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Some great ideas for setting up more local and organic food businesses or diversifying an existing farm.
## Why do it?
Meet unmet local demand for a product or service, spread economic risk, exploit profitable new and growing markets, strengthen rural and local communities, and grow crops that would otherwise be imported.
Regenerative agriculture also naturally improves soil nutrients and health, biodiversity, buffers rain run-off, and stores carbon in soils.
Providing more food close to urban areas is vital to reduce our dependence upon faraway markets vulnerable to climate change.
## How to do it
### Choose a new food business that's right for you
1. Survey the market and opt for projects that drive you with passion.
2. Factor in the overall economic, social and environmental impacts and benefits of what you hope to achieve.
### Options for rural farms
Agro-ecological horticultural practices are typically more productive than traditional farms in terms of value for acre, and employ more people.
The trick to success is adding value.
### Productivity from conversion
Data from a conversion of a Welsh sheep farm to this type of horticulture has shown a 30-fold increase in productivity, without subsidy.
In addition they improve biodiversity and soil fertility year-on-year through composting and employ more people to keep a closer eye on each square metre of land.
Animals (dairy, fowl, pigs) are often used productively as part of the growing cycle.
### Diversification of existing farms
Local food production throughout the country before World War 2 was more varied, with more grains and vegetables grown.
This was subsidies arrived and land practice changed.
With modern knowledge and technology, it can be made more varied again.
**Intensive animal rearing** should be discouraged, as it is unsustainable for many reasons, including its high ecological footprint and association with water pollution and cruelty.
**Smallholdings** support more jobs and are more productive per acre than livestock.
**Livestock** can be kept as part of an agro-ecological mixed land use system. This is better for the environment, too.
**Orchards** and **soft-fruit**, using domestic and hybrid rootstocks, can be combined with bee-keeping and many other types of land-based livelihoods.
### Secrets of success
The key is to **add value to products** where possible or cut costs by cooperating with other producers.
Although handling and transportation to more distant markets may increase costs, crops like fruits, vegetables, ornamentals or nuts can dramatically increase income per acre.
Parts of a conventional farm may be assigned to such purposes, or sold or sublet for others to do so.
The most sustainable example of this is One Planet Development (see separate solution), which can occupy from one to ten acres per project.
### Urban farming
Urban farming options being pursued around the world to grow local, organic food year-round include:
1. Vertical farms
* vastly reduced energy use compared to rural farms and imported food
* better use of space and resources
* around 70 per cent less water with recycling and cleaning of greywater
* making food local
* urban job creation
* nearly closed nutrient cycles
* perfect food safety control
* significant reduction in the use of pesticides and herbicide to virtually zero
* urban food security.
### Vertical farming
Vertical or indoor farming involves growing plants on stacks of racks, usually indoors, in a controlled environment.
Such farms are capable of producing as much as 70 to 90 times more food per acre.
Vertical farms growing leafy vegetables are able to produce up to 12 harvests per year. Abandoned buildings can be used to house them.
Natural solar light plus super-efficient Organic LED lighting of specific frequencies that the plants like are used to maximise growing.
Vertical farms need to be capable of producing food in winter so renewable electricity powered heat pumps and heat storage systems can be added.
A form of indoor vertical farming that is soil-free, with drip-fed water dosed with nutrients.
All sorts of vegetables including tuberous root vegetables can be grown, with the tubers hanging down from the racks so that they may be harvested without destroying the plant.
In this way a sweet potato plant can last ten years and produce 500 potatoes.
A system can in theory use rainwater collected from the roof and recycle water.
Aquaponics is a combination of aquaculture (fish farming, usually tilapia) and hydroponics (growing green vegetables without soil).
Nutrients in the fish poo feed the plants, which in turn clean the water for the fish.
The water is evapo-transpired, condensed and returned (cleaned thereby) to the fish.
The only input needed is fish food.
This can be done at any scale from living room size to a large greenhouse.
