Forum Comments

Designathon Initial Concept - Group D21-26
In Concept notes
Stuart Angus
Mentor
Feb 14, 2021
Hi folks, My name is Stuart and I have been appointed as your mentor for the Designathon. I work in the construction sector as a design manager for a civil engineering firm in Scotland and I am excited to be able to help you develop your proposal. I have been vegetarian for environmental reasons for several years so the problem you have focused on is one which I have a keen interest in. I have read your proposal above and will provide some initial comments below which I would be happy to discuss further throughout the course of the week. The concept of a tax/subsidy system that promotes sustainable agricultural land use is a very good one and it clearly makes a lot of sense. You set the scene really well with some good stats about land use but beware hyperbole - how many people are starving worldwide today? The EU's Common Agricultural Policy has come in for a lot of criticism for the way it incentivises unsustainable land use practices, particularly in the context of its 2050 net zero carbon ambitions. Following Brexit, the UK has announced its intention to phase out the current model of agricultural land subsidies and replace it with a regime which incentivises sustainable land use practices such as tree planting. Some questions: Have a think about the current land use tax and subsidy regimes that are in operation around the world. What are the key flaws in regimes already operation in areas such as the EU? Do policies like the EU's CAP get anything right? What aspects would you retain? How would the tax breaks for sustainable land users be funded? Are you proposing an increase in tax for the unsustainable land users? How would you win political support for the changes you are proposing? How would you ensure the system doesn't create perverse incentives i.e. more trees being cleared to more sustainable food crops? (rather than simply converting existing agricultural land. In the second part of your proposal you touch on some of the really interesting ways that engineers are collaborating with the agriculture sector to incorporate more sustainable food production into urban areas. A few more questions that spring to mind: 5. How would you proposals affect urban land use? 6. Should all modern cities be incorporating vertical farming? Are there reasons it might not work everywhere? 7. Have a think about the criticisms of vertical farming - Enough with the vertical farming fantasies: There are still too many unanswered questions about the trendy practice | Salon.com - is vertical farming a real solution or is it a distraction from the real changes that need to be made to combat the issues in food production practices today? I think you need to delve a bit deeper into the different interactions between the engineering and agriculture sectors and try and pinpoint the areas where engineers can play a role in promoting sustainable food production practices: 8. Vertical or indoor farming - how big a role can it play? 9. How can engineers help optimise existing farming practices to deliver more kg of food per acre? Think about the design of irrigation systems etc. 10. How can engineers help reduce emissions in outdoor farming What role could automation play in agriculture? What are the opportunities/risks Hopefully that gives you a few things to think about as you work towards your final submission this week. I will check back each day for any updates - please feel free to throw any questions back at me and I will try my very best to help! Thanks, Stuart
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Stuart Angus

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