dr Jovana Vunduk, Researcher at Ekofungi & University of Belgrade

We are a species that is thirsty and hungry.

Most of us are in the least familiar with the global water shortage problem. The issue is widely recognized and followed by more or less regular campaigns.

But we also are in need of food. It may seem like it is easy to solve this problem: just produce more and pay more attention to waste issues during food distribution. Ok, so what do we need to achieve that? A work force, investments, herbicides, fungicides, antibiotics, hormones, breed selection, genetic engineering and, finally, land. To be more precise, agricultural land. “That is the easiest part! We have plenty of land, and if there is enough of money, well, problem solved!” Is this really so? Should we take it for granted?

Let’s think and do some quick calculations. An adequate human diet requires about 180 kg of wheat per person each year. In order to produce that much we need 0.045 ha of land (per person). If we add some meat to this diet, the number multiplies by 4 – requiring 4 time more wheat and thus 4 times more land (about 0.18 ha). If we take into account the global  human population and the land surface of the Earth, there is .25 ha available for each person. But here comes the tricky part: out of 0.25 ha for each person, there is only 0.12 ha of agricultural land available. That is, the fertile, arable and rich earth that can produce food.

The final conclusion is that the Earth simply does not have enough land to support us all.

Are we doomed? In short yes – as long as we stick to a conventional way of thinking. However, if we adopt an innovative approach and produce food on non-arable land, particularly by using materials which are at the moment considered waste – for example through the production of mushrooms – we might be able to escape this cruel destiny.