To be efficient, renewable electricity powered heat pumps and heat storage systems are needed.
You need to know about both fish and plant production though; it involves a lot of expertise.
1 kg of fish food can produce a fish harvest of 700g and five to 10kg of tomatoes. Fish produce ammonia and the plants clean the water.
This amount of fish produces two litres of sludge, which is vermicomposted (composted with worms), giving nutrients to the plants.
No artificial lighting is used. In a year, 20.9MWh of electricity, 32.2MWh of heat plus 763m3 of water produce 3401kg of salad and 706 kg of fish. The top line is it produces 2.7 kg fish and 13.1kg vegetables per acre.
Three m² of rooftop space could feed one person 12 per cent of their diet. The first commercial farm was started in London in 2018, in an abandoned warehouse.
### Community Supported Agriculture
Community Supported Agriculture, cooperatives and patchwork farms directly connect many producers with consumers, who “subscribe” to their services.
They include box schemes and home delivery services.
‘Patchwork farms’ link multiple producers of organic produce via mobile technology to coordinate direct sales to customers so that producers need to spend less time on marketing and can produce more.
Forming local cooperatives also provides a way for farmers to jointly invest in processing and marketing.
## Resources and tools
1. [Farming Connect:](https://businesswales.gov.wales/farmingconnect/land/horticulture) Support and training for anyone wishing to run any land-based business at any scale from woodlands to horticulture and conventional farming.
2. [Landworkers Alliance:]( https://landworkersalliance.org.uk/) a union of farmers, growers, foresters and land-based workers aiming to improve livelihoods and create a better food and land-use system.
3. [Sustainable Agriculture Research Centre:](https://www.sare.org/publications/diversifying-cropping-systems/Why-Diversify/) benefits of diversification.
4. [The Soil Association's Shortening Supply Chains:](https://www.soilassociation.org/shortening-supply-chains-roads-to-regional-resilience/) Roads to Regional Resilience: recommendations and examples of businesses and councils working to shorten supply chains, and what opportunities exist to increase the availability of local, sustainable food in your community.
5. [Sustain:](https://www.sustainweb.org/) the alliance for better food and farming: Discover ways to improve food and farming in Wales, with news, great ideas and campaigns covering every conceivable aspect of food, health and the environment.
6. [The Sustainable Food Trust](https://sustainablefoodtrust.org/) based near Lampeter, Wales, supports the transition to a more sustainable food system.
7. [Association for Vertical Farming:](https://vertical-farming.net/) Resources and network for sustainable indoor and vertical farms that can produce year-round local food.
8. [Hydroponics:](https://www.rhs.org.uk/advice/profile?PID=911) How to practice hydroponics – growing plants year round indoors without soil, with mineral nutrient salts dissolved in water.
## Case Studies
1. [Bristol Fish Aquaponics:](https://bristolfish.org/aquaponics/) Cultivating fish and plants together:
2. [Farmdrop patchwork farm](https://www.farmdrop.com/faq)
3. Green Spirit Farms: use 98 per cent less water than going in the open air, on average and produce 17 harvests per year.
4. Aero Farmsii indoor farm: uses 95 per cent less water, 40 per cent less fertiliser, and no pesticides. Crops that usually take 30 to 45 days to grow, like leafy gourmet greens, take as little as 12.
5. Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences in Beijing, indoor patches of tomatoes, lettuce, celery and bok choy yield between 40 and 100 times more produce than a typical open field of the same size.
Voting close: 1602334200
The key question facing the world is: how can we sustain a decent quality of life for all humanity without wrecking the planet. Right now we are definitely not doing this, the world's population is growing, and we're heading for disaster.
The average citizen of a developed or fast-developing country has an ‘ecological footprint’ so large that if everyone on the planet lived that way we’d need at least three planets to support them! But we only have one lovely planet Earth.
On average, for every human being on the planet, it is as if we had 1.7 planet Earths.