In this article, I thought I would take a look around the world and discuss the differing positive impacts that hydroponics could have in different parts of the globe. Most of these are inevitable, some are possible, but these are the the reasons I see to be hopeful, that we will see meaningful improvements thanks to this agricultural revolution that is now gaining traction.
My home in the UK:
The UK is famously wet and crowded. Approximately 70% of the land in the UK is classified as agricultural land. This includes both arable land (land used for the cultivation of crops) and pasture (land used for the grazing of livestock). Agriculture in the UK is highly efficient in terms of land use, but this efficiency comes at a price. Around 20 years ago, it was common practice to leave around 7m or 20 feet from the edge of a crop to the hedgerows to leave space for nature. This has become increasingly rare as the need to drive yields up has taken over this space. Research is continually advancing on growing crops such as corn and wheat hydroponically, and once this becomes commercially viable, we could see the need for agricultural land eventually drop by between 50 and 90%. This also depends upon other research areas, such as precision fermentation replacing dairy and meat proteins, which appear to be advancing even faster than hydroponics.
The ultimate possibility here is that up to 60% of land in the UK could become available for other uses, much of which could be returned to forests and wild grasslands. The simple change of how we grow our food, could profoundly change even a country like the UK, that has plenty of water. Already, much of the lettuce, tomatoes and herbs that are cunsumed in the UK have been grown in hydroponic vertical farms, so we are on our way!
Having been lucky enough to live on the West Coast of the US for a couple of years, I was able to visit the Hoover Dam and the Grand Canyon. For anyone who hasn't visited, the Grand Canyon is so big, that you can turn away from it for a few seconds and then be genuinely shocked by its scale when you look back again. From my experience there didn't seem to be a limit to how many times you can feel this phenomenon. That's the best way I can articulate the sheer scale of work that the Colorado River has done over millions of years.
In early 2022, I learned that the Colorado river has only flowed as far as the Pacific Ocean once in the last 30 years. I was struck by my sudden ability to visualise the scale of human water usage and this story lives on Vertical Horizon's homepage as a reminder of my motivation to help accelerate the transition to sustainable agriculture and domestic food production, as a meaningful way to benefit our planet. Imagine if every State along the Colorado River had enough water to meet their needs in abundance and that this would include Nevada and California, which is certainly not the case today. The Mississippi river would also be able to feed the Central US for a far wider catchment area than it currently does, allowing for a more even and sustainable distribution of population from East to West.
The Amazon rainforest is still being destroyed at an alarming rate for agricultural expansion. This is a mix of animal grazing, and arable land for both production of animal feeds and human food crops. The 95 - 98% water savings currently achievable with hydroponic growing could halt and reverse this trend, allowing the Amazon Rainforest to recover as the "Lungs of the World" once again, perhaps achieving much of its rejuvenation as fast as it disappeared.