Green Revolution. Now Monsanto and other elite corp. are pushing a Gene Revolution, claiming that GM food will produce another revolution in food production. For those who don’t understand… the historic traditional crossbreeding is NOT genetic modification. The traditional method of picking out the best for one’s seeds, is NOT the same. GM takes genes from one species and places them into another. They are also irradiating seeds to cause mutations to see what they get. People globally are concerned & skeptical about GM seeds, and justifiably so. Perhaps you remember an American firm was trying to patent Basmati rice. When these large corporations patent a crop, no one can use their own seed legally. You are required to buy new seed from Monsanto (or whoever) each year. And what happens if the State does not want you to buy because you are on some list?? The reality is that using the old methods of crossbreeding (like different kinds of wheat) and selective breeding (using seeds from good crop specimens) is powerful enough to provide us with sufficient food.
SMART PRECISION EQUIPMENT. If you have not kept tabs on the new changes in farming, you may have missed realizing that smart equipment is giving farmers the edge in efficiency. A combine (harvesting wheat) will now speed up or slow down depending on how heavy the crop is. It keeps track of information during its harvesting, and that is transferred to smart seed drills, which use the info to plant (drill) the wheat into the ground better the next year. Other examples of smart farm equipment: the Universal Tillage Tool (a smart disk) which can adjust its disk angles and can set the disk blade depth (By the way, this Tillage Tool was displayed at the 2015 Nat. Farm Machinery Show at Louisville, KY), a precision fertilizer spreader by Kuhn, smart loader wagons that adjust their tractor’s speed, smart balers that adjust tractor speed to insure a smooth crop flow so that firm bales come out, as well as others.
Farmers have access to sensors such as soil moisture sensors to help them irrigate more efficiently, and plant their crops more intelligently. Predictive ground hardness sensors are able to send info to computers that control the hydraulic down-pressure actuator so that fertilizer and seeds can be more accurately placed in the ground. A signal tells the planter to adjust its operating depth when it gets to the particular spot. This allows high-speed planters to operate up to 12 m.p.h. which is twice the speed conventional planters operate at. The decision for precision is boosting productivity. Co-ops for farmers have been providing precision equipment to farmers for years. Currently, methods for collecting info about their farms is gaining usage and the co-ops are helping farmers with this also. Some farmers can employ the precision equipment better than others. Areas with extreme unpredictable variations in weather don’t benefit as much. And there are backward areas of the world where basic things like the benefit of crop rotation are still unknown. There is lots of room for improvement & growth in productivity.
FARMS GROW UP…GREEN SENSE FARMS. As far as I know the Green Sense Farms located near Chicago is the largest indoor vertical farm in the U.S. The farm grows kale, watercress, lettuces & basil in nutrient-rich water in racks 25 feet high. Computers monitor the lights which use a special blend of blue & red light which is the optimal light for photosynthesis for leafy greens. They are able to turn a micro-green crop about every 12 days, baby greens every month, and lettuces in about 35 days. They don’t have tractor expenses, and field farmers only get a couple crops per year. The indoor farm has “perfect weather every single day.” They don’t have to worry about heavy rain or droughts. They operate close to their urban markets. Another indoor vertical grow operation is in eastern Japan where they harvest 10,000 heads of lettuce a day. A run-down New Jersey steel factory converted into an indoor vertical grow operation expects to produce 2 million pounds of produce per year from a 69,000 sq. ft. urban farm. An extension of all this are skyscraper farms. One source states, “Potentially an 18 story tower could feed about 50,000 people, and take up much less land. Think of it as a giant green house. Add in an automated irrigation, fertilizing, and lighting system powered by wind and sunlight, and you have got a reliably self- sustaining source of food and energy.” The attached photo shows what one of these skyscraper farms could look like.