Biodiversity is disappearing from our planet at an increasingly rapid rate. “Current agricultural practices are jeopardising future food production. We need to develop new technologies and methods to make the transition to regenerative farming that restores biodiversity and gives back to nature”, says Wijnand Sukkel, who is an expert in soil and works as an agro-ecologist at the Wageningen University and Research Center (WUR) in the Netherlands. One of the main research areas he is working on today is the “Farm of the Future” where new ways of regenerative farming are tested with all knowledge of the WUR on our current optimised and extremely efficient ways of farming as a background.
We moeten nieuwe technologieën en methoden ontwikkelen om de overgang te maken naar regeneratieve landbouw die de biodiversiteit herstelt en teruggeeft aan de natuur.
Why is biodiversity so important to us?
Biodiversity is an umbrella term for all the different species we have on our planet, both fauna and flora. It is a crucial aspect to safeguard balance and stability in our natural ecosystems, which are much more fragile than we think. Biodiversity ensures clean water, fertile soil and a stable climate.
Biodiversity is not only important for agriculture and food production. It also provides us with natural resources for housing, clothing, fuel and medicines. Without those resources, our very existence is in danger.
Why are current agricultural practices endangering our future?
In many ways, our current systems of food production – characterised by monocultures, mass mechanisation and the use of fertilisers and pesticides – have been necessary and successful. They have enabled us to provide the world’s growing population with affordable food. But today they are overexploiting our natural resources and endangering our future food production.
Current modes of food production are one of the main causes of the worldwide decrease in biodiversity. They are depleting our planet and our natural resources at an ever-increasing rate and contributing to the causes of global warming.
How can we overcome these challenges?
It is necessary to develop food production methods that give back to nature by restoring and even increasing biodiversity while using less resources. At the same time, we need to adapt our agricultural practices to the extreme weather conditions that are becoming more frequent. But the main challenge is to combine these goals with sufficient income for farmers and affordable food for consumers.
The good news is that this can be done. In Lelystad, WUR is working on the farm of the future. The difference is immediately visible. Different crops are spread across the fields, while the field’s edges, ditches and roadsides are in full bloom. The landscape is less monotonous and trees, bushes and flowers are re-appearing. But we are also introducing new technologies: large agricultural machines have been replaced by smaller, autonomous machines. Especially for farming in countries like the Netherlands this may become even more important, as finding the right workforce is also becoming increasingly difficult.
What can Greenyard do to help?
The transition to regenerative farming is not an easy one. It requires much effort and investments in new knowledge and technology. Every link in the chain will need to take major steps. Farmers face the biggest challenge, as they will have to make major changes in their way of working, but they cannot do this alone. They depend on the prices they get for their produce and the know-how and the technology at their disposal.
A company such as Greenyard can connect both ends of the value chain, by teaming up with customers and farmers. If we want to get this really going, we need to support this transition by rewarding the pioneers who are willing to stick their necks out, by offering them better prices, favourable conditions or incentives based on eco-performance. Governments and business also have an important responsibility to raise awareness of the implications of our current food production. We often take the food on our plate for granted, without realising the hard work and the many resources it took to produce them.