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Friday, November 12, 2010

How do you Feed Nine Billion People?

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Earth Beat - The future of farming

On air: 12 November 2010 2:00 (Photo: Seawater Greenhouse Australia)

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This week on Earth Beat: by the middle of this century, there will be nine billion of us on the planet. That's a lot of mouths to feed. So how should we do it? Some experts say we should keep farms small and sustainable and grow and eat locally. Others say farms need to scale up to meet the needs of the millions of people squeezed into mega-cities. To find out how farms are changing we visit urban farms, ocean farms and desert farms.

Listen to/download this week's show (right-click download button and "save as")

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The future of farming
Host Marnie Chesterton visits a conference in The Hague and meets agronomist David Howlett from Leeds University, who explains how climate change will affect what food we produce.

Vertical farm
If there isn’t enough room to continue farming the way we have been, we’ll need clever new ideas to get more food from the same piece of land. One idea wants to turn the old system on its head, or rather its side. Kevin Frediani, curator of plants at Paignton Zoo in England, has set up a vertical farm filled with stacks of plants. He talks to Marnie about how it works. The vertical farm is manufactured by Valcent Products. Video: Paignton Zoo's Vertical Farm

Multi-tiered aquaculture
A different sort of fish farm – integrated multi-trophic aquaculture, or IMTA, has been modernised off the east coast of Canada, and has been producing fish, mussels and seaweed symbiotically. Dr Thierry Chopin of the University of New Brunswick and Nell Halse of Cooke Aquaculture join Marnie to discuss how it all works.

Self-propelled fish farms
There’s more than one vision for the future of fish farming, though. This one is a bit more hi-tech. A few years ago, Cliff Goudey, then the director of MIT Sea Grant’s Offshore Aquaculture Engineering Center, helped develop fish cages that can be moved with electrically-powered propellers, bypassing the usual downsides of anchored cages and getting fish closer to market.

Seawater greenhouses
Alongside new ways of farming the sea, it may also be possible to use seawater to farm other things. Charlie Paton is the man behind
Australia’s first seawater greenhousewhich converts salt water to fresh water which is used to grow tomatoes. Correspondent Nicola Gage went along and told Marnie about the tomatoes growing in the greenhouse.

Homegrown in Mumbai
There are also smaller-scale solutions for feeding the world and many individuals making their own contributions. Jyoti Bhave lives in a ground floor apartment in Mumbai and started growing organic fruit and vegetables after taking part in workshops and volunteering at a community garden. She talks to Marnie about her plant pot allotment.

Debating the future
As the world’s population soars, demand for food will grow – is the only solution an industrial approach, or can small-scale organic farms meet our needs? Séan Rickard, a lecturer at Cranfield School of Management and Peter Melchett, Policy Advisor for theSoil Association, debate what’s in store for the future of farming.

Takes a 60 second look at which of your veg is best to buy organic and which isn’t worth the extra cost. Link - The world's heathiest foods

Click on image for slideshow



  1. Melody, check out the Envirominute at the bottom.

    How do you feed nine billion people?

    Probably through food riots.

    Skin on bone starvation diets.


    Organic farming isn't going to cut it, I'm sure of that.

    MaryJane Butters will be of no help here.

  2. Other than blueberries and cherries, most of the fruits and veggies I like are on the clean 15 anyway.

  3. Dad fed us on elk meat, potatoes and peas for thirteen straight years.

    With the elk gone to the wolves, that resource is out.

  4. A good drought will take the thousands and thousands of small organic farms just as it takes the big boys. And I don't know how you'd irrigate thousands and thousands of small organic farms.

    If I were charged with feeding the nine billions of newly hungry, I'd stick with John Deere & Company, Monsanto, and nitrogen (N), phosphorus (P), and potassium (K) fertilizers in bulk.

    I'd stick with Nez Perce NH3 Company, and Nez Perce Tractor/Combine Company, and Supercat for aerial applications when needed, in short.

    And irrigate where possible.

  5. Some tree barks are somewhat edible, as a last gasp.

  6. Is there a capitalistic solution, when the Federal government owns 20% of the land, in the United States?

    A fifth of the United States, by area, is pure socialist.

