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To Feed Humankind, We Need the Farms of the Future Today

To Feed Humankind, We Need the Farms of the Future Today thumbnail

Right now—at this very moment—there are over 7 billion humans crawling on the Earth. That’s a lot of mouths to feed. To sustain them all, we’ve taken 40 percent of the planet’s total landmass and turned it into cornfields and almond orchards, cattle ranches and orange groves, all to churn out the cereals, produce and meat that feed humanity.

Unfortunately, that’s left us in a bit of a bind. The world population is expected to grow to 9.6 billion by 2050, and according to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), if we want to avoid mass malnutrition, we’re going to have to up our food production by 70 percent by 2050. The problem is most of the land we can work for food is already being cultivated. The rest is atop mountains, covered by desert sands or in Antarctica. The only potential farmland left would require slashing and burning the world’s remaining rain forests. That means we’re going to have to make some large-scale changes to how we farm.

It’s not impossible. In fact, it’s been done once before in living memory. Few people have heard of Norman Borlaug, but if you’re seeking a revolution in farming, he’s probably the first person you’ll want to look up. In the mid-1940s, wanting to increase wheat yields in the highlands of south-central Mexico, Borlaug bred several high-yield, disease-resistant strains of semi-dwarf wheat well-suited to Mexico’s mountains. Farmers who planted Borlaug’s wheat saw yields increase immediately; these gains were especially evident when the crops were planted in soil treated with nitrogen fertilizer. The method caught on quickly, and by 1963 95 percent of Mexico’s wheat crop was Borlaug’s dwarf wheat. Between 1944 (the year Borlaug arrived in Mexico) and 1963, Mexico’s wheat yields sextupled.

10_30_Farming_01Norman Borlaug won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1970 for his contributions to improved farming and increased food production across the world. MICHELINE PELLETIER/SYGMA/CORBIS

Then Borlaug went to South Asia.

In the mid-1960s, South Asia was starving, mostly because the region’s food production couldn’t keep up with its population growth. Believing he could help, Borlaug began exporting his high-yield wheat to the subcontinent. He eventually moved there, spending 16 years supervising the first few plantings and harvests. The results were tremendous: After just five years, the wheat yields in India and Pakistan had nearly doubled. By 1974, both countries were self-sufficient in cereal production, and Borlaug’s methods were spreading rapidly to the rest of South Asia and Southeast Asia. Famine had been averted.

But humanity can’t keep coasting on Borlaug’s green revolution—land is now at a premium in a way it wasn’t during Borlaug’s era. Time has also shown that the revolution was far from perfect; in his quest to feed the world, Borlaug encouraged monocropping (growing a single crop year after year on the same land, without diversification or rotation) and heavy use of nitrogen fertilizer made from petroleum, both of which can produce massive short-term gains in crop yields but in the long run make the land less fertile. In addition, Borlaug’s focus on rice, corn and wheat as tools to prevent famine led him to ignore several crops that we now know are even more nutritious and produce even more calories per acre than those three: potatoes and sweet potatoes, for instance.

For better or worse, we eat the world Borlaug built. But now we need to make some changes to that world, so it can produce 70 percent more calories on the same amount of land. And we need to start with fruits and vegetables.

The Fruit Skyscraper

The Tabernas desert, in southern Spain, is the driest place in Europe. In the 1960s, it was known primarily as a place filmmakers went when they wanted to film spaghetti Westerns; The Good, the Bad & the Ugly and Once Upon a Time in the West were both shot there. But then the land began to blossom, and today the arid desert is where more than half of Europe’s fresh vegetables and fruits are grown.

10_30_Farming_02Spain built greenhouses throughout much of the country’s arid landscape and is now one of Europe’s major exporters of produce. JOHN PRIOR/ALAMY

The credit goes to greenhouses. The first few were built there in 1963, courtesy of a land distribution project spearheaded by Spain’s Instituto Nacional de Colonización. Fruits and vegetables from those greenhouses, where the environment could be controlled and beautiful produce could be grown, consistently soon outsold comparable crops grown in open fields, bringing in a windfall for the previously impoverished citizens of Almeria, the Spanish province that contains the Tabernas. That money was reinvested, the greenhouses were expanded—with inexpensive plastic sheeting replacing glass as the material of choice for the majority of the controlled environments—and today greenhouses cover 50,000 acres in the Tabernas desert, adding $1.5 billion annually to the economy of Almeria.

