A driving factor for advancements in agri-tech is to bridge the food security gap by creating new ways to grow food in food-insecure areas. Aquaponics can bridge the food security gap by allowing communities with poor growing conditions to create market gardens. Market gardens are smaller local farms that produce the crops needed for their specific market or community, effectively mitigating one of the primary causes of the food security gap: transportation and reliance on truck farming.
Canada is a big place. It’s the second biggest country in the world to be exact. With a total population being equivalent to the size of a single U.S. state, it brings a unique space-to-resource-to-population relationship in to question. Canada has an abundance of space and resources spread from its coasts to its interior, and it boasts landscapes from luscious rain forests, to desolate deserts, to the frozen tundra.
Transporting fresh produce from the Okanagan desert to the frozen tundra in Nugangat can get tricky – if not impossible.
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Isolated Areas Often Feel the Food Security Gap
Most Canadians live along the Canada/U.S. border: in 2016, only 113,604 people lived in Northern Canada; while 11.09 million people lived in Western Canada; and 23.95 million lived in Eastern Canada. The populations of Yukon, Northwest Territories, and Nunavut have little access to transportation routes. In 2003, the northern territories shared only ten thousand of more than a million kilometres of paved and non-paved roads that spread across the country.
Traditional agricultural practise focuses on utilizing prime agricultural land, advanced farming techniques, and efficient transportation routes to grow lots of food and to distribute it quickly and proportionately through-out the nation. This approach to sustaining a nation makes sense when the relationship of space-to-resources-to-population are in balance. However, Canada’s population is too spread out; over seven million Canadian’s live in coastal regions, but 28 million more live in areas from the interior of B.C. to areas from the interior of Nunavut, Quebec, and Ontario.
Growing food near hurting communities would decrease food insecurity by increasing access to necessary foods.
Food Security Gaps Affects Communities Big and Small
With four million Canadians being food insecure in 2012 and the population of the Canadian North being a small percentage of the total national population, it points towards food security being a serious issue for every province and territory. Small isolated communities are not the only communities affected.
Halifax, the capital city of Nova Scotia, has the second highest rate of food insecurity in Canada. In March 2018, the mayor engaged the Halifax community to try and find solutions to increase access to healthy foods.
The Aquaponic Solution
So, how can aquaponics help solve food insecurity? Well, it depends. Not all indoor growing systems are the same, and all of them come with advantages and disadvantages. Aquaponic farms can be very different from one another. Some aquaponic systems operate similar to traditional greenhouses, while others employ more complex methods. Vertical aquaponic farming is providing fresh products in Calgary, Alberta that would otherwise have to be sourced from south of the border.
The Canadian North is cold, so cold that it thwarts almost every attempt made by the government, scientists, and entrepreneurs alike to find a way to sustainably provide the right food. It can be done. The Northern communities struggling to have access to the right kinds of food are dealing with a differing list of challenges than the challenges felt by those living in Halifax.
Regardless of the challenges resulting from environmental factors, aquaponics can sustainably produce food close to or within Canadian communities that align with the new plant-focused Canadian food guide. It can use up to 95 per cent less water, produce more food in less space, and do it 365 days of the year.