Agriculture is one of the world's largest industries. For years it has been pivotal in alleviating poverty, improving incomes, and providing food security for the marginalised in society. With the world’s population multiplying, the demand for agricultural commodities has risen tremendously in the past few decades.

In several parts of the world, food production is significantly impacted by climatic changes such as the increased frequency of storms, droughts, and other extreme weather events, thereby altering regional growing conditions and making them less predictable. Several new technologies have been identified to overcome such issues that can transform the entire food chain, from production and processing to consumption and waste management.

Urban agriculture, commonly known as urban farming, refers to growing plants and rearing animals that produce food within a city or town. Because of technological upgrades, humans are now able to grow food in places where it was previously difficult or nearly impossible. Urban farms can be either traditional small community gardens or modern indoor vertical farms.

Nabeela Lakhani was one of ten farmer-entrepreneurs in the pilot programme of Square Roots Grow, an urban farming accelerator in New York City. For 12 months, each farmer was given a 320-square-foot steel shipping container where they controlled the climate of their farm. Under pink LED lights, they grew GMO-free greens all year round. The crops thriving inside the 45-foot long metal boxes were fed hydroponically, using a liquid nutrient solution instead of soil. Being trained in artificial lighting, water chemistry, and nutrient balance, these farmers harvested 15 to 20 pounds of produce each week.

“One of the biggest problems I have with the current industrial food system is that it has stripped food down to a profit-making commodity, driven by money and power rather than nourishment,” said Nabeela.

“I hope that this technology will usher in a new age in which people will increasingly gravitate toward hyper-local, pesticide-free crops. As all we are looking for - is food that we can trust.”

Urban agriculture is experiencing burgeoning popularity, with gardens springing up in many cities in Australia, Canada, the United States, the UK, France, and New Zealand.

Food insecurity is especially rife in high altitude mountainous regions and has a serious bearing on the health of local residents. Because of prolonged winters and limited growing seasons, their basic nutritional requirements remain unfulfilled, thus resulting in malnutrition among women and children. In Tajikistan, 18 per cent of children under the age of five are stunted( low height-for-weight), and 6 per cent have a low wasting ratio (low weight-for-height). Facing high levels of undernutrition,  it is one of the focus countries for the ‘Feed the Future’ global hunger and food security initiative. To further combat these issues, the Aga Khan Foundation has also demonstrated the construction of greenhouses that allow people to grow vegetables locally, fulfil basic nutritional requirements, and earn some extra income.

Last year, an emergency project was planned to reduce Tajikistan's vulnerability to Covid-19-related food insecurity. This project aimed to benefit an estimated 12,000 people directly and about 80,000 indirectly. It focused on increasing agriculture production and output by providing critical irrigation infrastructure and improved access to quality agricultural inputs such as seeds and fertilisers. The Aga Khan Foundation, with the support of the Government of Switzerland, has successfully launched the project in 12 districts of the Khatlon region, Gorno Badakhshan Autonomous Oblast, Sughd region, and Rasht Valley of Tajikistan.

As the world population grows toward nearly 10 billion people in 2050, demand for food is expected to grow by more than 50 per cent. More effective and responsible production practices like advanced farming operations, conscious supply chains, and new market opportunities will be needed to meet this growing demand in the years ahead. As we rapidly reach the limits of what our natural environment can endure, new technologies like vertical farming, precision farming, and many others will hopefully build a better future for humankind.