Sustainable Agriculture 1.029 Jun 2016 4 mins read (800 words)
Reinventing Agriculture for a multi-planetary civilization
After spending more than a month in the country side in the Northern Lazio region, Italy and being surrounded by agricultural fields used for growing corn, sunflowers, and wheat; It became almost inevitable that an ambition would spark that regards these human activities. It is interesting how it is known to every single person in the world, even to the poorly educated, that plants produce oxygen and play a crucial role in balancing the Earth’s ecosystem. Yet, agriculture, is a human activity that produces 1/3 of all CO^2 emissions and significant amounts of other greenhouse gasses such as methane. It also degrades soil, and as human populations grows, bigger amounts of lands become no longer suitable for agriculture due to the excess of exploitive practices that humans have introduced. There is fear that we might one day run out of land and a catastrophe would most likely be inevitable.
Humans have been practicing agriculture for more than 10’000 years. Ever since we introduced new tools, technologies, and techniques that allow us to carry out these practices more efficiently. With machinery, biotechnologies, and automation, we no longer have a civilization where the majority of individuals raise crops. Developed countries now have less than 0.1% of their population growing food, while the rest of the population has become a victim of urbanization (among many other positive and negative factors). With such a small fraction of people working in agriculture, we don’t have enough minds that explore new ways of growing our food—with the exception of a few multinational conglomerates who seek to monopolize all seeds growing on Earth.
With an abundance of technology and knowledge under our disposal, we have an ability to re-engineer agriculture into a more sustainable form. If we master this technology, we will become a civilization that would be capable of terraforming other planets like Mars, into habitats that would increase the chances of mankind’s survival. If we want to become an interplanetary species, we must introduce practices that give the environment more than it gives to us. Energy and resources are expensive and we must learn how to re-use and replenish them. This is crucial because even our Sun would one day burn out and no longer provide us with energy. But if we no longer have fields on which to grow food, it will be a situation no better than the sun burning out.
Before tackling the problem, I decided to split everything into 3 parts where each one can be tackled with separate areas of technical practices:
- Labour and Mechanization
- Compost and Reusability
- Waste and Sustainability
Labour and Mechanization
The technologies and practices that are under our disposal will soon become easily implementable into this area. We can use automated mechanization powered by electricity that decrease the amount of labour and allow farmers become not just machinery operators but also bioengineers. A farmer would no longer be a profession composed of old farm practices. A farmer should become a highly fashioned specialist who knows how to use technology and biotechnology to create a sustainable practice for the future of our civilization.
Various robotics, computing, and image recognition technologies will allow a new ways of monitoring the performance of plant growth, even down to a single plant if necessary. These technologies would also be capable of assessing the performance of the crop and tracking the environmental impact as well as the crop’s yield.
Compost and Reusability
This is an area that will seek to solve the problem of soil degradation. A cycle must defined that will outline in detail the organic compounds a plant needs that allow it to stay healthy and productive. Fertile soils that have an abundant amounts of nutrition and bacteria, produce the healthiest types of crops. It is important to pinpoint and study the exact substance that benefit the health of the crop. Following which, new practices that don’t exploit the soil’s fertility and avoid its degradation can be defined. By studying multiple types of crops, it would also be possible to pinpoint which crops produce which specific substance and construct a complex web of inter-usability.
Waste and Sustainability
This is an area that has the potential to transform the role that agriculture plays in the Earth’s carbon cycle. For this to happen, we must invent techniques that would allow us to fossilize carbon in the most efficient way as apposed to releasing it back into the atmosphere. This can be achieved by breaking down compounds down to the molecular level, and transforming carbon into granite or calcium carbonate (CaC^3^O).
More research is necessary to explore what is feasible, and what is not. If however humanity succeeds in this area, agriculture has the potential of no longer be source of carbon emissions but a source that can photosynthesize and produce oxygen. Other organic compounds that ends up as waste, should also be tackled in a similar manner. If a chemical compound cannot be reused and it has the potential to harm the environment, it must either be fossilized or broken down into chemical compounds that are less harmful for the environment.