What: Urban farmers
Where: Zurich, Basel, The Hague
Who: Roman Gaus and Andreas Graber
Just like energy and water issues, food shortages are a real problem. There are more and more people in the world, and the area available for the production of food is becoming smaller and smaller. This means that food must be produced more intensively in a reduced area. A greater yield from fewer square metres, and dealing as efficiently as possible with the sources available. In the Netherlands, we’re already working on this quite nicely. For instance, Dutch tomato growers grow tomatoes in greenhouses. This is not done quite so sustainably anywhere else in the world. We might not quite be able to call it organic, because the roots are in water gutters instead of in open field, but it does mean that the water can be reused.
In addition, special insects ensure healthy growth without pesticides. This type of greenhouse requires a substantial investment. That makes the tomatoes slightly more expensive than tomatoes that are grown in open field abroad, but which are heavily sprayed. The domestic market is essential for further international developments. At the moment, as a consumer, you have little or no ability to choose between a local, sustainably grown product from the Netherlands and an open field tomato from abroad that has been sprayed with pesticide. For producers of fresh produce, it can hardly be described as a free market. Supermarkets go for the lowest price and too little is done in terms of marketing sustainably grown food, which means that consumers cannot make a well-considered decision.
Consumers need to be better informed so that they themselves can make the choice between sustainably and non-sustainably grown produce. This is moreover not a purely Dutch problem, but can be seen right across Europe. In addition, people will only invest in sustainable food production if there is money to be made from it. The world of politics has an important role to play when it comes to forcing the supermarkets to be more transparent about the origin of their fresh produce, while at the same time stimulating the purchasing of local fresh produce. Let’s be honest and make it clear to consumers which tomatoes are a little suspect and which they can buy with confidence. Take a look at http://urbanfarmers.com/intro/ and be inspired.