BLOG POST: Last week all over the news we had headlines like: "Prices of vegetables and leafy greens hit the roof!", "Snowstorm in Southern Europa leads to scarcity of greens in Sweden!", "No vegetables in the store!" I'm Sepehr Mousavi, Sustainability Strategist at Plantagon. Welcome to follow me in this forum!
As Southern Europe recently was struck by snowstorms and cold spells, we suddenly came to realize that this event had actual impact on our daily lives. Suddenly the vegetable shelves were empty in the supermarket and not a single salad green was to be found in stores throughout Sweden. The veggies that were found came at rocket prices. This clearly shows the fragility of our current food system, heavily relying on imports. And the inevitable question that comes to mind is – how resilient is our food system in a crisis?
Referring to my previous blog posts (Urban agriculture, a major but forsaken ecosystem service and Is city the new farm?) I would argue that this is the result of “putting all our eggs in the same basket” in an inefficient and unsustainable global supply chain.
Sweden, in an economic transition through the industrialization era, has landed on agriculture today being responsible only for 1.8% of its total GDP. At the same time the country is drastically dependent on imported food to maintain its food security.
Building the food value-chains around trade, globalization and high dependency on long transportation routes, the country has decreased its rate of self-sufficiency and potential food security significantly. A trend that potentially could put us on a very slippery slope.
As seen the last two weeks, climate disasters, political unrest and global trade disturbances might hit us more frequently in the near future, and this time harder than before as the global agricultural system itself is presents high-risk patterns while its also responsible for 25% of the total global greenhouse gas emissions.
A strong urbanization trend twinned with rapid population growth, water scarcity and climate change effects in many parts of the world – along with peak phosphorus, fossil-fuel dependency, enormous footprint of food production, and many other factors – have had a major negative effect on our global resiliency, food security and hence sustainability.
In 2013 when Hurricane Sandy hit New York City, all stores quickly ran out of food, leaving only empty shelves. This could easily happen also in cites like as Stockholm, Toronto or many others in the developed world, as our cities only have only up to 4 days of food supply available in their supermarket shelves. You don’t believe it? Well, call your local municipality and ask for their food resilience measures.
Nonetheless, the most interesting issue that popped up in this chaos back in 2013 according to me, was that a rooftop farm called the Gotham Greens* in Brooklyn, New York, survived hurricane Sandy and kept operating as if nothing had happened, delivering leafy greens daily to the Whole Food Market located in the same building. Interesting, eh?
*Gotham Greens is a 2000 square feet rooftop, controlled-environment greenhouse on top of a Whole Food Market in Brooklyn, New York.
Urban Agriculture in a controlled and infrastructure-integrated environment can be a way for us to be more self-sufficient when it comes to vegetables, leafy greens – and even fish and shrimps. Urban farms guarantee a secure, steady and high quality production of food – regardless of external factors like hurricanes, droughts or cold spells – throughout the year.
The Swedish government has this week released their national food strategy (Den Nationella Livsmedelsstrategin) with goals to be met by 2030, also linked to the UN Agenda 2030, while more self-sufficiency and more sustainability measures are foreseen.
Isn’t it time for all our supermarket chains, retailers and real-estate owners in Sweden to join forces with the innovation sector to create national and local urban food systems instead of depending on food import (organic or not) from Southern Europe, Asia, Latin America etc. while we have huge possibilities to grow a lot of our own food at home.
We can do it … if there’s a will!
Sustainability Strategist, Plantagon
Chair to Swedish Standards Institute ‘Sustainable Urban Food Production’ committee
The ideas and thoughts presented in this blog are my personal views and need not subscribe entirely to Plantagon.
Please watch out for up-coming blog post by:
Joakim Rytterborn, Research & Development Manager, Plantagon
Shrikant Ramakrishnan, Global Business Development Director, Plantagon