30th November 2017
When humanity first discovered agriculture over 12,000 years ago, the natural way to grow and obtain food was through basic principles that hold similarities to organic farming. The discovery of agriculture initially triggered a significant change in society and the way in which people lived by creating a continuous supply of food. Fast forward to modern day agriculture and the Green Revolution of the 20th century heralded the use of new agricultural practices that while reinventing the industry, substituted sustainability and environmental protection for yields at all costs. Agriculture, as we know it today, implies the use of synthetic inputs and unsustainable practices that produce sufficient yields but with the negative externalities of environmental pollution and other side effects for human health. This current form of agriculture was developed to avoid a food crisis as the global population boomed and with the goal to produce more agricultural goods at a better price and higher yields, without consideration for the issues our generation faces today.
After years of not paying attention to the world´s needs, we are facing now a major threat to our conventional way of living: climate change. The impact of climate change on agriculture is undeniable, but the impact of unsustainable agricultural practices has also contributed to the increasingly critical climate change issue, creating a vicious cycle of detrimental results. The effects of changes in temperature, atmospheric carbon dioxide, extreme weather events and soil desertification are all contributing to putting our global food supply at risk. According to UN forecasts, food demand is expected to rise as much as 14 percent each decade, while today’s world population of 7.2 billion is projected to reach 9.6 billion by 2050.
Source: Primal Group (2017)
Gro Intelligence, a consulting and advisory company focused on agriculture, has been working to fill the gaps across the global food industry. Their research revealed that the world will be cumulatively short of 214 trillion calories by 2027. This substantial calorie deficit is equal to 379 billion Big Macs, which are more Big Macs than McDonald’s has ever sold in its existence to date since 1940! This outcome claims that the factors influencing the agricultural sector are leading us to a tipping point where a global food crisis may be less than a decade away. With demand almost guaranteed to surpass existing agricultural systems in their structural capacity to produce food, supply will no longer keep up with demand. In the worst-case scenario, this could lead to a crisis in human’s most primal of needs, food.
With humanity facing threats to our food supply, we are turning our eyes again to the natural, green and sustainable way of producing food. Why? Organic farming offers a sustainable alternative to traditional agriculture. The way to plant, cultivate and harvest crops offers a tenable path to satisfy our basic needs through regenerative practices and without needing to give up increased efficiency from recent human developments in infrastructure and technology. In order to increase the agricultural production over recent years, we have developed new farming techniques such as vertical farming, hydroponics, and no-till farming. While these innovations provide some solutions to our impending food crisis, these alone will not be enough to fulfill the world’s food demand up until the century’s midpoint. Technological innovations alongside organic agriculture can help bridge the gap in this looming crisis.
A recent study published in the journal Nature Communications reported that organic agriculture can help feed the world while reducing environmental impacts. The research found that by combining organic production with: a vegetarian diet, ways of cutting food waste, and a return to traditional methods of fixing nitrogen in the soil instead of using synthetic fertilizers, the world’s projected population in 2050 of more than 9 billion could be fed without increasing the current amount of farmland used, a resource that is already under increasing pressure.
To avoid a global food crisis and stop the damage caused by conventional agricultural practices, we need to implement sustainable farming systems to feed the world with organic agriculture. Alongside technological advances, these organic farming practices will benefit the world through a reduction in synthetics and chemicals used on crops, an improvement in the condition of available arable land, the cutting of greenhouse gas emissions and deterrence of environmental damage. A 100% conversion to sustainable farming systems and organic farming has the ability to reduce impacts for a range of environmental indicators like disruption of the nitrogen cycle and water usage. At present, 172 countries are collecting data on organic agriculture with more than 43.7 million hectares of farmland globally being classified organic. The regions with the most organic farmland are in Oceania (40%), followed by Europe (27%) and Latin America (15%).
Source: FiBL Survey (2016)
The traditional supermarket industry is facing a revolution as the rise of the Internet has provided greater access to information about the processes involved in food production and the inputs to create the world’s food. A clear example of this new trend was shown with Amazon’s purchase of Whole Foods Market for $13.7 billion in June 2017. This acquisition revealed Amazon’s intentions to become a major force in the global food and groceries market. There is a prevalent trend of Generation Z and millennials increasing their commitment to sustainability across all walks of life, but this movement originated through demanding clarity and good practices within the food supply chain. The world is taking a step towards the creation and establishment of a more transparent food chain with more consumers choosing organic foods than ever before. Over 80% of US households now contain at least one organic food product, helping to shape a global market valued at $80 billion in 2015. This market is expected to reach $320 billion by 2025 at a compound annual growth rate of 14.8%.
We must continue to work towards regenerative and organic agriculture rather than the current system reliant on fulfilling consumption through depletion. The actors involved in agriculture must take responsibility for our own health and support green initiatives to trigger a snowball effect in changing the industry through organic practices and to increase food production while reducing the detrimental impact of climate change and traditional farming methods on the environment. Organic farming produced without the use of synthetic agrochemicals has been found to be environmentally safer, more nutritious for the consumer and more profitable for the producer. This sustainable food system relies on multiple interconnected factors like diets, animal feed production, agricultural input usage, and food waste that need to be improved to achieve a truly environment-friendly supply chain for food.
At Primal Group we are working through an organic cultivation system that values sustainable farms, health, communities and the environment; we are working to promote intercropping, soil fertility, nutrient cycles and a better food waste management at our plantations. As a generation, we have the ability to reframe the old narrative and practices of agriculture to one that secures global food security through a structural change towards a more sustainable farming industry incorporating biodiversity, restoration, and environmental protection.