There is a drive towards sustainable living in all areas of life. As a global community, we must use every opportunity available to produce fruit and vegetables more sustainably.
There are a few methods that farmers and communities can incorporate into their farming practices that will see tremendous progress made toward sustainable food production. One uses hydrogel growth products such as Gelponics, a sustainable growth substrate for plants.
With this in mind, we look at what can be done by fruit and vegetable farmers to support the environment and the drive towards sustainability, whether it’s a small indoor grower, an allotment owner or on a more widespread commercial farm.
1. Vertical Farming
Let’s start with vertical farming, which uses the above hydrogel system, removing the need for soil altogether. It is highly sustainable and removes many challenges of traditional fruit and veg farming.
Crops are grown vertically in towers or trays in a controlled greenhouse environment. They offer a means of producing more crops in a smaller area, vegetables and fruit can be grown year-round, and the small space the facility requires makes them perfect for urban areas. Sites can be set up in towns and cities, reducing the costs and miles involved in getting products to customers. This farming is ideally suited to small communities and supports the drive to use fresh produce produced locally.
Agroforestry combines agriculture and trees. Instead of carefully manicured crop rows, the crops are interspersed with shrubs and trees, which gives farmers healthier soil and higher yields and draws natural wildlife to the areas. This benefits food production by improving biodiversity, helping filter runoff, and reducing soil stress.
3. Cover crops
Cover crops are defined as those that are grown to improve and protect the soil between cash crops. The aim of a cover crop isn’t to earn money but to promote biodiversity, build up longer-term soil health, and help with pest and plant disease control. Cover crops include barley, oats, peas and beans.
4. Crop rotation
Already common practice by most farmers to give fields a break from repeatedly growing the same crop. Over time growing the same crop year after year will deplete the soil of nutrients, so farmers rotate crops with others to balance the nutrients within the earth. Growing different crops on the same ground will improve soil health, enabling higher crop
production and more sustainable growing conditions.
One of the more complex aspects of farming, combining various techniques and approaches, is to create high productivity with low external output. It encompasses using land, soil and water mixed with climate and investment opportunities to encourage efficient use of available resources, with a limited or positive impact on communities and the environment, to offer more sustainable, environmentally friendly fruit and vegetable production.
The drive to promote urban food production and bring fresher fruit and vegetables to communities will produce sustainable crops and be good for the environment.
The fewer miles travelled will result in fewer carbon emissions. In addition, our diets will become healthier through the availability of fresh produce year-round, without requiring miles of transport to pollute the atmosphere if we can accustom ourselves to taking advantage of the opportunities that urban and sustainable farming brings. Communities will better be able to thrive and support each other as they keep production and wealth generated within their local area. Opening opportunities for local jobs and closer community involvement will ensure that the road to sustainable farming will become well-travelled in the coming years. Whilst this has already happened in Hong Kong, it is undoubtedly a lesson for the rest of the world and one we all should consider.