While it is clear that agriculture needs to supply increasing amounts of food to growing populations at low prices, it is also clear that it cannot be achieved in the highly industrial and damaging manner as it has been doing in the last few decades. In fact, there is increasing evidence that this has led to soil degradation and environmental pollution, having also consequences on the health of many people.
For this reason, we have to find a smarter approach to farming, one that guarantees the long-term sustainability of our food production systems.
What is sustainable agriculture?
In order for agriculture to be truly sustainable, it has to be accountable for these three areas:
● The needs of people: It has to help to maintain good public health, improve the quality of life in rural areas and provide nutrient rich food.
● Profit: To be maintainable in the long run a sustainable farming operation must be profitable.
● The planet and the environment: A sustainable food system conserves energy and water, wisely managing natural resources, it values biodiversity and ecology and works within our global natural resource limitations, omitting excessive use of agricultural chemicals.
Sustainable farming system can be pursued through many methods, the following 5 examples are just a few of them!
1. Organic farming
Also known as ecological or ecological farming, organic farming is an agricultural system that uses fertilizers of organic origin such as compost manure, green manure, and bone meal and places emphasis on techniques such as crop rotation and companion planting.
Permaculture is a design system that applies principles that are found in nature to the development of human settlements, allowing humanity to live in harmony with the natural world. Permaculture principles and ethics can be applied to almost any area of living, including local economies, energy systems, water supplies, housing systems, and food production.
Hydroponics is a type of horticulture which involves growing plants without soil, by adding mineral nutrient solutions to the water.
In this system, crops are grown with the roots directly in the mineral solution or with the roots in an inert medium like gravel or perlite.
4. Urban agriculture
Urban agriculture is the practice of cultivating, processing and distributing food in or around urban areas. Today, many innovative and sustainable growing techniques are already being used in cities, including backyard farms and gardens, community gardens, rooftop farms, growing crops in urban greenhouses, indoor hydroponic farms, and perhaps even growing food inside urban farm towers someday.
Polyculture farming tries to mimic the diversity of natural ecosystems, growing multiple crop species in one area at the same time. These species are often complementary to each other and aim at producing greater diversity of products from one plot while fully utilizing available resources. High biodiversity makes the system more resilient to weather fluctuations and it reduces the opportunity for disease and pests to take hold, allowing a smaller use of fertilizers and pesticides.