1. Regenerative agriculture and solutions based on nature
Coffee crops grow alongside other plants in what is known as an agroforestry approach to agriculture.Numerous practices under the umbrella of regenerative agriculture, derived from indigenous knowledge, have been shown to increase soil health and biodiversity, also showing the ability to retain carbon. It is important to note that many farmers also argue that profitability can be significantly increased due to less dependence on expensive chemical inputs, thanks to techniques such as crop rotation, holistic grazing and cultivation of covers that can add nutrients to the soil. More than an explicit set of production practices, this mode of cultivation is known as “agroecology”, and refers to work with, rather than against, nature. This approach is gaining popularity due to the increased cost of fertilizers and pesticides, fragile ecosystems that provide essential services for water and air quality, and increased focus on local and regional food systems.
However, the long-term potential and total amount of carbon storage is still under discussion. Furthermore, any change to a farmer’s process costs time, money and a level of risk. Incentives to transition to more sustainable production practices such as carbon credits, ecosystem service credits and creative financing solutions can play a crucial role in facilitating the transition. Building markets and key infrastructure for cover crops, such as oats and peas, will also help facilitate their wider adoption. And finally, many farmers want to see a guaranteed market in which to sell their crops – ideally one that gives a premium for regeneratively grown products. This means that major food companies must play a key role in opening up these opportunities by leading the market, while ensuring integrity through reporting their metrics and standards.
2. Alternative proteins
The conventional meat industry is one of the main sources of greenhouse gas emissions. And most estimates have shown that if all animal proteins also had to be grazed responsibly , based on current food trends. the earth remains a limiting factor While protein is a necessary component of every person’s diet, there are alternative products that do not have such a high environmental cost. Some of these solutions include aquaculture to help reduce the amount of wild fish caught, as well as mushrooms, insects and algae grown in controlled environments.
However, most of these options have not expanded beyond the search phase. In order to provide alternative options for protein on a large scale, we need to see these solutions being marketed, prices falling by economies of scale, and consumer brands creating more acceptance through research and education. We also need transparency in the supply from alternative meat companies.
3. Controlled environment
Agriculture in a controlled environment is currently the leading solution for regions with scarce water and land resources and can offer urban communities the opportunity to connect with food sources. Including both greenhouses and vertical indoor farms, these types of operations can maximize yield by drastically using less water, less land, and no pesticides, all creating well-paid agricultural jobs throughout the year.
While CEA (Controlled environment agriculture) farms are praised for their many benefits, they have a number of very real problems, such as energy consumption, nutrient supply, and accessibility (both for consumers and new businesses looking to start an indoor facility). These challenges should be discussed openly to encourage more accurate dialogues and inspire new collaborative solutions to address these problems.
Agrivoltaics involves farmers in the field who add solar panels to the top of their fields. The combined use of solar photovoltaic technology and agriculture allows farmers and energy developers to share the same land. This preserves the agricultural character of the rural communities in the area while allowing each party to benefit from it. These projects are particularly promising in areas with excess sunlight, such as those closest to the equator, and when livestock grazing is integrated to control the vegetation around the panels, improving the financial resilience of the farm and adding another income stream for farmers.
Yet today there are few commercial agrovoltaic projects. Data sharing, skills and funding remain extremely low. In order to meet future needs for both energy and food production, agrovoltaics must become a more mainstream solution with government funding, as well as with academic and commercial support
5. Educating future generations
Recent data show that the average age of farmers is almost 60 years – and it is clear that the key to building a sustainable food system is to involve a younger generation of farmers. It has been widely reported that more sustainable forms of agriculture (including urban agriculture and regenerative agriculture) are attracting younger generations. To grow this sector, we must see an increase in training and education programmes geared towards modern and more sustainable forms of agriculture.