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What does smart agriculture have to do with food security and sustainability? CLICK HERE TO INVESTIGATE RESILIENT AND SUSTAINABLE AGRICULTURAL ENVIRONMENTS AND IMPLICATIONS OF WASTE. Continue to explore below, then build your competencies.
Resilient food systems are critical to the achievement of food security. A resilient food system provides sufficient, adequate and accessible food to all, in the face of various and even unforeseen challenges. Resiliency is essential for sustainability.
During a 2015 symposium called Food Security in a Changing Climate and hosted by the Canadian Climate Forum, Robert Sandford from Canmore, one of Canada’s top water researchers, highlighted how resilience cannot exist without strong and healthy land and soil.
“Water, food and climate security are inseparable. We must prioritize best practices, and not only pay farmers for crops, but also for sustaining our land and soil.”
Sandford declared that keeping carbon in our soil could be one of our greatest priorities, as carbon-rich soil helps to prevent flooding.
Soil organic carbon (SOC) is a component of soil organic matter. Soil organic carbon is affected by factors such as rainfall, temperature, vegetation and soil type. Practices that increase SOC include no till farming, protection of ground cover and the use of manure and compost.
Image and information from Campbell, I.D., Durant D.G., Hunter, K.L. and Hyatt, K.D. (2014): Food Production. Canada in a Changing Climate: Sector Perspectives on Impacts and Adaptation. Government of Canada.
potential impact of climate change on food production
Consider how climate change could affect the different factors involved in the food system. Match each component numbered on the illustration to the possible impact of a changing climate.
1 Crop productivity depends strongly and directly on seasonal weather for heat, light and water. Locations for particular crops will also change.
2 Pollinators would face shorter, less harsh winters but may be affected by increased pest and disease activity, different food sources and changes in the timing of flowering.
3 Animal production will be affected by changes in crop production, water availability and heating and cooling requirements.
4 Changes in water supply and precipitation patterns will affect farm operations (e.g. need for drainage or irrigation). Water quality will also be affected (e.g. increased flushing of contaminants into waterways due to heavy rainfall).
5 Food processing may be challenged by reduced or variable water availability. Food and feed storage will need to deal with increased heat, and in some places, increased storage capacity may be required to allow for increased frequency and duration of transportation interruptions.
6 Fish stocks will respond to changes in water temperatures, water chemistry, food supply, algal blooms, runoff and ocean currents. Reorganizations of lake/ocean ecosystems are likely, with resultant impacts on all types of fisheries.
7 Pests, diseases and invasive species could become more virulent and diverse.
8 Northern/remote communities may be able to increase local food production with adaptation (e.g. greenhouses, cold-tolerant field crops and forages). Access to country foods will be affected as vegetation is directly impacted by changing climate, and species distributions will shift in response to warming. Decreased ocean ice could increase the length of the shipping season, allowing more items to be brought to northern coastal ports.
9 International trade will be affected by the change in the global geography of food production with countries shipping new types of goods as well as by the potential opening of the Northwest Passage.
Smart agriculture can help farmers protect and improve environmental, crop and animal health. Current technologies make it possible to use sensors to continuously monitor a farm. Precision agriculture can identify very specific needs for water, fertilizer and medications for livestock. This increases efficiency and reduces waste.
Water scarcity can be monitored by smart technologies such as micro-irrigation. Drones can monitor soil conditions. Weather forecasts and climate data can help predict extreme events, like drought.
making agricultural waste smart
According to Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, agriculture is responsible for approximately 10 percent of Canada’s greenhouse gas emissions. New technologies and manure management is expected to significantly reduce this.
One example is biogas production. An innovative plant in Vegreville, Alberta, known as the Integrated Manure Utilization System (IMUS), uses solid manure to produce green electricity, heat, organic fertilizer and reusable water.
Turning manure into green energy is a relatively simple process, but requires expensive machines and technology. This process involves anaerobic digestion. Chopped up manure is fed into a concrete tank or digester, where it is heated in the absence of air to produce methane.
The methane is fed into a system where it powers a one megawatt engine, similar to a car engine, to produce electricity. The manure takes about 14 days to work its way through the system and comes out smelling like potting soil.
On chicken farms, chicken litter is recycled instead of disposed of. Chicken litter is a mix of manure and bedding material. It is a high-quality source of nitrogen and carbon. The nitrogen is in solid form, contributing to its value as an excellent fertilizer for crops, gardens and composting. Most broiler chicken farmers in Alberta use the manure for their own farms or sell it to neighbours or others in the community. Some farmers use it on their farms as biomass fuel.