Published by City Farmer, Canada's Office of Urban Agriculture


Urban Agriculture Network - Western Pacific - Monthly Newsletter

APRIL 2004

Official monthly newsletter of the Urban Agriculture Network Western Pacific. Published by Nettworx Publishing Pty Ltd, 32 David Rd. Holland Park, Queensland 4122, Australia, Phone +61 7 3411 4524; fax: +61 7 3411 4526. Mobile: 0412 622 779. Editor and publisher: Geoff Wilson. Production editor: Katherine Wilson.

This newsletter is sent free to registered subscribers to the free information services of Nettworx Publishing Pty Ltd. The Urban Agriculture Network-Western Pacific is part of the globally-operating Urban Agriculture Network Inc., based in Washington DC, United States. The network was set up in 1992 under the auspices of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).

Should you not wish to receive this newsletter in future please email:

We Must Build Defences Against Food Terrorism

Recent expansion of global terrorism must trigger more focused development of increased food self-sufficiency in towns and cities of the world. It makes such sense for other reasons too especially climate change that now appears inevitable. Changing patterns of rainfall, temperature and humidity can now be expected to disrupt current agribusiness systems relatively slowly over the next 50 years.

Not so food terrorism. It can strike at us at any time.

It is not in the public interest to list the many ways food terrorism can affect all of us adversely. That merely hands ammunition to the common enemy. It is much more sensible to take a positive look at how we can build as much resilience as possible into our food supply web -- especially though better urban organic waste management.

In the world's developed countries we are mostly dependent on a supermarket system of food supply. It is an efficient system, albeit one that is of concern about the way it harshly squeezes its suppliers, and is becoming concentrated economic power that may not always be in our best interests. Key facts to now ponder about the increasing dependence on the supermarket food supply chain are:

* At any one time it has a mere 10 days to a fortnight's supply of food available as cost-cutting just-in-time logistics hold sway.

* It is heavily dependent on efficient road transport, with fresh food being carted from 500 to 1,000 kilometres or more from farm to processing plant to food store, in many instances.

It takes little imagination to foresee very real problems for developed countries resulting from terrorist disruption of efficient supply and transport of our food. So far food terrorism has not happened. But Murphy's Law applies: If it can happen, it will, and at the worst possible time.

Urban agriculture is one counter-measure to food terrorism that must now be considered and developed.

This was the undercurrent of concern I observed at the Urban Agriculture Symposium at Dallas, Texas, USA, in May 2002. While the symposium's 34 papers well-emphasised all that is positive about urban agriculture, the questions and informal discussions revealed much concern by agribusiness professionals in academia about potential terrorist threats to the existing global food supply chain.

I will be reporting the US responses to the food terrorism threat that began at the Dallas seminar.

Fortunately there is a convergence of new food production technology with the perceived problem of food terrorism. Advances in hydroponics, aquaculture, hydroponics, vermiculture, probiotics, rooftop farming, and a host of other relevant technologies mean that we can grow, economically, much more of our fresh food either in cities, or on urban fringes of so-called peri-urban agriculture. Lack of space, soil fertility and rainfall are no longer limitations. We can grow healthy fresh food abundantly if we wish to, in relatively small urban spaces and with greater certainty because of controls we can apply.

Importantly, we can grow an increasing volume of our food through innovative recycling of urban organic wastes -- which are really plant and animal food that has come from distant farms to towns and cities, and is currently passed through to waterways and the sea, to cause unwanted problems of pollution. Good business people know that behind most threats lie opportunities. The threat of food terrorism is an opportunity in disguise for global urban and peri-urban agriculture.

UrbanAg-2004 Conference For Professionals, June 25 and 26.

UrbanAg-2004 is a conference for professionals in urban agriculture disciplines that will be held in Brisbane, Queensland, Australia, on June 24 and 25, 2004.

It is expected to be the first of urban agriculture conferences organised every two years by the Urban Agriculture Network-Western Pacific, in collaboration with governments and organisations representing professionals.

The program is currently being finalised, but its major focus will be urban agriculture opportunities for sub-tropical Brisbane. Planning for projects in urban rooftop farming and in sustainable development of housing with community gardens, will be featured.

UrbanAg 2004 will focus on Brisbane as a city that has the potential to become a globally-important center of excellence in urban agriculture using both high and low technology.

The conference will try to better outline the future of urban agriculture in the Western Pacific region. Mr Geoff Wilson, President of the Urban Agriculture Network Western Pacific, is convening the conference.

He is an internationally-operating freelance journalist specializing in urban agriculture, microfarming, organic and inorganic hydroponics, aquaculture and aquaponics. Mr Wilson recently accepted an invitation to join the Board of Advisors of the Urban Agriculture Network Inc, based in the United States, but operating globally.

