Production, Distribution & Waste – Challenging Industrial Agriculture

 

Recently we’ve heard the same old arguments being pumped out by industrial agriculture, especially in reaction to the droughts in the US.

 

The argument goes: “There’s almost 7 billion people on Earth, and there’s 1 billion hungry. We need more food to feed the world. We must intensify agriculture; bigger & better, and we’ve got the answer – we call it a Sustainable Agriculture”.  That ‘Sustainable Agriculture future’ is typically large-scale intensive agriculture, GMO, and more sophisticated ‘scientific’ farming methods.  Inevitably the cost of this agriculture is greater, and farmers must have all of the latest information, tools, machinery & chemicals to make it happen.  It also, coincidentally, means greater profits for the big boys of industrial agriculture (rather than farmers).

 

There’s an assumption in there that needs testing: “We need more food to feed the world”.  It’s so often taken as a given, but there significant research which suggests otherwise.

 

We grow enough food to feed 10 billion people already. Eric Holt-Giménez recently wrote a fantastic rebuttal of the industrial agriculture view on the future of food. The first part of his argument centres around the point that Hunger is not caused by scarcity, but by poverty – that is what needs to be tackled to feed the hungry people in the world, not more food.  It follows on to show that Industrial Ag Vs Natural Farming does not represent the gaps in yields that are constantly talked about by GMO advocates. The longest running study (Rodale Institute – 47 year study) shows that Organic farming has better yields & profits, whilst requiring lower energy inputs & causing lower greenhouse gas outputs.

 

We Already Grow Enough Food - Infographic - Challenging Industrial Agriculture

 

The UN have put out several studies on Food Security and Sustainable Agriculture which do not support the Industrial Ag spin. They don’t stand to create vast profits from their view, but they do expect to see greater advances in sustainable development & poverty alleviation through more agriculture shifting to small-scale agroecological production. There also are gains in climate resilience and energy reduction from adopting farming based on ecological systems.

 

A 2011 report on Food Waste by the Food & Agriculture Organisation (PDF) suggests 1/3 of global food production is wasted through the supply chain or pre/post consumption. This food waste infographic featured on Food+Tech Connect supports this argument, showing it’s as high as 40% in the US.

 

It’s clear to see there’s significant work that needs to be addressed on the Consumer side of things, but this also supports our assertion that a big change needs to happen upstream.  If food distribution were to change from the centralised, industrial model that accounts for 99% of our food system, to local food webs, then we have the opportunity to disrupt the food waste in this area of the chain too.

 

The world has changed since our food system was invented – the information & web revolution has made new things possible – aggregation of supply & demand through web-based tools is just one of them.  We built Bucky Box for many reasons, one of which indicates the potential for decentralised food systems & local food webs to be more efficient than Industrialised Ag.  By re-localising food distribution with these new tools, we can efficiently move food from farm to fork with minimal wastage, instead of farm to landfill.

 

The time has come for a revolution in our food system.  It may be a quiet revolution which sees individuals consciously choosing to buy local, for small-scale farming to make a wholesale return, and for more-than-profit food distribution to rise, powered by a wave of digital tools for a better food system.

Agriculture Day at Rio+20

Today is Agriculture & Rural Development Day, with a keen focus on the happenings over at Rio+20.  The day will feature keynote speakers, a high-level panel discussion, and 13 participatory “learning events” – giving voice to a wide cross section of stakeholders. The learning events will explore concrete cases of success, which, if scaled out through greater investment, could translate into a thorough transformation of the global food system. The afternoon will showcase science innovations for a food-secure future.

 

A combination of scientific research and on-the-ground innovation has demonstrated the real and potential success of many technologies and methods. To build on their success requires an integrated landscape approach that improves agricultural productivity and rural livelihoods, while also addressing threats to forests, water, and biodiversity.

 

We’ve been reading & engaging in a fair few conversations about the future of the food system as of late, and looking into recent reports about Agroecology farming methods, the merits of smallholding agriculture, and generally thinking about how new models of food distribution can help bring about a food system which works for people & planet, rather than simply short term economics.

 

Agriculture Day is highlighting the need for Rio+20 to address global agriculture as a system with the potential for major impact on future sustainability.  They highlight Agriculture as Our Common Future.

 

 

Here’s a 7 point taster of the #Rio4Ag Alliance’s focus for the Learning Events:

  1. Global and national policies
  2. Global investments
  3. Sustainable intensification
  4. Reduce vulnerability
  5. Reshape food access and diets
  6. Reduce loss and waste in food systems
  7. Create integrated information systems

 

During today’s Agriculture Day webcast you can watch the livestream, follow along on twitter at #Rio4Ag, as well as investigating the learning events & resources on the site.  Take a look!

World-wide Partners

Bucky Box re-invests 2/3 of it's profit back into the local food movement, it's called the Global Partnership Program**Updated at 22/03/12**

The Bucky Box Global Partnership Fund is an evolution in its design.  Recently we committed to our constitution that the fund will be built from a minimum of 67% of our annual profits, which will be invested back into organizations taking action to create a sustainable food system – this is part of our social enterprise / social business model.

 

We see food distribution has become a profit centre, and we realise that ‘business as usual’ with software companies partially replacing supermarkets in this space, could in fact just heap more of the same problems on food producers (farmers) and consumers (us).

 

Instead, we envision a food distribution system which redistributes profits into the ‘food champions’ who don’t necessarily have a solid business model.  We’re talking NGO’s, advocates, researchers, and people focused on education, among others… people who are working for a better food system.

 

Our model is not a traditional ‘make it, then give a percentage away’.

 

No, we back ourselves to help make change where it’s most needed, so we’re going to invest our profits back through a more blended approach:

  • Partnerships through which we can co-create solutions together
  • Philanthropic-giving where we can bring something to the table
  • Ethical Impact Investment
  • Internal resources which facilitate connections, cross-pollination & projects which wouldn’t otherwise happen

courtesy of dpict: http://bit.ly/GEguTt

We believe in something more than engaging in simple ‘Corporate Social Responsibility’.  We see our role as creating a positive impact business to its very core.  We know that positive social, environmental, and cultural outcomes can come hand in hand with economic rewards, and that regenerative solutions can flow through the veins of 21st Century Business. We believe in a more than profit future for business around the world.

 

Now… we understand you Local Foodies are some of the best advocates there is, but we’re also interested in helping out people & organizations who have supported you along the way.

 

Who gave you the spur to set up a box scheme? Where did you first learn of CSA’s?  Who brought the need for a local food system to your attention? Who gave you the education & resources to get started? Who’s helping design the future of the food system with people and planet as a starting point?

 

Let us know who those people are at @buckybox on twitter, with #BuckyChamp

 

“There’s an old Wayne Gretzky quote that I love: ‘skate to where the puck is going to be, not where it has been.”

~ Steve Jobs