Tabernas’s massive greenhouse clusters—visible to the naked eye in low-Earth orbit—have been touted as an economic miracle, but they are more than that: They are proof of concept. Right now, only wealthy-but-land-strapped Europe uses greenhouses to grow a significant fraction of its fresh produce. But with the rest of the world quickly getting wealthier and more land-strapped, the Tabernas model may take off.

That’s because from an environmental and land-use perspective, controlled-environment farming is a great idea. Fruits and vegetables grown indoors tend to have far greater yields per area than comparable produce grown outside. Put a roof and walls around produce, and most problems caused by weeds, pests and inclement weather vanish. Add technology like hydroponics—growing plants so the roots sit in a customized nutrient slurry instead of in plain old dirt—to the equation, and yields increase even more. Better yet, build a hydroponic rig that is modular, rotates and stacks—which means you can have several “stories” of produce growing atop the same ground (assuming the stacks all get sufficient light), where an outdoor farmer would be stuck with only one.

This “stacking” of plants can be taken to extremes. In 2005, Dickson Despommier, professor emeritus of public health at Columbia University, put up a website plugging “vertical farms,” a concept he’d invented with his students four years prior. In some ways, it’s as simple as it sounds: “A vertical farm is a multiple-story high-tech greenhouse,” says Despommier. But there are a lot of challenges involved, from getting sufficient light to all the plants to keeping pests and diseases out of the crops to make sure they grow properly. “There’s a lot of technical stuff and engineering that needs to be overcome, and that’s why it wasn’t done until it became necessary to do it.”

With arable land becoming more and more sparse, and global populations continuing to rise, the only direction to grow our farms is up. SLIDESHOW

In 2011, a calamity in Japan made it necessary. The tidal wave that caused the Fukushima disaster wiped out most of the farmland near Sendai, a coastal area in the northern half of Honshu, the largest island of Japan. The Japanese government decided to jump-start a vertical farm building boom there in an effort to replace the lost land. Four years later, Japan boasts hundreds of vertical farms, greenhouses stacked high into multistory skyscrapers, where plants rotate daily to catch sunlight. Instead of porting dirt into the buildings, the plants grow with roots exposed, soaking in nutrients from enriched water or mist.

Aeroponics, a companion technology to hydroponics, has taken off in Japan and is helping high-tech greenhouses produce remarkable yields remarkably quickly: Unlike hydroponic systems, where plants dip their roots in nutrient slurry, aeroponic systems spray the plants’ deliberately exposed roots with a nutrient-laden mist. “The root systems grow much longer because they have to increase their surface area to absorb the same amount of nutrients,” explains Despommier. That, in turn, makes the plants grow much faster.

Singapore, Sweden, South Korea, Canada, China and the Netherlands all now boast skyscraper farms similar in concept to Japan’s. In the U.S., such farms have risen in Chicago, while Newark, New Jersey, and Jackson, Wyoming, both have contracts with private controlled-environment vendors to build their own.

But with vertical farms, at least as they’re currently conceived, light remains a problem; the towers need to be narrow enough to let sunlight penetrate all the way through, or else builders must figure out a way to rotate the growing plants to make sure they all catch a healthy complement of sunlight. Or, perhaps, there’s a simpler solution: Replace that sunlight with artificial sources of light energy, like light-emitting diodes.

In the U.K. and the Netherlands, in Boston and in Bryan, Texas, it’s been done. “Pinkhouses,” as they’re sometimes called, are lit blue and red: Those are the spectrums of visible light best absorbed by plants. By using these colors alone, pinkhouses generate serious efficiency: In the wild, plants use at most 8 percent of the light they absorb, while in pinkhouses, the plants can use as much as 15 percent. In addition, because everything happens entirely indoors, the lights, temperature and humidity can be controlled to an extent not possible even in the most high-tech, sun-dependent vertical farms and greenhouses.

