Smart farming aims to ensure food security while reducing environmental impact
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By Mashudu Malema
Our global agricultural system has been set a mammoth task.
By the year 2050, the world will need to have increased food production by at least 70% in order to meet the population need of 9.8 billion people, 68% of whom are projected to reside in urban areas.
Across the globe, 70% of water usage is consumed by agricultural production, largely attributed to unsustainable irrigation practices. By 2050, 593 hectares of land will need to be transformed into agricultural land to meet the calorie needs of the world’s populace.
The human impingement into the natural world has over the years been driven largely by the ever-increasing demand for agricultural earth to support a growing population; which has subsequently resulted in high social and ecological trade-offs.
The agricultural sector is responsible for over 14% of global greenhouse gas emissions, in addition, the sector is a global key driver of deforestation and land degradation, which account for an additional 17% of emissions.
The consequences of these effects in respect to climate change have long been projected to negatively affect all four pillars of food security; not limited to food availability, but food cost, quality and stability.
Conventional farming practices are at a point where agricultural inputs are overused as labour is no longer in abundance. This is frustrated by increasing, continual energy demand.
Climate-smart farming presents a holistic alternative; an emerging agricultural culture which not only strengthens resilience to climate change and variability, but aids the food security and development goals set by the World Food Summit Convention on Biological Diversity and the United Nations framework Convention on Climate Change, to name a few.
Smart farming aims to improve economic returns of traditional farming through reducing environmental impact; its technologies are gradually being successfully adapted across agricultural spectrums. Aeroponic farming, as an alternative, has been proven to be an efficient and effective process for growing plants without using soil, its technology advances improvement by decreasing water usage, increasing plant yields, minimising rate of growth and reducing work force.
This is largely attributed to aeroponic systems use of 95% less water sources than traditional soil based farming techniques; its system requires minimal energy sources and is easily adaptable to entry level solar alternatives.
Local companies like Gauteng based smart farming entrepreneurs, Impilo Projects are at the forefront of actively meeting the growing demand for urban residential self-reliance on climate-smart produce for daily consumption unhindered by seasonal availability.
The climate-smart farmers use what they call, Impilo-ponics, a method of adapting aeroponics systems to engineer advanced food sustainability.
Founder and chief engineer, Tony Bryant says: “The core business of Impilo Projects is the design and manufacturing of modular vertical aeroponic/NFT growing tower systems, as well as recently introduced horizontal aeroponic growing towers”.
One of the smart-farming projects currently undertaken by Impilo Projects is the development of an agricultural training facility adjoined with a community agricultural research facility; to train and accredit emerging micro farmers and SMME-entrepreneurs in its Impilo-Ponics, aeroponic vertical farming systems.
This, Bryant says, is a unique project designed, manufactured, and supported by local government in South Africa, to locally contribute towards the future of sustainable food security in both rural and urban areas, as well as in the neighbouring SADC region, with potential for international adoption.
Locally, the project will utilize existing obsolete building infrastructure, such as unused traditional tunnels, industrial factories and farm storage buildings. Impilo Tower systems have shown to be cost effective through their optimisation of retrofitting such as solar adaption and rain collecting for water source, particularly in remote areas where grid energy and water sources are not readily available.
Responding to the World Bank estimation that climate change could drive over 120 million people into poverty by 2030, a transformation of the agricultural sector, including crop and livestock production, fisheries and forestry is crucial.
Ventures such those modelled by Impilo Projects are urgently needed to respond to this undertaking, through sustainably increasing agricultural productivity.
To find out more about Impilo Projects, visit: www.impiloprojects.com.