Les Hamasaki 2017-03-16 02:17:45
THE FUTURE OF WATER, FOOD, ENERGY, & HEALTHCARE . . . As human populations and carbon and methane emissions increase, drought in California worsens, and suburban development consumes precious farmland, we need to rethink and re-plan our local and national food security. We should protect the quality and health value of our food, minimize the environmental impacts of today’s industrial food production, and to a much greater extent localize our central farm-to-market distribution system – which in an urbanized world means we must urbanize much of our agriculture. The future of food, water, energy, and healthcare will accelerate the transition from rural industrial farms to urban vertical factory farms. According to Dickson Despommier, professor of Public Health at Columbia University, “there are two things going on in a vertical farm or even in a high-tech greenhouse that are applicable to the water use issues. On a global scale 70 percent of the available liquid fresh water on the planet is used for irrigation. And once the irrigation is complete and the water the plants don’t take up is then thrown away, it’s contaminated with all those agri-chemicals that are necessary in order to make the plants grow in places where monocultures never existed. Agricultural runoff is the world’s largest source of pollution and that happens after the irrigated water is spread all over the fields. The plants take what they need and the rest of it is called run-off. Run-off has spoiled the world’s estuaries. As the result, the United States has to import 80 percent of its seafood from other places because all of our estuaries are contaminated.” The emerging smart urban farms are central to future food production. They will be computer-managed, solar-powered urban and suburban organic greenhouses constructed within large commercial and industrial buildings. They will grow crops from asparagus to zucchini day and night, year-round. Scientifically and technologically designed, these solar smart-farms will operate according to constantly-updated online information directing farmer-managers what to grow, how much to grow, and when to grow to maximize profits and reduce spoilage. And they will operate with considerably less back-breaking labor, and mostly out of the blazing sun . Tomorrow’s urban vertical solar smart-farms will use much less water than today’s traditional outdoor rural farms. Indoor hydroponic farming uses 70 percent less water than outdoor irrigation; another technology called aeroponics, similar to hydroponics, in which the roots are actually sprayed with a thin film of water, also uses approximately 70 percent less water than hydroponic farming. Growing most of our crops with hydroponic farming would save a tremendous amount of fresh water. Another technology can capture water from the air and use it to water crops. Atmospheric water generator technology utilizes evapotranspiration, the process by which plants put water into the air after they take the nutrients out of the solution they take up by their roots and move up through the stems into the leaves. Today, farmers must rely on refrigerated transportation to deliver their produce to customers in metropolitan areas. In California, nearly 50 percent of the fresh food never reaches market because of defect or oversupply. Transportation costs and spoilage losses account for up to 50 to 60 percent of the cost of food production. Lester Brown, president of the Earth Policy Institute, goes so far as to define a “food bubble” economy -- created by over-pumping aquifers, overflowing and overgrazing land, and overloading the atmosphere with carbon dioxide. Like the U. S.-born housing bubble before it, Brown predicts the bursting of the food bubble will ricochet worldwide with dire consequences, including “survival itself” at stake for people living on the lower rungs of the global economic ladder. America’s and the world’s future farmers will be a new breed of technologically-oriented social entrepreneurs, living and working as smart urban farmers to combat hunger, pollution, climate change, and water shortages, and to create a sustainable local and global food production future. Les Hamasaki is an urban and regional sustainable development planner. He served on the Los Angeles City Planning Commission under Mayor Richard Riordan and the Los Angeles Airport Commission under Mayor Tom Bradley. He is the former Executive Director of the Green Institute for Village Empowerment, Inc.
Published by Moreno Valley Business Journal. View All Articles.