Potential food production and bottlenecks

Not all water supplies are equally usable, and not all methods of growing food are equally productive or cost the same.

The Feeding Tucson study will examine the food potential and potential bottlenecks of 7 different approaches to growing food.  Each one is different in its water efficiency and land efficiency, and capital, labor, nutrient and seed requirements.  Many of them produce different kinds of food.

The primary growing methods that Feeding Tucson will examine are:

  • Gardens – soil-based and operated primarily with volunteer labor
  • Urban farms – soil-based of any size and commercially operated
  • Food forests – Permaculture forests of useful perennials and annuals
  • Edible landscapes – decorative landscapes using edible and useful plants
  • Controlled environment systems – capital-intensive and highly efficient, primarily aquaponics
  • Grain production – arid-adapted grasses with supplemental irrigation
  • Dryland production (dryland plants with very limited supplemental irrigation)

Each technique requires different inputs of water, nutrients, capital, labor and seed, and produces different amounts of different kinds of food in a given area.

For example, a garden can use direct rain, actively harvested rain and groundwater, but not street runoff, in most cases.  A Permaculture food forest could tap into 10s of thousands of acre-feet of currently wasted street runoff, but it would only need small amounts of groundwater for establishment and in times of drought.

For each method of growing, the key research issues are how much:

  • Water does it take to grow a given amount of food?  (pounds per gallon)
  • Land does it take to grow a given amount of food? (pounds per square foot)
  • Capital, labor, nutrients, and seed does it take for a given area of land? ($/SF, Hrs/SF, # compost/SF, # seed/SF)

With these metrics, and the renewable water supply estimates, it will be possible to calculate the maximum production and costs for creating a sustainable and resilient food supply for Tucson

You can help

For most of these (other than conventional agriculture) there are few sources of information.   If you know of potential information sources for any of these, or would like to help — PLEASE CONTACT ME


Creating a Secure Food Supply with our rain