Feed­ing New Zealand – the fu­ture chal­lenge

When she first joined HortNZ, en­vi­ron­men­tal pol­icy ad­viser Rachel McClung was as­tounded by the rapid loss of pro­duc­tive grow­ing land in New Zealand, mainly to ur­ban­i­sa­tion.

The Orchardist - - News - By Sue Grant-Mackie

“Grow­ing towns and cities are re­duc­ing ac­cess to some of NZ’s most pro­duc­tive land for grow­ing fruit and veg­eta­bles.”

She said the is­sue of the loss of good soils in this coun­try led her to in­ves­ti­gate the of­ten quoted al­ter­na­tive of ver­ti­cal farm­ing as part of her Kel­logg Ru­ral Lead­er­ship Pro­gramme. The re­sults of her study have un­der­lined the need for a na­tional food se­cu­rity pol­icy for NZ, she said. There cer­tainly needs to be a “wider con­ver­sa­tion” about how this coun­try in­tends to feed its pop­u­la­tion in the fu­ture.

“There is some com­pla­cency about this be­cause of the mis­con­cep­tion that fruit and veg­eta­bles can be grown ‘some­where else’,” she said.

“But the com­bi­na­tion of the right soils and cli­mate is nec­es­sary. With hous­ing tak­ing a lot of our prime soils and cli­mate change im­pact­ing re­gional weather pat­terns, it seemed a good time to look at al­ter­na­tive grow­ing meth­ods, such as ver­ti­cal farm­ing.”

She found that ver­ti­cal farm­ing – where food is grown in­doors in high stacks – will not re­place tra­di­tional fruit and veg­etable grow­ing in NZ, but it may sup­ple­ment it in fu­ture if tech­nol­ogy makes it eco­nom­i­cally vi­able.

“With an es­ti­mate that de­mand for fruits and veg­eta­bles in NZ will be 33 per­cent higher in 2043 than to­day, a new way of think­ing is re­quired, hence my re­search.

“I found it in­ter­est­ing that while there are many recog­nised ben­e­fits of ver­ti­cal farm­ing, with the most preva­lent be­ing grow­ing in­de­pen­dent of weather con­di­tions, the costs of the elec­tric­ity needed for ar­ti­fi­cial light­ing and tem­per­a­ture control, com­bined with the high cap­i­tal in­vest­ment and op­er­a­tional costs, cur­rently out­weigh the ben­e­fits. “I also found that the type of crops that can be grown in a ver­ti­cal farm are lim­ited to the likes of leafy greens and herbs, and that ver­ti­cal farms can­not grow the full range of fruits and veg­eta­bles we en­joy in NZ.

“I sur­veyed grow­ers to gain in­sight and while three re­spon­dents had in­ves­ti­gated es­tab­lish­ing a ver­ti­cal farm in NZ, none had pro­ceeded due to the eco­nomics.

“My con­clu­sions in­clude that the Gov­ern­ment should take a bal­anced ap­proach to the is­sue of NZ’s di­min­ish­ing pro­duc­tive land and food se­cu­rity.”

Hor­ti­cul­ture New Zealand chief ex­ec­u­tive, Mike Chap­man, said the re­port is in line with in­dus­try think­ing and the de­sire to have a food se­cu­rity pol­icy for NZ.

Rachel’s re­port, Can ver­ti­cal farm­ing re­place New Zealand’s pro­duc­tive land to de­liver high qual­ity fruits and veg­eta­bles in the fu­ture? – can be found here http://www.hortnz.co.nz/ as­sets/Nat­u­ral-Re­sources-Doc­u­ments/181126. Rachel-McClung.-Fi­nal-Kel­logg-Re­port-Ver­ti­calGrow­ing-in-NZ.pdf

Rachel McClung – na­tional food se­cu­rity pol­icy needed.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from New Zealand

© PressReader. All rights reserved.