With a growing population, changing consumption behavior and a climate crisis, how will we feed our future world? The answer may not be increasing resources--land, water, and employees--but rather improving production efficiency. The key question: How do we increase the amount of food we produce while using the same or fewer resources?
In the first episode of our original series, Future of Food, we take a look at sustainable agriculture.
Efficient Farming in The Netherlands is Producing 20x More Food, 4X Less Water and the Most Sustainable Food Systems in the World
When it comes to scaling agricultural production sustainably, one country seems to be cracking the code. Bolstered by a national commitment to produce twice the amount of food with half the resources, the Netherlands has become the world’s #2 produce exporter. The close collaboration between the government, science organizations and the food industry have driven impressive innovation and an efficiency that’s unmatched anywhere else in the world.
Ernst van den Ende , WUR Head of Plant Sciences
“In the world we live in nowadays, you need to link up with other people. You can’t do it on your own. We need to produce more. We need to do it with less inputs. And we need to do it better.”
On a normal open-field tomato farm, one could expect 4 kilograms of yield per square meter. In a high-tech greenhouse in the Netherlands, that number shoots up to 80 kilograms of yield per square meter, with 4X less water. That’s a 20X improvement on output! And it’s not just tomatoes--the Dutch are #1 in the world on producing chilis, green peppers, and cucumbers (measured by yield per square mile).
Sustainable Farming Practices Driven by AI
The technology behind these greenhouses allows for an extreme level of control over water, light, temperature, and CO2--all of which are finely tuned and optimized. Constant testing on countless variables is what drives these facilities and could be the future of our planet’s sustainable food systems. Tests can be as simple as comparing different hues of LEDs to increase tolerance against pests, or as advanced as a moth-killing drone.
In addition, technology is simply getting better. More and more, efficient farming is becoming automated, using artificial intelligence to find the optimal conditions. By learning the behaviors of plants, climate computers can adjust conditions far better than a human.
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Scaling Efficient Farming: It’s All About Knowledge Sharing
The Netherlands is not just thinking about the Netherlands. Besides leveraging technology in efficient ways, these innovators are exploring how to use their findings on a greater scale. For example, their greenhouses emulate climates across the world in order to optimize growth outside of the country. As they learn about what’s optimal in Colombia, for example, they can then transfer that knowledge and help build sustainable food systems across the globe. This level of big picture thinking could be a game-changer as we tackle one of society's greatest challenges in the coming years.
For more entrepreneurs seeking to Move the World, check out all of our Entrepreneurship & Innovation videos now. If you're in need of innovative approaches to sustainable food production, take a look at our video, Growing Food with Seawater below: