Food and Urban Communities – The big crunch and what are we doing about it

Food hasn’t always been as easy as a Subway sandwich or visiting your local food court. Thanks to developments in agriculture, enjoying a wide selection of different foods, processed in just as many different ways, is now in many respects a new first world dilemma.

The rise of agriculture in civilisation is now however seeing the by-products of its own success. Providing the wealth for cities to grow, agriculture is distanced from many cities, with sprawling urban developments becoming larger and more complex. Whilst cities are engines of human progress, an argument can be made that most people living in urban communities have become too removed from the fundamental processes of growing the food which sustains us.

It is reasonable to expect that we have been schooled to know where our food comes from and the basics of how it was produced. Considering that we are symbiotically embedded in the Earth’s biosphere, this knowledge of the nature of our place in this biosphere will be significant for setting the stage for how we can successfully thrive as a species in the long-term.

A way we can maintain our connection with the biology of which we are a part is to bring more biology into our cities. Increased plants in our cities and buildings is both appealing and healthy in a variety of ways. Aside from the proven psychological benefits of working in a green environment, plants also vastly increase the room air quality. Reliance on expensive air conditioning (read recycling) is significantly less of an issue with plants on site. Growing fruits and vegetables at home also lends to reduced transportation costs and water usage.

In 2050, the Earth’s population will be such that as a globe we will, on average, need to produce 70% more food than is currently possible with our current land under agricultural cultivation, according to the UN. Cities, bearing the majority of the Earth’s population, must plan to produce more of the food which is consumed within them. Our current practice of relying purely on rural lands for food production is unsustainable (there is no more land left for agriculture) and represents a massive issue for future generations and humanity in general.

The journey to addressing this problem starts in the home. A mass-market appliance enabling anyone who has the desire to grow something in their home and beautify their space to do so without a time, effort or cost penalty is key. A product which changes the psychology of home or office plant growth once and for all, turning plants from a burden that requires looking after into a natural and productive addition to the home. Enter the AdaptiGrow smart planter, which will finally enable us to realise this mission.

The AdaptiGrow is a IOT enabled planter box for the home or office, where urban communities and workplaces can grow herbs, vegetables & other plants with maximum results and minimum effort. The system is powered by an intelligent eco-system controlling nutrient concentration, temperature and water flow, allowing the user to simply enjoy the healthy produce and share it with their friends & family. The unit is also be highly resource efficient – reusing water (and soon also employing solar energy). Grow anything you like and receive three times the result in one third the space.

The user experience will be enhanced by an online platform where the user can monitor certain aspects of growth as well as join the AdaptiGrow club, where they can see where other produce is being grown by other AG users all around the neighbourhood. This is designed to create a social food exchange marketplace, where people trade their produce whilst promoting plant growth in the community; such as AdaptiGrow users in an apartment building or workplace trading their fruits, herbs & vegetables.

In the longer term, as we move to producing in vertical farms (to which our technology would scale), further developments will also make it easier to recycle bio-waste and convert this to fertiliser and energy to be used where it is needed.

Cities must become significantly more self-sufficient if we are to continually support and expand the type of global civilisations we enjoy living in. Let’s blur the lines between what is rural and what is urban, creating a smoother progression between these environments. Let’s bring more of the country into the city and bring state of the art technologies such as controlled growing and agricultural information technology into the country, making the best use of our resources everywhere.

All these shifts are decentralising by nature, with this being essential to the long-term maintenance of free societies. By making good use of our technological and social ingenuity and creativity, we are able to open up new jobs and careers in struggling rural and urban places; this is also enabling to taking population pressure from our large cities and distributing populations across our landscapes in a more balanced manner.

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