Chart courtesy of Ars Technica

How do we get enough food and water for 9 billion people, the expected world population for 2050? A recent UK conference had a few interesting ideas.

Restorative aquaculture is a new way to send nutrients from the crops to the fish farms. It makes use of saltwater without desalination.  (Desalination plants are a big problem: It leaves tons of leftover salt with no where to go.)

Dr. Nina Fedoroff, a scientist quoted in today’s Ars Technica post says we need to stop romanticizing the small farmer. Big companies, like Nestl√©, are using small farm techniques that help the environment, and the small farmers benefit from having steady work.

Trying to grow temperate crops in the desert is a problem. California is semi-desert, but grows rice. Saudi Arabia used 88 percent of its water trying to grow wheat. When its wheat production collapsed in 2008, it switched to other crops, but the aquafiers are expected to run dry within 25-30 years.

Last year was the first year there were more urban dwellers than rural, said Sir John Beddington, the UK’s Chief Science Advisor. But fewer farmers mean better farming, as productivity shoots up. Note in the accompanying chart that in all but one case, rising prices continue to rise.

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