Urban Agriculture – the Way of the Future?
Dr. Biel is the author of “The Entropy of Capitalism”
By Julian Jackson – Environment and Technology Correspondent
26 Apr 2011
Together with Yves Cabannes, Robert Biel leads the University College London’s Development Planning Unit’s Urban Agriculture research unit, which undertakes a wider range of funded research, consultancy and teaching.
Dr Robert Biel is an author and academic, who works for University College London and has written about sustainable agriculture. More than that, he practices what he calls ”experimental agriculture” in his own allotment and with his students. Biel believes that we are coming to a crisis of agricultural production, and we need to have more ‘Food Sovereignty’, which he defines as greater autonomy over our own food production.
He would like to see more local food production and less reliance on imported and fossil-fuel produced foodstuffs (a famous study by Professor David Pimentel of Cornell University, found, for example, that for every 1 calorie of meat we eat, over 8 calories of fossil fuel input – in the form of natural gas for fertiliser and oil for agricultural machines and transportation, refrigeration, etc. was needed).
Biel describes what first got him interested in food growing: ”In my academic work I was looking at traditional social systems, and I saw that to understand them fully I needed to know about their agriculture and relationship to the land. After a period of time I moved on from the purely theoretical and started growing things – experimenting with ‘No Dig’ urban agriculture using traditional techniques, which were low in the amount of labour needed. I found that a high input of knowledge compensated for a lower input of physical work. It is best to avoid interfering too much and allow nature to do as much as possible.” He found using these methods he could produce nearly enough vegetables for one person on 250 square metres of land.