Mr Wilson said that urban agriculture as it was now being developed was much more than the growing of food in suburban backyards or on urban fringes. Now that the worlds first degree course in urban agriculture has begun at the University of Georgia in the United States, it is a discipline that brings serious food production to cities, plus a range of other benefits, he said.

I predict that other future-thinking universities, colleges and high schools will soon be considering urban agriculture and microfarming as an important part of education aimed at better city living, and at improved studies of the environment.

The benefits of current urban agriculture practiced around the world now include significant improvement in:

* Urban-based food security protecting ourselves from either natural causes (eg.droughts) or from terrorism.
* Urban planning for sustainable food production around clusters of homes.
* Organic waste management to reduce greenhouse gas emission from landfill especially through rooftop farming, and to reduce fossil fuel use.
* Water harvesting to reduce urban rainfall flows that cause needless urban flooding, and in grey water use.
* Physical and mental health of urban dwellers through plant and animal interactions.
* Environmental restoration and remediation.
* Encouragement of local native flora and fauna.

All these urban agriculture topics have important spin-offs in education and business opportunities, Mr Wilson said.The 2004 conference will better define the opportunities for Brisbane and for other cities of the western Pacific. It is anticipated that UrbanAg-2006 will be held in Singapore and then return to Brisbane as UrbanAg-2008.

The UrbanAg Conference Board of Advisors currently comprises:
* Jac Smit, President of the Urban Agriculture Network, Maryland, United States.
* Professor David Midmore, Foundation Professor in Plant Sciences , University of Central Queensland, Rockhampton, Australia.
* Professor Lee Sing Kong, Department of Education, Singapore.
* Dale Gilbert, Director, Built Environment Research Unit, Queensland Department of Public Works, Brisbane, Australia.
* Dr Lynette Morgan, Suntec Hydroponics, Tokomaru, New Zealand. (the world's leading scientist on organic hydroponics).

Further information:

Urban Aquaponics Seminar At Bribie Island, June 19

A one-day Aquaponics Seminar will be held at the Joondoburri Conference Centre at the Bribie Island Aquaculture Research Centre on June 19, 2004. Urban aquaponics will be featured in one paper by the Urban Agriculture Network-Western Pacific.

Aquaponics is the convergence of two technologies aquaculture and hydroponics. The aim is to use common infrastructure for two enterprises in which the wastes of one enterprise (aquaculture) become the raw materials of the next (hydroponics growing of edible plants).

Global progress on both freshwater and saltwater aquaponics will be outlined and dicussed. The major objective of the seminar is to create a timely body of sound information about global aquaponics that can be disseminated widely. Cost of attendance is A$146 a person. Proceedings will be available.

Speakers so far are: Rebecca Nelson, editor, Aquaponics Journal and John Pade, aquaponics consultant, both from California; Dr Wayne Knibb, senior scientist, and Dan Willett, senior fisheries officer , both from Bribie Island Aquaculture Research Centre of the Queensland Department of Primary Industries; Dr Amir Neori, saline aquaponics scientist from Israel's National Centre for Mariculture at Eilat; Dr James, Rakoci, aquaponics scientist from the Virgin Islands University; Dr Rocky deNys, a director of Tailor Made Fish Farms and senior lecturer at the James Cook university at Townsville, Queensland; Geoff Wilson, President, Urban Agriculture Network, WesternPacific. Several other speakers may also be on the program, Four poster displays will show aquaponic and hydroponic equipment now available from Queensland suppliers.

The seminar is being sponsored by Aquaponics Journal, based in California, United States, and Urban Agriculture Online, based in Brisbane, Australia. It is being organised by Nettworx Publishing Pty Ltd. Further information:

Participants Welcome At The Urban Agriculture Network -- Western Pacific

The Urban Agriculture Network-Western Pacific is welcoming new partipants. The Network was set up in the late 1990s as an offshoot of the Urban Agriculture Network Inc., in Washington DC, United States.

The US-based organisation was set up under the auspices of the United Nations Development Programme in 1992, to be a non-government organisation (NGO) which could help draw important threads together to help advance global food security. So far the major work of the Urban Agriculture Network Inc in co-operation with the UNDP has been publication of the book: Urban Agriculture food, jobs and sustainable cities. The second edition of this book is now being prepared for publication.

The Urban Agriculture Network-Western Pacific operates in harmony with the US-based organisation, but is completely independent and autonomous. Its current major supporter is Nettworx Publishing Pty Ltd., which provides it will free hosting on the Urban Agriculture Online website.

Activities planned for 2004 include UrbanAg 2004, a conference in Brisbane, Australia, on June 24 and 25, for professionals with interests in the many facets of urban agriculture (including urban aquaculture and aquaponics). The conference will try to better define urban agriculture in the western Pacific region, and look at the opportunity for urban agriculture in the sub-tropical city of Brisbane (see above). Further information:

Search Our Site

pointer Return to Contents' Page pointer

Revised Wednesday, March 24, 2004

Published by City Farmer
Canada's Office of Urban Agriculture