Vertical farming is no ‘silver bullet’ as hundreds of acres of farmland go unused – The Royal Gazette

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Created: April 01, 2022 07:59

Chris Faria (Photograph by Akil Simmons)

Half of Bermuda’s arable land is unused and contributing to the island’s food shortage problems, an agronomist has said.

Chris Faria, the founder of the AgraLiving Instituteadded that government investment in vertical farming was not a “magic bullet” that would help solve the problem of food abundance.

He said: “Vertical farming can be a part of creating food security, but it has a limited return in terms of what it can grow, so it’s a big challenge.

“It’s good for leafy greens and tomatoes, but those things won’t give you the daily calories you need.

“For Bermuda as a whole to move towards food security, we need to work on growing cereals and high-calorie crops – both of which don’t grow in vertical farming.”

Mr Faria added: ‘That’s not to say that I don’t support it, but to increase food security in Bermuda it will take several different methods working together and the limiting factor is the lack of agricultural knowledge in the community.

“Overall, it’s short-sighted and small-scale.

“This is obviously something that has been put in place by people who are not farmers and gardeners, and they also haven’t consulted the Farmers Association or the Farmers Council or whoever is into it. knows about growing food and growing plants in Bermuda.”

Chris Faria (Photograph by Akil Simmons)

Faria was speaking after having Explain Sunday that 375 acres of arable land – the equivalent of 209 football fields and about half of Bermuda’s farmland – was idle.

He added that this contributed to “food poverty” on the island and made it difficult for people to access nutritious food.

Mr Faria said the disuse of arable land was a “crime” and a “sin”, adding “it’s super ironic in a community that suffers from so much poverty that there is so much unused land”.

He added that commercial farmers were competing for less than 20% of the produce market while the rest was imported.

Mr. Faria said, “If we all work together, we can compete with imported products, then the market share expands.

“There’s no reason why we shouldn’t grow at least 60% of our own produce.”

Chris Faria (Photograph by Akil Simmons)

Mr Faris said the “vast majority” of arable land was privately owned and agreements should be encouraged between landowners and aspiring farmers.

He added that interest in farming had grown in recent years – but many aspiring farmers were crippled by a lack of agricultural knowledge and access to arable land.

Mr Faria said: “An acre of agricultural reserve rents at $1,200 a year and most of these fields are smaller fields – they are a third or a quarter of an acre worth $400 a year. year.

“We have built relationships with landowners over the past few years who want us to come to their properties so it can be used to train more sustainable farmers.”

Mr Faria said that while vertical farming could be useful, it was not a practical model for food production on the island.

He explained that they needed structures such as water and electricity systems that would make production expensive and lead to expensive food.

He added, “That’s thousands of dollars a year before you’ve even sold a head of lettuce.”

Chris Faria (Photograph by Akil Simmons)

Mr Faria said the money should instead be spent on helping commercial farmers and community farming groups.

He added that the agriculture industry should use multiple farming techniques at once to ensure high-calorie foods are grown year-round.

Mr Faria said permaculture, which uses multiple crops to create a controlled agricultural “ecosystem”, and Grow Biointensive, a smaller-scale farming method that increases soil nutrients, were both good ways to increase food production.

He added: “Farming has worked for the last 12,000 years because we’ve worked together in groups as communities, so I think we need to get back to that aspect of collaboration.”

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