Closed-system farming helps tackle the biggest challenges in global food supply security. Climate change causing extreme weather conditions in certain areas, overpopulation, soil contamination, the depletion of areas suitable for agricultural production, urbanization, and growing demand for quality food all point toward the increasing importance of local indoor farming and urban vertical farms. The world’s population is predicted to reach 9.7 billion by 2050 (2 billion more than today), with most of the growth set to take place in Africa and developing countries where climate change hits the hardest. Moreover, in just 10 years, humanity will need 50% more food than today (calculating with a current annual growth rate of 5%).
We are convinced that outdoor farming alone will not be able to meet these challenges. The much-needed technological advances of precision agriculture, improved seeds, and irrigation will be needed to counterbalance the adverse impact of climate change alone: innovative solutions designed to ensure food security must complement this huge undertaking. Indoor farming stands out as one of the best-suited solutions.
Indoor farms are highly water-efficient installations that take up considerably less space, and are independent from weather conditions and the change of seasons.
Paired with other technology-driven solutions, these farms can be the guarantees of basic human wellbeing for billions of people, where basic wellbeing is defined by 2,200 calories of healthy, balanced food intake and 10 liters of water (for drinking, basic hygiene and cooking) per person a day.
However, for this exciting disruptive technology that balances on the thin line between agriculture, industry 4.0, and digital technology to provide real global solutions and be able to produce staple food for the masses, including integrated ecosystems that can also feed animals in a sustainable way, a lot of innovation and investment is necessary. Humanity will have to embrace sources of food that go beyond the traditional approach, such as algae, bacteria, or insects, which often have a much higher conversion rate of feed intake to edible food. By smartly combining different elements such as vertical farms, animal husbandry, insects, and fish, we can get very close to a zero-waste cluster with optimal productivity – allowing strategic autonomy even in countries with adverse climatic conditions.
Although Central and Eastern Europe does not typically bear the brunt of the most severe consequences of climate change and food scarcity, an increasing number of European initiatives focus, for example, on the impact of the 24% decline in water sources on the continent in the last few years.
However, the CEE region could play a much bigger role than simply making the necessary investments to solve its own looming climate problems. I have always looked at the CEE region as a historically well-established bridge connecting Europe with developing countries in need and working closely with North Africa and the Middle East. It is up to the nations of this region, to us, to understand what happens to geopolitical stability if we fail to help these developing countries to deal with all the negative, sometimes catastrophic consequences of climate change and fast population growth. In addition to being our basic social responsibility and humanitarian obligation to offset these effects, it is also in our very own interest to act. Innovation is needed to propel sustainable food production forward and end hunger in the world.
What should governments and businesses in the region do to achieve this? They should acknowledge that the CEE region could potentially play a significant role in these solutions and provide funding for research and innovation to scale food security. By doing so, we would all be working to make the world more livable and we would physically be sowing the seeds of human happiness.
(Written by Joerg Bauer President & CEO of Tungsram, originally published in Globsec Disruptive Tech Trends in CEE)