We are living in the 21st year of the 21st century.
It seems to be that several elementary subjects are currently changing. Apart from all the news on the Covid-19 pandemic, there is a visible increase in media attention for climate change and the worldwide question on environmental concerns. While the pandemic is temporary and will eventually fade, the challenges in environmental issues are here to stay.
For the last century, both population and economy have witnessed exponential growth worldwide. We have never known a population and wealth in the world, at the scale that we currently see. This situation has its consequences. Rising temperatures, climate changes in different areas of the world, forest fires, floods, and rising sea-levels show us that the boundaries of growth are within sight. Sources like water, nutrients, energy, and clean air cannot be limitlessly withdrawn from Mother Earth.
Nobody likes to hear that, and no one knows what the future might hold, but it’s clear to me that we are at a turning point. A lot of natural resources will not be accessible unlimitedly in the future. It seems to me that the question isn’t “if” you will anticipate future environmental concerns, rather “how” will we cope. How quickly (and smoothly) can you make changes, and at what speed are you permitted to do so?
What Can We Do?
From a healthy and optimistic vision as an entrepreneur, I like to think in the form of opportunities. I can see a number of strengths in sustainability within the horticultural sector, and growing in substrates from modern greenhouses. We achieve a high score in water efficiency and use of nutrients, which saves seven to ten times more compared to traditional growing conditions in agriculture.
Since there is no guarantee of the amount of qualitative good and clean drinking water in the future, I predict a substantial increase in horticultural breeding. This trend is already visible in the growth of lettuce in hydroponics and more advanced growing methods of soft fruits. The question is, which crops are next? The bottom line is that there are a lot of opportunities in this line of production.
Consumers in the Lead
Opportunities for more sustainable and biological growth are out there, but not without effort. We need to explore, develop and invest in order to create said opportunities. Transforming the way we work into a more circular and sustainable system can be quite a challenge, but I remain mostly focused on the value that it adds. Especially since the demand of the consumer is changing too.
Over the years, our customers have become more critical and conscious. They want to eat healthy and minimize their impact on the environment. In Canada and America, we can see an annual increase of 10 to 15 percent in the consumption of organically produced fruits and vegetables. Awareness in the field of healthy foods is growing globally.
Energy & CO2
Unfortunately, nobody knows exactly how much is left of the global energy supply. Reducing our use of fossil fuels becomes a matter of life and death. We need to restrict the amount of carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions on our planet because we may be running out of stock when it comes to our natural resources.
A greenhouse is basically a natural solar energy collector. However, if we can create a way to store this energy somehow, we can start producing with hardly any fossil fuels at all. It is high time we started moving in this direction, based on existing knowledge and concepts.
A Cleaner Product
Are we doing enough in the prevention of chemical pesticides?
Biological protection has already achieved a lot of results, but still, regular correction with chemical pesticides is often used alongside. Even the control of fungi and bacteria is hardly done without the help of certain chemical products. Let’s raise the question, are you already producing a 100% chemical free product?
Water and Nutrients
When it comes to water and nutrients, substrates for growing within closed systems already proved to be rather valuable. It is important to take a close look at the possibilities of replacing mineral fertilizers with biological fertilizers. This technology has become more widely available over the years. By replacing the mineral nutrients with organic nutrition, it aligns with our vision for the future.
Plastic vs. Greener Accessories
In our day-to-day greenhouse operations, we still use more plastics than we would like. If I count all the packing materials, foils, clips, twines and truss supports together, we still contribute to a substantial amount of plastic soup in our oceans. In this field, we still need to make significant steps in reducing plastic waste. Everybody understands the grower cannot avoid using these tools, but there are alternatives such as bio-twines and bio-clips to help with recycling of these materials.
A Brighter Future for Producers
I am confident that we can feed the world more organically and sustainably. This is a unique opportunity for the produce industry.
If we dare to engage and invest, we can feed the world in an organic and sustainable way. For entrepreneurs who choose to produce with maximum sustainable processes, there are plenty of opportunities coming. The only question now is, which choice do you make?
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