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Sustainable certification for large scale commercial urban agriculture Comments wanted

info@skyfarmsaustralia.com.au
Urban agriculture is becoming more of a realised reality everyday, as we move closer to a carbon restrained economy economic viability of food production decreases. As of 2008 food miles, rising fuel costs and increases in the cost of transport have all played a roll in the growing trend to create a more sustainable platform for the supply of fruit and vegetables.
With the growth of this rising trend it is likely we will experience an infiltration of business moving into the cities with a directive of organising urban agricultural endeavours. Unless this situation is controlled with a form of sustainable certification as part of city urban planning, we will likely witness agricultural chemicals being used within the cities boundaries in unprecedented amounts. This situation could be avoided before it commences!

The year until June 2008 has played witness to unprecedented global economic and environmental change within our time. Earlier this year India, banned the export of rice and also bailed out the US economy with capital loans; In Australia water, fuel, fertiliser and transport all increased in cost to the point where farmers are truly questioning there future. America due to unprecedented flooding lost its corn and soy crop, China also due to unprecedented flooding lost its rice and soy crop, this is placing the world’s food security under incredible strain, and those in places of responsibility have few answers to counter this situation.
2008 is likely to be seen as the year global famine commenced impacting and becoming a major issue, no longer confined as third world scenario. For the first time in many years the entire human population will be placed in a common predicament. For the first time ever we will have the opportunity to cooperate on a global scale and will have to create new strategies for food production in order to re-establish a precedent of intergovernmental cooperation to deliver global food security for the first time.
This new direction will come at a price, but that price will not be passed on to the worlds poor, it will be at a cost unto the powerful profitable minority. This will be a bitter pill for the monopoly mindset of global investors, but if this task is embraced rather than denied the end result will ultimately benefit the entire global population including the remaining ecology of the planet. Unless new ways of cooperation for food production concepts become instilled into our everyday way of life we may not have a chance to protect what we have gained as a species, our humanity.
Urban agriculture is becoming more of a realised reality every day, as we move closer to a carbon restrained economy economic viability of food production decreases. As of 2008 food miles, rising fuel costs and increases in the cost of transport have all played a roll in the growing trend to create a more sustainable platform for the supply of fruit and vegetables.
With the growth of this rising trend it is likely we will experience an infiltration of business moving into the cities with a directive of organising commercial urban agricultural endeavours. Unless this situation is controlled with a form of sustainable certification as part of urban planning requirement, we will likely witness an influx of agricultural chemicals being used within the cities boundaries in unprecedented quantities. This situation could be avoided before it commences!
If an assessable sustainable urban agricultural sustainable certification procedure were to be implemented into local government sustainable urban planning departments, and policy and process were created by the certifying organisations for implementation into any proposed hi volume commercial fresh produce production facility placed within the boundaries of a town or city limits, elimination of future problematic situations would be achieved before they arose.
The certification process would cover methods inputs and procedures to be utilised by the planned facility. If the certification were for one of sustainability it would encapsulate a quantifiable degree of existing organic procedures, practices, inputs and reporting requirements.
This process would invariably lead to an exclusion of any individual or organisation with a view to commencing operations within the urban landscape. Ultimately organisations that do not understand, or are not willing to comply with sustainable methodology, have no reasonable place considering urban agriculture as a venture within city boundaries.
Food production Systems for a changing world
There are several crop production systems that will prove to be effective for different placement scenarios in the coming years. The most utilisable systems for this coming age will be the most protection delivery based systems including Permaculture, Aquaponic, Natraponics, Underground farms and Farm towers due to the amount of crop protection that can be achieved, and to a lesser extent hydroponics, only due to the requirement for large volumes of water that eventually must flow to waste and the reliance on synthetically produces petrochemical based fertiliser, making this method less sustainable than the others.
Crop protection and mobile crop production systems will become one of the highest priorities within the global food production sector over the next five years. The ability to setup and produce food quickly will become a prerequisite for the coming century as we learn to survive within the increasingly unstable environment of our planet.
Urban Community Farms are becoming more popular but the risk of one of these placements being developed on a contaminated site is reasonably high, as witnessed in Canada recently. The likelihood of people utilising this type of shared community placement for there own production needs is unlikely to see restricted chemical inputs play any sort of major role, due to a general organic ethos being the prime driver and motivation being simply to minimise expenditure.
Aquaopnics will come into its own as a system based on synergistic relationships between what would traditionally be considered the waste product including nitrate build up within the water medium, and coupling of crustatia species as a primary cleaning mechanism delivering a secondary harvestable food source. Combine into this production equation food plant production, plants being quite capable of stripping the nitrate content from water using it as a nitrogen nutrient input and we have a third food product from a single system.
Permaculture has proven its demonstrated its inherent abilities over and over, through a consistency of outcomes where this production system has been implemented. Multiples of food crop production from both small and larger areas of land while simultaneously delivering reconnection to land and to community generating restoration of increased water retention, water quality, and ecological habitat regeneration. Permaculture is also a diminishing external input system which in this time of peak oil and depletion of phosphate resource will become an imperative for any sustainable cropping system.
Underground farms and farm towers these types of complexes are bound to increase in number due to the amount of crop protection they can offer. Manageable environments may prove in the long run to be the answer to the inconsistency of climatic effects on the crop production industry. Underground farming complexes will have to develop new ways of pollinating as may all areas of plant production with the decline of useful pollinating insects. Farm towers are highly expensive to set up, infrastructure for one of these agricultural systems starts with the high rise construct, water capture and storage, multi layered growing system, synthetic lighting structures, climate control systems, waste reuse and transformation facility. At this point there is I believe one farm tower that has gone from concept to construction and entering the operational stage, the considerations as to whether these towers are considered to be economically viable will come to bare once the facts are known based on the first construction prototype, but it may be safe to say they could solve many problems or become relegated to the great imaginative arena of what may have been.
Hydroponics systems have fulfilled a production situation based on cheap synthetic inputs and plentiful water resource. Hydroponics is capable of delivering fast growth production rates consistently, without incorporation of any soil medium. Hybrid hydroponics based growing systems (water suspended nutrient in mass liquid reservoirs) are capable of delivering fast growth while minimising start up costs by delivering two part nutrient directly to soil based plantings in hot houses. The general down side is a large requirement for pumping and reservoir infrastructure needing large amounts of power. Synthetic inputs generates a high residual build up of salts over time, these type of systems also require a dump to waste mechanism due to limited holding time frame. As of mid 2008 synthetic fertiliser inputs doubled in cost, making the economics of large scale production systems of this form relatively unviable.
Skyfarms Natraponics systems were created to grow produce in the harshest of environments. They are closed cycle, quick assembly modular, stand alone, soil based systems. The Natraponics systems were originally created for placement onto city rooftops as a means to increase city sustainability through increasing food security. It was quickly recognised that the versatility of the Natraponics systems could be highly valuable for placement into environmental disaster zones, desert Island and extreme remote communities including refugee facilities.

