Fertile topsoil is a lively ecosystem, teeming with microorganisms and worm life. It has robust soil structure that retains water well and allows plant roots to penetrate, to breathe, and to forage for nutrients.
But there’s a problem. We’re running through our supply of fecund soil in the U.S. at an alarming rate, with an estimated 996 metric tons of soil erosion over the past century. Conventional agriculture enables—and the tight margins of the farming industry incentivize—short-term bounty to the detriment of sustainable practices. Annual tilling, monocropping and chemical inputs promote an abundant harvest in the near term but ultimately catalyze soil erosion, cause the atmospheric release of stored nitrogen and carbon, compromise the soil structure, decrease water retention capacity, destroy the delicate microbial ecosystem, and make minced meat of the worms. Fostering healthy soil requires playing the long game.
Nobody panic, but honey bees are lousy pollinators.
They get a lot of credit for keeping our crops afloat, and an entire industry has evolved around trucking hives across the country to pollinate plums and almonds in California and tangerines in Florida, but it’s the 4,000 species of native bees who are the heroes of our produce aisles. From teddy bear bees and tickle bees to mud bees and squash bees, the diverse world of wild pollinators is critically important to our farms. In many cases, native pollinators do the heavy lifting while the honey bees get the glory.
With the global population expected to reach nine billion by 2050, new agricultural strategies are needed in order to produce significantly more food on roughly the same amount of arable land—all while using fewer of the world's precious resources. Edible bugs may be a crucial component to meeting these challenges. Insects are packed with nutrients, insect farming is more environmentally friendly than traditional animal agriculture, and bugs can make for good business.
According to a World Resources Institute study, the average American daily diet causes nearly twice the greenhouse gas emissions as the average daily diet worldwide. The same study reports that the average American could reduce the environmental impact of their diet by 50 percent simply by scaling back on their consumption of animals products. A slow but steady push for alternatives to meat is driving innovation and investment in future-friendly food by everyone from Google to Bill Gates to, yes, even Tyson Inc. — the U.S.’s biggest meat producer.
Our oceans are straining under the extraordinary pressure of global demand. Humans eat seafood, and so do our livestock. Even our seafood eats seafood. It’s unsurprising then that ninety percent of our marine fisheries are fully fished or overfished. The repercussions of our insatiable hunger for seafood are both environmental and economic. The industry now loses more than $80 billion annually due to overfishing and decreasing fish stocks.
Creating sustainable alternatives is not only an environmental imperative but also a remarkable economic opportunity. The expansive, lumbering seafood industry is calling for mission-minded entrepreneurs, innovators, and investors to stem the tide of ecological destruction.