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The Future of Food and Farming

I'd like to start a discussion about this executive summary.  What are your thoughts?  How can aquaponics play a role?

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Do not ask for comment unless you have a heap of time, as this is what has hounded me for years and years, and why I am trying to bring this technology into urban South Africa.

 

I have not read the entire report, but are familiar with the headlines of the problem.  In order for me to keep this first response short, I will put down some main thoughts around which I think a picture can be built.  First, I think we need to get the setting right.  On the one hand, we have the concerns of people that have scaled Maslow's hierarchy quite high up, and understand concepts such as food miles, sustainability, resource depletion, climate change and supply and demand economies.  On the other hand, we have people that simply live hand to mouth, to whom life is an immense struggle for survival.  Diets are poor, quality of life on the slippery slope and the "feel good" statements around which most of the report will be written is of no consequence.   Living in South Africa puts me in touch with both, but really it is the plight of the poor that touches me the most, because I believe that their fate has been terribly tangled up in a political cynicalness that is worth addressing separately.  There are a number of key points that will drive the response of countries to the crisis, but I also think the developmental status and commitment of the citizens of those countries will have a huge effect.

 

The environment:

We are going into climate extremes that will no doubt reduce traditional agriculture output.  The last few years have given us enough examples of that.  Coupled with the climate problems, we will have depleted natural resources, including fuel, electricity, water and fertilizer, pushing the price of produce beyond the reach of an ever-increasing segment of the population.  It has been stated in many publications that wars will be fought over food and water, and I do not think that this is sensationalistic.  Take South Africa.  Our population is going well beyond 50 million, but our environmental resources can only really support agriculture to feed around 35 million.  Bring in poor farming practice and environmental conditions, and that probably drops to under 30 million.  Thus we as a nation has to import 50% of our food, or 50% of our people has to fend for themselves.  That is a lot of angry, hungry people.

 

Population growth and urbanization:

There are too many people on this planet, and they congregate.  That would have been partially understandable if we congregate in areas with boundless resources but alas, we pick to park ourselves in a mess of development.  Ask yourself this:  If power and water is cut to where you live, how long will you last?  If the food runs out at the shop?  The human being is a clever creature but he has dug himself a deep hole here.  We are dependent on the supply chain so drastically that people could, and likely would, go to great lengths to protect it.  There will be no exports when food is in short supply, thus countries that bank on imports are up the creek.

 

Global food retail trends:

I’m no expert, but have sat through enough export seminar presentations to realize that food as a commodity is typically controlled as tightly as oil and steel.  Major food retailers have an enormous influence on what is produced, where it is produced and where it goes.  Let us also not kid ourselves, they are not seriously concerned about the imbalances created, farming practice that is disrupted or entire countries’ agricultural potential being put to use to generate export crops.

 

Politics:

This is a controversial one, but I firmly believe that in many countries, my own included, food scarcity will not be rapidly resolved but used as a tool.  Voters that are employed, well fed, content and at peace with the universe become rather difficult to manipulate and nothing gets a poor, hungry person as exited as a food parcel and a promise for improvement to come after the next elections.  Somehow, they keep on hoping, keep on voting and stay desperate.  

 

Mixing it all up:

The only reason governments care is because they see a tough time for themselves on the horizon.  Developed countries buy up the produce of under developed countries, and if these have agriculture failure, where will Europe get all their food from?  They will be up that creek again.  I think the US has a bit more of a buffer, but how much of it I do not know.  Between pollution, climate change and population growth, however, let us generalize and say all countries are facing a scenario where agriculture will not cut it any more and the natives will become very restless. 