10_30_Farming_07Cress, an edible herb, is grown using just LED lights tuned to a pink spectrum. Despite having no sunlight exposure and no direct exchange of air with the outside, the plant still grows effectively in “pinkhouses.” FREYA NAJADE/ANZENBERGER/REDUX

As a result, the plants grown in these pinkhouses grow 20 percent faster than their outdoor cousins, and need 91 percent less water, negligible fertilizer and no treatment with herbicides or pesticides. Currently, the LEDs keep the upfront costs of constructing pinkhouse very high, but LED prices are projected to drop by half in the next five years. Given that, perhaps we ought to be preparing for a future where the majority of our produce is grown industrially in LED-lined skyscrapers made of steel and poured concrete.

Sweet Potato Relief

Chew on this stat: In the U.S., as much as 40 percent of produce grown is never sold or eaten. The reason? It’s too ugly.

Consumers won’t buy imperfect fruit and vegetables, and grocery stores refuse to stock them. The demand for “pretty” produce means fruit and vegetable farmers need to make up for the cost of all that food they can’t sell. As a result, the produce currently sold in groceries is just what can make for fat profit margins.

That’s also why controlled environments, from pinkhouses in Boston to plastic-sheeted greenhouses in Almeria, are used overwhelmingly to grow fresh produce: Farmers who work in controlled environments can put out consistently pretty pieces of produce. They have a huge advantage in the current fruit and vegetable market, which values the look of the crop as much as anything. Moreover, with produce, freshness fetches a premium; the shorter a distance a piece of produce has to travel before it reaches your plate, the tastier it’ll be and the more you’ll pay for it. And controlled environments allow farmers to grow their produce right next door to where it’s sold. That’s why, even in the land-rich U.S., says Chieri Kubota, a professor at the University of Arizona’s School of Plant Sciences, 40 percent of tomatoes today sold fresh in stores are grown in greenhouses.

But controlled-environment farming is far less profitable for growers of staples. Rice, corn and wheat—the cereal grains that provide the world with about 50 percent of its calories—are all dirt-cheap, more or less regardless of appearance. The margins on those crops are thin, so any additional investment in innovation and production methods comes at an impossibly steep price. Staple farmers can see their profits only by growing huge amounts of their crops on enormous swaths of land; economically, it doesn’t make sense for them to try to replicate that profit model in greenhouses, so controlled-environment farming is unlikely to supplant the open field when it comes to our most important crops.

Increasing the yield of staple crops to the point where we can feed 9.6 billion people likely won’t involve anything as glamorous as greenhouse clusters seen from space; it might be as simple as making the whole farming world more modern. “A lot of poor farmers in underdeveloped countries are still farming as though it’s 10,000 B.C.,” says Dan Glickman, former U.S. secretary of agriculture, now consulting with several nonprofits that hope to solve world hunger. “There’s no crop rotation, no irrigation; people are still using animals for plows. Just exporting modern farming practices globally will do a lot to feed a lot more people.”


41 Comments on "To Feed Humankind, We Need the Farms of the Future Today"

  1. makati1 on Fri, 23rd Oct 2015 7:17 pm 

    The headline. The picture. Energy intensive farming, worse than the present corporate Ag.

    Even the last paragraph talks about trading animal energy for mechanical/oil energy. More feel good propaganda from the Big Six.

  2. GregT on Fri, 23rd Oct 2015 8:01 pm 

    “To Feed Humankind, We Need the Farms of the Future Today”

    The farms of the future will resemble the farms of the past. To feed humankind, we will need a vast reduction in human population numbers.

  3. ghung on Fri, 23rd Oct 2015 8:04 pm 

    Don’t be so quick to throw the baby out with the bath water. The majority of the “greenhouses”, especially in southern Spain, are actually what are called ‘high tunnels’,; frames of steel with 6 mil plastic stretched over them. The sides and ends can be easily rolled up and down manually to control temperature. Other than that, they’re largely passive solar.

    Lots of advantages in growing under cover, controlling moisture, temperature range, and pests. I’ve had crops in my high tunnel (just since July) that have been nearly 100% harvestable and sellable. Very high EROEI from this type of growing, and makes otherwise organic growing much more efficient. Drip and soaker irrigation are very precise and limit weeds and pests. I’m currently able to grow more in half the space than I ever did in an open garden. In my climate, I can now grow year ’round without fear of frost, flood, or drought. Frees me up to chop wood.

    People gotta eat.

