We read with great enthusiasm this week the proposed policy to boost food resilience in cities by The Tony Blair Institute for Global Change. How Cities Can Feed Themselves is a ten-point plan on how cities should aim to produce at least 30 per cent of their own fruit and vegetables by 2030 through tech-enabled food production.
As an estimated two-thirds of the world’s population will live in cities and will consume 80 per cent of all food produced by 2050, the plan champions urban agtech as a solution, not just as a sustainable and environmental one but an economic one, with the potential to “bring badly needed investment and desirable jobs to neighbourhoods”. It also urges that, “while most cities focus on incorporating clean energy or clean transportation into the built environment, more must concentrate on creating resilient food systems.” Clearly, it’s a rhetoric that is gathering more momentum in the face of climate change, rising energy prices, a disrupted supply chain, labour shortages, an exploding global population, diminishing land . . . a list of issues that seems to grow by the day, one that is calling out for a systemic change in how the world will feed itself. Yet it is extremely encouraging that is becoming more amplified and on a growing platform, this plan being a significant case in point.
The plan goes some way in laying out a detailed, practical roadmap to increased food resilience in urban food systems, while emphasising the challenge ahead.
The Economist’s 2020 Global Food Security Index shows that, overall, worldwide food security is deteriorating, with almost 80 per cent of the world today depending on imported food; a stark contrast to the 1970s when the majority of countries around the world were mostly food self-sufficient. The weakness in our own food system which has been laid bare over the past two years shows that the UK is nowhere near prepared for any further knocks in a volatile economic climate, one that is only set to get worse before it gets better, as the Bank of England announced its highest interest rate in 13 years. The nation imports around half of its food, including 45 per cent of its fresh vegetables and 84 per cent of its fresh fruit, despite the fact that more than 70 per cent of its land is used for agriculture.
The plan urges that “as a baseline, cities should aim to grow 30 per cent of the fruit and vegetables consumed within their borders by 2030”, which has already been implemented on some parts of the globe. The UK can learn from initiatives such as Singapore’s “30 by 30” drive, as well as similar strategies being adopted by Paris and Brussels, demonstrating serious commitment to ramping up their own food security.
While there is a long road ahead, on an upbeat note, there is plenty to be positive about. What the plan does is reinforce why things must change now and how game-changing resilient urban food systems would be for the UK and the planet at large, thanks to the pioneering wonders of agtech, leveraged by “a clear vision and focused political leadership”.