Associate Feature: Sustainable food security, whatever the weather
Across Scotland, the UK and beyond, we are coming out of one of the hottest summers on record with record-breaking heatwaves and nationwide droughts. British farmers and the wider agricultural sector will look to put the challenges of this year’s summer months behind them as they work to recover from the devastating effects of climate change.
For the farming and agriculture industries, this barrage of extreme weather has had a drastic effect on output, yield and reliability. And these events are looking set to become more and more common. Extreme weather is no longer a once in a generation occurrence, rather these events are becoming almost predictable annual occasions.
The damage caused to crops and soil health could very well have a lasting impact and so alternative options will need to be utilised in the years to come to ensure food insecurity is managed and ultimately mitigated. If food supplies are to meet the levels that our ever-growing population requires, innovation is essential to ensure water usage is minimised and output is maximised. This is where vertical farming can support.
Many of the current issues posing a challenge to food security have come about as a result of an overreliance on imports of certain grains, fruit and vegetables that have been impacted by the Ukraine conflict and supply chain issues. Combined with the predicted increase in incidents of extreme weather over the coming years, we can no longer rely on traditional farming as our only means of food production.
When IGS was invited to present at Downing Street as part of the ‘Spring Showcase’ earlier this year, we spoke passionately to UK Government ministers about the benefits of vertical farming, taking the opportunity to call for crucial policy changes that could help counteract the impacts of extreme weather. These are also asks made as part of our submission to the Scottish Government’s Local Food Strategy consultation.
We would like to see government, both here in Holyrood and in Westminster, encouraging greater investment in the indoor growing industry, support for growers struggling with energy bills, evolving outdated planning processes to speed up green agritech implementation and development, and finally urging the government to take full advantage of brownfield and vacant land to house vertical farming infrastructure.
Whilst vertical farming is certainly not a direct replacement for traditional farming, when used in tandem, the two growing methods complement one another with vertical farming able to reduce reliance on imported produce and also provide growers with a year-round reliable and weatherproof local source for seedlings. The precision-controlled environment of a vertical farm also means they can be deployed in both rural and urban settings too, cutting down food miles and minimising waste.
The discussion of food insecurity grows more important by the day, not just in Scotland but across the world. Global leaders must work in partnership with the agriculture industry to look at alternative technologies and impactful policy change that can provide the stability that the planet’s population requires whilst future-proofing it from the very real threat of climate change.
This article is sponsored by Intelligent Growth Solutions.