  4. Mark Bucol on Fri, 23rd Oct 2015 8:15 pm 

    A few comments about these “new” farming techniques of growing in green houses and vertical farming.
    1. A lot of infrastructure and energy is required to build and operate these types of farms. Water is still needed for arid areas, though not as much.
    2. What is the capital cost for all these structures that will be required for feeding the nearly 10 billion people in 2050? If the cost of such produce is beyond the means of people in third world countries, what good is it?
    3. The main problem is overpopulation, so how will these new agricultural techniques stop the world from this threat.
    4. Does the world have the resources to even sustain this type of agriculture, meaning the metal materials, natural gas (to make the plastic and fertilizer) and the oil needed for construction of the buildings (green houses) and to transport the food product? I don’t think so once we are 25 years past peak oil which is now.

    Bottom line is that cost and resource constraints will prohibit this being used in much of the world.

  5. GregT on Fri, 23rd Oct 2015 8:33 pm 

    I wonder where these farms will be built in most cities around the world, and how many thousands of stories high these ‘vertical gardens’ would need to be to support local populations?

  6. Davy on Fri, 23rd Oct 2015 8:39 pm 

    Like G-man says passive solar growing with precise watering is a niche that has a place. The low energy and low tech side of growing under cover described by G-man is a bullet in our prepper arsenal. It is not the silver bullet but it is one of a thousand bullets we will need in our battle with a declining food chain, rising populations, and declining primary energy of fossil fuels.

    Postmodern agriculture will be a hybrid affair. We have plenty of resources and technologies that will be salvageable. We are going to have to return to human and animal power but we can leverage those with technology and fossil fuel energy. We just need to do this in a realistic and efficient way. Our biggest problems today are high expectations that usually revolve around high tech and the quest for profit. We have to lower expectations and slow down. Localization, seasonal, and low energy demand foods are the future. Lifestyles that fit this type of food production is the other side of the coin.

    Will we have the opportunity to move in this direction is another issue. We will need a long emergency to have the kind of crisis motivation it will take to move back to the old ways. We need many more small farms. Family farms are ideal but we also need to think cooperatives with multiple families. We are going to be pushed back to the land too quickly for many to adapt as families. It is going to take several families in many cases to get a farm working. The challenges are huge. Personally my mind is boggled when I think of what is ahead for us. We have to try and we have to have a plan.

  7. makati1 on Fri, 23rd Oct 2015 11:44 pm 

    GregT, it is simple. They will never be built. It is not profitable at prices the consumer can afford, nor are plastic greenhouses possible in many climates. Plastic decomposes under sunlight. Plastic cannot survive the kinds of weather common in most locations where they would be useful. Like I have said about other ‘ideas’: “If they were profitable they would already be common”.

    Besides, grain is what feeds the world, not a few veggies. Grain cannot be grown, like they propose, in the billions of tons needed each year to feed 7+ billion of us.

  8. Richard Ralph Roehl on Sat, 24th Oct 2015 12:22 am 

    Okay! Fine. We might develop technology to feed 9-10 billion baboonies in 2050. But how will we feed 20-25 billion in 2100?

    Almost 40 million people in California today. Imagine 150-200 million people living there in 2100!

    The article more or less ignores the number one issue facing humanity: the EXPONENTIAL growth of the human population on a fragile HOST ORGANISM of finite space and finite resources.

  9. apneaman on Sat, 24th Oct 2015 12:44 am 

    I am currently working on a scheme to vertically farm SPAM and other fine meat byproducts. Wish me Luck. I can envision a market for long-meat spam someday. I’d love to hear the TV jingle for that. Will they sell different flavors based on race or ethnicity I wonder? “Hey honey, lets have Indian food tonight” “Sure thing dear, I’ll get the can opener”

  10. GregT on Sat, 24th Oct 2015 12:50 am 

    “I am currently working on a scheme to vertically farm SPAM and other fine meat byproducts.”

    Soylent green could be the solution that turns other ‘fine meats’ into a sustainable food source for the rest of us. Hey honey, let’s have Japanese tonight!

  11. GregT on Sat, 24th Oct 2015 12:58 am 

    Hate to burst your bubble Apnea, but where do you believe that you will get cans from? I know, somebody always needs to ruin everything. Sorry dude.

