It’s frustrating that in all of the discussions of sustainable agriculture; hydroponics, aquaponics, and aeroponics will rarely come up even among the most technologically progressive commentators. People are still not really appreciating some of the biggest problems facing modern agriculture today. The biggest limiting factor with all agriculture is not the amount of energy that you have.
There are plenty of different sources of energy for us to use today. We don’t have to rely on fossil fuels. Even water, as important as it is, is not the most important factor when you are evaluating the sustainability of agriculture. With enough green energy, we can still use desalination in order to artificially boost the amount of water that we have in the world today. Water shortages are important problems, and they are already happening all around the world. However, the most important factor when it comes to agriculture is the soil.
Humanity has turned landscapes that used to be beautiful and verdant into veritable deserts as a result of unsustainable agricultural practices. Agricultural techniques have improved since the old days of slash and burn agriculture, but in many parts of the world, they still haven’t. The rain forests are still being cleared away all the time, and they’re never coming back. Humanity is quickly clearing away all of the arable land in our world in the exact same way.
Fortunately, we have actually learned how to do farming without any soil. With hydroponics and aeroponics, exposing the roots of the plants to a nutrient solution is more than enough to get the job done. People can raise fantastic plants without the need for soil, and without the need to slowly but surely wear out the soil.
There are individuals who will object to the idea that aeroponics and similar techniques can be practiced on a large scale, but they will typically not go into detail as to why. It just seems to be a conviction that a lot of people have. Maybe they think that people would have done so years ago if it was such a good idea. However, it should be noted that in the United States, agricultural subsidies are a force to be reckoned with, which is more than enough of a reason to keep the agricultural industry and the nature of agricultural production highly stagnant in the United States.
Aeroponics is being practiced on a large scale, particularly in East Asia. Many futurists also believe that it will be possible to bring aeroponics into the cities in order to make cities genuinely self-sufficient. The fact that cities are completely dependent upon the rural areas for food has always put them in something of a vulnerable position. The fact that it takes so much energy to move food from the country to the city has always represented a huge inefficiency in the system. Today, food is moved from one country to another in many cases, which is one of the reasons why we are able to get certain types of food all year long when it used to be seasonal.
There is no reason to have to sacrifice our berries in January. We don’t have to give up our colorful diets full of fruits and vegetables. We also don’t have to use so much fuel just to transport our food, to say nothing of the amount of fuel that we use to produce it in the first place. Aeroponics and similar techniques will use a fraction of the water and the fuel that conventional agriculture uses. People will save on fuel and water at all points in the commodity chain through the use of aeroponics.
I’m imagining a future where we have huge skyscrapers full of indoor aeroponics farms. People will purchase their produce at a farmer’s market downstairs. These markets will be located on the bus line. Cities will be able to sustain themselves without the country.
Urban areas are already more environmentally friendly than rural areas in many ways, contrary to popular belief. The fact that many cities are polluted is in no way inherent to the concept of a city in the first place, and has everything to do with the nature of the fuel that we use and our inefficient transportation. In cities, people have only a small space to call their own. In the country, people will have acres of their own. You have lots of people living together in cities, where everything is located within only a few miles of everything else. We need to really exploit the full potential of our cities, and aeroponics can help us do that. There is no reason to have dirty cities.