The Future of Food

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Time to Grow

The Future of Food

What will you eat tomorrow?

What is the future of food?

Is it meat grown in labs, large-scale factory farming or eating insects? Is it vertical agriculture in our cities, 3D printed food or an increasing disparity between what the rich and the poor eat? Depending on whom you ask it’s all of these things. Most agree the current model is failing both our health and our planet. For the increase in population to match our current food production system while addressing inequalities between the haves and have nots will require unconventional approaches.

Enter Enactus, an international student group that focuses on social entrepreneurship with a high –tech solution that came from the need to address a home-grown problem. After seeing firsthand the lack of healthy and affordable fresh food while offering entrepreneurship training in Iqaluit they were inspired to develop the Growcer project. “Nunavut residents pay on average twice as much for the same food as the rest of Canada” says Corey Ellis, President of Enactus at the University of Ottawa and co-founder of the Growcer social enterprise. For those living in northern Canada the prohibitive cost of imported fresh food and the short growing season make eating healthy a challenge.

Growcer project manager Alida Burke and Enactus uOttawa president Corey Ellis in Iqaluit.

Growcer project manager Alida Burke and Enactus uOttawa president Corey Ellis in Iqaluit.

Future of food podcast

Out of this desire for change came the idea for a sustainable food production system built into retro-fitted shipping containers that would allow for year-round harvesting. Using hydroponic technology and low-energy LED lights the system re-circulates water filled with nutrients. The continuous circulation means 92% less water is used than traditional agriculture, producing two acres worth of food within 320 square feet. The shipping container ‘farm’ is completely sealed from outside and built to withstand the -55 degree temperatures that can rage around them.

The highly sophisticated system is completely automated; measuring and adjusting everything from the humidity in the air to pH and nutrient levels in the water and only requires maintenance during the initial planting and later harvesting. Corey explains that as a social enterprise the Growcer business model keeps the ‘farm’ locally owned. The food savings realized will differ from one community to another but will have sizeable impact with proceeds generated from the sale of the produce staying within the community.

Plants in rows under ultraviolet light

High-efficiency LED lights are installed above each row of plants to provide the precise conditions for the plants to grow optimally.

Although they have launched the project in the arctic, there are many other hopes for deployment such as arid countries where water efficiency is key or cities where growing in an urban environment could reduce the distance food is being transported.

With ideas like this the future of food is looking bright.

Credits

Photographs

  • Courtesy of Enactus Ottawa

Sound effects

Music

Video

  • CBC