    An additional fifth of the private GDP is siphoned off and used by the Federals.

    Why can't their 20% of the land produce 20% of the GDP.

    There are 154 million folks in the "labor Force", though not all of those are working. 17% of them, actually.

    Putting the employed labor force at 128 million, more or less.

    The number of Federal employees?
    The correct number of the federal government stands at 14.6 million employees.

    Around 12% of the workforce, inclusive.

    Factor in State and Local workers, betcha we get to around 20% of the workforce is socialist.

    Drones surviving from the toil of the "real" workers.

    The question remains, if the Federals directly control 20% of the land, and utilizes 12% of the workforce, why can they not support themselves?

    Why do they need all that, and an additional 21% of the economic production of the "real" workers?

    If asset and land management is left in the hands of the Federals and their ilk, here and abroad, the whirled will starve.

  7. So pops was a poacher, aye, bob?

    He and Robin Hood.

    Or were there no "hunting seasons" nor game limits, back in the day?

    I find that "hard to believe", even if it was 60 years ago.

  8. More than that, growing food (water provision, fertilizer, pesticides) and transporting it requires energy. Of the various proposals in the article, the only one that really struck me as maybe feasible energy-wise was the seawater greenhouse. What's the breakeven point for the energy consumption of the panels though?

    We need energy, lots of it, very quickly. Or, separate nations and nation-blocs figure some way to hoard their already precious reserves when the shit hits the fan. And yes, I'm looking at India... developing rapidly they might be, a demographic boon they call the present mass of population, but I prefer to think of it as a ticking time bomb.


  9. Pops was no poacher prick.

    He and some friends always got their elk each year, is all.

    It was good hunting back then, and they knew where to go.

    It's always wonderful to wake up to some shit comment by you.

  10. One elk a year would not feed a family, bob, not for long.

    So if that was how you all ate, the question is relevant.

    That his friends donated their elk meat, to him, a wonderful thing.

  11. Right, dickhead, elk meat wasn't all we ate.

    God you're nasty.

  12. Feeding people aint hard...

    Getting the Arabs, Africans & Moslems to divert 1/20th the energy they spend on murder and genocide and turning that into water purification and food production the world would be awash in food and water...

    but remember America just gave $150,000,000 dollar to give to the Palestinians to GIVE TO HAMAS to pay salaries.. This on top of $600 MILLION already given in 2010..

    How much corn could that have grown???????

  13. Just trying to understand how it was,"back in the day" living on those Federal welfare land grants, bob.

    If the recipients of that Federal largess were forced to be poachers, just to survive.

    How the rural welfare system of past compares to the urban system of the present.

    How the current Food Stamp programs subsidize both the farmers and the eaters, and how that compares to the past program of hunting and gathering, directly from the Federal lands.

  14. bob, there are a small % of people that also do crime, murder and generally are worthless shits...

    my suggestion?

    dont engage the troll

  15. Poaching is an asset management issue and criminal matter, in Idaho.

    Date: November 8, 2010
    Contact: Gregg Losinski
    (208) 525-7290

    information sought on deer poaching west of Idaho Falls

    The Idaho Department of Fish and Game is investigating a recently reported poaching case and is asking for the public's help with information to solve this case.

    About two to three weeks ago, a group of three or four young men in their late teens or early 20s were seen west of Idaho Falls, hunting deer on private land adjacent to Road 105 West.

    Five deer were shot, including three bucks, a doe and a fawn. The bucks were killed and later taken, the fawn left to rot. The doe, which was still alive, was tied up and put in the back of a pickup truck. The doe later escaped.

  16. Murder of people in Central America as a civilian contractor is crime as well

  17. The story that the Idaho Fish and Game Department tells, differs from the one that bob relates, as to the health and size of the elk herds, on the PUBLIC lands of Idaho.

    They claim that their management of that PUBLIC asset on PUBLIC land is superb.

    The fundamental reason for that is habitat. About 68 percent of Idaho consists of rugged mountains and high deserts managed for the public by federal and state agencies. Idaho still has room for big animals and for the people who pursue them.

