Sunday, October 23, 2011

Organic Farming - Increasing Economics and Diminishing Land Use

Organic farmers have received negative comments from fellow commercial farm groups such as being labelled as Organic freaks. However for years, the biggest insult was being dismissed as being inefficient and ineffective. The mainstream industry all but wrote off Organic farming being unable to keep up to the productivity of conventional intensive agriculture.

A recent report, that CropLife Canada financed, concluded that without pesticides, fertilizers and biotechnology, Canada would need another 37 million acres of cropland -- the equivalent of the total annual cropped area of Saskatchewan, or four times that of Ontario -- to produce the same amount of food.

But that's not necessarily the case anymore. New research is emerging, based on long-term, scientifically valid trials, to show that organic yields of field crops can mimic conventional yields and in some cases, overtake them. And they can do this while consuming less energy.

The latest such effort has emerged from the Rodale Institute in Pennsylvania, which released a report last month based on a 30-year research trial comparing conventional and organic production methods.

"Organic farming is far superior to conventional systems when it comes to building, maintaining and replenishing the health of the soil," the institute reports. "For soil health alone, organic agriculture is more sustainable than conventional. When one also considers yields, economic viability, energy usage and human health, it's clear that organic farming is sustainable, while current conventional practices are not."

The trials, which were based on corn and soybean crops, found over the 30-year period organic yields not only surpassed conventional systems, the organic trials outperformed conventional during drought conditions, they consumed 45 per cent less energy and they were more profitable. The study also found the conventional approach produced 40 per cent more greenhouse gases.

Full Story Link

If we were to look at the full possibilities and take the organic sustainable approach a step or two further to include interpreted crop production utilizing the principals of aquaculture, aquaponics, and model operations with Biomimicry methods, we could certainly improve upon production output and greatly increase productivity per acre seen in even the best run conventional or organic farms.

The proof of this is being seen in numerous similar type operations around the world. What is more, these types of closed loop systems have been shown to reduce the resource input needs tremendously while making maximum use of bi-products to help produce a greater variety of safe food in a very energy efficient manner.

In another post I linked a video titled “1 million pound of food on 3 acres.” This is a short presentation on the Growing Power facility that illustrates the feasibility of operating land based aquaculture and aquaponics systems integrated with value added bi-product utilization.

Link To Video

We believe that even operations as seen in the video can be improved upon and that we can expand upon the regions where such a facility can be located. This can be made possible by selecting the right production processes matched with the most efficient equipment and buildings.

The next generation farms need to be designed to incorporate sustainable practices and equipment technologies with age old proven food farming techniques to produce food at the highest level of output while maintaining the lowest level of impact upon the environment.

I will be writing more on the subject in future posts.

Friday, October 21, 2011

What Is Sustainable Land Based Aqua Farming?

In my opinion, it is the synergistic combining of resource conservation technologies for water and energy management with Aquaculture, Aquaponics culture techniques in a manner where resource inputs are minimized and negative impacts mitigated.

Well designed and properly operated land based Aqua farms provide safe high quality food products to consumers while minimizing the resource inputs and maximizing conservation. Based on science and technology, this farming method has emerged and the best green alternative to provide consumers with value, taste and convenience in consumption of eco-friendly seafood and vegetable products.

The entire production process is designed to incorporate modern sustainable equipment technologies with age old proven food farming techniques to produce food at the highest level of output while maintaining the lowest level of impact upon the environment. 

What Is the Need?

To give the most simplistic answer; the need for this type of sustainable farming is to help ensure that the food supply stays a breast of the increasing population and overcomes the effects of diminishing resources.

Two examples of sustainable aquatic farming are land based Aquaculture and Aquaponics.

As a result of vast reductions in wild fisheries and increased demand from the growing world population, commercial Aquaculture, (fish farming) has had to expand immensely to fill the demand for fresh fish and seafood. Fish farming now contributes more than 50% of world fish and seafood supply on both subsistence and a commercial basis.

Aquaponics, the polyculture production of plants and vegetables using “fish farm water” has also expanded rapidly to fill the demand for fresh, wholesome produce grown in a sustainable, safe and economically feasible manner using organic by-product nutrients.

The need for change in seafood supply lead us to Aquaculture and now the need for changes and improvements in the way we farm fish has lead us to developing methods to conduct aqua farming in a more sustainable manner.Integrated food production using the proven principals of Aquaponics combined with green energy technologies and utilization of by-products works toward closing the loop in sustainable food farming.

In today's farms we need to incorporate Biomimicry methods and implement sustainable solutions by emulating nature's time-tested patterns and strategies. The overall goal is to create products, processes, and policies that are well adapted to maintaining constant sustainable food production and life on earth into the future.

As resources become increasingly scarce and more expensive we need to design farms with conservation and re-use technologies and we need to operate in a more efficient manner. The often ignored bi-products of one farm process need to be viewed as being valuable resources that can be reused or re-purposed within a broader more diversified operation. 

Illustration of the closed loop farm process.