Defining the future of agriculture
Most of the really great innovation that happens has as a core component, a re-definition of what the future should look like.
From Orville and Wilbur Wright, to Henry Ford, Martin Luther King and Steve Jobs, the words they used explained why they were doing something, and how they believed it would change the future.
They defined what the future would should look like, and the similarity to the present was only by exception. Then they got on with delivering.
On a more mundane level, lets consider the future of agriculture as a component of our modern lives. We have cities now that were unthinkable a generation ago, Tokyo’s urban area contains 37 million people, Jakarta 27 million, Seoul 23 million, and so on down the list.
Mans evolution seems to be grounded at the points where he first domesticated some animals to serve as hunters, food, and companions, then domesticated wild grains, and settled down to grow them rather than moving and harvesting as they went. A similarly monumental change is happening around us now, as we leave the land and cram into cities. Initially we fed ourselves with factory farming monocultures replacing natural environments, and we are only just starting to realise the ecological impact of this social change as a few experiments in “rewilding” progress.
This increasing disconnection from our roots I believe is being felt at a subconscious level, and we are reacting, demonstrated by the sudden popularity of cooking and gardening shows in the media, the growth of farmers markets, “pick your own” trails run by local farmers, the resurgence of specialist retailers who provide product provenance, and the nascent groundswell of interest in urban agriculture.
Degraded urban areas are being re-greened, and the thinkers amongst us are slowly recognising the extent and power of the changes, and reporting the changes, as with the” Urban food security, urban resilience and climate change” report.
So what next?
Technology will play a huge role in enabling “vertical” agriculture, a capital and technology intensive idea, but the bridging stage is to retain agriculture as an integral part of our urban landscape rather than removing it under the short term pressure for housing and industrial development.
The exciting part of all this is not just the revolutionary agricultural practices that will emerge, but the opportunities for the ancillary industries and services to evolve, providing jobs, education, and some reconnection with our evolutionary ancestors, whose DNA is hard-wired in us, but recently ignored to our social cost.