The Greek philosophers of the VI century BC believed in what they used to called ‘archè’, something that could be interpreted as the underlying force that ruled the world, from which everything had origin and to which everything was meant to go back in the end. They did not know what it was, and they spent their lives building theoretical castles just to give meaning to it all: some thought it was the water, others found it in the juxtaposition of hate and love. Speculations. However, what they all agreed on was that it represented both the origin, and the end. The idea of a circle that is and will be complete.
I find the idea fascinating and somewhat recurring in the everyday life. Many times, people find a sense of comfort, of completeness, by going back to the origin. Sometimes it is the only solution to a number of problems.
Then what if the origins of mankind are the solution to the problems of the 21st century too?
We know that our very first job back in the centuries was agriculture: every population depended on it.
The advent of technology and its disruptive growth brought innovation in this industry as well, but nonetheless it lost its importance and the rise of the services sector marked the end of an era. However, something seems to suggest that it will be the key to the future.
What is happening right now is a revolution of agriculture the way we used to know it, as numerous startups are innovating traditional processes to create a new way of growing crops and to work out the problem of feeding an ever growing population in a way that is also sustainable and gentle towards the environment. Vertical farming, that is the practice of cultivating in vertically staked layers, is already an established reality and a rather straightforward concept, but when combined to soilless farming techniques like hydroponics it can really make a difference.
Hydroponics means growing plants without soil and using a water solution enriched with mineral nutrients, that serves as fuel for the crops and is taken directly to the roots. The nutrients are usually as natural as possible, also due to the fact that it is an indoor system, therefore less pesticides can be used because the risks of pests and diseases are largely reduced.
The benefits of this technology can be enormous and can really have a positive impact on the struggles that humanity is facing today. First of all, resources. This system allows to save land thanks to the vertical stacking technique, and it can be installed literally everywhere. The use of energy and fuel to transport the products from the fields to the selling points can be virtually reduced to zero, as a result of the possibility to bring a sustainable way of farming in those parts of the world that most need it, but also closer to big cities that always account for a big portion of total demand. A demand that, I remind you, is constantly rising because of the growing world population and the diffused lifestyle devoted to the ‘more is better’ principle.
What about the water plants need? You might ask. Isn’t it wasted? It is not, thanks to a closed system that brings the water in excess back to the roots.
Another advantage is represented by the opportunity to grow healthier crops regardless of seasonality, as the complex that stores them is adjusted in temperature and lighting to recreate the perfect environmental conditions that each cultivation needs.
So, are there no disadvantages? Well, there are. After all, if things had no downside at all, no one would be interested in them anymore! In this case, a problem might be that hydroponic farming is not cheap, it requires huge investments and constant monitoring. And it is vulnerable to power outages and water-borne diseases. Not to mention that a number of technical experts are demanded to check on a single hydroponic garden.
What is expected is, therefore, a radical change in the way agriculture is conceived, but this change is all for the best. It might take some time to adjust from traditional farming to these new techniques, however experts are confident that the shift will be the re-birth of the industry.
We are going back to our origins in order to shape a cleaner, brighter future. And it is needless to say how bad our planet is craving for this.