What is Regenerative Agriculture?
Born in the 1970s, regenerative agriculture is the production of food for humans and animals using methods that enrich rather than destroy ecosystems and reduce the use of natural resources. Even if a photo of a culture that respects nature is worth a thousand words, we take this opportunity to explain this principle to you.
What is regenerative agriculture?
Agricultural land is often demanding on natural resources. The effects of less virtuous practices and the excesses of conventional agriculture are sometimes felt in the landscape, which shows an image of degraded nature. A simple nature photo around overgrown fields will show you! Regenerative agriculture is a way of working the land in such a way as to enhance its fertility, biodiversity and ecosystems.. Also, regenerative agriculture also aims to feed and employ the local population in a virtuous circle.
How is it different from conventional agriculture?
The techniques employed by regenerative agriculture are very different from those employed by conventional agriculture. Most are very easy to set up. Furthermore, the techniques are multiple and can therefore be combined, just look at an aerial nature photo of a regenerative agriculture farm to realize this. The landscape is varied and the distribution of fields less strict and rigid than on conventionally cultivated fields. The regenerative agriculture approach improves long-term results as the soil becomes more fertile and the crops more resistant to climate and pests. Regenerative agriculture techniques are also adaptable to different types of climates and soils: they do not require heated soil or sunny soil.
What is the difference between regenerative agriculture and organic?
Organic farming requires that food be produced without the use of pesticides or fertilizers. It focuses on producing products from the earth without the use of chemicals. While regenerative agriculture aims at the same time the improved production of healthy products for consumption, but above all a land and a natural environment in good health and all the more fertile. Farmers thus resort to a mixture of natural farming techniques, often ancestral, and innovation. In short, regenerative agriculture favors soil health and a landscape that gives the image of a resilient nature even if it has been tamed and cultivated. This strategy is similar to permaculture, which integrates several forms of human activity into a broad concept of the interdependence of natural ecosystems.
What does regenerative agriculture want to address?
Regenerative agriculture aims to preserve natural resources and improve the quality of life of people in rural areas. It therefore acts in the opposite direction to conventional agricultural practices with heavy consequences already visible on our planet such as:
- The destruction of biodiversity by adapting the crops to the local climate and soil, and also by leaving parts fallow so that the soil can rest.
- Soil erosion by maintaining a resistant vegetation cover, by building small dams or dykes to better manage the flow of rainwater and ensure the maintenance of groundwater.
- chemical pollution by favoring associations of complementary varieties, which makes it possible to fight against harmful organisms and stop the use of harmful treatments. However, it can use natural fertilizers, such as compost, and integrate the rational use of organic and biodegradable inputs.
What does the regenerative agriculture landscape look like?
The past decade has seen the rise of regenerative agriculture. From small farms to food manufacturers, everyone is looking for more virtuous ways to operate or to offset their CO2 production, here are some examples.
In the transformation of a family business
The farm of TemukuPupuan, in Bali, Indonesia, had been farming asparagus organically since the 1980s. When the farm was taken over by the next generation, the family decided to modify crops in regenerative agriculture to heal tired soils by the monoculture of asparagus. Today, the farm extends over more than five hectares, of which only 2 are dedicated to the cultivation of edible plants, the rest includes a forest, a compost production center, a product packaging center, etc. The asparagus greenhouses have been converted to growing other vegetables and the farm now produces over 40 varieties. It makes 90 deliveries per week to its customers scattered over the southern and eastern part of Bali. You could take a picture of nature without repeating yourself in this place which mixes different plants and offers a beautiful diversity of fruits and vegetables.
In the reorganization of livestock agriculture
Excessive livestock grazing has a dramatic impact on the desertification of the soil, the landscape and the image of the surrounding nature are often strongly impacted. One thinks in particular of the deforestation caused by intensive cattle farming in Argentina. Without having to eliminate livestock, rotational grazing combined with cover crops and stopping the use of chemical inputs can help reverse the effect of agricultural excesses, including global warming. This kind of practice allows keep carbon emissions in the ground and to offset the CO2 emitted by livestock throughout their life cycle. This can be accompanied by the removal of herbicides since it is the animals that take care of the weeds on the different plots they occupy.
In training the farmers of tomorrow
Launched in 2021, theHectar School, founded by Audrey Bourrolleau and funded by Xavier Niel, is committed to train future generations of farmers in sustainable food through soil conservation. Its startup accelerator in partnership with HEC Paris combines AgriTech, data analysis and regenerative agriculture. If tech gets involved, it is because there is a real challenge in changing the landscape and restoring the image of nature subject to agriculture in France.
Even some clothing brands care!
The Kering group (Gucci, Saint Laurent, Balenciaga, etc.) supports projects using regenerative agriculture methods in the production of natural fibers such as cotton and wool. On their site, they quote:
- Crop and pasture rotation
- Planting cover crops
- Composting and the use of natural fertilizers
- Reduced tillage and the establishment of “ecological corridors”
- The ban on the use of synthetic pesticides, fertilizers and GMO seeds for cotton production,
- Respect for animal welfare for wool production,
- The implementation of innovative and sustainable pricing systems to support local populations.
Behind the photo of flourishing nature which often illustrates these concepts, hides a real commitment to transforming the way we feed ourselves. Regenerative agriculture is based on specific practices with proven results, but which can take several years, so it must be considered in the long term. However, we can start by wondering how the food on your plate was grown and ask questions to those who feed us, industrialists and small farmers!