What can be done:

I think governments are the kind of thing that are only capable of responding slowly and incorrectly to most truly catastrophic problems.  They are appointing panels and chatting up scientists (who no doubt are only smelling grants) when we really already know what to do courtesy of some basic common sense.  We must all start growing some food.  We must do it with the space and the resources that we have, and if we are blessed with excess, we must work towards working sustainably.  Talking about organic quality or all natural methods will assist in getting the process happening in some communities, but really, it is all about food security and security is about staying alive.  I live in a town 45 kilometers from where my mother stays.  To get there, the roads are fast and uncongested, but while I’m driving along, I cannot help but notice that for about half of that journey, I’m driving past informal or poor settlements.  I cannot drive to a shop without being approached by at least two people looking for money, food or work.  For every single relative or friend that rings my doorbell, 20 people come looking for work or food.  It is not going to get any better here, and I wonder about the rest of the world.

 

A food revolution:

We are witnessing how entire countries are getting swept up in turmoil over food shortages, food prices and unemployment.  All these issues can, and should be addressed through urban food production efforts.  It can be done with limited resources but in many places, it should be started with or without government support.  If you are in a country that help from a government agency can be obtained, good for you – use it to the maximum and make a success of it for all to see and replicate.  For those of us residing in countries with pocket liners making promises to desperate folk, the able will have to help the needy in a manner that has not been seen since the last world wars.  This is not typical behaviour for humans, as we whole-heartedly subscribe to the selfish gene theory in most of what we do.  On a positive, food security issues addressed through community initiatives may potentially return some sense of caring and compassion in a world that has truly filled a biosphere with 7 billion individuals hell-bent on, well, being individuals first and part of a greater community with shared problems and responsibilities second.

 

Together with the demise of our sense of community, there has also been a near total loss of good in-your-face political statements coming from musicians that can be used to energise this self-serving population of ours.  From the very first time I heard it, Pink Floyd’s “On the turning away” have hounded me.  Every time it plays, I get a pang of guilt for not having achieved much down the line of community aquaponics or for getting upset with the beggar that rang the doorbell, set off the dogs and eventually woke my sleeping child.  Everyone is welcome to pick their own anthems, but for me, the following line always sticks:

“No more turning away from the weak and the weary, no more turning away from the coldness inside.  Just a world that we all must share…….not enough just to stand and stare.  Is it only a dream that there will be no more turning away”

I wish the world was a different place. But as long as Big Oil and other conglomerates are around I don't think AP will become mainstream.

Is there money to be made from AP? Yes. But not at the margins that Big Corporations demand. Sad about it, but that is how I see it.

I will try to do my part by passing the knowledge. 

I have to agree with Kobus this calls for a lot of thought and many words.  I will try to keep it as short as possible.  I read a lot of the report and skimmed over some more of it.  To me it is the typical government report.  I am not against the government but the government can not solve the worlds problems.  It is hard pressed to find solutions to its own problems.  For years we have collected money to feed the poor.  We have sent trillions of dollars on helping the third world countries.  We have literally poured the money down a rat hole.  You have heard the saying about give a man a fish and he will eat for a day, teach him to fish and he will eat for life.  Most people don't even have a river, pond, or ocean to fish in so he will not even eat for a day.  As aquapons we have to teach him how to raise a fish and at the same time raise vegetables.

The report goes on about carbon footprint, using up all the water, climate change, and increasing GMO's and many other things we have the answer to.  We can not let our goverment or the global government embark on solving this problem with any of the methods they might think up.  When government does it they get sidetracked by money, pressure and the like.  The reason we have not made a bigger inroad into the poverty problem.  Hunger is reality, but you may have noticed that they started talking about things like Diabetes 2, Heart disease, and others I can't recall.  These are not caused by hunger, they are caused by eating wrong and not exercising. So why is it even mentioned in the same breath as hunger.  Many people with money and plenty of food have these diseases.  Our we now going to be told what to eat.  The more the gov subsidies agriculture the worse foods are produced. All our food becomes processed we get further and further from producing our own food.  I told you about the nurse who said she would never subject her children to raising a garden when they didn't need to. 

