In recent months, hour-long lines, panic buying, and empty shelves have become common in grocery stores. Farmers, hit suddenly with the COVID-19 pandemic, have been forced to dramatically alter operations. According to a recent report by iUNU, the results have been staggering: food waste, food scarcity, and a massive strain on an already-fragile system – a strain that just may break it.
In times of crisis, what we need most is food predictability. We need stable systems that can withstand strains. But with traditional farming remaining the top method of produce growth, that’s an idealistic goal. The gradual advent of global warming is leaving a detrimental mark on the agriculture industry, causing unpredictable yields, shortened growth cycles, nutrient depletion, and more. Between the years of 2080 and 2099, it has been forecasted that the yields of key crops in major farming areas – such as the Corn Belt – will decrease by up to 90%.
Contrary to the common belief that greenhouse gas emissions solely result in a gradual, predictable warming of the planet, global warming is linked to massive weather changes in areas that extend beyond temperature. In fact, 69% of all extreme weather events have been attributed to or severely worsened by climate change. It’s sporadic events like these that make the agriculture industry all the more unpredictable, and all the more unequipped to handle distress.
It’s time to reevaluate how we grow our produce. As population numbers rise and global emissions steadily increase, we must overhaul the food production sector to respond to these changes. We must find ways to generate food predictability without contributing to the problem. In short, we must look to sustainable solutions. Controlled-environment agriculture is one of them. First and foremost, CEA is better for the planet as it generally requires less water, energy, and space to grow more. Crops grown in greenhouses use up to 95% less water than those grown on outdoor farms, and control over elements such as light, irrigation, and soil quality means yields up to 10-12 times higher than outdoor farming. Equally important, control over elements means an end to extreme weather events – droughts, fires, floods, etc. – affecting crops. By eliminating variability, CEA gives farmers a far better grasp of expected yield rates and timelines. Essentially, CEA gives farmers something that has become increasingly more important amidst a global crisis: predictability.
If COVID-19 has taught us anything, it’s the importance of predictable systems. Predictable systems are durable systems, systems that are prepared to handle the current pandemic and future catastrophes to come. In order to survive, the agriculture industry must begin placing a much heavier emphasis on CEA. The evidence to support this argument – food scarcity, insecurity, and instability – is right before our eyes.
https://www.carbonbrief.org/mapped-how-climate-change-affects-extreme-weather-around-theworld https://www.westarseeds.com/greenhouse-vs-open-field-cultivation-what-is-the-difference/ https://www.dw.com/en/climate-change-and-farming-unpredictability-is-here-to-stay/a-4483664
Photo by Erwan Hesry on Unsplash