"Canada must fix its food security issues before the next crisis"

"As I navigated the aisles of a Vancouver grocery store this winter, the arrows on the floor kept leading me past bare shelves where heads of lettuce, bundles of kale, and packages of strawberries used to be. The shortage of fresh produce took me by surprise but in hindsight, it shouldn’t have," writes Dave Dinesen, CEO with CubicFarms in an opinion article in the Globe and Mail. 

Reality is that food insecurity isn’t a new challenge in Canada. Even before COVID-19, 1.2 million Canadian households didn’t have reliable access to healthy food. It doesn’t have to be this way. Canada is in a position to lead a sustainable revolution in food security. The solution? We must grow what we eat, where we live. Picture a head of lettuce from California on a shelf in Toronto. It probably traveled more than 4,000 kilometers, and by the time it reaches a customer’s fridge, it will be rotten in a few short days. This is how we do it in Canada. We’re a net importer of fruits and vegetables. Check the stickers on your food at the grocery store and you’ll see the United States as often as you’ll see Canada. You’ll see Mexico, China, Peru, Spain, and the list goes on.

The alternative is not new. It’s local supply chains. If we support our farmers in building sustainable food hubs throughout the country, goods will travel shorter distances to reach people where they need them. Thankfully, shifting consumer habits and accelerating agricultural innovations make growing local an increasingly real and affordable possibility – yes, even in Canada.

Nothing is more important to Canada than indoor farming. By this, I don’t just mean greenhouses or even vertical, warehouse farms, but nimble technology that can be installed anywhere. I’ve seen this close-up. My company worked with a farm outside Calgary, allowing it to add 23 indoor growing modules to grow 365 days a year, without the use of pesticides and with minimal water and energy consumption. Plus, the farm can shift crops quickly to keep up with changing consumer demand.

Above all, we need a firm buy-in from our governments. Innovation is often driven by incentives – such as putting solar panels on roofs or electric cars in driveways – but we need more emphasis on growing the solutions developed here at home. If there was an incentive for Canadian retailers or restaurants to buy from local growers, they would adapt quickly to save money. Indoor growing technology is both a complement to traditional field farming, and a solution for areas where farms are sparse. We are at a unique moment when Canada can use this technology not simply to feed itself but to export agricultural innovation around the world. Canadian innovators can be the ones to provide it.

Read the complete article at www.theglobeandmail.com.

 


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