Land areas equivalent to 100 Crafar Farms has been ‘lost’ to farming by the development of unproductive lifestyle blocks according to Federated Farmers president Bruce Willis.
Bruce says “lazy urban planning” is the biggest threat to growing food for the world and pressure to increase food production comes at a time when the land available for production is in decline.
“According to Landcare research 10 per cent of our high quality farmland has been lost to ‘lifestyle blocks’, many of which are not particularly productive.
In land terms, it is equivalent to well over 100 Crafar Farms or more than half the land area currently in dairy production.”
“In 1960, the world had 0.44 hectares in food production for every single person but by 2050, this is forecast to have fallen to 0.15 hectares.”
Bruce says there are seven billion mouths to feed in the world and this is expected to grow to over nine billion by 2050.
“In 2011, the United Nations concluded that to keep pace with global population growth by 2050, developed countries will need to produce 70 per cent more food.
“For the developing world that figure is 100 per cent and failure risks unprecedented global disorder.
“The Arab Spring after all didn’t start over rising sea levels in the Gulf of Tunis, but the price of bread.
“The pressure of this global population bomb means to maintain social cohesion, the primary production of food, I think, is almost certain to come out of global treaties dealing with climate change.”
On the upside for New Zealand, the past two decades has yielded lower carbon footprints averaging 1.3 per cent each year.
“Continued research through the Greenhouse Gas Research Consortium locally and internationally is arguably where New Zealand will grab the high frontier and a competitive advantage.
“That the human race is growing by two people every second creates immense opportunity for the biological economy. We need to use all our skills and knowledge in the biological and the physical sciences to increase our production and the value of our products.”
The qualitative opportunity for New Zealand comes from greater affluence as well as smaller but more numerous families. Parents of fewer children will prioritise their spending on quality food and fibre for their children as well as products to prolong their own quality of life, says Bruce.
“The good news is that China and Asia are growing richer and will demand a higher protein diet. We grow protein and fibre of the highest quality and therefore, are well positioned.
“I would think this provides a sound strategic footing and hope the Opposition will come to appreciate our economy is a biological one,” he said.
Bruce says if NZ is to be a true leader in agriculture old technologies must be constrained.
“We should instead be prepared to consider new technologies such as genetic modification and nanotechnology, but only when we can be certain it will benefit our economy and of course, our environment.
Bruce says the right science ecosystem for New Zealand will allow for research and its outcomes to be commercially realised right here.
Agriculture provides the economy with its skeleton but it is up to the physical, but especially the biological sciences, to make the most of our core competitive advantage represented by land, soil, water and people.
LanzaTech being a fine example of this blended future.