Our thoughts on feeding people without putting more pressure on land

Anxious about the climate?

A burning rainforest, a growing appetite for meat, lack of fresh water and a warming planet: there is still hope. The solutions come from blending tradition with technology and understanding what is not working. Most of all, we must not become apathetic. Deciding where to focus our attention is key in tackling the ecological crisis, especially the question: “What can I do?”. Science points toward some key areas of focus for moving forward (facts and figures for this post come from land use reports released this year from the IPCC and FAO).

Current state of ecosystems
Let’s take a step back and really understand the current status of land use. Humans have appropriated seventy percent of the land on earth. We use it for infrastructure (1%), croplands (12%), timber growing (22%) or pasture lands (37%). The remaining thirty percent of earth’s landmass is intact ecosystems, ice sheets, and barren land.

Ecosystems at risk means humanity at risk
Protecting nature — the healthy ecosystems that remain intact — is of particular importance (and if you have seen the most recent BBC/David Attenborough collaboration, Our Planet, you’ve heard him make this point). Intact ecosystems provide humanity with necessities that technology cannot match. The prerequisites for human life come from nature. In order to sustain life on earth we need food, fresh water, oxygen, wood, biochemicals, genetic resources, climate regulation, disease mitigation, pollination, and nutrient cycling — all of which come from our natural ecosystems.

Agriculture creating land and resource pressure
Forests, in particular, have a substantial role in providing these resources, but currently cover only nine percent of earth’s landmass, and continue to drastically decline.

The increasing global appetite for meat is driving much of the deforestation. The number one reason for setting fires in the Amazon is to clear land for crops and livestock pasture. The growing need for cropland to feed livestock drastically diminishes our planet’s ability to sustain human life. Livestock production accounts for 14.5% of global greenhouse gas emissions contributing to the increase in average global temperature. Furthermore, intensive monocropping (like soy, corn, or wheat) is a direct threat to the our ecosystems. Monocultures overexploit land, withdraw 70% of global freshwater resources, and decrease soil biodiversity and its ability to hold carbon and nutrients.

Rising global temperature, burning forests, and degraded soil have led to more extreme weather conditions (drought, storms, and flooding are all becoming more frequent), putting further stress on our natural ecosystems. In order for nature to remain resilient in a warming climate and the consequent freak weather, we need to provide ecosystems with adequate space for them to replenish and recover.

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Tackling the problem with win-win solutions
Mushlabs aims to increase the range of intact ecosystem by focusing on industrial nutrient surplus for food production. We simply cannot continue to expand our livestock and monoculture agricultural system. Instead, we need to look at the opportunities for growth within the current system. In true circular fashion, we see a lot of the opportunities in what others might call “waste”. Close to thirty percent of our food is wasted. What if our food waste could be used as a nutrient source that not only decreases the global food waste footprint but also reduces how much meat we consume?

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At Mushlabs, we are anxious about the current state of our planet and we began our journey with the question “what can we do?” As a company, we are dedicated to relieving pressure on our agricultural land. Our production system utilises vertical space rather than clearing forests, we upcycle nutrients that would otherwise be wasted, and most importantly, our products compete against meat, curbing our appetite for the number one most resource intensive food item we became obsessed with.

Read more about our technology at www.mushlabs.com/technology. Are you also anxious and frustrated about the climate and the food system? We are always looking for mission-driven talents to join us.

Written by

A biotech startup using fermentation to create the next generation of sustainable foods from the roots of mushrooms. www.mushlabs.com

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