Quality, Aquaponics, Nutrient Management and Organics: Giving
the Customers What They Want from Viet-Nam to Oklahoma to Egypt
President, Needful Provision Inc.
June 18, 2003
Watershed Heroes Core4 Conference and National Eco-Team Competition
Each day, over 5,500 children, around the world, die from a combination of nutritional deficiencies and drinking infectious water ----- water that is a “cocktail” of bacterium, viruses, and parasites, often from untreated human waste. In developed areas, water is also contaminated with excess nutrients from livestock manure, fertilizers, and leaking septic tanks. Mining operations have added heavy metals to some of our water supplies. In the area of Chernobyl, Belarus, the water supply has radioactive particles. Spreading water shortages, human conflict(s), and population growth all act to compound the above health hazards.
We have a food production system heavily dependent on irrigation, and that system is beginning to fail. While it is true that 71 percent of the Earth is covered with water, only 3 percent of that is not salt water. Fresh water supplies are distributed in a highly unequal manner, and desertification is occurring in several areas. Clearly, we have water quality problems, and other related water problems, having global impact.
Meanwhile, having lived and worked in 43 countries around the world it has helped me gain some perspective about what consumers want. American farmers can produce fabulous amounts of genetically modified organisms (GMO) corn and soybeans. However, that doesn’t mean the rest of the world should have to, nor wants to, buy them. There are numerous reasons why others may not want our products. The Europeans are concerned about hormones, antibiotics and GMOs. Those affluent enough are voting with their pocketbooks. The UK Soils Association reports that 2/3rds of all UK households buy, or seek to buy, organic.
A majority of Muslims (over 1 billion people) only eat organic foods, unless they have no other choice. This is a religious issue long associated with the Muslim belief that your body should not be exposed to impurity in any form. Instead of farmers complaining about getting low prices for the volumes we produce and not being able to export it, we should be asking ourselves, “What do people want?”
If you feel safe and healthy you are less likely to strike out at the world or your neighbor. I was introduced to Homeland Security long before it became a department of the government. Security means feeling safe. As the food system becomes more integrated and centralized, the opportunity for a few people to disrupt it, and our distrust in it, becomes greater. In addition to a safe food supply, people also desire good health. Indeed, you are what you eat. Healthy feed and food translates into healthy livestock and people. Dr. Alyson Mitchell, and her research team at the University of California Davis report that organic foods contain 58 percent more polyphenolics that act as antioxidants to protect cells against damages from diseases. In brief, we may not always be giving our customers the desired products and safe, healthy foods that they need and really feel comfortable with.
As a result of world unrest and the desire for better food and water, in many areas of the world, sustainable/ organic food production is dramatically increasing to meet popular demand. The company I direct, Needful Provision, Inc. (NPI), is helping the Egyptians start a 73,000 acre organic farm in Egypt.
NPI’s integrated food production system uses livestock manure/manure effluent to produce a crop of freshwater microalgae. The algae is used to feed tilapia and or paddle-fish. Surplus algae is harvested with lipids being used for biodiesel and solids used for their varied nutraceuticals, and as a multi-nutrient feed supplement. Fish water and fish manure are used to produce vegetables in an aquaponics system. Water is recycled back to the algal raceway after nutrients are extracted by plants, and water filtered by sand. To improve field crop production, and pasture yields, an algal crop is grown in water from a mineral spring and then mixed with a manure compost to be used as fertilizer. The algae recovers the minerals, and when used in compost fertilizer helps to re-mineralize soils and increase crop yields. The system has consistently increased farm income by 7 to 12 percent.
NPI has requests from several other countries to help start similar organic farming operations. Each of these operations will feature nutrient and resource management, as well as integrated systems. Aquaponics is an example of one of our integrated agricultural operations, and it combines organic aquaculture with a modified form of organic hydroponics. In short, we need to provide specific solutions for better food and potable water that fit customers’ health needs and pocketbooks, as well as their customs.