Food Sustainability is one of the most important challenges the world will confront in the near future. We face the rapid decline of critical resources—energy, water, and materials—and the deterioration of agricultural land and ecosystems, all needed for food production.

The food production system has a high input of energy from fossil fuels all the way from the farm until food reaches consumer’s tables. Estimates vary, but it takes the investment of around 10.3 units of energy to have 1.40 units of energy of edible food on the table.

Food Sustainability

Food production has an inherited impact on land and resources; however, of all human activities, this is the one we need to preserve to sustain us as species. A sustainable food system will be one that:

  • Produces enough food,
  • Preserves the integrity of ecosystems,
  • Uses resources efficiently (land, water, energy),
  • Uses renewable energy, and
  • Recycles nutrients

The most favorable lands for food production are in areas of low precipitation, so the only alternative to have steady high-yield food production is to use irrigation with water coming from rivers or, most commonly, from underground aquifers. Most of these aquifers are being use at a rate much higher than the rate of replenishment, which eventually will lead to depletion. Rivers are not immune to becoming affected by agricultural irrigation either. A typical example is the shrinkage of the Aral Sea due to the diversion of rivers (for irrigation projects) that fed the internal sea.

After land and water, fertilizers are the third important component to produce food at high yields. Of all fertilizers, phosphorous is the most critical because of the existence of very limited concentrated deposits. With the current practices of food production and consumption, phosphorous is not captured and recycled; it is just released to bodies of water where it creates ecological disasters.

After the agricultural phase, the remaining of the food supply chain has various inputs of energy and materials until food reaches consumers’ tables. But in term of energy, the household phase has the highest consumption due to the use of refrigerated storage and evidently food preparation.

An Energy Intensive Supply Chain

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