Naija Foodie Update

FOODIE NAIJA UPDATE (HOW TECHNOLOGY CAN BOOST FOOD PRODUCTION)

Nigeria’s population is projected to hit 250 million by 2050, and domestic demand for food will
automatically rise, driven by the predicted population growth.

This, according to the Managing Director,
Dizengoff Nigeria, Mr. Richard Hargrave, will make it very
difficult to feed everyone. Specifically, Hargrave and other
experts noted that the population
growth rate is faster than that of food production. They warned that unless food production is raised by about 70 per cent, between
now and 2050, a serious food crisis may be staring the country in the face.

Hargrave was, however, quick to
add that since food production does not meet demand, a viable option for agricultural and food
industries is to increase production
through innovative technologies.
Addressing a forum at the just concluded Agro Expo in Lagos,
on the topic: “Tomorrow’s Technology Today’, Hargrave said one sure way of boosting production is by
getting more farmers to adopt modem
technology.

According to him, advances in modern technology and
innovation will be
required to produce the significant yield increases needed to boost food production. He said there is a parade of new technologies
and scientific breakthroughs, such as vertical farming, green houses,
aquaponics and others, for farmers and food industries.

Hargrave said through facilities,
such as green houses, which Dizengoff Nigeria is using to
empower farmers, food production has
been increased with less water used and fewer chemical inputs. He made a case for improved
value chain performance to offer
income opportunities for farmers, processors and other operators in
agribusiness. He, however, said
achieving the full potential of technologies to boost food production requires effective
leadership.

He, therefore, said government must invest or encourage
investment in roads and infrastructure to
facilitate food production.
According to him, government’s policy should aim to achieve increase in agric
exports, improve food security, and create new jobs and income for rural populations.

He said the Agricultural
Transformation Agenda (ATA) of the previous administration could address the broader constraints of achieving agricultural productivity growth
and food security, with co-ordinated
national strategies and investment plans for agriculture.

Vertical farming to the rescue The challenge of feeding a growing population is pushing the concept of urban farming to new heights. Since arable land is not sufficiently available for farming in the urban areas of the country, Hargrave
called for the establishment of
vertical farms.

Vertical farming as a component of urban agriculture is the
practice of cultivating plant life within a
skyscraper greenhouse or on
vertically inclined surfaces. Intended to bring large-scale
food production to places where most
of the consumption occurs, vertical
farms are farms on high-rise farm buildings that might
produce everything from algae-based
biodiesel to salad greens, eggs, beef, and milk.

Hargrave explained that vertical farms are tailor made
skyscrapers containing multiple levels of viable farmland to provide year round food production in a controlled,
parasite-free environment.
According to him, vertical farming practised on a large
scale in urban centres in places such as Lagos has great potential to supply
enough food in a sustainable way to
comfortably feed the increasing population in that mega-city.

Apart from allowing year round food production without loss of yields due to climate change or
weather-related events, the system, Hargrave noted, eliminates the need for large-scale use of pesticides and
herbicides, creating an environment that encourages sustainable urban
life.

Aquaponics also
According to experts,
aquaponics, which is a combination of fish and plant production using aquaculture and hydroponics
systems, also holds
promises of increasing food
production. It is an intensive sustainable
agricultural production system
that connects hydroponic and
aquaculture systems to produce multiple cash crops with reduced water and fertiliser inputs.

An aeroponics system cultivates leafy greens, such as arugula and watercress, in growing cycles of
18 days, compared with 60 days or
more in conventional agriculture.
It is highly suited for small farm producers targeting local
markets and agri-tourism opportunities. In
an aquaponic system, wastes produced by fish become beneficial
fertiliser for hydroponically grown plants (ie plants grown inside water).

The most common aquaculture (raising fish) system used in
aquaponics (growing fish and plants within
the same system) is the Re-circulating
Aquaculture Tank System (RAS).
Here, the tank becomes the base
nutrient and water reservoir that flows to the hydroponic
subsystem and is usually Re-circulated back to the tank.

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