  12. GregT on Sat, 24th Oct 2015 1:06 am 

    “Almost 40 million people in California today. Imagine 150-200 million people living there in 2100!”

    If current trends continue, imagine trying to feed those almost 40 million people in less than a decade, never mind exporting food to anywhere else.

  13. apneaman on Sat, 24th Oct 2015 1:11 am 

    Greg, I’ll salvage unnecessary toys.Like mega all aluminium vacuum chambers.

    Space Power Facility

  14. GregT on Sat, 24th Oct 2015 1:27 am 

    “Space Power Facility has become a “One Stop Shop”

    Hmmm, not sure how you’ll manage to gain access Ap. It’s a “one stop shop”. People will probably be lined up for miles when food becomes problematic. Bet you didn’t think about that, now did you.

  15. apneaman on Sat, 24th Oct 2015 1:45 am 

    No, Greg.
    I’m just doing it for the children.

  16. GregT on Sat, 24th Oct 2015 1:50 am 


  17. shortonoil on Sat, 24th Oct 2015 7:14 am 

    How long will this method work after the oil age ends?

    That is happening right now at $44 oil.

  18. ghung on Sat, 24th Oct 2015 7:54 am 

    Mak, as usual you spout off without doing your homework. A little research would have revealed that the multi-layer plastic film used on these high tunnels is UV stabilised and most is warranted for 4-6 years. I know folks who get 7-8 years from their coverings, and it is a simple matter to replace. The cost to re-cover my high tunnel is currently about $550. The farmers using this stuff aren’t idiots. And don’t bother with the “…but they won’t be able to get it in 20 years!” bullshit. Most are feeding-in-the-now, and I view it as, at least, a transition technology. Meanwhile, I consider a technology that costs me about $100 per year, greatly reduces inputs while significantly increasing productivity, reduces crop loss and boosts profits by far more than the meager investment, worth considering. Another big advantage is that nutrients and fertilizers don’t get washed away into your streams and rivers.

    Here’s the basic type of film being used on these things:

  19. ghung on Sat, 24th Oct 2015 8:32 am 

    Short asks; “How long will this method work after the oil age ends?”

    Who knows, short? I expect that the PTB will see that resources such as fuel, fertilizers and other inputs for agriculture get priority. Food shortages make for an unhappy population. I plan to stockpile the plastic covering for my high tunnel to give me about 20 years of good use from the project. The frames last decades. The good news is that this method (high-energy heated and lighted GREENHOUSES excluded) requires far fewer inputs. My plan is to make my own fish emulsion and compost (already started that) for fertilizer. I have a mentor who has had great success using virtually no outside inputs. Basic organic growing.

    Here are some photos of what most of these structures look like. Not very resource intensive compared to other growing methods. Great EROEI.

    Wikipedia has a page:

    While the article mentions enhancements such as soil heaters and misters, the vast majority of these are passive, very much like a passive solar home (yeah, I’ve got one of those too). Temp/humidity are controlled by opening and closing the sides and ends, letting the breeze blow through; one reason they are called tunnels. The class I took teaches to orient to prevailing winds to enhance air flow. If damaging winds crop up, simply close the structure; takes me about 10 minutes.

    One advantage these have is that small tractors can go in and till the beds. I use raised beds and till with a solar-powered electric tiller. I also installed some solar-direct roof vent-fans in the gables to vent hot air. My drip irrigation is solar-pumped spring water using soaker hoses made from recycled tires (10 cents a foot; last for years). I’m currently using paper mulch to control weeds and reduce soil evaporation. Keeps the soil warm in winter as well. Recycled paper, of course, which can be composted. All organic certification approved.

    Not perfect, but far less imperfect than growing in the open, for numerous reasons. Inputs have been ridiculously low; productivity, stellar. That’s what it’s all about.

  20. Davy on Sat, 24th Oct 2015 8:46 am 

    As usual G-man delivers useful prep info. Short, copied and pasted to my notes your two above comments. I am doing a grazing system now but a small high tunnel is on my prep list.

    I am wondering if I can put a high tunnel next to my garden. The issue is my garden is on a slope. How big of a slope can a high tunnel accommodate or should it be mostly flat?