The report talked about waste of food.  I can witness to this.  Here in Hawaii the grocery stores take the food off the shelf as soon as it gets a spot.  It is tossed into garbage cans and sent to the farmers for their animals.  I help a lady empty her cans each week.  It is a crying shame what is thrown away.  The resturants do the same thing.  People go hungry but the pigs and chickens eat organic food.  The prices go higher and higher to recoup those lost products.  Here in Hawaii the farmer throws aaway most of what he produces because the middle man will take only the perfect specimens.  There is no sense to any of this.

They discussed the outrages use of water by agriculture.  We have the answer to that also. 

I wrote all this and would write more but I have to get back to work, to say look at what we are doing.  We hold the answer in aquaponics.  There is little waste of water.  There are no artificial production of fertilizers.  There is no depleting of the soil, in fact a lot of aquapons are into composting and permaculture therefore restoring the soil.  We do not add to the carbon footprint very much.  A lot of us recycle everything we can thus keeping things from landfills.  We do not waste the vegetables we feed it to the fish if we can't eat it.  This reduces the amount of fish food we have to buy thus helping to keep the ocean fish in supply. 

The really wonderful thing is that we do not have to do this on a huge scale.  Sahib said it when he said he wanted to teach others and share with others.  I think he feels like I feel that we can do what this report says needs to be done.  We just do it one person at a time.  There are those who will go to the 3rd world countries and set up systems and teach the people (who don't have a river or a pond)  how they can raise their own fish and vegetables.  We just need to keep enlisting people in the aquapon army (i prefer the Navy) to go take the word in the way that they are gifted to others.  If it is your gift to do it big go for it.  If it is your gift to teach everyone you come in contact with how to set up a system go for it.  We all have to go for it and we can become the answer to the problem that is addressed in the report.  We can't leave it up to the government or we will remain at a standstill as we have for many years.  I hope this makes sense but I got in a hurry at the end.  I want to be part of the solution and I think all of you do also.  Hungry people the AQUAPON ARMY IS here to teach you how to eat nutrisiously and have an abundance of food.

 

I agree with a large amount of everything the previous replies had to say, except for Chi Ma's comment on Big Oil, et al being a barrier to AP.  I think the opposite is more likely the case.  It is the stranglehold of Big Oil, Big Ag, Big Money on general human-level commerce that will push the door open for widespread adoption of not only AP but renewable energy and more sustainable lifestyles in general.  Individuals and small groups taking control of their own needs is already becoming more apparent and widespread.  The stated reasons for doing so are all over the map but the end effect leads to more decentralized production of both energy and food.

 

As people become more used to providing for themselves, they begin to feel more in control of their own lives and that becomes a self-perpetuating cycle.  At least it has for me.

 

AP struck me almost immediately as the answer to so many pressing issues that its hard for me to see how it won't become mainstream.  People have an innate bias to the issues of the day and largely don't seem to notice the small, progressive changes that have made all the difference over the long run.  I think AP and sustainability efforts in general fall into this area of small, progressive changes making the difference.  Once someone is there, they are going to resist giving it up very much.

 

It seems to me that we are learning how to produce, in an earth friendly way,  not only fish and produce but also

information we can send forth to teachers, honest public servants, and active citizens to help them learn to feed themselves, family, and friends.  Then some of we new aquapons can upscale and feed our neighbors in exchange for money or barter.

Aquapons who enjoy organizing people can present our "farms" as a destination to inspire replications.  Aquapons who enjoy internet organizing can begin cold turkey connecting with school teachers, spiritual community leaders, activist leaders, complimentary list servs and advance awareness of the meaning of aquaponics from about 5% of the population to 20% within a couple of years.  This would be a huge accomplishment that could be supported by student interns who could get course credit for developing internet communications/organizing skills married to aquaponic demonstration sites. 

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-12301261#

 

I am not an economist but as an ecologist, I understand the underlyuing principles of competition in animal communities very well.  I think this is why the growing world population, dwindling agriculture and shifting climate is bothering me so much.



