Farmers and politicians are rethinking the industrial model of agriculture based on inputs due to the negative impact of this approach on the environment, crises in the energy sector, and climate change. Sustainable practices help address negative environmental effects and develop ecosystem services.
Agricultural sustainability can only be established by introducing new farming, natural resource, and food chain management practices. It entails massive social and environmental changes. Agribusiness participants and decision-makers need appropriate new tools to support change and establish sustainability in the industry.
Ecologisation of Agriculture
Diversification in agriculture refers to the development of conceptual solutions, the purpose of which is to strengthen the agricultural sector by forming new proposals for income opportunities. Diversification of the farming industry helps to increase the productivity of different types of crops. It can also provide multiple ecosystem services by implementing a multicultural approach, crop rotation, and intercropping.
This approach also involves reducing the consumption of chemicals and electricity. It reduces the negative impact on nature, including reducing greenhouse gas emissions, soil and water pollution, and helps maintain biodiversity.
Combining diversified agricultural systems with sustainable soil management practices, organic farming, and fertilizer management gives farmers the opportunity to increase yields regardless of the type of crops, profitability, and adapt to climate change. In the long term, diversified farming systems are more resilient to environmental, economic, and social shocks.
An international team of researchers published an article in Science Advances demonstrating that diversification measures the improvement of ecosystem services. According to the research results, diversification helps maintain the previous productivity level or increase it. In addition, applying such practices improves pollination and makes pest control more effective.
As a result, water consumption was regulated, improving soil fertility. As for the climate aspect, diversification has affected it in different ways. In some cases, the result has been increased greenhouse gas emissions.
Composting: The Path to Sustainable Agriculture
Composting is a natural biological process in which bacteria, fungi and other microorganisms turn organic matter into a simpler form. The environmental conditions in the composting process play a meaningful role. The performance of a composting system depends on temperature, humidity, the presence of oxygen and organic matter, as well as the activity and size of the microbial population.
Composting is not something mysterious. It is a regular natural recycling. Microorganisms digest organic matter that invertebrates consume, and then the resulting nutrients support crop growth by returning to the ground. The management of this process is quite simple, and it can be carried out at various scales in any geographical location.
Composting microorganisms require carbon, moisture, oxygen and nitrogen. In the absence or deficiency of one of the elements, microorganisms will not be able to function correctly. This process produces compost free of odor and pathogens at optimum performance. It also reduces the waste stream, including personal food waste. It is the best homemade way to recycle organic waste and helps redirect waste from landfills and turn it into something useful.
Another benefit of composting is the reduction of methane emissions from landfills. In landfills, organic waste ends up under layers of other garbage, which does not prevent the penetration of oxygen necessary for decomposition. It leads to the production of biogas by-products, of which 50% is methane.
Compost helps reduce erosion and improves soil health by containing the nutrients plants need. It is an organic chemical fertilizer initiative. According to research, adding compost also helps increase the soil’s ability to retain moisture.
Agriculture is the primary consumer of water in the world. However, this resource is finite, and climate change may exacerbate access problems. Accordingly, water must be saved to be able to meet the demand of the growing world population for agricultural products and provide this valuable resource to the next generations. Compost revitalizes the soil, improving its ability to retain moisture and better tolerate drought. Farmers can use less water in this way while getting higher yields.
New Tools and Technology
Smart farming is a concept that involves the use of AI and Internet of Things technologies to manage a farm. This concept helps farmers solve various problems in the fields and monitor the influence of climatic factors, soil moisture, and much more. IoT enables the connection of multiple devices (drones, sensors, robots, etc.) via the Internet and combines them into a single system.
Precision farming proposes improving farm management practices, using methods and technologies that increase the productivity of fields and reduce the negative impact of chemical fertilizers and pesticides on biodiversity, soil, and water. Thanks to this concept, growers can significantly save money through a more rational allocation of resources.
Decisions about fertilization, watering, and carrying out other procedures within the framework of this concept are made based on the needs of various types of field crops. In other words, plants and soils receive as many resources as they need, and farmers do not have to distribute them evenly throughout the field. In this way, producers optimize and control all agricultural processes more precisely.
Food chain optimization
Supply chain processes in all industries have soybean complexity. It is due to many functions and interactions with many goals that may conflict with each other. In addition, the relationship between material and information flows creates problems. The agricultural industry’s supply chains are complicated by fragmented inbound and outbound networks. The typical supply chain in this industry is from farmers to intermediate silos to processing plants and finally to the customer.
Thanks to digital and analytical technologies, supply chains can be optimized. Agriculture collects more data than ever before. Agribusiness participants and stakeholders have access to weather data, information on logistics, consumer needs and preferences, and market price volatility. These changes have been driven by increased storage and processing capacity and lower storage costs.
Digital modeling and supply chain simulation are available through digital and analytical technologies. Creating a digital twin of the supply chain includes all the elements and interfaces of the existing chain. It enables the identification of its shortcomings and identifies aspects and components that can be improved.