  21. Davy on Sat, 24th Oct 2015 8:51 am 

    My wife reminded me we have a flat spot just bellow the garden. I also have a pond right above this flat area. Coffee has not kicked in.

  22. Kenz300 on Sat, 24th Oct 2015 8:52 am 

    Climate Change, declining fish stocks, droughts, floods, pollution, water and food shortages all stem from the worlds worst environmental problem……. OVER POPULATION.

    Yet the world adds 80 million more mouths to feed, clothe, house and provide energy and water for every year… this is unsustainable…

    Pope Francis’s edict on climate change will anger deniers and US churches | World news | The Guardian

  23. ghung on Sat, 24th Oct 2015 8:53 am 

    Again, back at mak who said; “If they were profitable they would already be common”.

    Mak, there are millions of these things, worldwide. Southern Spain?,-2.6638612,80378m/data=!3m1!1e3

    Zoom in on the white patches. You think the poor Muslims in the Almeria region of Southern Spain have lots of money to piss away on things that don’t provide a big return?

    The tools you need to prove your own preconceptions wrong are right in front of you. Use them.

  24. ghung on Sat, 24th Oct 2015 9:20 am 

    Davy, they can tolerate some slope if you can keep water from running in (a mistake some folks make). My original garden had a slope of about 4 feet in 100, so we graded it for the high tunnel. Much better choice. The USDA “EQUIP” grant we got more than paid for the complete 72’x30′ high tunnel kit, and building the kit myself allowed me to pay a contractor to grade the pad and ensure good drainage. We stockpiled the top soil which I’m mixing with amendments to build my raised beds. I’ll have ten 33’x4′ raised beds when I’m done. Using 4″ PVC drain pipe to frame my beds which I’m filling with water to hold heat this winter (temperature moderator). The 4 foot outside width of the beds allows me to use 48 inch rolls of paper mulch to cover the beds ($55 for a 550 foot roll). Lay your drip lines under the mulch, cut holes next to the drip lines, and plant. Ongoing fertilizing is accomplished by adding fish emulsion to my drip water. I’m doing three drip lines evenly spaced under the mulch (using the cheap Orbit dual-zone timers), and planting either side of the drip lines (smaller crops like carrots, beets, etc.) giving me 6 rows, or almost 200 row-feet per bed.

    My layout varies with the crop. I’m planting tomatoes 2 wide every 16 inches, growing indeterminates vertically (google “lower and lean tomatoes). Doing pole beans the same way; phenomenal production! Cabbages are absolutely gorgeous. Using steel electrical EMT for my vertical frames; cheap, and last forever. Maybe I’ll do a post at some point.

  25. Davy on Sat, 24th Oct 2015 9:39 am 

    Thanks G

  26. makati1 on Sat, 24th Oct 2015 10:29 am 

    ghung, Spain is not subject to typhoons, hurricanes or tornadoes… yet. Nor heavy snow, weeks of below zero temps, hail, etc. A few hundred thousand do not even register on the radar to replace the ~50 million hectares of real farm soil in the world.

    Prove your assertion that there are millions. Millions of small ones for specialties and in back yards to grow flowers and a few herbs, maybe, but not the 100 million or so needed to replace real farms, ever.

    Did you miss my grain mention?

    You may have one, until you cannot replace the oil/NG based plastic or find the fuel to heat them. like solar panels, they have limited life spans. Weather beats them up and the weather is getting hotter and more deadly every year.

    There are a few hundred thousand electric cars on the road, but they will not replace the petroleum fueled ones ever. There are solar panels all over Japan, I have seen them, but they too will be gone soon after oil goes away. They are already aging.

    They are already getting old like the wind mills in Europe that are reaching the end of their life span and the governments are trying to decide if it is economical to repair/replace them. No profit, no repairs. That’s Capitalism.

    You speak of special exceptions, not the rule. Good luck with yours. Maybe you will be the exception to the rule.

  27. makati1 on Sat, 24th Oct 2015 10:34 am 

    G, your own stats tell me the life time of the plastics. The cost will either be exorbitant when you want to replace it or it will not be available at any price. Most likely the latter. But, enjoy the now. It’s all we have.

  28. Spec on Sat, 24th Oct 2015 10:59 am 

    And then we will need Ralph Kramden’s “Chef of the Future”.

