Even though the UK uses a staggering 70 percent of its land for agriculture, it still depends on the stability of countries elsewhere to provide its food. The country imports around half of its food, 45 percent of its fresh vegetables, and 84 percent of its fresh fruit. And it is not alone. Japan imports 60 percent of its food, while Germany’s overseas agricultural footprint is three times its own. The food system lacks both resilience and sustainability, and – as the energy system has shown – these are things that must go hand in hand.
So how do countries with limited suitable land on which to grow food increase production sustainably and boost resilience? Some experts suggest more land should be used to feed people, rather than fuelling cars and power stations. Others say policies already proposed – such as those to incentivize farmers to use more sustainable practices and restore nature – will boost resilience too.
Alternative proteins and vertical farms could put an end to the choice between producing food and protecting nature. By boosting production on less land, they enable us to free land to rewild and farm more regeneratively. This is already happening. Ivy Farm – a lab-grown meat company, spun out of Oxford University – claims it can create meat that produces up to 92 percent fewer carbon emissions.
Vertical farms can also produce more food on far less land, with no pesticides, and with less water. The carefully controlled conditions mean that even as extreme weather events increase, food production is still guaranteed. Last year work began on what is claimed to be the world’s largest vertical farm, built by Ocado-backed Jones Food Company. It will supply tons of fresh produce to UK supermarkets.
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