Detroit is a city that has been witnessing a lot of change thanks to poor urban planning and bad economics. The past decade has been very rough for the people of Detroit and they are turning to old, but innovative, ways to revive the city. We have seen artists move to Detroit and even some tech companies. At the other end of the spectrum is a return to the land in the form of farming.
The low density neighbourhood design of the suburbs contributed to Detroit’s fall and now it might be saving the city by returning to arable land.
We were sitting at a picnic table nestled between his house and farm. Greg was in his early 40s, compact and wiry, with flecks of gray in his close-cropped black hair, his arms and face leathery from the sun. As he spoke, his leg jittered like a sewing-machine needle, and I got the impression that sitting still was torture for him. Most of our conversations occurred in moving vehicles, at his booth in the farmers’ market, or as we hacked at weeds or laid irrigation hose through fields.
Suburbia, Greg told me, was the greatest misallocation of resources in the history of the world: big, thin-walled houses that take loads of gas and electricity to heat and cool, acres of farmland and animal habitat bulldozed for useless lawns that guzzle water and gobble poisons, barrels of food scraps hauled across the county and buried in a landfill, sprawling subdivisions requiring cars and gasoline for the simplest of errands—mailing a package or buying a gallon of milk. What’s more, he said, suburbs encouraged isolation, cultivated a fear of strangers, and created enclaves that segregated the white middle class from poor people and brown people.
The future of farming in much of the world could look like something out of science fiction. Sundrop farms in Australia has a farm up and running that produces food using seawater pumped into a desert location where they use the power of the sun to power the entire process. Solar energy desalinates the water while purifying the environment (so no pesticides) of the greenhouse – the entire process is form renewable sources!
Seawater is piped 2 kilometres from the Spencer Gulf to Sundrop Farm – the 20-hectare site in the arid Port Augusta region. A solar-powered desalination plant removes the salt, creating enough fresh water to irrigate 180,000 tomato plants inside the greenhouse.
Scorching summer temperatures and dry conditions make the region unsuitable for conventional farming, but the greenhouse is lined with seawater-soaked cardboard to keep the plants cool enough to stay healthy. In winter, solar heating keeps the greenhouse warm.
There is no need for pesticides as seawater cleans and sterilises the air, and plants grow in coconut husks instead of soil.
The farm’s solar power is generated by 23,000 mirrors that reflect sunlight towards a 115-metre high receiver tower. On a sunny day, up to 39 megawatts of energy can be produced – enough to power the desalination plant and supply the greenhouse’s electricity needs.
It’s well known that the fishing industry is, err, fishy. Slaves are used in international waters by large multinational corporations and overfishing around the world is rampant – pushing many species close to extinction and totally ecosystem collapse. Basically, fishing is a bad thing.
One fisherman has seen his practice change over time and has altered his ways. Instead of culling fish he’s cultivating plants in what is referred to as a “3D farm”.
Bren Smith, a former fisherman, developed an unique, vertical 3-D ocean farming model that is currently revolutionizing our seafood plates while restoring our oceans.
After working as an industrial fisherman for decades and witnessing the devastating effects of mass-fishing, Smith developed his own ocean farm: a sort of underwater garden composed of kelp, mussels, scallops and oysters. Those species are not only edible and in high demand but they also are key in rebuilding our natural reef systems.
Bees are having a hard time in the 21st century everything from radio waves to pesticides are messing with their honey creation. The poor creatures are also suffering from a massive colony collapse disorder. What’s more native species need to compete with colonies that are shipped around for farmers.
Fortunately there are still ways to help bees! Farmers in Mexico and India are using techniques learned over a millennium ago to keep their local bee populations surviving. No more pesticides or bizarre treatment of bees – instead these farmers help the bees help themselves (and humans).
On the eastern side of the Yucatan Peninsula, where large swaths of native forests are still intact, scientists interested in restoring that function are working with Mayan farmers to revive traditional beekeeping. The researchers’ long-term studies of bee populations and surveys of beekeepers in remote Mayan villages showed that the practice is no longer being passed down through families. To help preserve a tradition they saw as essential to preventing local extinction of these stingless bees Buchmann, Roubik, Villanueva-Gutiérrez, and other colleagues from the University of Yucatan started annual workshops to train a new generation of beekeepers.
Cuba has an amazing farming system which is impressive from farm to fork. The way they grow crops to how they ensure that food distribution is effective is impressive to say the least. The island nation was hit hard with the collapse of the USSR and the embargo from the USA, as a result they have a robust and advanced farming system in the nation.
At one of the largest farming conferences Cuba is showcasing its advanced biotech. Cuba has had to use natural (and locally produced) ways to increase farming production instead of relying on imports.
Among them was, “Gavac,” an immunogen that provides for better control over ticks and tick-related infections in cattle, according to Doctor Hector Machado of Cuba’s Heber Biotec company.
Cuba has been attracting attention in recent years for its model of agriculture, as it has been able to develop cheap and eco-friendly technologies that have helped the country to reach a certain level of food security without damaging the environment. With the environmental and financial challenges the world is now facing, the Cuban model – built in a time of crisis, after the USSR collapsed – is seen as offering potential solutions to many countries in the world.