It’s Throw Forward Thursday, and let’s talk just a little bit about farming. The picture that most of us have of farming right now is big, sprawling estates far away from the city where the food is grown. And then there is some kind of harvesting process. It’s then processed somehow, and it is delivered to the city. It’s expensive. Farmers are always struggling. There’s either too much rain or not enough rain. There’s always more money to spend. And unless you’re in a mess of big agricultural business, not necessarily that profitable, that’s farming as we know it.
And a number of the problems involved with the current farming approach are going to be solved sometime in the future. I don’t know how far forward we need to throw ourselves this Thursday, but there are three aspects of farming that I think are going to change in the future. The first is the concept of hydroponics. Now, in last week’s episode of Throw Forward Thursday, we talked about energy and the fact that in the future, energy might not just be green and clean, but it might also be cheap, even close to free.
If that’s the case, then we can actually make water. Water is one of the biggest issues with farming and determines where we can build farms and what we can farm. And you can make water. It’s two hydrogens and one oxygen and you just have to smush them together. Not a scientific term, but hydrogen and oxygen are in the atmosphere all around us. We can make water. Why don’t we do that? Because the energy required to create the water molecule is not worth the cost of it.
But if energy is cheap or even free, then we can easily make water. And then hydroponic farming, which is farming in water rather than soil, where you’ve got to control the water and you’ve got to control the ambient temperature, all of which was an energy issue. If all of that can be solved and not cost us a lot, then you can build hydroponic farms anywhere and everywhere on the planet. First solution.
Second solution is vertical or urban farming. And this is actually putting farms into buildings in cities. And this is already beginning to happen. There are some buildings around the world. I’m not just talking having a little tomato patch on the on the roof. I’m talking literally turning whole floors of buildings, turning skyscrapers into farms in probably using hydroponics as the best way to actually do that. But that allows us to put a significant amount of plant material into a very small geographic footprint and to solve the distribution and logistics problem of having it put in the middle of a city somewhere, which is the third thing, and that is in the local and making sure that we turn our farms into something that do not require a massive, costly logistics process to get from the farm to ourselves.
We could go further. And next week we’re going to have a look, a little bit of 3D printing and we could talk about the 3D printing of food and alternatives to food. But I think we’ve already said enough Throw forward Thursday. This week is about the future of farming. Sometime in the future, it’s going to look very different from the big farms we know today. For more information about the future, make sure that you subscribe. If you’re listening to the podcast, the audio version, subscribe there.
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Graeme Codrington, is an internationally recognized futurist, specializing in the future of work. He helps organizations understand the forces that will shape our lives in the next ten years, and how we can respond in order to confidently stay ahead of change. Chat to us about booking Graeme to help you Re-Imagine and upgrade your thinking to identify the emerging opportunities in your industry.
For the past two decades, Graeme has worked with some of the world’s most recognized brands, travelling to over 80 countries in total, and speaking to around 100,000 people every year. He is the author of 5 best-selling books, and on faculty at 5 top global business schools.