The challenge of achieving food security while reducing agriculture’s environmental footprint requires food production to be highly productive yet sustainable. A closed-loop agricultural model is a promising solution, where waste and byproducts (outputs) are reintroduced into the food system as feed, nutrients, and energy (inputs).
Building a closed-loop agricultural model will require a coordinated set of solutions, including:
There is much debate over what “sustainable farming” entails, with conventional agriculture often being criticized by local and organic farms, and vice versa
- How can we establish common ground on this issue and move towards cohesive action?
- What communication platforms could be developed to share information between farmers, researchers, engineers, charities, policy-makers, etc.?
Designing Closed-Loop Models
Considerable amounts of energy and nutrients are lost from a farm during the harvest
- How can energy and nutrients be recovered from waste and byproducts?
Adapting Farming Methods
Farmers are generally risk averse and prefer to maintain their traditional farming practices unless the alternatives are affordable and backed by strong evidence
- What technologies can be developed to collect and analyze data and track the successes and failures of various farming methods?
- How can this information then be communicated to farmers and help them in decision-making?
To fill during and after the event:
This challenge started as: Creating a closed loop agricultural model. We began discussing the inputs and outputs of a typical farm in Vancouver and tried to determine how extra outputs that may become waste could be channeled back into the process.
This challenge ended as: Three different solutions to closing the loop on agriculture.
- We debated creating a closed loop farm system that create sufficient nutritious food to feed a small community. The idea would be to focus on nutritionally dense food. We often worry about producing enough food when perhaps we should worry more about the nutritional value of the food. We thought it would be challenging to translate this initiative to large scale and though it would work best in small scale urban setting.
- Our next idea was geared towards the creation of a sharing platform for farmers that would allow them to build connections to close the loop on farming. We decided we needed to focus on allowing farmers to make extra profits to incentivize them to make changes to a traditional system. We also realized we needed to consider economics of scale.
We envisioned this platform serving a number of function. It could provide education to farmers on some useful ways to use waste outputs that can allow them to save profits. The outputs of one farmer may be the inputs of another. It could help share resources in this way. It could also be a platform to link farmers with practical tips from academic research as this gap is often significant. It could also allow farmers to develop a coop for sharing farm equipment that may be too expensive for one farm to invest in.
- We also began discussing the level of waste in regards to “ugly” vegetables. We debated starting a company that buys this produce and expand it into a secondary market. It could involve the production of foods like jams or soups with this vegetables. It could be linked with school systems and children could be taught to cook with them. It could be a catering company. There were a number of ideas discussed for their use within this secondary market.
Describe the evolution of your group’s thought process, what you did during the day:
Key things you learned:
The feedback you received, and how it was applied: For our second idea we received the feedback that we should narrow down on portion of the platform and focus on it initially for implementation. We also received advice regarding a number of links and resources to check out regarding work already being done similar to our first idea (to be updated).
The practical outcome of this challenge is:
The Future: What elements did you decide to: pursue, pivot, purge, pause?