FARM OF THE

          FUTURE   

                                         INDIA ROSE KLAP

 

 

 

 


In 2050 the world population will contain around 9 billion people. To be able to continue feeding all these people, worldwide the food production  will have to increase by 70%. If this does not succeed, large food shortages will arise, probably in the developing countries where the population growth is also greatest. Climate change, the depletion of our raw materials, a shortage of water and agricultural land will not improve the situation. Food wastage and meat consumption will have to be drastically reduced. In addition, the crops must be improved and the production must be made more sustainable. Only time can tell if all this will work out, but luckily mankind is a naturally inventive species and there are numerous solutions in the making.

THE FARMBOT

As a little girl I regularly got up at six in the morning to log in to my Facebook account. I urgently needed to harvest my tomatoes. But despite the fact that I shared getting up in the early morning hours with the real farm boys and girls, I was just as bad at taking care of my virtual farm as at keeping my Albert Heijn (Dutch supermarket chain) vegetable garden adventures alive. In the meantime I have grown into a young lady and a new agricultural toy has been born. The Californian entrepreneur Rory Anderson has made a real version of Farmville, the Farmbot. A real farm robot for the not so real farm boys and girls like me. Rory also had experience with failed vegetable garden adventures. And Rory also understood that after having bought your a parsley plant three times in the supermarket, you were done with the discolored leaves. That is why Rory thought it was time for a solution, he created the Farmbot. A robot that takes on the difficult part of the agricultural profession. The Farmbot uses camera technology and a so-called "drag and drop" system to sow the plants, and then to feed them with exactly enough water and to weed the soil around the plants. When the time is right you will receive a notification so that you can harvest the plants yourself. After all, we still want to feel like we have green thumbs. In about 100 pages, Rory explained how you build and program the robot, and he gave those pages to the world as open source material. For people with two left hands, it is also possible to buy a Farmbot that has already been made. In the last two years, around 600 farmbots have been built worldwide. Because the project is open source, it can constantly be further developed, by Rory and his team, but also by everyone else from the ever-growing online community of Farmbot. You can find all the information you need to build a Farmbot on the Farmbot website.

AQUAPONICS

Aquaponics, it may sound like a hypermodern form of water aerobics, but it has little to do with sports. Aquaponics is a circular method for growing food that makes plants and fish live and grow together. It is a form of hydroponics; growing plants without using soil. With aquaponics you use microorganisms and insects to convert the puddle of the fish into manure for the plants. The plants in turn filter the water for the fish. It is a sustainable form of food cultivation that requires relatively little water and space, making it well suited as a form of urban farming or to practice indoors. The method used in aquaponics is not entirely new. It is a method that often occurs in Asia. In China, Indonesia and Thailand it has been common practice for a long time to breed fish in rice fields, as they are constantly under water during the cultivation of the rice. The Aztecs - already around the year 1000 - used a similar method. They grew their plants on reed fleets in the water. The roots of the plants made their way through the fleets into the water. The aquaponics system only differs in how the method is applied from the previous systems. An aquaponics system consists of an aquarium and a growth bed. Plants live on a layer of hydro granules in the growing bed. With an ebb and flow system, also called a bell siphon or car siphon, the growth bed is moistened with water from the aquarium. The microorganisms and insects between the hydro pellets act as a filter: they clean the water that later flushes back to the aquarium via a drainage system. It takes a while for the ecosystem to be in balance and even when everything is working you still have to keep a close eye on the system. Moreover, it is important that the fish and plant species you choose grow well at the same temperatures and pH values. In general, plants such as lettuce and herbs thrive well in an aquaponics system. If you do not want to use the fish for consumption, you can use catfish, koi carp or goldfish. If you prefer to have something from your aquarium on your plate, then the Tilapia, shrimp or crayfish are a good choice.

HOW TO BUILD AN AQUAPONICS SYSTEM?

1. You start by searching for or purchasing an open frame that can hold two plastic containers. A plastic container with a capacity of approximately 50 liters for the aquarium. And a smaller plastic container with a capacity of approximately 25 liters for the growing bed.

 

NOTE: Make sure it has an open frame.

TIP: The Argot System from Ikea is very suitable as a frame.

 

2. Drill a hole in the bottom of the growing bed. Make sure that the hole is large enough for the external thread connection to fit snugly.

 

3. Insert the male thread connection through the hole with a rubber ring in between. Screw the female thread connection also with a rubber ring in between. Finally connect the reducer to the external thread connection.

 

NOTE: If the system is not yet watertight in this way, you can use a silicone sealant around the connection.

NOTE: This part is called the standpipe and this ensures that the water can flow out of the growing bed. It is important that the standpipe does not protrude higher than 2-3 cm below the top edge of the growth bed.

 

4. Now place a car trap over the standpipe. The following 2 steps explain how you make one yourself, but they can also be obtained via the internet.

