New Food Paradigm

With the fascination of images beamed back to earth of Pluto, and the discovery of an Earth-like planet located 1400 light years away in the Cygnus constellation, it seems appropriate that we continue the space theme with our story of eight aspiring astronauts cocooned in a Mars-like habitat on top of Hawaii’s Mauna Loa volcano. The aim of the mission was to study the group’s cohesiveness over the eight months of simulated long-duration space travel, to figure out how to pick a crew that works well together, that’s able to stay positive, happy and productive. The mission demonstrated that plants grown hydroponically not only supplemented a diet of freeze-dried food, but also had a positive effect on crew behaviour.

While there are many challenges to feed astronauts during the long journey and colonisation of Mars, so too are there challenges to feed a growing global population on Mother Earth, where food output must double to feed an estimated nine billion people by 2050. In some respects the challenges are similar; developing and fine-tuning intensive food production systems.

At the recent Protected Cropping Australia (PCA) biennial conference held on the Gold Coast, internationally acclaimed Australian science writer and author Julian Cribb gave a visionary assessment into the future of global food production. He predicts a ‘food revolution’ will arise out of the demand and resource pressures in the global food system, combined with the emergence of new technologies and trends in farming, health and sustainability. He points to hydroponics, protected cropping, urban agriculture, aquaponics, aquaculture, bioculture and synthetic meat as future technologies to meet the global demand for nutritious food. His thought-provoking keynote represents a new food paradigm on how we think about food. In his remarks, he called for a ‘Year of Food’ in every junior school on the planet to teach a new respect for food.

In this issue, we also publish an overview of the development of the Australian berry industry, a prelude to the coming International Blueberry Organisation (IBO) summit to be held in Coffs Harbour from 7-9 September 2015. The summit will bring together representatives from the world’s top producing countries with the objective of sharing information and analysis on the current state of the industry. More information at: www.hydroponics.com.au/international-blueberry-summit/

The current boom in the Australian blueberry industry is evidenced on the rolling hillsides around Coffs Harbour in Northern NSW, where they have become the region’s main fruit crop. Most crops are protected by plastic rain shelters, while the number of hi-tech greenhouses on the landscape is steadily increasing. Demand for consistent, high quality berries is expected to drive the industry towards year-round hydroponic production using protected cropping. Similar growth is occurring with other berry crops throughout Australia, including blackberry and raspberry. As we learn more about the physiology of cane berries and how to manipulate the cropping cycling coupled with new high producing varieties, it is inevitable that we will see cane berries being grown in totally controlled, protected cropping environments in hydroponic systems, in the same way we have seen the evolution of greenhouse tomato production.

It’s an exciting time for the protected cropping and berry industry!   Ω

Steven Carruthers

PH&G August 2015 / Issue 158


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