MegaTrends: Sustainable Agriculture? Is it helping?
MegaTrends shed light on how different industries are collaborating together to shape a new future society. Read MegaTrends to gain a glimpse as to what products or services will become standards in the near future.
The next global MegaTrend is sustainable farming techniques. These techniques seek the greatest possible crop yield while utilizing the least energy input. Additionally, these trends seek to maintain profitability for the small-medium-sized farmers who cultivate the crops that feed the world. According to BASF, a renowned chemical company, 81% of consumers and 78% of farmers, in a survey of seven countries, care a lot about sustainable agriculture.
This trend is also supported by Euromonitor International’s study results. Their results showed that “consumption in 2015 is increasingly being driven by the heart: consumers are making choices defined by their positive impact on the world and community…”
Sustainable farming, also sometimes called agronomy, involves components such as improving water efficiency and land management (Agronomy2015.com.au). For example, in an Australian study of the cotton industry, agronomy increased cotton yield from 1200 to 2270kg/ha between 1970s and 2014. Cotton fiber length was also increased by 97%.
“Farmers are smart and determined people – they have roughly doubled the amount of grains, rice and oilseeds they produce since 1975. Most of that increase has come from yield gains enabled by a combination of improved genetics, new technologies, better agronomics and increased intensification – producing more on essentially the same amount of land” (Oxfam, 2013, pg 48)
1. Agronomy: Water Efficiency
According to the World Watch Institute, between 1997 and 2001, 256billion m3 per year of water has been used globally. Compared to 1996 through 2005, the use of water globally has decreased to 207billion m3 per year. This demonstrates overall that either both individuals and businesses are becoming more conscious of their water use or farmers are employing new techniques to increase efficiency. Cotton Australia, a growers association, reported a 3-4% increase in water efficiency in the past 10 years. US cotton growers have also reduced their water usage by 75% between 1980 and 2011.
2. Agronomy: Land Management
According to Oxfam, sustainable crop management techniques include permaculture and rotational grazing that naturally retain water, organic matter and nutrients. Permaculture is a technique that sustains the natural biodiversity of soil microbes, plants and animals that work symbiotically for growth. This technique has contributed to the increase in efficiency in crop yield since 1975 (Oxfam, 2013).
3. Agricultural Technology
The effect of the technology age has finally reached agriculture with new technologies that seek to make farming more efficient. Some of these technologies include precision farming using GPS systems to reduce costs, reduce waste and increase efficiency. These precision technologies make the farming equipment more web-connected thus bringing the industry into the modern age for the large commercial farmers. Small-scale farmers struggle to find a return on investment for these technologies. This interconnectedness can have effects on the supply chain to cause price increases and volatility.
4. Farmer Livelihood
The German Initiative for Sustainable Cocoa has reported that the global landscape of farmers shows an aging population as well as abandonment for urban employment. Community-based and globally-based initiatives are paramount to maintaining the livelihoods of farmers so as to make this profession sustaining.
Fair Trade labels have allowed small farmers to maintain the costs associated with sustainable farming practices. Organic production has also allowed farmers to rely on soil fertility management and quality management measures that force farmers to be less wasteful with water.
These MegaTrends are changing food production globally with the preferred outcome of more food while expending fewer resources.