Kobus Jooste said:

“No more turning away from the weak and the weary, no more turning away from the coldness inside.  Just a world that we all must share…….not enough just to stand and stare.  Is it only a dream that there will be no more turning away”

 

Hi Kobus,

 

As Ganda Ji had the first stiring of his heart in South Africa so I think yours will bear fruit too.

 

Homefire (from the former "United States" empire)

First of all, I ask your forgiveness on a couple of things.  Athough I very much want to, I have not yet had the time to read this dissertation on the Future of Food and Farming, but I am compelled to respond now.  And secondly, I must apologize to Sylvia, who in our welcome letter when we joined this wonderful community said there was one rule, no flaming.  Well, I must, flame that is.

 

In light of the Secretary of Agriculture's recent decision to approve Monsanto's Roundup Ready GMO Alfalfa, I have to consider how it relates to the future of food and farming and how aquaponics plays a vital role in that future.  For our government to side with big agribusiness on this issue is decidely stating that food freedom and soveriegnty in this country no longer exists.  The allowance of such GMO crops and the undeniable cross pollination and contamination of non GMO crops that will occur has enormous implications for organic farming.  Our dairy  and beef supply will be fed GMO alfalfa and even those wanting to grow non GMO and organic crops will have no way of protecting their crops or essentially protecting their private property. Vilsack called for the co-existence plan that essentially acknowledges the continued domination of GMO crops. 

 

The CEO and founder of Organic Valley put out an incredible statement today.  He said, " Today, we are saddened that the industrialization of agriculture is still going on; however, it is important to remember that Organic continues to offer a lifeline to farmers who are choosing to work with Mother Nature rather than trying to change it...We are counting on our consumers to vote with their dollars and show the USDA that the future of agriculture in America is more than GMO food. Consumers deserve to have a say in the food they consume. Now more than ever, Organic is the best choice."

 

So how does this relate to aquaponics and the future of food and farming?    There is often much discussion on this forum about the future of aquaponics for food production in a commercial sense as opposed to its presence as a hobby or backyard market.  Some of my fellow aquapons are doubtful of the viability for aquaponics commercially.  Well we are not.  Most of you probably know that Green Acre Organics is a commercial aquaponics farm in Brooksville, Florida.  We believe that aquaponics is part of the solution for the food crisis we face and the governmental failure of not protecting our food sovereignty.  The very fact that aquaponics grows 'better than organic' food in an environmentally savvy way means that aquaponics can be vital in the future production of safe, non GMO foods.

 

We  envision the future of commercial aquaponics to encompass multiple small aquaponic farms and centralized distribution hubs.  A model of this already exists in North Carolina where a nonprofit hub offers distribution, marketing, cold storage and transport for small conventional farms.  Why can we not adopt this model for aquaponic farms?  Aren't the services this nonprofit is offering the solution to most of the issues facing the small farmer?  With the hub providing these essentials, the farmer can concentrate on just that, farming.  What does this mean for us at Green Acre and how do we aspire to bring this vision to reality?  Promotion, teaching, sharing, inspiring!  We want to see a flurry of small aquaponic commercial farms sprout up.  We are not concerned with competition as there is such a demand and necessity for clean, organic sustainably produced foods.  Contrary to most business practices where sharing and divuIging of what corporate America calls trade secrets, we want to scream out about our philosophy and the science of aquaponics.  Instead of competition, we can foster collaboration.  I cannot speak highly enough about those that have taught us, shared with us, inspired us; from Tim and Susanne at Friendly, to Sylvia Bernstein, to Will Allen, and James Godsil and the incredible ground work going on at Growing Power and Sweet Water.  The revolution has begun. 

