Farm-free food: Is an eco-friendly food supply possible?
University of California researchers in Irvine have developed a way to create farm-free food. Believe it or not, UCI professor Steven Davis says we could create edible materials with biological and chemical methods, removing the need for agriculture. As a result, we may not need to use large tracts of land to grow our food.
That could stop people from burning patches of wilderness to convert them into farms. Also, that may reduce our use of pesticides and water to prevent the spreading of poisons and maintain a vital resource. More importantly, farm-free food production may remove our supply’s reliance on sunlight and might reduce our carbon emissions.
This article will discuss the potential impacts of humanity relying on farm-free food instead of traditional methods. Later, I will explain other food supply innovations.
Is farm-free food a viable option?
UCI professor of Earth system science Steven Davis and his colleagues analyzed whether we could produce dietary fats through chemical and biological methods. Eurekalert says their raw materials are the same used by plants: hydrogen in water and carbon dioxide in the air.
“Large-scale synthesis of edible molecules through chemical and biological means without agricultural feedstocks is a very real possibility,” said lead author Steven Davis.
“Such ‘food without the farm’ could avoid enormous quantities of climate-warming emissions while also safeguarding biodiverse lands that might otherwise be cleared for farms,” he added.
They posted their findings on the Nature Sustainability website, where they explained the benefits of farm-free food. They said it could provide the following benefits:
- Reduction in water use
- Pollution reduction
- Local control over food production
- Diminished risk of weather-related food shortages
- Reduced need for low-paying and exhausting farm labor
Davis also said we could return farmlands to their natural states, enhancing global biodiversity and protecting future generations from climate change. “I like the idea of not depending on photosynthesis for everything we eat,” Davis stated.
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“At whatever scale, synthesizing food will alleviate competition between natural ecosystems and agriculture, thereby avoiding the many environmental costs of farming,” he added. Moreover, the study’s lead author highlighted its potential to discourage illegal farming practices.
For example, Philippine farmers can perform “kaingin,” where they raze tropical rainforests to create space for palm oil plantations. Professor Davis and his team focused on fats because they are the “simplest nutrients to synthesize thermochemically.”
Also, “The beauty of the fats is that you can synthesize them with processes that don’t involve biology.” It’s all chemistry, and because of that, you can operate at higher pressures and temperatures that allow excellent efficiency. You could, therefore, build big reactors to do this at large scales.”
What are the other recent farming developments?
Most may not think of the “blockchain” or “artificial intelligence” when discussing agriculture. However, they are some of the emerging agricultural technologies besides farm-free food.
For example, the Philippines’ Department of Science and Technology (DOST) is using blockchain technology to track the Guimaras mango supply chain. Here are other examples of blockchain’s farming benefits:
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- Tracking – Supply chains often stretch across multiple countries. One country may have grown your food, but another packaged it. This makes it hard to confirm if the supply chain is handling your food properly. Blockchain could help us monitor what’s happening to these products in real time.
- Meeting demand – Businesses often struggle to adapt to sharp spikes in consumer demand. In turn, they fail to provide enough supplies. This is similar to what caused the ongoing chip shortage. Blockchain can help them see which parts of the production line should increase output to keep up.
- Proving product labels – Some products may claim to use natural ingredients yet have artificial ones in reality. If you need to confirm your products, you can just check the network. This technology can record food processing from the farms to the store shelves.
- Food safety – According to the United States FDA, it recalls over a hundred million food units every quarter! It points to microbial infection as the number one cause. Blockchain may aid companies in overseeing the raw materials and finished products. In turn, they could prevent contaminated goods from reaching consumers.
Modern farms are also using artificial intelligence for numerous purposes. For example, farmers may use AI to automate the planting and harvesting of their crops.
University of California – Irvine researchers envision the widespread use of farm-free food supplies. We could use chemical and biological means to turn fats into food without relying on traditional agricultural methods.
Perhaps their unique processes could help the world have a more sustainable food supply. However, it would likely need more research and development to become a practical system.
Learn more about the farm-free food study by reading its Nature Sustainability webpage. Also, follow more digital tips and trends at Inquirer Tech.