Academic journal article The Journal of New Business Ideas & Trends

Sustainable Horticulture in North Queensland: Resistance to the Adoption of Innovations?

Academic journal article The Journal of New Business Ideas & Trends

Sustainable Horticulture in North Queensland: Resistance to the Adoption of Innovations?

Article excerpt

Introduction

The intractable problems facing world agriculture

Food is both elemental to life and wonderful. It sustains and nourishes our bodies, strengthens social bonds through the sharing of food and is intertwined with cultural traditions. Local, artisanal or speciality foods are increasingly sought after by discerning food tourists. In the developed world, it is taken for granted that food will always be there when it is needed. Thanks to industrial farming methods, agricultural output has risen dramatically due to mechanization, use of genetic material and increased inputs, i.e., water and agro-chemicals (UN, 2009). However, conventional farming is chemical intensive, a monoculture and typically focuses on maximising production of a single good without considering the local eco-system (Kirk, 2015).

Agriculture is one of the main contributors to global warming; greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from agriculture have nearly doubled over the past fifty years and could increase an additional 30 percent by 2050, the highest level in history (FAO, 2014). These emissions are due largely to methane produced by livestock, nitrous oxide from the use of synthetic fertilisers and carbon dioxide from the clearing of forests to grow crops or raise livestock. Agriculture contributes to climate change in several major ways and climate change in general adversely affects agriculture (UN, 2009). There are well documented concerns around global agriculture, food and distribution systems. Along with global climate change (Lin et al., 2012; GrowCom, 2014), studies have identified energy use, land clearing, loss of arable land through urban sprawl, water scarcity, decline in water and soil quality, biodiversity losses, the spread of 'super weeds', threats to human health and the environment from over use of pesticides and rise of antibiotic-resistant strains of micro-organisms (Lang & Heasman, 2004; Notarnicola et al., 2012).While consumers worry about the chemical residues on their food, farm workers are often exposed to pesticides, which have harmful effects on human health (Shellhorne et al., 2013). Roughly one-third of food produced for human consumption is lost or wasted globally, which amounts to about 1.3 billion tons per year (Gustavsson et al., 2011) and this has prompted researchers to think of solutions, such as value-adding and the conversion of waste to bio-energy (Lin et al., 2012). Waste is clearly inconsistent with the concept of ecological efficiency.With the world's population predicted to grow to over 9 billion by 2050, and the rising middle class in China and India demanding more animal protein, more and more pressure is being put on food supply. There is pressure on agriculture to produce more food with less land (FAO, 2009). Many solutions have put forward offered to solve the complex problems facing world agriculture. It is argued that greater awareness of the societal costs of degradation and value of ecosystems services is needed; furthermore, farmers need to have a greater focus on management systems-from crop to whole farm to natural resource area (UN, 2009).

Australian agriculture, productivity and sustainability: incompatible goals?

Agriculture has historically played an important role in the development of Australia's economy. Although the size and importance of the industry has declined relative to rest of the economy, Australia's agricultural output as a proportion of the economy is amongst the highest in the OECD (ABS, 2012). The agricultural sector, at farm-gate, contributes 3 percent to Australia's total gross domestic product (NFF, 2012). The value of Australian farm and fisheries food production was $42.8 billion in 2012-13. Over the past 15 years, the value of Australian farm and fisheries food production grew in real terms by around 0.5 per cent a year. Employment has declined in the sector due to the substitution of machinery for labour (DAFF, 2014a). Recently signed free-trade agreements with China, Japan and South Korea are expected to make overseas trade even easier. …

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