Ecological farming paves the way for better food production & more yields – Interview with Herman van Bekkem, Greenpeace
Herman van Bekkem discusses the Greenpeace vision for ecological farming and especially Vertical Farming in Europe’s main cities, on the 28th of June, at the Vertical Farming Conference in Venlo, The Netherlands.
Herman van Bekkem is an agricultural expert with Greenpeace and tries to educate the agricultural sector for ecological farming on the seven principles set up by Greenpeace. (The report on the Greenpeace vision for ecological farming, and the seven principles, can be downloaded freely from their website)
“There are many pros and cons regarding Vertical Farming, but this development offers the possibility to use far less pesticides and fungicides, which are no longer needed. This way the impact on the environment is reduced as well which is a great benefit. But the question is if Vertical farming is the solution to many of the agricultural challenges, as we know them today,” says Van Bekkem.
“The present use of large numbers of greenhouses for instance in the Netherlands has its pros, but also a larger number of cons. By planting huge amounts of the same crop in one greenhouse creates a good feeding ground for fungi and plagues. Simply the uniformity makes it very vulnerable to any diseases which may be in the greenhouse. That is why we encourage farmers to grow different kinds of crops in one greenhouse so as to build in some resistance and use far less pesticides and fungicides.
A monoculture in a greenhouse has many weaknesses and this way you can turn it around. This new way of farming is also important for Vertical Farming as it is close to a greenhouse culture,” according to Van Bekkem. He is actually very reserved on the success of Vertical Farming especially in Western Europe. He explains his view: “There are not that many vertical farms in cities, look at the Netherlands, there are only very few of them. Only in Asia you see them now coming up in cities. But the biggest problem is that a handful of large corporations control large parts of our food system right this moment, which is in fact not working in a positive way for Vertical Farming. Corporations and food policy makers are stubbornly sticking to an increase in yields as the global goal. This obscures the real challenge; we need to rethink how we use the food we are producing, right now and in the future. In a better food system, ecological livestock systems would make use of the agricultural land and resources not required for human food needs and at the same time drastically reduce the amount of animal products we produce and consume globally.”
Use of insects
Van Bekkem is also very positive about the use of insects to battle crop illnesses; “At a micro and macro level it is most useful to use insects, to counter insects that attack the crop or otherwise destroy it. Instead of pesticides you can use for instance the parasitic wasp or the predatory mite, two useful weapons in the battle against the insect pests. Not only do they take care of each other but also the soil improves where the crop is grown. Even flowers will bloom and with the right seasonable change of crop the soil improves a lot. But on top of that the crop gets stronger and more resistant towards any enemies. This way the circle is round again and the environment has much improved.“
“It is possible to increase soil fertility without the use of chemicals. Ecological Farming also protects soils from erosion, pollution and acidification. By increasing soil organic matter where necessary, we can enhance water retention and prevent land degradation. Something which we can do on the small scale vertical farms very directly, so as to improve the quality of food directly as well as the enclosed environment,” concludes Van Bekkem.
For more information and registration to the Vertical Farming Conference, we invite you to visit https://www.verticalfarmingconference.com/
The interview was made by Jakajima, the organiser of the conference. For more interviews with speakers at Jakajima conferences, we invite you to visit Jakajima’s website
Image source: capture from Greenpeace report
You can read the interview on Issuu as well.