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What is sustainable agriculture and what are the advantages?

29 January 2020
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Sustainable development is a term we are hearing more and more these days. But what exactly does it entail? And is it something we should be considering right now?

What is sustainable agriculture?

Sustainable development is defined as ‘economic development that is conducted without depletion of natural resources’. 

Where this meets our industry, sustainable agriculture is born.

For this, sustainability must extend to three primary facets:

  1. a healthy environment (ethical government of the natural resources which the farms rely on)
  2. economic profitability (a farm that contributes to the economy as a profitable business)
  3. social interest and equity (dealing fairly with employees, maintaining public health and having a mutually beneficial relationship with the local community)

Sustainable agriculture methods

As sustainable agricultural practices grow and technology advances, a few principles have stood out over time.

  • Crop rotation
  • Promoting biodiversity
  • Planting cover crops
  • Applying Integrated Pest Management (IPM) or using natural pest predators
  • Building and maintaining healthy soil (through soil enrichment and tillage reduction/ elimination)
  • Smart integration of livestock and crops
  • Managing water wisely
  • Using renewable energy or making more economical use of fossil fuels

What are the advantages of including sustainable development in our farming practices?

  • The greatest advantage of sustainable agriculture is its contribution to environmental conservation. Replenishing the land, implementing waste management to lower pollution, and efficient efficiently using natural resources makes sure that future generations are not only able to have their basic needs met, but also allows them to take over from us in time.
  • In learning to work smarter rather than harder, another benefit is that costs are reduced and profits increased.
  • In eliminating hazardous pesticides and fertilisers, we contribute to maintaining public health safety by supplying produce which is safe for consumers, workers and the surrounding community.
  • Better living conditions are ensured for you, your employees and your livestock. Sustainable agriculture aims to provide fair wages and good living and working conditions. This aids in productivity and job satisfaction. Furthermore, free-range animals are treated more humanely and with more respect under sustainable principles.
  • A wide variety of plants and animals come from the biodiversity encouraged by sustainable farming.

Success Story: The coffee industry

Jonathan Robinson, founder of Bean There Coffee Company, has implemented sustainable development into his trade. Coffee is one of the largest agricultural commodities in the world, and its impact is equally large.

“Coffee brands that want to remain relevant in 2020 and beyond, should adopt fair trade practices in coffee purchasing,” says Robinson. “Consumers are looking for ways to cultivate conscientious coffee habits, and they’re expecting their favourite brands to follow suit. Growth areas for coffee will be directly or indirectly influenced by the general trend towards sustainability.”

These consumers are also willing to pay more for sustainably developed produce. This is the mark of a good sustainable cycle.

Why now?

With the major population increase, climate change, varying diets, and so much more affecting the planet, we are first in line to initiate changes which will have a positive effect on the world in the long run.

We can provide what our ethically-minded consumers are looking for, as well as contribute to the greater good in the process.

To use a metaphor in the form of a popular Chinese proverb: The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second best time is now.