 

5. The first part of the car trap must have a diameter large enough that it fits well around the standpipe. Holes with a diameter of approximately 0.5 cm must be drilled in the lower 2-3 cm edge of the pipe. You place an airtight cap on this part.

 

6. The second part of the car trap must have a diameter large enough that it fits well around the first part. Holes with a diameter of approximately 0.7 cm can be drilled in the entire pipe. You place an airtight cap on this part.

 

7. Place the small part of the car trap over the standpipe. Attach it with silicone kit. Then place the large part of the car trap over the small part. Also confirm this part with silicone kit.

 

8. Place the pump system with the ball valve. Use a 600 lph (liter per hour) electric submersible pump. This is placed in the corner of the aquarium and will pump the water towards the growth bed. The water will flow and the growth bed will flow out in the opposite corner.

 

9. Connect the tubes and ball valve to the submersible pump. The ball valve ensures that you have control over the amount of water that is pumped in the direction of the growth bed.

 

10. When all the silicone sealant has dried and hardened, it is time for a test round. You can add some water to the aquarium to see if the system works.

 

11. If the system works, fill the growing bed with hydro pellets or similar material.

PLEASE NOTE: The material must not emit any toxic substances and must be capable of water by being able to flow later.

 

12. When this is done you can start placing plants and adding a few small fish.

 

13. Now it is important that the system is in good balance and that you continue to read about aquaponics.

 

TIPS:

- Make sure there is enough oxygen in the water.

- Ensure that the water has a reasonably neutral and stable acidity.

- Make sure the water temperature is between 20 and 30 degrees.

- Make sure there is enough nitrate in the water before you add the fish (it usually takes a few weeks).

URBAN FARMING

Urban farming is a term used for any form of food production that takes place in the city. This can be in the form of a city farm or allotment garden, but also in the form of vertical agriculture or keeping bees. Because the food in this form of agriculture is closer to the inhabitants of the city, the so-called "ecological footprint" is reduced. In 2012, a 3000 m2 vegetable garden was placed on the roof of Zuidpark in Amsterdam. The largest "urban farming roof" in Europe. More and more such roofs appear worldwide. There are even agencies such as, De Dakdokters and Rooftop Revolution, who are working day in day out to convert unused roofs into roofs with room for nature development and food production, among other things. But roofs are not the only wasteland that is suitable for urban farming. The Stadsboeren foundation gives vacant places in Amsterdam a temporary interpretation by installing mobile vegetable gardens and giving local residents vegetable garden workshops. Urban farming is not just about producing food but also about the social aspect. For example, many city farms and allotment gardens create jobs for people at a distance from the labor market. But it can also be of a more educational nature where the consumer is involved in the process of making a product. In addition to growing food outside, this can also happen inside the city. Vertical agriculture is a good example of this. In vertical agriculture, different types of plants grow in containers stacked one above the other. Not much water is needed by using a smart irrigation system. The light comes from energy-efficient LED lamps. The use of this light can even be adjusted to affect the taste and quality of the food. Because all different factors can be optimally adjusted and people are not bothered by changing weather conditions, food grows optimally here. The American company AeroFarms has built the world's largest vertical farm in an old steel plant in New Jersey. The technology that Aerofarms uses is called; aeroponics. The plants are not in the ground or in water, but are suspended in the air. Around the roots is a mist filled with nutrients for the plants. The food not only grows more sustainably but also faster. Where a plant such as lettuce outside needs about 30 to 35 days to grow, the same head of lettuce in an aeroponics system will have grown within 12-16 days.

THE SEAWEEDFARMERS

In 2013 the Dutch Rebecca Wiering and the American Jennifer Breaton founded the company Zeewaar. The first seaweed farm in the Netherlands. Neither of the women had experience as a seaweed farmer, and there are many people in Europe who do have that question. In Asian countries, seaweed has been a standard ingredient of daily food for hundreds of years, but in the Netherlands we are still pretty strange with it. That is why the ladies not only had to set up the farm, but also had to generate a market to get rid of their harvest. In itself, seaweed has been used extensively in Europe, but almost exclusively to make wound dressings, thickeners and stabilizers. Moreover, the seaweed that is used for this is not grown sustainably. They get the plants out of the seas and oceans but don't plant them back. As a result, the seaweed also runs out at a given moment. Since seaweed performs the same function in the water as trees do on land, mass removal of the plants is very harmful. At the ladies' seaweed farm, the seaweed is planted on thin strings hanging on the so-called cultivation lines. There is a distance of one meter between each cultivation line because the seaweed needs sufficient light and water flow. Such a system is also used for the cultivation of mussels and is called the "mussel seed collection system". The seaweed that the ladies grow is called kelp and needs about four to six months to grow. It can then be up to 1.5 to 2 meters long and 30 to 50 centimeters wide. To harvest the seaweed, the cultivation lines are lifted from the water and they cut the seaweed manually. The seaweed still needs to be washed. The farm is getting better and better, so the ladies have a new future perspective. They want to ensure that the entire coastline of Europe is filled with small seaweed farms. A good idea because gradually more and more "seaweed burgers" and "sea spaghetti" appear on the menu around us.

