Managing our earth holistically, sustainably and close to nature – this is how regenerative agriculture could be summed up succinctly.
After the broader society has been transparently shown in recent years through various documentaries, educational campaigns and newspaper articles what devastating effects our conventional agriculture has on many aspects of our lives and the environment, the need for change has become out of the question for many.
The quality of our food and animal welfare have been compromised in the long term due to the conventional, profit-oriented agriculture of large industries. In many cases there can even be talk of animal cruelty. In this article we would like to explain why the agriculture practiced so far can make our soil permanently infertile, cause lasting damage to the environment and minimize biodiversity. We also provide information about how the concept of regenerative agriculture addresses these critical points and aims to ensure improvement, rethinking and sustainability in agriculture.
What is regenerative agriculture?
First of all, it is important to note that regenerative agriculture is a progressive process and there is currently no definitive definition for this practice - as is often the case in science, nothing is final here.
The American Robert Rodale is considered a pioneer of regenerative agriculture, who initiated a rethink in the agricultural world with his alternative, organic agriculture. In the USA, regenerative agriculture was promoted with the motto “Put the Carbon Back to Soil”.
The word carbon can serve as a keyword for us here. Because: The living carbon in the soil is largely found in the so-called “humus”. Humus is an important component of our topsoil and a metabolic product of soil life. It represents the basis for soil fertility and thus also for crop yields. Regenerative agriculture aims to restore carbon in the soil by building humus from atmospheric greenhouse gas. This should be done through methods and procedures that support the laws of nature and work in harmony with them.
Depending on the agricultural niche, regenerative agriculture is not only about doing business in harmony with nature, but also about the technical development of commercial cultivation processes in which the soil life and the metabolic activities of the plants are used as a measure for work processes. The same applies to farming with animals. The farmers' processes should be determined by taking into account the plant, the animal, the soil and the formation of humus in the soil. Such processes must be adapted to each individual company in order to do justice to the principles of regenerative agriculture.
Regarding the keyword “principle”: What are the principles of regenerative agriculture?
The 5 principles of regenerative agriculture
Since the 1970s, when Robert Rodale laid the foundations for regenerative agriculture, the following five principles have been developed as the basic principles of regenerative agriculture based on previous experience with regenerative agriculture and the efforts of farmers:
- Biodiversity in and above the ground
- Minimal ground disturbance
- Permanently rooted soil
- Permanently covered ground
- Integration of animals
These five principles may surprise some people, as many people assume that these points must and should be taken into account in agriculture. However, this is not the case. In order to better understand the problem of conventional agriculture, we would like to briefly focus on “intensive agriculture”, i.e. the agriculture that is mainly practiced internationally and nationally.
To what extent is conventional farming problematic?
“Intensive agriculture” refers to various types of agriculture that have been practiced by the majority of farmers worldwide for decades. The aim of this modern agriculture is to generate the highest possible profit and therefore the highest possible yield from the harvest while keeping your own costs low in order to maximize profits. Nutritional quality, animal welfare and ecological sustainability are therefore not relevant factors in this agricultural practice.
Examples of different types of intensive agriculture include agribusiness (marketing and processing of agricultural products by large private companies), the (not so) “Green Revolution” (high-performance varieties) and factory farming (rationalized processes for the highest possible number of units), as well as specialized farming Agriculture (focusing on the production of specific plants or animals).
Factory farming – profit at the expense of animal welfare
The integration of animal welfare is unfortunately a foreign concept to many conventional farmers: factory farming is one of the best-known practices that conventional farmers practice in order to increase their yields and profits.
Horrific practices such as the killing of male chicks, painful milking machines, caging and beak trimming are just a few cruel examples of the impact of these agricultural practices on animal welfare.
Chemical fertilizers – soil disturbance
Our topsoil is not only disturbed by conventional agriculture, but is often even made infertile in the long term by chemical fertilizers. Most farmers fertilize their soil with chemically synthesized nitrogen and phosphorus because these substances ensure very rapid plant growth. In fast-growing vegetables, this chemical fertilization often leads to undesirably high nitrate levels. The soil is also contaminated with nitrates.
Chemical nitrogen fertilization also makes plants more susceptible to pest infestation and compromises the synergistic effects of the microorganisms and soil organisms living in the soil. Chemical fertilization also has a negative impact on the nutrient content and quality of the food grown.
Destruction of biodiversity
Biodiversity, our species diversity, is damaged by conventional agriculture. The conventional fertilizers that ensure quick and generous harvest yields are usually easily water-soluble mineral fertilizers.
These easily water-soluble mineral fertilizers, which are used extensively in agricultural land, end up in bodies of water such as streams and rivers through soil erosion and rainfall, and then often find their way into seas or our groundwater.
This unnaturally high supply of nutrients causes over-fertilization of the waters, which causes excessive algae growth. This algae growth, artificially caused by humans, can in turn cause a lack of oxygen in the deeper layers of the water and destroys the biological balance and the livelihood of many aquatic creatures.
Groundwater contaminated with nitrates not only endangers the health of fish and microorganisms, but also of us humans.
BE THE CHANGE & Regenerative Agriculture
We at BE THE CHANGE see regenerative agriculture as one of the duties of our modern society. It is now up to us to find the way back to nature and to practice agriculture in harmony with it. Not only will nature and future generations thank us, but also our bodies, which will receive natural and nutrient-rich foods in return.
Through regenerative agriculture, which BE THE CHANGE promotes, the soil and nature can recover. With our own innovative projects, such as our SWISS WOW COW project, we generate our own food sources that set new sustainable standards internationally.
For us, sustainability means that our food is healthy and nutritious in the long term and that we not only preserve nature, but also enable it to regenerate so that we can live with it and feed from it in the long term. This requires new paths, which are paved step by step in collaboration with farmers in long-term partnerships. We are proud to play a part in the development and continuation of regenerative agriculture.
BE THE CHANGE produces entirely in Switzerland. The geographical proximity to our farmers allows us to maintain personal partnerships with suppliers and work locally on our own agricultural projects. The distances to our production and factory are only a few kilometers short, which keeps our ecological footprint to a minimum and ensures complete quality assurance and transparency.
Animals, from earthworms to cows, play an important role in regenerative agriculture. They are part of the regeneration process of our earth, air and environment. Biodiversity is a fragile and living complex in which our agriculture, if operated regeneratively and carefully, can also play a positive role. We are actively committed to dignified and species-appropriate animal husbandry, which, among other things, ensures access to pastures and the use of local and species-appropriate feed for the animals.
Through our SWISS WOW COW project, we know the name of every single mother animal that contributes to our products with valuable ingredients that we gratefully and consciously use. The species-appropriate life, the loving care and care, as well as the dignity of every living being are our focus.
Regenerative agriculture is not only close to our hearts at BE THE CHANGE, it accompanies us every day.
We are actively involved in the creation and further development process of regenerative agriculture and see it as one of our cornerstones.
https://www.cleanenergy-project.de/umwelt/umweltschutz/uba-studie-so-schaedlich-ist-die-intensive-landwirtschaft/# :~:text=Landwirtschaft%20und%20Klima,Kohlendioxid%20(CO2) %2D%C3%84equivalents%20responsible .