What’s needed for agriculture to meet the needs of a growing population?

How much daily time on average do Canadians spend eating?


What’s needed for agriculture to meet the needs of a growing population? CLICK HERE TO INVESTIGATE THE CONNECTION BETWEEN SUSTAINABLE AGRICULTURE AND THE GLOBAL FOOD SUPPLY. Continue to explore below, then build your competencies


population facts

In 2016, Alberta’s population was 4,067,175, representing almost 12 percent of Canada’s total population. Compared to the 2006 census, this constitutes a 24 percent increase over the 10 years.

The population is closely divided between genders with slightly more males in Alberta than females (50.1 percent compared to 49.9). Alberta’s average age is 37.8 years which is a little younger than the average age for Canada (41 years).

Compare the Alberta statistics to those shared in the video from Statistics Canada. What comparisons can you make between population growth in Alberta and Canada?


Statistics from Alberta Agriculture and Forestry (2018). The 2016 Canadian Census – An Alberta Perspective. Consumer Corner: Online. 



Statistics Canada (2017). 2016 Census: 150 years of population growth in Canada: Online. www.youtube.com/watch?v=y4-AT5xhQ50&feature=emb_logo

more than just population growth

Urbanization has implications for agriculture, land use and the production of food. Consider the following opinion. 


The migration of rural persons to cities hit a historical milestone in 2008 when urban residents outnumbered those in rural areas.

The result has been congestion in cities that were ill prepared for this growth and an intense pressure on rural areas to produce more food with less people.

The United Nations claims six out of 10 persons are now living in urban centres. With population growth set to hit nine billion by 2050, the urban portion will be 5.4 billion persons, most of which will live within 80 kilometres of a shore (as ports are central to trade). The foundation of all civilization is farming but arable lands — those areas capable of growing food — are increasingly being buried under cities.

What impact do you think increasing urbanization can have on food production? How is Alberta affected by this trend?


From Schoepp, B. (2017). Feeding the planet is challenging, dealing with its waste is even harder. Alberta Farmer Express: Online.


food production in Alberta

Alberta has the second largest number of farms in Canada (around 21 percent) after Ontario and the second largest farm area (roughly 32 percent) after Saskatchewan.

In 2016, Alberta’s total farm cash receipts were $13.5 billion, the second largest after Saskatchewan and accounting for over 22 per cent of the national total. Alberta is also the third largest exporter of agriculture and agrifood products in Canada after Saskatchewan and Ontario, accounting for 18 percent of the national total. However, concerns with long term food security in the context of a growing population continue to arise and are often connected to the loss of agricultural land to other developments.

A 2017 report from Alberta Agriculture and Forestry focused on Alberta’s current and projected ability to produce food to meet domestic (and global) demand in the context of availability of agricultural land into the future. Food production is not only a function of the availability or fertility of agricultural land but also impacted by weather, pests, technological advancements, provincial and national policies, commodity prices and market access, among others.

The production of dairy, poultry and eggs are not directly dependent on land availability. However, increased competition for farmland from other industries may affect resources that are available in the future for all types of agriculture. 

Use the circle graphs to compare current and future production and consumption of dairy, poultry and eggs. What conclusions can you make from each of the circle graphs?


Begam, R. & Adilu, S. (2017). Food Security in the Context of Agricultural Land Loss in Alberta: A Policy Research Document 2017. Alberta Agriculture and Forestry. 



Consumption of dairy in Alberta, actual (2016) and projected (2066)






Consumption of poultry in Alberta, actual (2016) and projected (2066)







Consumption of egg in Alberta, actual (2016) and projected (2066)




family farms and feeding the future

Consider the opinion expressed in the following excerpt. 


Small farms are the best way of ensuring that sustainable development goals are met whilst we address the need to feed 9 billion people in 2050 and more in times to come.

How so?

Small, family-owned farms regularly achieve higher and more dependable production from their land than large farms operating in a similar environment.

Small and medium-sized farms are also more efficient than large farms, depending on the context. In developing countries, small farms are typically the most efficient. For example, in Honduras, diminishing returns to scale have been observed as farm size increased, despite the relative technical efficiency of larger farms. In the US, “diseconomies of scale” have been observed in larger farming operations; medium-sized farms have been found to be the most efficient.

Diversity in agriculture results in the production of a wider array of key nutrients that are essential to human health.

Each and every farm is different. No two are the same. Climatic conditions, soil structure and history of use, availability of water, minor variations in topography… habitats — these all contribute to differences between one farm and the next. As such, farming is a knowledge-intensive occupation. The intergenerational transfer of knowledge from mother or father to son or daughter is incredibly important as this kind of specific knowledge is associated with better environmental outcomes. This is especially true in indigenous societies, where long-established environmental management practices are upheld through cultural practices and ceremonies. Farming is no place for the “one-size-fits-all” approach often adopted on large farms.

What are the benefits of small farms, according to this author? How do these benefits compare to the family farms that are common across Alberta’s agricultural landscape?

From Chalmer, L. (2017). How Small Farms Can (Sustainably) Feed The Future. Medium: Online. 


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