    Elk bring Idaho most of its renown as a big game hunting state, with a herd of around 200,000 animals. Elk herds have been expanding steadily since the mid-1970s even while harvest records have been set nearly every year of the last decade. Unlike the situation in some other western states, antler point counts have consistently shown an upward trend, too.

    Concern over increasing demand for elk hunting has spurred Fish and Game to look for ways to maintain high percentages of mature bulls but this is not because Idaho’s elk herds are in trouble overall. It is because Idaho Fish and Game wants to step out ahead of a potential problem its biologists see five to 25 years down the road. Conservative management has strengthened Idaho’s elk herds over the last 25 years and game managers are dedicated to keeping them strong. (We will be posting updates on elk hunting rules changes as they develop.)

    This site is about Idaho, from Idaho by Idahoans.

  18. No one I ever knew was murdered in Central America, by US government contractors.

    There may have been some deaths but they were attributed to the "Contras", but that was during a Civil War, by indigenous peoples, against oppressors.

    More telling, as a crime against humanity, were the deaths and the forced relocation of the indigenous people, from the Caribbean coast, by the Communists that controlled the government, at the time.

    That there were those in the US that supported those Communist policies, and even to this day denounce those that attempted to help the indigenous peoples, indicative of true nature of their black hearts.

  19. That there were those in the US that supported those Communist policies, and even to this day denounce those that attempted to help the indigenous peoples, indicative of the true nature of their black hearts.

    mea culpa.

  20. I'll take your advice, WiO, it's good advice.

    One time dad told me, he went out a little too far from camp, and it was getting dark as he was coming back. He wasn't lost, just too far away. So, he dug a trench, he must have had some kind of shovel kit, filled it with wood, burned it for a couple hours till there was nothing but red hot coals left, then shoveled a thin layer of dirt over it, and slept on that. Said it wasn't the most comfortable night he'd ever passed, but it served.

  21. This report, also from Idaho, indicates that even accounting for the wolves the elk herds are increasing in size, as are the numbers of hunters going into the Federal land, to take them.

    “That’s one of the blessings of living here,” said Gerhard, 58, a veteran hunter and Coeur d’Alene resident. “The national forest starts just east of town.”

    Others apparently feel the same way. Since the late 1970s, the number of elk tags sold in the Idaho Panhandle has grown about 27 percent.

    “People have been asking me, do we have fewer hunters in the woods?” said Jim Hayden, the Idaho Department of Fish and Game’s regional wildlife manager in Coeur d’Alene. That’s the trend nationally, but local numbers tell a different story, Hayden said.

    Nearly 18,000 elk tags were sold in the Idaho Panhandle this year. Based on previous years’ success rates, an estimated 1,250 to 2,800 of those hunters will take home an elk for the freezer.

    Hayden credits expansions in the local elk herd for the growth in North Idaho’s tag sales.

    “We have elk in places that we didn’t have them before,” he said. “Twenty-five years ago, you pretty much had to travel to get an elk. Now, you can make it a day trip.”

    Hayden didn’t have exact population figures, but said that elk herds have expanded to the east and south of Coeur d’Alene. They’re also increasing north of the Pend Oreille River. Those are “non-traditional” areas for elk, at least in the past 100 years, Hayden said.

    However, “it’s a mixed message,” Hayden said. “We do have places in the Idaho Panhandle where wolves are having a serious impact on elk herds.”

    Wolves have taken the most elk in the rugged terrain along the upper St. Joe River, where packs have been documented since 1998. But in other areas of North Idaho, where wolf packs are less established, elk herds are growing, Hayden said.

    The Spokesman-Review

  22. The numbers of elk harvested climb, in Idaho, despite the wolf population, there. That reality coming as a surprise, to many.

    Idaho Governor takes Game & Fish out of the wolf management loop

    So a hunter who kills a wolf may face federal prosecution and fines if convicted of illegally taking a threatened species.

    The rules for livestock producers for killing wolves that are harassing or killing cattle, sheep or dogs will not change, but the way the producers get permits to take action will. They will have to go through the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service offices rather than the state Fish and Game to get kill permits.

    Elk hunt numbers up in eastern Idaho

    Wolves have gotten the blame for reduced elk hunting opportunities, particularly in the Lolo Hunt area of northern Idaho, a problem the state has tried to address through the Fish and Wildlife Service by requesting wolf depredation hunts.