Conclusion

At present according to the sustainable urban planning department of the Brisbane City Council there is nothing blocking a project implementation of this type from commencing, there is no requirement for any organisation taking up this challenge to account for and verify the practices they will utilise. State and Local government planning policy guidelines have been formulated with out the need to stipulate proposed practices by a commercial sized urban agricultural operation. These policy guidelines are in operational readiness as they are; all that is needed on behalf of the initiator is a planning proposal submission.
As such if any organisation were to implement an urban agricultural development request, the project would be seen as the initial precedent ground breaker. Once this has been achieved a pilot project will set the precedent and generate the standard for other city councils and organisations to follow in forthcoming years. As such the first project would receive massive media and public attention; if such a project were to be seen after the fact as a polluter it would create a majorly negative profile. Not only for the company involved but also for BCC and potentially for EPA and potentially for organic certifying organisations.
At this point in time there are multiple grants waiting to be utilised for implementation of this kind. Initiation of a large scale urban agricultural project especially if it was to be implemented on top of the city rooftop environment of Brisbane would be seen as a breakthrough in the fight to eliminate current high profile problems within the food sector. The Brisbane City Council has identified Green roof and urban agriculture implementation as the most achievable goal to systematically address the cities greenhouse footprint in the form of the island heat sink syndrome.

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