New thinking needed to solve consumer demand for truth and trust in pure, pesticide-free products.
A growing body of research suggests that people increasingly seek out organic purity in the food, pharmaceutical, nutraceutical and other ingestible products that they purchase – and that they are willing to pay more for it. As consumers increase their knowledge and understanding about pesticides and other toxins used in agricultural practices, they are also becoming more vocal in their advocacy for safer products.
However, the gap between what is labelled organic and the identifiable purity of the product is widening to the point of dishonesty.
Organic standards are weakening under pressure from Big Ag and fraudulently documented crops from overseas continue to infiltrate the organic supply chain. In addition, the expansion of mass-scale factory farming has made it virtually impossible for organic farms to escape the collateral damage of their conventional farming neighbors. Although consumers may not be aware of this, the fact is the agriculture industry is in a mess, especially when it comes to organic products.
Mass-scale agriculture is concentrated in arable regions of the country. The close proximity of organic to conventional crops has made contamination of the organic plants from pesticide residue virtually unavoidable. Aerial chemical spraying often strays outside of its intended target and particle drift from spraying operations can travel more then 20 kilometers in mild winds, according to Canadian government studies. Even after application, vapour drift from treated crops can spread pesticide residues far outside a field’s border. This serious issue continues to be ignored because of the power of Big Ag.
Ground and water contamination are pervasive as well. For instance, American farmers dump around 250 million pounds of the pernicious herbicide, glyphosate, onto their fields each year. As the most heavily used herbicide in human history, laboratory testing finds traces of glyphosate showing up increasingly in organic products. More alarming, the USDA’s National Organic Program doesn’t require organic foods to be tested for the toxin, and it even allows certified-organic products to have synthetic pesticide levels of up to five percent of EPA-specified tolerances.
The bottom line is that purity in organics doesn’t really exist anymore. This means that consumer trust in the label will inevitably erode as further testing reveals that residue contamination of organic-certified products is widespread and increasing.
The first thing needed to address consumer concerns is to establish a new standard or standards for purity – something that transcends organic certification in its definition, rules and enforcement as it applies to acceptable toxin levels. Pesticide-free should indeed mean pesticide-free.
More importantly, the agriculture industry needs to explore new methods of production in order to achieve true and precise purity in crops. While industrial farming may be necessary to feed an increasingly hungry planet, new ways need to be put in place to control the natural environment they grow in. That means moving a large part of agricultural production indoors.
However, simply building bigger greenhouses or indoor grow houses isn’t the answer. Beyond the fact that their enormous carbon footprint and water gluttony is at odds with organic sensibilities, these legacy growing systems suffer from their purity challenges. AgriFORCE Growing System Ltd. is ready to provide the solution to these issues and is focused on pulling the set-in-its-ways (that don’t work) agriculture industry into the digital age, making digital agriculture the foundation of food security and safety, going forward.
Greenhouses and grow houses are not truly enclosed structures, therefore allowing outside elements in – such as pesticide drift and tainted water. These structures are also prone to mold, yeasts and other pests that require some kind of industrial decontamination processing in order to achieve product safety. For example, it’s estimated that in Canada, hydroponic cultivators use irradiation in more than 80% of crop production to sterilize their products to meet safety guidelines. AgriFORCE’s proprietary facility design and automated growing system provides a virtually sealed environment, which means toxins like pesticides, as well as other contaminants, can’t get in.
AgriFORCE has spent the past two years reimagining (using science and technology) how to achieve industrial-scale indoor farming that is both ecologically sustainable and precisely controlled in order to create a near-perfect growing environment. Technological advances in automation, hydroponics and aeroponics, sealed building envelopes, and other AgTech innovations hold the key – and this is set to put AgriFORCE at the head of its field when it comes to purity in the cultivation of high-value crops.
True product purity can’t be achieved with safer pesticides or decontamination methods being deployed indoors. It is clear that this approach doesn’t work – there are no ‘safe’ pesticides and decontamination – like using irradiation, which, let’s be clear – means using radiation on plants, fruits and vegetables that are going to be eaten or otherwise ingested is not the answer. The industry needs to create a new foundation – one that is Clean. Green. Better. from seed to sale. The AgriFORCE approach – with its proprietary facility design and automated growing system is focused on making this change; in revolutionizing the industry, bringing it into the digital age and rebuilding consumer trust, which has deteriorated drastically over the past two decades.
AgriFORCE Growing Systems will be a game changer for the AgTech sector.
By Ingo Mueller, CEO, AgriFORCE Growing Systems Ltd.