A couple of years ago I was involved in a venture to build recycling aquaculture farms and while the venture didn’t take flight, it sure wasn’t because the technology wasn’t world class. From that time my interest in all things sustainable, renewable has grown and the idea of micro farming as a social enterprise and community initiative has also grown. Lead by technology around hydroponic and or aquaponic systems this is the future.
Available space to farm food close to consumers is becoming rare and what is left, is becoming expensive real estate as urban sprawl grows unabated. To farm nearby is too expensive when property developers can make much more building houses and apartments. Farmers are selling their land to cash in often because there is nobody willing to take over.
The challenge however and the irony is that consumers are choosing to live in much denser environments with city living compacting us all into less space every year. High density, once a pejorative term to describe suburbs where small houses were a function of affordability, has now become a term to describes reality for the majority of us irrespective of social class of affordability.
Where we eat too is ever closer to where we live. Food nowadays spends an unhealthy period in transit where it is frozen and treated to preserve ‘freshness’ only to end up on our plates containing a fraction of the nutritious sustenance we expect it to have. Herein lies the irony, our food is moving further away as we move further in but our expectation is for greater freshness and nutritious value.
The advent of micro farming as both an idea and practical solution may well now have its time. My uncle many years ago chose late in his life to embrace hydroponic farming. What was supposed to be a supplementary income in semi-retirement turned into a runaway success producing cucumbers and tomatoes hydroponically for sale into produce markets. It was observing his experience that I took interest in sustainable and controlled farming practices.
Farmlets as I call them, much like a hamlets are urban micro farming enterprises. Any metropolitan space could accommodate a farmlet. Indoor farmlets especially would be very beneficial in inner city locations. The benefits of this would go well beyond food production. These community enterprises would build community engagement, solidarity in a common purpose and give younger generations something to work on and possibly, new agri-entrepreneurs an early taste for the industry.
Younger generations would be attracted to the compact, technology driven focus on farmlets and the science of controlling environments. This would contrast against the tough environment and isolating experience of traditional farming in regional areas. Something many urban and a growing number of regional youth are losing interest in. Farmlets would become universal projects that anyone from any background can be a part of. A very urban endeavour with a rural bent.
Leased industrial sheds, purpose built sheds on small public spaces too small for park space but too big to concrete in are a couple of ways farmlets could be established. Each could have a theme; hydroponic vertical farming, hydroponic Dutch bucket systems, aquaponics systems and much more.
As technology develops and it does today at a pace, efficiencies and greater production yields will be achieved. Power to run farmlets will come from solar energy on the roof which could feed a battery system as back up or for additional boost power in very cold climates.
Food for thought…or perhaps food from thought...