The availability and cost of fresh food in remote communities is a serious problem in many areas. In Canada and elsewhere much of the fresh food available in remote communities is expensive due to the high cost of shipping. It is also often not as fresh as it would be in major centers due to the distance from where it was grown and time required for transport. This particularly is true for fresh fruits and vegetables in many communities.
The distance of many communities from the main markets means that the quality of fresh produce in remote communities is often poor – if it is even available. Some communities have periods when they do not have access to any fresh produce. This affects nutrition and has flow on impacts to all areas of life: health, child welfare, education and mortality rates.
While there have been many projects aimed at improving food quality and access to healthy food in remote communities, these projects can only work if communities know what to do with the produce. A two-fold appraoch is therefore important. Case studies have shown that community-led nutrition programs have resulted in marked and sustained improvements to fresh food consumption.
There are some good things happening, for example in Garden Hill Manitoba, they’re trying to take control of their food security by growing it themselves. The community-owned and community-run social enterprise called Meechim Farm is raising turkeys and chickens, growing fresh produce and teaching budding young farmers how to work the land. This last Thanksgiving the community members enjoyed their first harvest, the farm provides hope for the future say community members.
Fish and Veggies
On the supply side of things building and operating self contained properly sized fish and vegetable growing facilities could also be a possible solution to the problem. By combining Aquaculture with Hydroponics in a process known as Aquaponics, many such facilities have been built around the world to produce fresh food year round, right at the point of use.
Aquaculture is an industry that is experiencing tremendous growth, and witnessing immense change and adoption of new practices. There is little doubt that it is the fastest growing food industry in the world, and that it serves to protect many fish species that are or would otherwise be over fished. The art of Aquaculture has also adopted and improved to meet the challenges of a forever evolving world.
Land-based closed containment aquaculture is a sector of the industry that is steadily advancing. These systems are located on land with the fish being raised in tanks. These designs are providing the highest level of security and production control, while greatly diminishing the potential of adverse impact to the environment. These facilities are focused on sustainability with the aim of generating zero waste. It is often very practical and worthwhile to integrate plant produce farming into these ventures by using aquaponics techniques.
With aquaponics the operator can grow a wide range of fresh fish and vegetables often without the use of synthetic fertilizers, herbicides, antibiotics or other chemicals. Essentially it is a highly sustainable method of growing fish and plants together in a closed system. The fish are reared in tanks and their water is filtered, the manure is captured and processed in bio-reactors and the nutrient enriched water is then pumped to the plants that are growing in soilless conditions. The plants take up the organic nutrients produced by fish for growth and the water is returned to the fish growing system. The two farming processes benefit from each other.
What’s more, Aquaponics offers one more magic ingredient – flexibility of design. This means that fish and plants can be produced almost anywhere, including remote communities, mining camps, warehouses, roof tops, basements and brownfield sites. A system has even been proposed in Antarctica.