Sustainable agriculture is a cost-efficient, socially-oriented and environmentally friendly type of farming. Unlike conventional farming practices, it provides effective ecological solutions in order to meet the certain supply needs of consumers.
What is the cost of environmental sustainability? What is sustainable agriculture’s goal? Is this just another way for the wealthy to maintain a better and healthier lifestyle than the less fortunate? Is sustainable agriculture possible under capitalism at all?
Read on to find the answers to those questions.
The Pitfalls of Current Agricultural Practices
One of the big agricultural problems that gets worse with the increase of population and food demand each passing year is greenhouse emissions. Methane, carbon dioxide and nitrous oxide are being overly generated by the basic agricultural practices like synthetic fertilizing, enteric fermentation, crop burning, and fossil fuels from machinery.
These emissions are inevitably harming the environment and are some of the biggest threats for the planet when it comes to global warming and air pollution. In order to avoid those eco-problems is the application of basic sustainable practices which can substitute the current methods in agriculture.
Harms the Environment
Current agricultural practices deeply affect and alter the environmental balance on the planet. They not only harm the natural habitat of animals but also lead to other serious consequences like climate change, ecosystem failures, resource pollution, biodiversity issues, soil erosion, deforestation, etc.
The environmental degradation caused by unsustainable farming methods leads to a negative impact on water and air quality. Once the natural resources on which we depend as humans are being contaminated, our general health is affected as well.
Wrong agricultural management of natural resources like water, soil, and air, leads to a non-balanced ecosystem. And such an ecosystem is not beneficial and healthy enough to sustain a high-quality life like it should be able to.
The application of chemicals in conventional farming is not a shocking discovery. And while pesticides are considered to be a great treatment for pests, they also kill beneficial insects, contaminate the plants and are really hard to be washed off, directly affecting our health on so many levels.
In the beginning, the frequent usage of fertilizers and pesticides concerns the well-being of the farmworkers as they spend time around the crops, breathing the contaminated air. After the produce reaches the consumers of the agricultural product, the toxic chemicals are passed on into the human body again through consumption.
Most of the pesticides are invisible to the human eye, which makes them hard to spot and wash off. Pesticide intoxication can lead to serious breathing problems, congenital disease, skin allergies and more.
Benefits of Sustainable Agriculture
Public Health Safety
Classic horticultural practices highly depend on fertilizers and pesticides to increase yield and provide a pleasant-looking product for the market. The problem comes when those hazardous treatments harm the health of not only the consumers but also of the cultivation workers who have to breathe the pesticide emissions around the crops on a daily basis. Unfortunately, the agricultural market heavily endorses chemical-treated products that could potentially harm people.
One of the major benefits of sustainable agriculture is that the produce is as natural as possible, without the usage of dangerous chemicals. It’s a healthier option for both farmers and consumers since they are not exposed to the negative effects of toxic pollutant plant treatment.
The problems with livestock waste, soil erosion, infected water and basic air pollution from emissions are also not on the table when it comes to the beneficial methods of organic farming. While the environment is not contaminated, it is safe for the people not only to consume sustainable agriculture products but to live a healthier life in general.
Beneficial for the Environment
Sustainable agriculture is ecologically friendly. Its advanced practices create a stable ecosystem that depends on renewable energy resources. The production life cycle is closed because all the farm waste from plants and animal stock is being reused for produce replenishment and future harvest.
The organic agriculture is using natural solutions to fight soil, air and water contamination, as well as to ensure energy and resource conservation.
Practices such as no-till farming, conservation tillage and use of compost and mulch, are naturally replenishing the soil and avoiding massive air pollution. Capturing, storing and reusing water are good ways to fight the problem with wasted water resources.
Other successful and environmentally friendly methods of sustainable agriculture include cover crops and crop rotation. Through them, growers are ensuring healthy pest management and promoting biodiversity.
There is also a technical advancement in sustainable agriculture. Installation of LED grow lights systems and implementation of drip irrigation systems with water scheduling are solutions that could fully-automate a growing process and provide the perfect conditions for healthy plant cultivation.
By applying those methods in farming, sustainable agriculture proves itself as environmentally beneficial. They promote biodiversity, reduce pollution, prevent pest outbreaks and significantly lower the chance of any disease spreading.
Beneficial for Farm Animals
Sustainable agriculture practices include better routines and manners in taking care of the available livestock. Thanks to the successful methods of sustainable agriculture, farm animals are granted better living conditions and an advanced health care system.
The food provided to the animals in the sustainable farms is of a higher quality than the one to the general farms that cage animals. The living conditions are on a whole other level and the livestock is actually receiving proper medical and quality monitoring.
The most common method that can be applied to grant better conditions for livestock includes raising animals on pasture, instead of closing them up in factory farms. Through humanely treatment and implementing better practices, animals could thrive, grow and develop naturally in a perfectly set-up habitat.
When it comes to economic efficiency, in the long term, organic agriculture surely has its advantages over conventional farming. The overall costs involved in the production of high-quality produce are lower for farmers relying on sustainable agriculture methods. That is logical considering the reusable resources involved in the process and the reduced need of fossil fuels for farming purposes.
Another cost-effective and energy-efficient solution for organic production is the installation of LED grow lights. When it comes to artificial lighting, LEDs’ heat emission is quite a bit lower in comparison with the other types of grow lights. That advantage makes it the best energy-saving solution for a long term period. By implementing the advanced LED technology, farmers grant themselves higher horticulture yield, along with an eco-friendly environmental approach that would not leave them with an empty wallet.
Problems of Sustainable Agriculture Under Capitalism
Organic agriculture is absolutely beneficial for the well-being of human beings. It’s the future of farming. But unfortunately, it’s still not quite affordable for consumers with low income. All the bioproducts that retailers offer on the market are way overpriced than the produce of conventional farming. And that is understandable, considering the additional effort put in the process of providing fully natural produce, free of toxins and contamination.
In 2019, the bioproducts business is at its peak. Even though the organic food demand is high – it is not as high as it should be because it is not financially accessible by the general masses. The cost of environmental sustainability is basically paid by the consumer, while production runs on profits and not on a balanced regulated market.
Unfortunately, with the current economic system, it is quite difficult and nearly impossible for sustainable agriculture to properly run under capitalism.
How Can Sustainable Agriculture Move Forward?
General food demand tends to increase in time due to the excessive growth of the world population. It is expected that in the next 30 years, the overall population will reach an estimated 9.6 billion people.
In order for organic agriculture to move forward, we need to move forward with it too. We are all a part of this world and in order to make a change, we need to start by acquiring healthier and eco-sustainable habits. Small steps like reducing food waste and composting, saving water and investing in energy-saving technologies, could make a better world for the next generations.
The future of sustainable agriculture seems bright. We can hope that those reasonable practices will become a quality requirement for farming in general and that we will eventually substitute the conventional agriculture methods on a global level.
Name: Luis Rivera
Luis has 20+ years of experience in global market expansion, business development, mergers and acquisitions, business re-engineering, finance and investor relations of software companies. He is passionate about technology, spectral science, indoor farming, food production, automation, and more. Since 2015 he is the president of Advanced LED Lights, a leading LED grow lights manufacturer based in Hiwasse, Arkansas. When not at work, Luis enjoys swimming, yoga, as well as growing grapes and flowers in Sonoma, California.