  29. Davy on Sat, 24th Oct 2015 11:51 am 

    Shut up Mak, and read what he said. It is a niche in the bigger picture but it has excellent applications in the format G-man is applying them. It is an excellent application for multiple locals including your Asia. It is going to take a thousand ideas like this high tunnel applications to make even a small difference. Nothing is going to replace the huge global monoculture farms but this is an excellent choice for permaculture farmers across the globe. Every farm that can should have a small one in addition to their garden.

  30. Joe on Sat, 24th Oct 2015 12:43 pm 

    And while were at it lets not forget to invest in vertical circular live stock farming.Maybe some of you remember this concept.

    Food close to home.


  31. ghung on Sat, 24th Oct 2015 2:47 pm 

    Y’know, Mak? Fuck it. I’m going to go burn my high tunnel down since you’re so sure it’s wasted effort. I could point out that, according to several sources, the Netherlands alone had 10,526 hectares under cover in greenhouses of various types as early as 2000, that China has been building them like crazy, as have other places all over the world. I could even post sources for these stats, but you’ll ignore them since you’re right, as always. It must be tough living in a world where everyone else is stupid and far less informed than you are.

    I apologise for infringing on your vast intelligence and knowledge base. In parting, maybe you can recommend an accelerant most suitable for the efficient burning of multi-ply cross-linked polyethylene.

  32. Ted Wilson on Sat, 24th Oct 2015 3:53 pm 

    First vertical houses, then vertical shops and now Vertical Farms.

    Yes we can go this way and grow more food and leave the forests intact.

    Looks nice.

  33. JuanP on Sat, 24th Oct 2015 7:40 pm 

    Vertical gardening is part of the package. We have trellises in all our allotment plots, wall gardens indoors on LED grow lights, a wall garden in the balcony, and window gardens inside our condo. We use shade cloth to protect seedlings and transplants in summer at the plots. We also use chicken wire fences and, sometimes, bird and insect netting to keep wildlife at bay. We also move plants indoors to outdoors and back depending on the season.

    I think a poly tunnel is a smart investment for some people. Ghung’s setup is very neat and the price was right. 😉 In Uruguay the tunnels are extremely popular now. Growing food in a controlled environment is easier than growing food outdoors.

  34. makati1 on Sat, 24th Oct 2015 7:56 pm 

    ghung, I’m sorry if I rained on your parade, but, it you want a more permanent greenhouse, you have to go to steel and glass.

    How many hectares will still be ‘under plastic’ in 10 years? My bet is zero. Plastic is a product of oil and cheap oil at that. Soon to be history.

    The Netherlands could become like today’s Iceland if the Gulf Stream continues to move south as the Greenland glaciers melt into the ocean. Conditions today are already changing.

    I wish you luck.

  35. JuanP on Sun, 25th Oct 2015 6:36 am 

    Article on crop protection,

  36. Davy on Sun, 25th Oct 2015 7:45 am 

    Mak said “but, it you want a more permanent greenhouse, you have to go to steel and glass.” “Focking duh” Makster

    G-man and thousands of others are doing high tunnels now not waiting on a $60K steel, glass, and concrete greenhouse many will never be able to afford. BTW, foctard, isn’t steel, concrete, and glass contributing to climate change?

    Makster can’t stand others having something good to say. He can’t stand others having success. Makster do you have a self-esteem problem? It sucks being stuck in your apartment in the middle of 20MIL people in Manila, Philippines?

  37. Kenz300 on Sun, 25th Oct 2015 10:09 am 

    The real problem is endless population growth…..requiring more and more resources every year…..

  38. G1 on Sun, 25th Oct 2015 2:08 pm 

    Soylent Green!
    (If you are too young to remember this classic film…Google it!)

    This is our future!

  39. GregT on Sun, 25th Oct 2015 8:50 pm 

    Solent green, it’s people!

  40. apneaman on Sun, 25th Oct 2015 9:06 pm 

    Apparently we would be better off going all natural in many areas

    Tampons, sterile cotton, sanitary pads contaminated with glyphosate – study

  41. Kenz300 on Mon, 26th Oct 2015 9:27 am 

    If you can not provide for yourself you can not provide for a child………. having a child you can not provide for is just cruel.

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