Changing views on nutrition create opportunities in horticulture

  • 25 January, 2019
  • Jacco Strating for GreenTech
  • Crops Water Energy People

Consumers are increasingly aware of social and sustainability topics and an increasing number of scientists are calling for action when it comes to our food system. In order to remain future proof, the industry has to answer to that. Some producers however are far ahead of others. Especially in horticulture, where energy-efficient cultivation, CO2 compensation and innovations with a strong social character have been initiated for years.

Much less meat, much more vegetables and fruit. We are all aware that living by this mantra would mean a healthier planet with a healthier population. However, according to medical scientific journal The Lancet we need a comprehensive agricultural revolution to truly secure our future. Our food system and diet need to change radically, scientists stated last week. And health cannot be seen separately from sustainable food. The vast majority of our diet should come from wholegrain cereals, nuts, beans, vegetables and fruit and meat consumption needs to be reduced by 50 percent. The scientists who wrote the report thereby refer to one of the most compelling challenges of this time: securing enough wholesome food for the world’s growing population in a manner that is sustainable. Consumers changing views on nutrition create promising opportunities in horticulture in the coming years. On the condition that growers also commit to a more sustainable world. Vegetables should not only be tasty and healthy, they should also be produced in a responsible way, taking people and the environment into consideration.

To irrigate crops by condensing air

It is very encouraging that entrepreneurs in horticulture are often ahead of their counterparts in other industries. Next Generation Growing was introduced years ago to reduce the use of fossil energy in greenhouses. Crops are increasingly resistant to diseases, meaning less pesticides are needed and many innovations and initiatives contribute to better living conditions in developing countries. Irrigation by Condensation (IBC) for example, a technology from the Israeli company Roots Sustainable Agricultural Technologies Ltd (http://rootssat.com). This innovative solution helps growers in countries where water is scarce by using condensing air to irrigate crops. It is a standalone, closed-loop system, operated on solar energy, which irrigates crops by condensing air or soil humidity on the external surface of pipes. The principle is simple: water is first cooled to below dew point temperatures and then circulated through pipes just above the ground. Condense from the pipes falls down and irrigates the plants.



The irrigation system is currently ready for marketing, says Boaz Wachtel of Roots, although his company is trying to make the application even more cost effective. “Growers who would benefit greatly from this system are often not able to afford it. That is why we are looking for all sorts of partners to help us make the system affordable for everyone. By bringing in technical input, investments and contacts. Water scarcity is a major cause of poverty in many African countries. With limited water availability, there is limited availability of water for irrigation, this is a factor in food scarcity.

International project

Roots is only one of many companies who are willing to invest in a better future. But the fact that a company is eager to contribute, does not mean they have the required know-how.The UN Sustainable Development Goals could be a helpful tool (https://sustainabledevelopment.un.org/?menu=1300). This agenda for Sustainable Development was adopted by all member states of the United Nations in 2015. It provides a blueprint for peace and prosperity for people and the planet, naming 17 Sustainable Development Goals. Objectives such as less hunger, good health and well-being, reduced energy and fossil fuel use and cleaner water could unite horticulture worldwide in the next years. But only if companies truly believe they can make a difference and are willing to contribute, says Boaz Wachtel of Roots. “I would like to cooperate with parties all over the world to put our technology into practice. Money should not be the motive, it should be about helping people. In my opinion technology and knowledge that can contribute to a better world, have to be shared. So let’s meet and keep the conversation going!”

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