I recently read Catherine McLean‘s article, “Shrinking agricultures water footprint” (for FutureFood2050, which is a great site to explore, by the way) which covers an interview with Arjen Hoekstra, a Dutch scientist who has a viewpoint of water conservation that is actually actionable.
McLean starts the article by establishing that agriculture is the biggest user of water, but water conservation efforts are misplaced. The bulk of our efforts are focused on domestic water use (and generating a whole lot of talk). That needs to change if we’re going to solve the “growing population, not enough water” problem that is undebatably bearing down on us. While the growing recognition of a need to change water behavior is a good thing, recognition alone falls dangerously short of solving the problem.
Hoekstra understands something that we’ve been saying for ages: You can’t solve future world issues like water conservation by talking and debating.
No. The real fight against water waste is going to play out like this:*
*Weknow that these things will happen is that they already are happening. One company that McLean mentioned is Ceres, a company focused on “sustainability leadership”. This is the first step. The second step has begun as well, which is another thing that McLean mentions in her article.
Step 1: Water use accountability.
Farms and ranches will be held accountable for the amount of water they use by rating and certifications. They’ll do this, if not for the motivation of being a good steward of creation, then for the business of the food manufacturers and consumers that buy their products. (Some farms, like Local Greens, embrace water accountability for both reasons.)
Step 2: Supply chain decisions based on water.
Food manufacturers and consumers will start to make supply-chain decisions based on the water accountability of the farmer (or other agriculturist). As the education of the public increases and indignant consumers call for responsibly-sourced food, food manufacturers will gain business by succumbing to those demands.
Step 3: Smarter water usage means a brighter future.
Overall, the agriculture industry will use less water, allowing us, our children, and our grandchildren, to have a bright future.
This process is what makes sense. We can’t depend on every part of the economic food chain to make decisions based on what is right for the future of the earth’s population or for reasons of morality. (Please don’t take this as pessimism. Everyone here at Bright Agrotech is an optimist about the future of food… I mean, have you seen what the Upstart Farmers are doing??)
The fact is that not everyone is free to make big business decisions based on stewardship. But if we can get a process started that will have a natural progression through the economy that ends in the same results, we might just be able to conserve water enough to solve the problem. (Same end, different means.)
There are several entities involved in making this process happen in reality. Companies devoted to creating and structuring that water accountability, for one. Farms and ranches that choose to grow and raise food in ways that align with that accountability, of course. And the first movers in the manufacturing part of the supply chain who choose to reap the value of water-accountable sourcing.
And last but not least, those involved in making water conservative farming methods not only possible, but profitable. This is what we do here at Bright Agrotech. We make smart vertical hydroponic equipment that conserves water and adds a bunch of other benefits into the mix as well (e.g. space savings, cost reduction, and access to awesome niche markets).
As the preoccupied glances of the agricultural world toward water conservation grow into a concerned gaze, we’ll be here. As farmers look to us for solutions, we’ll be here with them.
We want to partner with you, because we believe that we can solve problems like water waste. All we need is for you to make the first call.
Ready? Contact us.