THE ‘LIVIN FARMS HIVE’

The "Livin Farms Hive" is an insect basket for your desk or counter top. With the basket you can grow 200 to 500 grams of mealworms per week. Mealworms contain a high amount of protein and many good vitamins, amino acids and enzymes. They are therefore a good replacement for meat or fish. In addition, mealworms use 10% of the space that cows use and they emit much less CO2. In the hive you grow mealworms as well as food, but also to keep the system functioning, you call that a circular system. The hive is a kind of tower that consists of different floors. The beetles live on the top floor. The eggs that the beetles lay fall through small holes in the floor below. Mealworms grow there. You can feed the mealworms by giving them the residual material from your fruit and vegetables. After a while a green light comes on, which means it is time to harvest the mealworms. Some will have formed a cocoon and these will be placed back at the top of the hive to emerge as beetles. The rest of the mealworms can be frozen and then consumed.

THE C02 NEUTRAL EGG

They make C02-neutral eggs at the Kipster chicken farm. Kipster is a chicken paradise with an inner garden filled with trees and stumps where the chickens can play. White chickens frolic around, because they are lighter and need less food than their brown comrades. Moreover, the chickens are fed the leftovers from the baker and the farmer instead of having to produce feed for the chickens. The chicken paradise is covered with solar panels on the outside and they are adaptations if this animal ensures that the farm is so sustainable and the eggs are CO2 neutral. That is also how it can be and that for only about 6-8 cents more per egg, compared to a free-range variant.

SUPERRICE & BIO CASSAVA PLUS

Genetic modification sounds scary but does not always have to be. It can bring about miraculous things and make the sustainability of agriculture big steps forward. John Sheehy is an agricultural researcher at the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) in Manila. Sheehy and his team are busy making a super rice. They try to adjust the photosynthesis process of rice so that the rice grows faster. Rice is a C3 plant, which means that it needs sunlight, water and CO2 to get energy through photosynthesis. There are also C4 plants, these still use an extra step in the photosynthesis process whereby the CO2 is concentrated in the plant itself. This in turn ensures that they have to wear their leaf pores for less time to absorb the CO2, so that less water is lost through evaporation. These C4 plants receive more energy faster and therefore grow faster in, for example, dry areas. Sheehy and his team try to genetically modify rice so that it changes from a C3 plant to a C4 plant. Given that rice is one of the most consumed crops on earth, this can be a good solution for the impending food shortage.

 

The cassava root is another important crop. This plant is eaten a lot in Africa and South America. The cassava root contains a lot of starch, making it a nutritious plant, but it contains relatively little protein, iron, zinc and vitamin A. All of which are important nutrients for daily consumption. The BioCassava Plus project aims to genetically modify the cassava root so that it contains more of the above-mentioned important nutrients and thus better meets daily needs. They also want to reduce the amount of hydrogen cyanide - which is a toxic substance - in the cassava root. As mentioned before, genetic modification may sound scary, but it can also be seen as a logical next step in the evolution of agriculture. Because let's be honest; the relationship that man has with nature has always been somewhat manipulative.

SALINIZED FOOD

Due to climate change, sea levels are rising while at the same time the soil is falling in countries such as the Netherlands and Bangladesh, but also in places such as California and Tokyo. Due to dry summers, less fresh water comes in and the groundwater gradually changes into seawater, which causes the soil to salinize. A billion hectares of land worldwide have been salinized and that amount is increasing by around 2000 hectares every day. It is estimated that around 125,000 hectares of land will be salinized in the Netherlands in 2030. Salinization of the soil is a threat to food production and an attempt is being made to combat this through crop breeding and the desalination of the soil. Unfortunately, the attempt so far has not been successful. But there is another solution; salty food. Growing crops in salty soil. I heard about it for the first time on vacation with my parents-in-law on the Normandy coast. Somewhere on the road between the coast and the village where we were staying, local farming families were selling salty potatoes and garlic. I don't know if it really tasted salty or if I just wanted to believe that. At least it was nice. At the Zilt Proefbedrijf on Texel, they are conducting research into saline agriculture and they have discovered that much more is possible in that area than initially thought. With a smart drip irrigation system, the salty water is brought to the plant roots. With the system they can also give different fields different salt concentrations, since one crop can withstand more salt than the other. Many types of cabbage do very well on salty soil, but certain types of potatoes, carrots, onions, tomatoes and even strawberries can thrive in salty soil. There may even be advantages in the field of taste in salty agriculture. A good example of this is a strawberry grown on salty soil, which becomes extra sweet because it has to resist salt. Perhaps after the forgotten now it is time for the salty vegetables to become the newest hype in the land of 'food bloggers'.

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