Industrial Farming

March 25, 2011


: Edward Burtynsky (National Geographic)
Summary Author: Elizabeth Kolbert (National Geographic); Jim Foster

The photo above showing greenhouses galore in shades of beige, tan and sepia was taken above Almería Province in southeastern Spain. On the arid plains of Spain, produce is grown under the world's largest array of greenhouses and trucked northward to various distribution centers. The advantage of greenhouses is that they’re able to use water and nutrients more efficiently than conventional farming methods. In addition, they can churn out crops all year long – even tomatoes in winter, for instance. However, growing grain crops and producing more beef under glass is a different matter. The global challenge today is to increase sources of protein, which is essential for many key body functions, particularly in locations where food production is now deficient. It currently takes 38 percent of Earth's ice-free surface to feed seven billion people, and yet two billion more mouths will need to be fed by mid century. For more about the challenges of modern agriculture and the Age of Man, see the March 2011 issue of National Geographic Magazine.