 

Not to long ago, Sylvia asked on the forum what aquaponics means to us and there were many wonderful repsonses from among the now, what is it, 881 members of this community.  I ask this community another question, how can you personally make a difference with aquaponics?  Really, we here on this forum are the leaders in the aquaponics world!    How can we make aquaponics make a difference?  How can we make aquaponics the beacon in the food abyss we are sinking further and deeper into?  Now more than ever there needs to be a Farm Revolution!  At Green Acre we like to say that aquaponics can Feed the Future!  Now we must Fight to Feed the Future!  Fight agribusiness, fight the domination of farmers, fight the desecration of organic crops.  I implore you to join us in this campaign.  Think outside the box!  Think beyond backyard aquaponics for those without backyards!  Agribusiness doesn't have to be a dirty word when it comes to aquaponics!  Please also understand that I am not saying that there is not a need for backyard systems or belittling their very important role in anyway.  Where would commercial aquaponics be without the wonderful path carved by backyard aquapons?  Most certainly a very substantial part of the movement to food sovereignty can be led by millions of backyard systems. 

 

So, in conclusion to my rant or flame as Sylvia would call it, I invite those of you on the fence about commercial aquaponics or even those entirely on the other side of the fence, into my backyard.  Share our vision.  Help us to change the future of food and farming.  Become inspired and let's inspire the world together. 

 

Gina Cavaliero

Green Acre Organics

 

Bravo...well spoken...As per M. Gandhi, "Be the change you want to see in world"

 

Baby steps are better than none...pretty soon we will learn to crawl and who knows...maybe even win the marathon :-)

 

God bless

Green Acre Organics said:

First of all, I ask your forgiveness on a couple of things.  Athough I very much want to, I have not yet had the time to read this dissertation on the Future of Food and Farming, but I am compelled to respond now.  And secondly, I must apologize to Sylvia, who in our welcome letter when we joined this wonderful community said there was one rule, no flaming.  Well, I must, flame that is.

 

In light of the Secretary of Agriculture's recent decision to approve Monsanto's Roundup Ready GMO Alfalfa, I have to consider how it relates to the future of food and farming and how aquaponics plays a vital role in that future.  For our government to side with big agribusiness on this issue is decidely stating that food freedom and soveriegnty in this country no longer exists.  The allowance of such GMO crops and the undeniable cross pollination and contamination of non GMO crops that will occur has enormous implications for organic farming.  Our dairy  and beef supply will be fed GMO alfalfa and even those wanting to grow non GMO and organic crops will have no way of protecting their crops or essentially protecting their private property. Vilsack called for the co-existence plan that essentially acknowledges the continued domination of GMO crops. 

 

The CEO and founder of Organic Valley put out an incredible statement today.  He said, " Today, we are saddened that the industrialization of agriculture is still going on; however, it is important to remember that Organic continues to offer a lifeline to farmers who are choosing to work with Mother Nature rather than trying to change it...We are counting on our consumers to vote with their dollars and show the USDA that the future of agriculture in America is more than GMO food. Consumers deserve to have a say in the food they consume. Now more than ever, Organic is the best choice."

 

So how does this relate to aquaponics and the future of food and farming?    There is often much discussion on this forum about the future of aquaponics for food production in a commercial sense as opposed to its presence as a hobby or backyard market.  Some of my fellow aquapons are doubtful of the viability for aquaponics commercially.  Well we are not.  Most of you probably know that Green Acre Organics is a commercial aquaponics farm in Brooksville, Florida.  We believe that aquaponics is part of the solution for the food crisis we face and the governmental failure of not protecting our food sovereignty.  The very fact that aquaponics grows 'better than organic' food in an environmentally savvy way means that aquaponics can be vital in the future production of safe, non GMO foods.

