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The conversation around sustainability has been gaining momentum. As people become more aware of their impact, they’ve changed their consumer and purchase behaviours. Businesses had to adapt. The industry had to find new methods and new ways to work. They had to turn to eco-friendly strategies to meet the public’s demands and expectations.
The farming industry took a look at its impact on the environment and it decided it was time to change. Hence, regenerative farming.
Is it as bad as it sounds? National Geographic reports that agriculture accounts for 70% of human freshwater consumption. Furthermore, “chemical fertilizers have helped bring about an increase, as high as 600%, of reactive nitrogen levels throughout the environment.” Nearly half of the world’s land (around 700 million acres) is used for agriculture.
Fertilizers and pesticides pollute the water and the soil. The land is degraded because it is over-exploited. It pollutes the air, especially through ammonia, which causes acid rain. Traditional agriculture can also cause a loss in biodiversity. The industry takes over the land and it doesn’t care about the flora and the fauna.
That’s when regenerative farming comes into play.
What is regenerative farming?
This method has three main goals:
- Build soil organic matter
- Restore degraded soil biodiversity
- The final creation of healthy communities and economies
The concept was born from the realization that the soil has been losing fertility and that the industry has been losing indigenous seeds and knowledge. In the race for mass production and profit, the land came out as a loser.
The produce has lost important minerals and nutritional factors, in favor of lower prices and bigger truckloads. In 50 years, there might not be enough arable topsoil to feed the world’s population. Regenerative farming can come to the rescue.
It incorporates permaculture (a set of principles) and organic farming practices to create a better and more sustainable culture.
It includes practices such as:
- Crop rotation
- Pasture cropping
- Preserve local knowledge
- Create soil that resists droughts
- Restore grasslands
- No tilling or limiting the disturbance of soil
- Create diverse agro-ecosystems to improve nutritional factors
Through education and network building, advocates of regenerative farming hope to promote their views. They are views for a better and healthier future, views should turn into policies.
The benefits of regenerative agriculture
Changes don’t happen overnight. This new farming method takes time to implement and develop. First, society has to change. Before being a change in the fields of wheat and corn, this is a change in culture and mindset. Here’s a list of positive effects to convince traditional farmers and the public.
- Safeguard the environment
- Promote local communities and economies
- Healthier food and products
- Regenerate biodiversity and soil health
- Promote fair trade
- Animal welfare
- Improve watersheds
Regenerative farming focuses on local farmers and growers, eliminating the power of big corporations. It’s a fair trade practice that looks at the details. This agricultural method aims to bring back seeds and knowledge that communities have. Only, profit has erased the heritage.
A study by the nonprofit Regeneration International shows that “transitioning 10-20% of agricultural production to best practice regenerative systems will sequester enough carbon to reverse climate change and restore the global climate.”
Regenerative farming is good for the planet, the people, and the economy. Here are some positive examples to prove it.
Some international companies are already setting an example. Their work pushes others to follow.
- Annie’s. This subsidiary of 154-year-old General Mills offers a regenerative, top-selling, organic mac & cheese. This delicious dish is produced thanks to local Montana farmers who “help pull carbon from the air and store it in the soil.” This practice helps reduce greenhouse gasses and restore the land.
- Patagonia. The famous and iconic fashion brand is at the forefront of sustainable strategies. The company uses only organic cotton for its collections. It collaborates with over 550 small-scale farms to promote regenerative farming, promote communities, and save the planet.
- Danone. The company works closely with over 58,000 farmers worldwide to support local and young workers. Danone makes sure the animals are respected. For example, its eggs are 100% cage-free and 90% of the milk is certified by Validus, which guarantees animal welfare standards.
- Walmart. It might come as a surprise, but this big chain has started focusing on sustainability. The company aims to eliminate carbon emissions and its plans include regenerative farming. It aims to restore 50 million acres of land by working with suppliers that follow practices for the health of the soil and planet. Kathleen McLaughlin is the executive vice president and chief sustainability officer and president of the Walmart Foundation. “Our aspiration is to transform the way products are sourced so that it actually becomes regenerative,” McLaughlin says.
Patagonia, Annie, and Danone have the same aspiration. The goal of these early adopter brands is to become more sustainable and to promote eco-friendly strategies. They have an advantage over eco-progressive consumers and other companies.
The goal of this new agriculture method is to help and heal the environment. It can lower carbon emissions and it can promote eco-friendly practices. It includes the use of electric vehicles or agrobots (yes, they are a real thing) that can pick weeds or plant seeds.
Companies that promote regenerative agriculture will have an advantage in the industry, with the competition and the consumers. It’s an investment for a better, and not just more profitable, future. Agriculture can be the solution instead of the problem.