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Food is the challenge of our time

2These are the words of Julian Cribb, author, journalist, editor and science communicator, who spoke at the Food & Fibre Futures conference held in Melbourne this week.

“I think the kids need to educate their parents. I call for a Year of Food where every subject you study includes food education or has a food message embedded in the curriculum.”

Did someone say food education? Introducing the From Paddock to Plate food schools program as a food education resource that is educating people about the importance of food, food sustainability and food security so that we can continue to feed a growing global population.

According to Emma Sutherland from Burlington Berries, “At school I was told that farming wasn’t suitable for girls, only less academic students pursued this path and unless my parents owned a farm it wouldn’t be possible, plus why would people want to live in the country with no social life? How wrong they were!

“We need to encourage students to study all the subjects that are relevant, not just Agriculture. These subjects will help us to learn about where our food comes from and feed the projected population growth.”

“Ag is a terrific industry to be in but it’s up to the press to put a better spin on things. If you ask anyone in the city about farmers it’s “wingers”. So we need to change this,” said Stephen Cammadeur, who shed his personal experiences as a young agribusiness professional and the farming career opportunities available to him at school.

“Food will change more in the next 100 years than it have in the last 1000 and is not well understood by governments and consumers,” Julian said.

“Food security can tear down any government down, no matter how strong. They can be brought undone by hunger. Today, fortunately, we have the internet so we can see it happening in a neighbouring country and it provides a wake up call to our governments. The problem is that it takes 20 years to invent, develop, commercialise and adopt a new piece of farming technology. I think we’re going to see more food crises. Whether they [the Government] wake up to it in time, is a good question.

“Ours is the first generation in all of history to turn away food. Nearly half of the efforts of the world’s farmers go to landfill.

“We have neglected what keeps us alive… food. We spend $1.8 trillion on weapons a year and only $50 billion in better ways to produce food. Where do our priorities lie? Killing or feeding? Most of the places war has happened is where food, land and water have been insecure.

“The challenges of feeding the world are immense. Agriculture needs to double food supplies with less land and less water.”

But there is good news. Architects are turning into “agritects”.

Urban “sky farms” (crops grown vertically up the walls of skyscrapers) use hydroponics which means less water, no soil and a controlled environment typical of greenhouses that allows plants to grow regardless of the climate and season. Then there are urban farms set up on the rooftops of buildings, which are the only spaces left in cities already bursting at the seams with increasing populations.

Five of the greatest urban rooftop farms, in my opinion anyway, include:


“Intensive systems typically use one-tenth of the water and land that a typical farm uses,” Julian continued.

“If we grow half our food in the cities than we can re-wild half our farms. In the future, farmers will and should be paid for the role of stewards of our biology.

“At the moment, we are chucking farmers off the land. This is one way we can pay farmers more for their produce. Farmers are not being rewarding for looking after our country. We need to change the economics of agriculture.

“By 2050, algae will be the world’s top crop [to secure global fuel production] not to mention that there are 27,000 edible plants on this planet. We haven’t even begun to explore what we can eat. Here in Australia there are 6,100 edible plants. You walk into a supermarket and how many native foods can you find. How crazy are we that we are not making the most of them!”

That’s why food education is essential for every school student, not matter what subjects they elect to study, so that they too can be grateful for the fresh and bountiful Australian produce on offer in this country.

Louise FitzRoy
Founder | From Paddock to Plate

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