 

We  envision the future of commercial aquaponics to encompass multiple small aquaponic farms and centralized distribution hubs.  A model of this already exists in North Carolina where a nonprofit hub offers distribution, marketing, cold storage and transport for small conventional farms.  Why can we not adopt this model for aquaponic farms?  Aren't the services this nonprofit is offering the solution to most of the issues facing the small farmer?  With the hub providing these essentials, the farmer can concentrate on just that, farming.  What does this mean for us at Green Acre and how do we aspire to bring this vision to reality?  Promotion, teaching, sharing, inspiring!  We want to see a flurry of small aquaponic commercial farms sprout up.  We are not concerned with competition as there is such a demand and necessity for clean, organic sustainably produced foods.  Contrary to most business practices where sharing and divuIging of what corporate America calls trade secrets, we want to scream out about our philosophy and the science of aquaponics.  Instead of competition, we can foster collaboration.  I cannot speak highly enough about those that have taught us, shared with us, inspired us; from Tim and Susanne at Friendly, to Sylvia Bernstein, to Will Allen, and James Godsil and the incredible ground work going on at Growing Power and Sweet Water.  The revolution has begun. 

 

Not to long ago, Sylvia asked on the forum what aquaponics means to us and there were many wonderful repsonses from among the now, what is it, 881 members of this community.  I ask this community another question, how can you personally make a difference with aquaponics?  Really, we here on this forum are the leaders in the aquaponics world!    How can we make aquaponics make a difference?  How can we make aquaponics the beacon in the food abyss we are sinking further and deeper into?  Now more than ever there needs to be a Farm Revolution!  At Green Acre we like to say that aquaponics can Feed the Future!  Now we must Fight to Feed the Future!  Fight agribusiness, fight the domination of farmers, fight the desecration of organic crops.  I implore you to join us in this campaign.  Think outside the box!  Think beyond backyard aquaponics for those without backyards!  Agribusiness doesn't have to be a dirty word when it comes to aquaponics!  Please also understand that I am not saying that there is not a need for backyard systems or belittling their very important role in anyway.  Where would commercial aquaponics be without the wonderful path carved by backyard aquapons?  Most certainly a very substantial part of the movement to food sovereignty can be led by millions of backyard systems. 

 

So, in conclusion to my rant or flame as Sylvia would call it, I invite those of you on the fence about commercial aquaponics or even those entirely on the other side of the fence, into my backyard.  Share our vision.  Help us to change the future of food and farming.  Become inspired and let's inspire the world together. 

 

Gina Cavaliero

Green Acre Organics

 

Wow...Gina, you are on fire woman!  First let me say that I'm willing to give an exception to the no flaming rule when it comes to Monsanto .  Second, what you are describing with banding together into an Aquaponics Association that drives action is exactly what I concluded my talk  with at Sweet Water on Sunday last weekend, and Charlie Price from Aquaponics UK (recently joined here) also concluded his talk with on Saturday.  Tom Knoll from Sweet Water (also in this community) also has done some excellent thinking/writing on this topic.  We need an overarching organization to promote the benefits of aquaponics, while begin agnostic about what type of aquaponics is promoted.  That organization should allow for the views of commercial folks, backyarders, non-profits, and educational institutions- perhaps through sub-organizations.  Not everyone wants, or should, get involved in a commercial aquaponics venture so we should offer support to all avenues to aquaponic food production.  I would like to see a conference held to gather the industry leaders together, and whomever else wants to join in, to see if such an organization call be pulled off.  I believe this needs to be done face to face.

National Aquaponics Gathering in Chicago sometime next Fall or Winter?

 

It's close to the center of the nation; the President and First Lady's home;  Emmanuel Pratt of the Sweet Water Foundation and with close personal ties with Big Will lives there and has made deep inroads introducing aquaponics to the Mayor's office and deans of local colleges and universities; and has a number of people exploring start-up aquaponics systems large and small.

Thanks for the exemption Sylvia!  I am also flattered to be in such esteemed company.  Yes, there is absolutely a need for an Assoication that would not only promote, teach and further aquaponic research, across all aspects of backyard and commercial, etc. as you said.  I agree face to face would best facilitate that discussion and it seems like the Chicago area as James suggested seems to be one of the more saturated areas conducive to a conference, along with Colorado and some others.  Fall would be great, but not so sure about winter in Chicago! 

 

We have considered an Aqua Expo too, but perhaps that be something this association/collaboration could produce.    

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