The Importance of Sustainable Agriculture

By Abigail Smith

Earth’s population is rapidly expanding and with that expansion comes the need for more resources. According to Huffpost, “the global population is going to reach 9 billion people by 2050 with the need for food production to increase by 70% to meet the demands of a booming population.” Today, more than one billion people around the world will depend on farming for their means of income. Although farming is essential for the production of human food, the expansion of the earth’s population has become a growing concern for the possibilities of producing that much food with limited natural resources left. In addition to this concern, food waste is a huge problem in the United States with 30 to 40 percent of food wasted from the transition between farm to table. These unsustainable practices create a stronger need for innovation within the agricultural industry. 


What is Sustainable Agriculture

Sustainable agriculture is designed with the intention of preserving the environment, expanding the earth’s natural resources, all while creating a quality of life for animals and humans. Sustainable agricultural allows for the desires of society’s food and textile needs to be met without the fear of inhibiting the earth’s natural resources for future generations. In addition to preserving the earth's natural resources, sustainable agriculture benefits the environment through helping maintain soil quality, reducing erosion, and preserving water. In order to maintain a sustainable lifestyle, agriculturalists focus on certain criteria in order to compete with current sustainability practices. This criteria consists of creating a healthy environment, while ensuring economic profitability in addition to maintaining social and economic equity. Every member of the food system can manage a sustainable lifestyle through remaining consistent within this criterion.


Current Sustainable Trends

Some examples of important trends in the sustainable food and farming practices is the creation of alternative food options through diets such as veganism. An example of this trend in animal sustainability is eliminating animal-based products from human diets in an effort to preserve and protect animals. Beyond Meat is one trailblazer within the food industry for their work with sustainable agriculture, with their ability to create a burger that tastes like meat but utilizes no animal products. Beyond Meat's mission is to create a sustainable burger “made up of four building blocks: protein, fat, trace minerals, and water. Beyond Meat finds these same building blocks in the plant kingdom to rebuild meat from the ground up without sacrificing taste or texture. Building meat without the animal requires fewer resources, making it a much more efficient and sustainable process.” Companies such as Beyond Meat are important in the wave of sustainable agriculture due to their ability to create a product that mimics a meat burger but without the harmful effects it has on the environment and animals. 


Advantages and Disadvantages to Sustainable Agriculture

There are many advantages to practicing a more agricultural sustainable lifestyle. 

One advantage of sustainable agriculture is eliminating typical farming practices which often takes up large amounts of fertile land through a single crop approach. This typical form of farming is an example of unsustainable agricultural practices. This oftentimes ruins landscapes and requires farmers to spend an unnecessary amount of money on acquiring more land. Through sustainable farming practices, single-crop agriculture is eliminated by placing multiple crops on the same plot of land by combining tall, sun-loving plants with shorter shade-loving plants. This approach enables farmers to grow more crops using less land while also preserving the environment. Although with this approach, one of the biggest disadvantages to sustainable agriculture is that you are unable to grow as many crops at a single time considering a more sustainable approach typically leads to fewer crops in one plot so plants don’t leach nutrients out of the soil. For farmers who want to continue to produce mass agriculture, sustainable farming practices are often hard to abide by.  

Another advantage of sustainable agriculture is eliminating cruelty behind factory farming by decreasing the brutal treatment of farm animals. Before the wave of sustainable agriculture, typical farming practices consisted of packing large quantities of animals into tiny cages in order to preserve farm space. This practice not only contributes to the horrific mistreatment of animals but also contributes to the spreading of diseases, which oftentimes results in infections and deaths within the farms. Sustainable agriculture creates a humane environment for farm animals by limiting the quantities of animals per farm while also implementing a healthy plant-based diet with sufficient room for animals to roam.

Lastly, sustainable agriculture has the ability to significantly reduce water pollution by eliminating harmful fertilizers that seep into run-off water and ruin the natural environment. Methane production pollution is a potent greenhouse gas that is harmful to the earth’s water and atmosphere. Unfortunately, most of this methane comes from the practice of industrial cattle farming. Through sustainable agricultural practices of crop rotation, the use of natural fertilizer and minimizing animals per farm pollution can be significantly reduced. This reduction not only benefits air quality, but it preserves the earth's natural resources that could be greatly harmed through methane. 


Companies working with Sustainable Agriculture

In regards to companies that are already paving the way in the sustainable agriculture sector, Osaka Gas Co., Ltd. produces and supplies natural gas primarily in the Osaka, Kyoto, and Hyogo areas. The company provides gases and energy products for residential, commercial, and industrial customers. Osaka Gas also constructs and maintains gas supply lines. Another company, Dominion Energy, offers natural gas and electric energy transmission, gathering, and storage solutions. They are focused on "focused on providing safe, reliable and affordable energy while investing time and funds to serve human needs and environmental stewardship." These companies are just a few of the many trailblazers that are working to preserve earth’s natural resources through the wave of sustainable agriculture. 

Future of Sustainable Agriculture

In regards to the future of sustainable agriculture, many believe by the time earth’s population reaches 9 billion we will be fully depleted of many natural resources that will require alternative sustainable solutions. This gives us 40 years to make a change towards sustainable lifestyles in preserving our agriculture and food sources. Sustainable agriculture is not the only step in the wave of preserving our planet, but it is an important building block in taking preventative measures in order to maintain the resources we have left. 

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