    But reports from two eastern Idaho checkpoints in the first weekend of general elk hunting show an increase in the number of elk taken by hunters.

    Schmidt expressed some surprise in the numbers, given the warm weather and the concerns about how wolves have agitated elk.

    The check stations were located near Sage Junction on Interstate 15, where hunters check in after hunting in the area north to Monday, the Medicine Lodge and Island Park areas and other areas to the east and west, and at Hillview near Ririe on U.S. Highway 26, which checks hunters from the Palisades, Willow Creek, Heise and other areas.

  23. Cleaning Lady, I don't know if you saw my last post on the earlier thread, but it seems the answer to your question about how Moscow got called Moscow is finally postmaster Neff, who was from Moscow, Pennslyvania, and then moved to Moscow, Iowa, made the final call, the others being unable to agree on a name. He seemed to like the name because of his past.

  24. Quit picking on Bob.

    I enjoy his homey perspective and so does most everyone else.

    Bob, keep sharing them.

  25. Some current reporting on the realities of elk and wolves, in Idaho, is not "picking on bob".

    It is setting the record straight.

    No personal reference was made and no libel ensued.

    Just linked stories on a subject he brought up. Elk and wolves, in Idaho. That his thoughts and opinions do not jive with the reality of the situation ...

    He is entitled to his own opinion, but not his own facts.

    The fact is the elk herds, in Idaho, have never been healthier. The harvests never greater and the numbers of people enjoying that aspect of the Federal Lands, ever increasing.

    That is cause for some celebration, not despondency.

    Elk hunting in Idaho, under the asset management policies of President Obama, has never been better.

    That's the fact.

  26. More people are taking elk than ever before.

    More folks are taking advantage of Federal resources, than ever before.

    This should be cause for celebration for those that think the purpose of those Federals lands is the preservation of our American heritage.

    More folks are stocking their freezers with Federally subsidized elk meat than ever before in the history of Idaho.

    Let's celebrate that reality!

  27. I could answer every one of his posts, it isn't worth it like WiO says.

    I got to get ready to go get x-rayed anyway. What ticks me off is I can't have anything to eat for the rest of the day.


  28. I can't tell you how to feed nine billion people. I'm having trouble feeding five.

    Peppers, spinach and celery are at the top of my list of veggies to eat.

    There are a couple of problems with eating organic and my information came from a health segment on a news program so take it for what you will. Vegetables that are treated with pesticides and such to keep them preserved. If the fruits and vegetables are imported by the time they get to your kitchen table the nutrients are gone. Just as if you were to cook them to death.

    The second problem with organic is that you must eat it quickly or it goes bad. I've bought carrots that went slimy in a day. And they came from a high end specialty store in my area. You have to watch with packaged food just because it says organic it doesn't mean it's organic. I'll have to be careful now buying spinach. I eat a lot a raw spinach.

    The second list seems to be on target. As long as there is a thick skin to peel you should be okay.

    I would love to have my own fresh vegetables but I can't seem to find anyone to tend a garden for me.

  29. Spinach---

    You pulchritudinous Olive Oyl


    As long as there is a thick skin to peel you should be okay.

    Correct, wife says the same.

    Off to the shower.

  30. The way I used to do it in Moscow was I'd hire a guy with a small tractor and rototiller and have him tear up half the back yard.

    After that it's really pretty simple. Just use a little Roundup here and there, being very careful about it.

  31. I have to reject the premise.

    Most rigorous studies show the population is, more or less, leveling out. Even countries you wouldn't expect have fertility rates below replacement (Mexico being one example.)

    The trick to feeding large numbers of people is Cereal. We are just starting to look at cereal crops as regards Genetic Modification. We will be applying the same tricks to Wheat, and soybeans that we've been using on Corn. Corn Yield increases about 2% Every year.

    Add this to the fact that we only farm a small percentage of our Global Arable land, and it doesn't look too bad.

    We will have to deal with phosphorous 30, or 40 years down the road, but there are mitigations, there, as well.

    We will have to learn to "manage" our water supplies a bit better, but we're smart enough to do that.