Farming without soil, digitizing agriculture, and producing water from air and sunlight. 

The need for better sustainable solutions continues to press forward as the demand for developments that will safeguard both the present and the future becomes even more urgent. At the International Sustainability Summit Manila 2019, global leaders and advocates pooled ideas and exchanged initiatives towards attaining that very future.

Technology is vital in implementing such global efforts. In the farming industry, producing yield all-year round while ensuring quality is difficult to meet. Israeli agricultural production company Aba Pardes Hydroponics shared the benefits of hydroponic greenhouse-grown produce for consistent and high-nutrient crops. A liquid solution of nutrients and water is directly fed to the roots to ensure better nutritional value. Since it is farming without soil, farmers don’t need to worry about weeding, pesticides, fertilizers or the changing seasons, thus producing harvest year-long.

Meeting demands of changing eating habits through modified farming

Based in Muntinlupa, Aba Pardes Hydroponics has been supplying sustainable produce in the Philippines since 2016. CEO Eyan Ben Ari notes that the demand for good food will continue to increase as the world changes its taste preferences, making healthier options the future of sustainability. In their case for example, Aba Pardes manages to harvest tomatoes every two days, which shows that in controlled parameters, farmers can get exactly what they need. Farms in places such as Pampanga and Cavite have already been using the hydroponics system to help food production in areas with infertile soil.

Agriculture through space

Another agricultural innovation presented at the summit reimagines the long-held value of traceability through microsatellites—a technology developed by Tokyo-based company Axelspace. Its entire team is made up of people from 17 countries collaborating to reach the world’s sustainable development goals. Through microsatellites, vegetation in farms are monitored. The technology can determine harvest season while distinguishing which portions are suffering from inconsistent growth.

“Sustainable food, a lot of times, is a niche. It costs more than what you find regularly. If we are not able to address this, we are not able to address a lot of the sustainability issues connecting food,” says Mark Ria, global director of animals in farming.

Traceability also aids farmers in reducing costs by telling them when to decrease fertilizer use as well as assisting in tracking shipments. These desktop computer-sized microsatellites also locate problem areas in highly industrialized cities that require forestry management. Such information can become crucial in disaster-preparedness and in environmental risks identification. 

Weathernews, a Japanese private company, has used microsatellites to monitor iceberg in the Arctic Ocean to come up with better navigation service. Using paid access to an Application Programming Interface (API), the microsatellites’ accessible space data enables anyone to digitize the planet whenever, wherever. Companies and individuals can own a private microsatellite custom-designed to suit their needs. Currently, five microsatellites are orbiting the Earth almost 14 times a day. Axelspace is planning to release 50 more microsatellites by 2022 to monitor the world on a daily basis and address a range of social, economical, and environmental concerns.

Guilt-free quality water supply

Initiatives to address the global water crisis are also constantly being developed. With one out of three people deprived of clean water access, sustainable solutions have to really break through. Eshara Water and Zero Mass Water Inc. are companies operating on the science of turning air and sunlight into water. The former is situated in eight countries across the globe while the latter is installed in more than 30 countries. Currently functioning in the Philippines is Zero Mass Water Inc.’s SOURCE hydropanel.  The Asian Development Bank (ADB) together with the National Electrification Administration (NEA) has deployed hydropanels in eight island communities in the country—Pangasinan, Bukidnon, Bohol, Samar, Agusan Del Sur, Davao Del Norte, Davao Del Sur, and Misamis Occidental. 

Through their own technologies, they are able to turn humid air and sunlight to a maximum of 1,004,400 liters of safe drinking water per month. This low-cost technology not only produces large reservoirs but it also becomes a cost-efficient alternative to bottled water and thus reduces waste and conserves energy originally meant for its production.

There is much work to be done in forwarding sustainability initiatives. It does not only rely on a specific network of people but it also has to be participated by the global society. If more individuals will be able to grasp and understand the gravity of these sustainable efforts, then more solutions will be brought to the table.

The summit concluded with the words of Mark Ria, global director of animals in farming, challenging leaders and innovators to recreate the status of sustainable food to a more inclusive movement. “Sustainable food, a lot of times, is a niche. It costs more than what you find regularly. If we are not able to address this, we are not able to address a lot of the sustainability issues connecting food (if it’s going to be more expensive than what you can afford). That has to be addressed. We have to remove the barrier for sustainable food.”