Our civilization faces a great challenge: for the next 40 years we have to double the food output from our farms if we want the expected 9 billion people living then to be properly fed.
If that was not challenging enough, let´s add the restricted availability of the key ingredient: water. Not only an issue of quantity, but of the environmental impact that would cause having to double the volume of water that we currently use in agriculture.
Conclusion: we need to produce more (a lot more) with less (water among other inputs).
Obviously, this is a very simplistic and partially focused introduction of a much more complex subject. But this is enough to highlight the great relevance that should play the two means of production that we discuss on this post:
- irrigation systems
Irrigation systems must become an indispensable and omnipresent actor in farms all across locations, like Africa and other underdeveloped regions, as much as it is today in the most advanced agricultural regions, like Europe and North America.
Rain-fed crops are no longer an option for the assurance of food supply to 9 billion people. Irrigating crops by traditional inundation practice, isn´t either a sustainable option. Only systems like drip irrigation and spray are seen as a viable alternative that can ensure a great increase in output production while preserving the natural reserves of water.
Efficiency of existing irrigation systems is big, but it´s expected that most evolved systems, like hydroponics, only implanted in the western world, do expand their presence and become the standard in those regions where today rain is the first irrigation system. With systems that require an extraction of water equivalent only to that the plants incorporate to their cells, plus the loses on evapotranspiration, we ensure that only the strictly necessary water is used. Efficiency at top level.
Greenhouses provide a big range of advantages to horticulture. Yet cereal crops are excluded, there´s still a big stake of the food diet that can be grown under protected environment.
The protection from weather and pest risks, provides outstanding conditions to multiply the yield of all crops by several times the standard in outdoor conditions in the same surface; crops can be grown during a longer period of the year (even the whole of it in some cases); the losses of production due to quality damages are minimized; the demand of inputs like water, fertilizers and agrochemicals is lower per kg of product obtained; the use of pesticides can be minimized or eradicated much more easily than in outdoor crops.
Add to all that the possibility to modify and control the interior climate conditions according to each crop, and the output is boosted.
The combination of Greenhouses and modern Irrigation Systems represent a mix of highest efficiency, and as such, them should play a significant role in the development of a new model of sustainable agriculture in those regions of the planet, where current practices are completely unviable to ensure food supply in the coming decades.
We are not facing a problem of having to solve a technological challenge; the existing technology is good enough and still evolves and improves day by day. What we face is a double challenge:
- extending the presence of that technology to all regions of the world
- divulge the necessary knowledge and expertise to make those systems works properly