With the world population growing, greater efforts and innovation is getting allocated and re-directed toward sustainably increasing agricultural production, improving the global supply chain, decreasing food losses and waste, and ensuring that all have access to adequate food. As countries, nations, and individuals strive to create solutions that tick all the categories, innovative (smart) horticulture emerges as a beacon of hope. Leveraging advanced technologies, data-driven insights, and innovative farming techniques, smart horticulture offers a pathway to sustainable food production and a greener future.
When looking into the realization of innovative horticulture approaches and their consequent scale-up and acceptance on a wider scale, we look into:
- Embracing Technological Innovations
Internalization of technological innovations to optimize resource management, increase productivity, and reduce environmental impact is a key stepping stone in transforming the agricultural sector. From advanced sensors and monitoring systems to precision irrigation systems and automated pest surveillance, technology enables farmers and growers to make informed decisions, optimizing crop growth and minimizing resource waste.
• Circular Solutions in Horticulture
Circularity lies at the core of innovative and smart horticulture, aiming to create a closed-loop system where waste is minimized, and resources are conserved with production reaching targeted values. By embracing circular solutions, such as aquaponics production systems, composting organic waste and by-products and adopting regenerative practices, the environmental footprint of food production can be reduced.
• Vertical Farming and Controlled Environment Agriculture
Vertical farming and controlled soilless environment agriculture (CEA) are prime examples of innovation within crop production. By capitalizing on vertical spaces and establishing controlled environments, these techniques enable year-round cultivation in urban and peri-urban areas, reducing the need for limiting resource uptake. Additionally, by exploring the use of hydroponic or aeroponic systems, and intelligent climate control optimal resource utilization and crop growth can be achieved. Such systems additionally minimize the need for pesticides and herbicides, leading to healthier and safer produce.
- Data-Driven Decision Making
Data analytics plays a crucial role in the future of sustainable horticulture, empowering farmers with insights for efficient decision-making. By analyzing data on farm conditions and wider, growers can optimize their practices while entering the market well-informed.
• Collaborative Networks and Knowledge Sharing
To fully realize the potential of innovative approaches, collaboration and knowledge sharing are essential. Industry experts, researchers, and policymakers can join forces to foster innovation, drive advancements, and develop new practices. Through workshops, conferences, and other co-creative activities, partnerships that foster further innovation and empowerment can occur.
By embracing innovative technologies and circular solutions, innovative approaches to horticulture hold the promise of revolutionizing the way we grow and consume food, paving the way for a more sustainable world. In this respect, INCITiS-FOOD will co-create circular agri-food technologies, practices, and business models centering upon soilless crop farming, recirculating aquaculture systems, and insect farming through EU-AU partnership. During the 4 years of the project, INCiTiS-FOOD aims to implement such solutions in 8 living labs located in 6 countries across 3 African regions.