Urban & Regional Agriculture Working Together

Author: Tobias Heeringa
2 minute read

In the last two weeks of September, Farmwall exhibited their flagship design at the 2018 Royal Melbourne Show. This was the 170th year of the show and the first year that a section dedicated to AgTech was included. Needless to say, there was a lot of excitement around the presence of Farmwall and the other exhibiting businesses. ‘AgTech on Show’ aimed to “promote and celebrate innovation within the food and agricultural industry, encouraging innovators from all industries to look at advancements in modern technology.”

What a great milestone symbolising the changing face of  agriculture in Australia! All across the country as well as the world, there is a growing interest in the viability of agricultural technology as a solution to fight some of the world’s biggest challenges we face as a society dependant on regional farming. Urban agriculture, with the support of AgTech, exists to combat these issues—and as their applications grow and become economically feasible, as does their acceptance into traditional circles, such as the Royal Melbourne Show. It is interesting to note this inclusion of AgTech for what it signifies; the changing reality of agriculture in the 21st century.

But with changes comes teething issues. Farmwall is part of a growing urban agriculture movement that will shift our attitude of how we view traditional agriculture. Critics will bemoan this, but the fact remains we live in a rapidly changing world and it’s time we start embracing systematic change. It is important to note however that regional agriculture will not be replaced, certainly not anytime soon. The volumes in which it can produce is crucial in feeding our ever-growing population. Our use of industrial agriculture has grown our world population extensively. Today a city of 10 million requires on average about 6,000 tonnes of food daily. Urban agriculture has a long way to go before it can boast those numbers—and there is no doubt that regional agriculture will be growing in efficiency at the same pace.

The case for urban agriculture is not one of replacing regional farming, rather—relieving some of the food production capacity while making our cities more resilient. It’s not practical to look at urban farming as replacement of our current system, but instead as a method by which we can alleviate some of the environmental and social pressures our country is facing, while reaping the economic benefits of green cities as well.

“Urban agriculture is not one of replacing regional farming, rather—relieving some of the food production capacity while making our cities more resilient.”

Take Melbourne for example—a city surrounded by arable farming land with a foodbowl producing enough to meet around 41% of the food needs of Greater Melbourne’s population. However by 2050 urban sprawl could reduce the capacity so that it can only produce enough food to meet 18% of the city’s food needs. Add in the impacts of a changing climate, such as water shortages and unpredictable weather—and the viability of the foodbowl to provide food for Melbourne diminishes drastically. But if urban agriculture is embraced as a part of the sprawl, it has the potential to offset this deficit while still allowing us to eat locally and keep our food miles low.

Urban and regional farming should be working alongside each other—in collaboration, not in competition—to alleviate the pressures of traditional agriculture on our environment in the face of our growing population. If our opinion isn’t enough, maybe a royal one will help. Farmwall was fortunate enough to exhibit to the Duke and Duchess of Sussex as part of their recent Australia tour. Prince Harry’s comment on the Farmwall was that “I hope that these can be produced with farmers in mind too, so they can exist side by side.” So do we Harry, so do we.

Serena Lee