Urban farms key to hunger: Cribb

19 Aug, 2014 02:00 AM
Author and science writer Julian Cribb speaking at the 29th International Horticultural Congress in Brisbane where he told the audience that horticulture is key to solving world hunger.
Food is one of the most creative acts we perform as humans, and horticulture is at the heart
Author and science writer Julian Cribb speaking at the 29th International Horticultural Congress in Brisbane where he told the audience that horticulture is key to solving world hunger.

HORTICULTURE is at the heart of fixing world hunger, according to Julian Cribb.

The former CSIRO scientist and author of the books, Poisoned Planet and The Coming Famine, shared his thoughts at the 29th International Horticultural Congress (IHC) in Brisbane yesterday morning.

Some 4000 delegates have come together at the Brisbane Convention and Exhibition centre from more than 100 countries in the largest horticulture gathering in Australia this year.

Mr Cribb delivered the opening address on the topic of global food security with some stirring words for the audience.

“Food is one of the most creative acts we perform as humans, and horticulture is at the heart of that creativity,” he said.

“How well we do it, will define the human future now and for all time. Never has world cuisine been so diverse or so far short of its true potential.”

He painted a grim picture of the human reliance on resource-heavy agriculture and the consumer dependence on a grain-based diet.

“Mega cities” would become the future trend, according to Mr Cribb, which cannot feed themselves but rely on a “river of trucks” bringing food in on a daily basis.

He added that ground water was being mined at a faster rate than it is being replenished

But he countered his dire warnings by saying there were enormous opportunities for horticulture to capitalise and correct the global food imbalance.

“The city itself is poised to change. Green cities alive with vegetation, fresh food, birds and insects will replace the polluted, soulless, concrete and glass urbanscapes of today,” he said.

Giant floating greenhouses and translucent vertical urban farms were just two ideas touted by Mr Cribb. He said by 2050, urban horticulture and farming could provide half the world’s food.

“They will ensure a highly diverse, local food supply that never fails,” Mr Cribb said.

“This will bring immense relief to the stress now imposed on the world’s soils, water, biodiversity and damaged landscapes.

“For the first time, humanity will be able to feed itself without plundering the natural world.”

Mr Cribb also outlined his desire to see a year devoted to educating students around the world on the importance of food, through all curricular subjects.

“Teaching foods is acceptable to all cultures, creeds, races and nations. The means already exist to share these ideas universally,” he said.

“It is already starting to happen but we must make it go faster.”

The international speaker said not to rule out the idea of lab-based products such as artificial meat, suggesting the public once viewed artificial fabrics the same way.

“Sixty years ago, nobody wore synthetic clothing. Today almost everyone does,” he said.

Mr Cribb’s comments were supported by Shenggen Fan, director, International Food Policy Research Institute, USA, who said he’d like to see world hunger ended by 2025.

Mr Fan said horticulture was important for food security and nutrition, and that the world needed to move away from high consumption of rice, maize and wheat products.

“We need goals that are precise, ambitious but not unreachable,” Mr Fan said.

He also said it made economic sense to alleviate poverty for all countries involved.

The International Horticultural Congress runs until Friday.

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Ashley Walmsley

is the editor of Good Fruit and Vegetables.
Date: Newest first | Oldest first


19/08/2014 4:30:33 AM

Last week we had a media conference with Dick Smith and Graham Turner, both successful millionaires and both concerned about environmental issues. The problem is not only Australia's population growth, driven by high immigration, but the global rate of population growth. During the 20th century alone, the population in the world has grown from 1.65 billion to 6 billion, and roughly doubled since 1970. Feeding more people, from the tip of the food chain, on declining natural resources is a "challenge" that's not being recognised enough. "Food security" is basically a population problem.
19/08/2014 6:43:36 AM

Sigh - Floating green houses, and high rise farms. No doubt the resources and energy needed to build and power these, will be provided by the green fairy. Also what percentage of this precious (and extremely expensive) food is going to be allocated to the birds and insects, and how will that be enforced. Because the sensible and practical people who provide our food have become so good at it. They are taken for granted, and air heads like this actually get the spotlight.
19/08/2014 8:22:42 AM

Yes Julian, I'm sure the city residents will not bat an eyelid when you spray your vegie garden covered building for pests. We need to be wary of science being corrupted by doctrine.
19/08/2014 8:31:02 AM

If Australians weren't held back by illogical rules and regulations by Fisheries, inland aquaculture could flourish as the current choice of species are largely limited to non native species. If WA for example could access and incorporate species such as the salt tolerant spangled perch and golden perch we would have half a chance of establishing a new and vibrant industry in the wheatbelt. There is no shortage of underground water resources just a lack of species we can legally integrate. Of course the same would go for the urban aquaculturalists.
19/08/2014 8:45:19 AM

It always astounds me how these people speak on subjects they obviously know nothing about. Thousands of hectares of land is being under utilized because, despite of dire predictions for 50 years, we have too much food and as a result prices are not economical to invest in developing more land or taking a higher risk on more marginal land.
19/08/2014 9:13:39 AM

Logic is spot on.....there are thousands of acres of top volcanic soils not being utilised .... not because they can't produce ( some of these small farms supported a few families in earlier times ), but because of the incorporated ignorance in current commercial and economic reasoning. The 'increase production' lobby has effectively supported the manufacture of large machinery and caused a mono cultural flood of produce into markets which has simply taken the many more diverse small farmers out. Consumers need to pay a fair farm gate price and there'll be a revival without any fuss,
freedom to farm
19/08/2014 10:02:44 AM

Julian Cribb's doomsday prognostications of the future are likened to that of Malthus in the 18th century, he has packaged up a whole heap of alarmism but completely ignores the capability of human ingenuity. Cribb's strategy is too make a name for himself under this food security, sustainability claptrap that originates from the UN. Horticulture has discredited itself by using a windbag of this ilk! Government intervention is the only impediment for the human race to be fed on a just in time, with just the right amount supply chain. All else is superfluous!
Holy Moly
19/08/2014 10:27:37 AM

Just for interest take a look at" Sundrop Farms in south aust.
Acerbic Observer
19/08/2014 12:31:05 PM

Julian Cribb certainly did enjoy just a little too much in my opinion his time in the lime light. His strategy by self admission was to scare the pants off us, before supplying the seemingly obvious solutions to all the worlds problems. I noted that throughout the two days proceedings there has been no commercial reality running through the commentary with this overview of financial sustainability being totally ignored. Julian's presentation examplified this willful ignorance of financial plausibility. I love the way both Keynote speakers wouldnt willingly touch the GMO question in the Q&A.
19/08/2014 12:44:18 PM

Logic you are right on the money. It is amazing how much more grain is produced in Wa when wheat is $300 a tonne and canola $600. Prices lower than this and pastures return, more fallow is found and fertiliser programs are tempered, liming/gypsum programs slashed, more weeds tolerated in crops etc etc. The problem is this tendency for grain prices to always return to decile 2-3. We will always have this problem while central planners can move printed money to the short side of futures markets.
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