Alternative farming is defined as production systems that do not use conventional methods of agriculture. (1) Alternative agriculture, sustainable agriculture, organic farming, regenerative agriculture and low-input agriculture are terms that loosely denote both a philosophy of farming and a set of farming practices.
“Alternative farming systems seek to significantly reduce or to avoid entirely, the use of synthetic fertilizers, pesticides, growth regulators, and other agricultural chemicals. The system relies instead on crop rotation, crop residues, animal manures, legumes, green manures, organic wastes, cultivation, and non-chemical pest control to maintain the organic matter and tilth of the soil, supply nutrients, and control insects, weeds and diseases”. (2)
Methods of Alternative Farming
Vertical farming is the practice of growing crops in vertically stacked layers or integrating them into other structures (such as in a skyscraper or old warehouse) with the use of less water and no soil. The modern ideas of vertical farming use indoor farming techniques and controlled environment agriculture (CEA) technology, where all environmental factors can be controlled such as artificial control of light, humidity, temperature also Biofortification which is to breed crops to increase their nutritional value. (3)
By 2050, around 68% of the world population is expected to live in urban areas, and the growing population will lead to an increased demand for food. (4) It can help in optimizing the potential yield of some important crops.
Wheat supplies approximately one-fifth of the calories and protein for human diets. Vertical farming is a possible promising option for increasing future wheat production. wheat grown on a single hectare of land in a 10-layer indoor vertical facility could produce from 700 ± 40 t/ha (measured) to a maximum of 1,940 ± 230 t/ha (estimated) of grain annually under optimized temperature, intensive artificial light, high CO2 levels, and a maximum attainable harvest index. Such yields would be 220 to 600 times the current world average annual wheat yield of 3.2 t/ha. (5)
green beans, in the form of pole beans, are simple to grow vertically in a small space and have a longer harvest season than the bush variety, offering you a steady supply of beans for several months. As the name suggests, they climb well on poles. Fasten with hemp twine, which can be composted together with your bean vines at the end of the growing season. (6)
Vertical Farming also helps to meet the increasing need and desire for locally-grown produce. Local production eliminates long-distance transportation from producer to consumer, while also reducing food loss along the journey and food waste. Russian research confirmed that Smart vertical farms can produce 10 times more seed potatoes a year. (7)
Aquaponics is a recirculating system that combines hydroponics (growing plants in water without soil) and aquaculture (fish farming) to create an efficient closed-loop system. Aquaponics uses these two in a symbiotic combination in which plants are fed the aquatic animals’ discharge or waste. In return, the vegetables clean the water that goes back to the fish. Along with the fish and their waste, microbes play an important role in the nutrition of the plants. These beneficial bacteria gather in the spaces between the roots of the plant and convert the fish waste and the solids into substances the plants can use to grow. The result is a perfect collaboration between aquaculture and gardening. (3).
The study shows the yield potential of potatoes produced in the proposed wood fibre-based hydroponic growing system. Hydroponic production of potato in a stand-alone wood fibre resulted in over 200% higher yield compared to the conventional potato production in soil. (8)
Rice can be grown using aquaponics. By growing fish with rice, the final output will be nearly doubled as a result of the relatively high price of fish. In fact, the only difference between aquaponics and hydroponics is that aquaponics uses nutrients from fish waste to supply the plant instead of the traditional human-made nutrient solution used in hydroponics. (9)
Lentils can successfully grow in an aquaponics facility providing very low use of inorganic inputs. Water use was low especially during the winter months. Legume/lentils growth has a high possibility of moving from the fields into the heart of cities. (10)
Urban farming refers to the farming activities in urban areas, which are commonly used for income or food. Urban farming activities are essential in urban areas as they grow to meet the needs of a constantly evolving urban life. These farms provide a part of the community with the self-sufficiency of the food system and food safety. A variety of systems may fall under the concept of urban agriculture in a different range and possession, ranging from small community gardens, peri-urban farming, small farming, urban gardens, and the building of vertical farming or greenhouse. (11)
For urban farming 3 crops that are fairly easy to grow and offer good returns: Mushrooms, green beans, and leafy greens.
Hydroponics is defined as the science of growing plants in the absence of soil by providing them with chemical solutions containing artificial forms of nutrients, which the plants obtain from the soil. Growing wheat hydroponically for plant breeding purposes may hold emergency, yield and seed quality advantages compared to traditional planting methods. It contributes to the reduction of the overall discharge of CO2, hence preventing global warming to some extent. Hydroponic farming has strong potential to mitigate the threats these issues pose to our agricultural system.
An experiment was carried out by sterilizing wheat seed in an aqueous solution of 2.5% NaOCl (v/v) and 0.01% tween 20 (v/v) for 15 min and transplanted into the hydroponic tray. (12) It has been found that the production rate was better in the hydroponic systems than the ordinary soil-grown crops.
One of the perks of hydroponics is its low water consumption compared to soil. Crops like rice need to be submerged in water to produce the maximum amount of yield. The deepwater culture system is the most suitable one to grow rice when compared to other famous systems like NFT. Although it is more complicated than other known crops such as lettuce, it is essential to try and grow rice hydroponically. This will play a critical role in the future of the world as the drought levels increase. (9)
The nutritional profile of the water lentil extract shows higher levels of essential amino acids and BCAA’s than other plant proteins and it has application as a protein booster in many types of products. In addition to an amino acid profile similar to that of animal proteins, it is also highly digestible with a digestibility of 1.0 and a PDCAAS (protein digestibility–corrected amino acid score) of 1.0. (13)
- 1. Blanche Magdelaine, Chloé Ribard, Jean-Pierre Sarthou. Alternative agriculture. 2019.
- 2. What is alternative agriculture. Crosson, Pierre. 1989, American Journal of Alternative Agriculture, pp. 28-32.
- 3. VERTICAL FARMING: A CONCEPT. Rashmi Maria Royston, PavithraM.P. 3, Banglore: s.n., 2018, Vol. 4.
- 4. LEBLANC, RICK. What You Should Know About Vertical Farming. 2020.
- 5. Wheat yield potential in controlled-environment vertical farms. Asseng, Senthold. 2020.
- 6. Firszt, Laura. networx.com. [Online] December 4, 2018.
- 7. relga.potatopro.com. [Online] May 20, 2021.
- 8. Growing Potatoes (Solanum tuberosum L.) Hydroponically in Wood Fiber—A Preliminary Case-Study Report. Woznicki, Tomasz, et al. Kapp, Norway : ResearchGate, 2021.
- 9. HydroponicsSpace. hydroponicsspace.com. [Online] https://hydroponicsspace.com/can-you-grow-rice-hydroponically/.
- 10. The use of legumes in an aquaponic agricultural system. Pappa, Valentini A. Novi Sad, Serbia : ResearchGate, 2013.
- 11. Urban Farming Activities in Southeast Asia: A Review and Future. Salim, Siti Aisyah, et al. Malaysia : EDP Sciences, 2019. Vol. 266.
- 12. Hydroponics Cultivation of Wheat. Pandey, Vanita. s.l. : Biotech Articles, 2018.
- 13. Wittbjer, Cecilia. Institute of Food Science Technology. ifst. [Online] December 11, 2020. https://ifst.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/fsat.3404_15.x.