An increasingly viable solution for climate change is Controlled Environment Agriculture (CEA), implemented across the U.S., in states likes Alabama.
The water, energy, and food security nexus is a real and present problem.
Here are some highlights from the website of The Agrarian Group:
As a species, we face the most complex and deadly problems we have ever encountered. Erratic weather events caused by climate change destroy crop yields each year. Pesticides have ruined our soil and water scarcity has become a national security issue. 70% of food cost is linked to fossil fuels, and prices are only expected to rise. The average food item travels 1500 miles to reach it's destination. However, despite everything we do, 40% of all food in the United States is thrown away post-harvest.
The Agrarian Group was started as an answer to a question - How will we feed the projected 9.1 Billion people that will reside on earth in 2050? To achieve this, we need to increase our already stressed agricultural production by 70%. How do we grow better?
Agtech solutions can help solve the challenges we face.
Here is an example of Agtech solutions being implemented in Alabama:
Innovation is all about thinking outside the box, but in the case of Auburn University’s new vertical farming project, it’s also about thinking within the box – two large boxes to be precise.
The boxes in question are repurposed shipping containers that Auburn is using to both teach and feed its students while also creating new, innovative food production opportunities across the campus and state.
According to Desmond Layne, head of Auburn’s Dept. of Horticulture, the containers are a type of controlled-environment agriculture system that allows farmers to cover or enclose crops with the aim of increasing quality, yields and sustainability. CEA structures range from low-tech high tunnels and traditional greenhouses to high-tech warehouse farms, and these containers represent an especially adaptable CEA option.
“Plants need nutrients, water, light, space and CO2 to grow,” said Daniel Wells, associate professor of horticulture in Auburn’s College of Agriculture whose work focuses on CEA systems. But plants also need protection from threats such as insect and disease pests and adverse weather conditions.
Container farms, which are old shipping containers outfitted with state-of-the-art hydroponic and vertical farming equipment (vertical farm systems grow plants upright in frames or grids rather than on a horizontal plane) not only meet those needs, they can surpass them. That’s because they allow farmers to closely control inputs such as nutrients, CO2, lighting and temperature levels to maximize plant productivity and avoid the many challenges associated with outdoor crop production.
“It could be 100 degrees outside or 20 degrees outside, but it will always be 70 degrees inside the container,” Layne explained. This allows fruits, vegetables, herbs and other high-value crops to be grown and harvested 365 days a year. What’s more, these portable farms can be set up almost anywhere – from an urban food desert to an actual desert and from a restaurant parking lot to a frozen tundra – thus providing people everywhere better access to fresh, nutritious food.
Layne noted that using constant, reliable and sustainable food production systems such as these containers also helps address other food security issues such as supply chain and climate change disruptions and the potential for pathogenic or chemical contamination.