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EPCOT – Consider your Objectives

June 24, 2011

The SARE Fellows South Florida tour of sustainable agriculture started on April 11 when everyone flew into Orlando and lasted until Friday, April 15 when we all flew home out of Miami. During that time, we were exposed to a wide diversity of operations. We each also had our personal concept of “sustainable” agriculture pushed to the limit.

Our first day started at the Magic Kingdom, where we were able to tour behind the scenes at the Living with the Land Exhibit at EPCOT in Orlando. Here’s how Disney describes the exhibit:

Living with the Land is a 14-minute boat ride in Future World at Epcot theme park that explores agricultural advances in the rain forest, Africa and beyond.

Set sail on a voyage of discovery through living laboratories as you cruise past the American plains, a tropical rain forest and the African desert to witness the latest developments in aquaculture and desert farming. Float by experimental greenhouses—where produce is grown for Epcot restaurants—and take a fascinating first-hand look at an aqua environment, the Aquacell, with alligators and fish. The greenhouses grow crops native to many cultures, including rice, sugar cane and bananas.

This thought-provoking ride will leave you amazed at the wondrous ways scientists are helping farmers prepare for the food needs of our world’s nations.

Pumpkin Tree

There was a lot of hydroponic working being done, along with beneficial insect usage and very creative displays. The plant collections from the various climates (vanilla, black pepper, breadfruit, ect) was very interesting and in my opinion the best part of the exhibit. The biggest stumbling block EPCOT faced was trying to operate an entirely closed loop system. Actually the system was not completely looped in reality, as much as the concept was showcased for the exhibit.

hydroponic lettuce tower

It was all very interesting, but I was not as impressed as I was expecting to be. To me, the entire exhibition was what people in 1975 thought the future would be in 1995. There was nothing that I considered “cutting edge”. I did however bring home a very important point: Consider the objectives of the operation. The objective of EPCOT was entertainment. Everything developed, implemented or considered for inclusion was considered using one criteria, which was “how will it affect the show”. For example – when asked how much of the produce utilized by Disney restaurants were produced by EPCOT, the answer was “a very insignificant amount”. The reason they go to such great effort to utilize some of the EPCOT produce in the restaurants is so that they have a good answer when asked what they did with the produce. “We use it in the restaurant” is a much better answer than “we throw it in a dumpster”. It helps tell the show’s story.

Tomato Tree

EPCOT Living with the Land Exhibit is a great ride/exhibit/show, as well as a great introduction to agricultural concepts to the unknowing masses. The sustainable lesson I took away from my visit to EPCOT is this: identify, visualize and stay true to the objective of your operation.

 Till next week 🙂

One Comment leave one →
  1. heatherfriedrich permalink
    June 27, 2011 1:44 pm

    Great pictures demonstrating the architecture and design of a production system that is more focused on aesthetics rather than what is the most efficient in economic and production terms. Although these demonstrations may or may not have any application to true production systems, it’s nice to see the plants displayed so beautifully.

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