HOMEGROWN Life: What Will Be the Future of Agriculture


| 7/22/2015 8:25:58 AM


Tags: future of agriculture, HOMEGROWN, Bryce Oates, farmer,

Drones, robots, and humans collaborating from a control room monitoring the wheat crops? Vat-grown “meats” in factories? Drinkable nutrients for the on-the-go “consumer?” People swinging pitchforks and scythes at compost parties? Tomato plants floating atop tanks of tilapia in greenhouses filled with solar-powered lighting systems?

It’s all possible, and most of the scenarios above could likely be on their way. I am torn about it.

That’s because I struggle with the concept of a technological “fix” for how we produce and process and distribute food. Technology and science and innovation are clearly one of the most important investments in how to move forward for modern society (I’m tempted to say “civilization” here, but I’m holding back). And yet, the direction of that complex of innovation investments can lead to some awful outcomes.

Take the scientific fix of how to solve the problem of sick pigs when you put thousands of them in enclosed factories. Give the pigs a steady stream of antibiotics so they don’t get sick. It’s a logical scientific response to a very narrowly defined problem. But then, years in the factory farm pig production system with people and pigs bio-accumulating the antibiotics, scientists and society have raised real concerns about the utility of our antibiotic strains remaining viable. Viruses and bacteria have evolved to become more resistant to our antibiotic supply. What happens if there is a disease outbreak and we need those valuable medicines? Too late. We used up the biological supply to prop up factory farm pig production for past thirty-odd years.

I suppose we all have our favored notion of what’s to come, what’s preferable, how we should move along the path. Mine is more people on the land farming a mix of crops and livestock, minding the recycling and biological renovation of nutrients while producing healthy food for people, and leaving room for the wildlife with whom we share the planet.  That’s already a mouthful, I know, but there also needs to be something said for economic fairness, decent pay, and incomes sufficient to support these food producers and conservationists.




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