Regarding COP 26 -held in Glasgow between 31 October and 2 November- it is now necessary to go beyond diplomacy, adopting solutions or practices that contribute to combating global warming. Organic agriculture is one of the most important of these.
It is related to the progressive increase in global temperature (1.1 degrees Celsius since the industrial revolution), which has to remain below 1.5 °C to avoid worse consequences than the already evident floods, heat waves, hurricanes, and wildfires affecting several regions.
In this context, Carbon Farming represents an essential practice to consolidate ecological agriculture that helps reduce carbon emissions generated by agricultural and forestry practices, equivalent to 24% of those emitted globally.
What is Carbon Farming?
It represents an organic farming approach to optimize the rate of carbon sequestration in the soil devoted to crops.
Specifically, soil carbon sequestration refers to the act of removing carbon from the atmosphere to store it in the soil as organic matter, which can remain stable for decades or centuries. It is achieved by taking advantage of plant photosynthesis and making changes to traditional agricultural practices, such as:
- Minimize the use of conventional tillage.
- Plant cover crops.
- Use organic farming methods.
- Plant new forests and restore degraded forests.
- Organic reconstruction, soil mineralization, and depleted arable land.
- Improve forest management.
- Protection and conservation of land with carbon-rich soils.
- Replacement of continuous monocultures with high diversity crop rotations.
- Implement an integrated crop and livestock system.
- Return excess biomass from the harvest to the ground rather than disposing of it or burning it.
- Restoration of riparian areas on working lands.
Many from the Agtech industry and traditional growers implemented these practices concerned about the sustainability of their processes. They have become more widespread as more people become aware of the importance of moving towards more sustainable agriculture.
How does it help reduce carbon emissions and improve sustainable indicators in food production?
Carbon Farming focuses on exploiting a unique characteristic of agriculture: the ability to transform itself from a net emitter of CO 2 to a net sequestrator of CO 2.
Additionally, all regenerative, organic, and other agricultural practices encompassed by the concept improve CO2 capture. Meanwhile, it promotes soil regeneration, water retention capacity, and resilience because they leave behind the intensive exploitation of resources and traditional processes such as tractors, excessive tillage, fertilizers, pesticides, and petroleum-derived chemicals.
Why is soil so important?
Half of the Earth’s entire habitable surface is estimated to be used for agriculture, indicating the enormous impact of destructive processes in this industry on life.
By applying Carbon Farming and regenerative agriculture techniques in general, it is possible to restore degraded soils so that they can once again sequester carbon and retain water, collaterally benefiting biodiversity and reducing pollution.
Is it truly a solution to climate change?
Implemented on a large scale, Carbon Farming has the potential to begin to reverse the effects of climate change.
Results from the Marin Carbon Project, for example, show sequestering just one metric ton of carbon per hectare in half of California’s grasslands would offset the annual GHG emissions from energy use in the state’s commercial and residential sectors (42 million metric tons of CO2).
However, scientific estimates point that 200 billion tons of carbon dioxide must be removed from the atmosphere to reverse the effects of global warming. Of course, Carbon Farming is only one of the many answers or solutions to the problem.
What other solutions exist for agri-food companies to reduce their impact?
Fortunately, the research and efforts of both academics and companies in the sector have paid off, opening the door to several vital practices and methodologies to reduce their carbon footprint and improve their sustainable indicators.
Some worth mentioning -because of their high impact- are:
In vitro meat, mycoproteins (derived from fungal fermentation), and plant-based foods could help reduce the environmental impact of the livestock or meat industry, which produces a quarter of global GHG emissions.
Food recycling features as one of the top food trends of 2021. As a result, companies in the sector can implement it to reduce the waste of raw materials and, therefore, the emission of greenhouse gases.
The use of new technology
The Agtech industry has made significant progress in its mission to integrate technological advances into agriculture that maximize production while minimizing environmental impact and costs.
Agricultural drones, traceability systems, and applied data analysis are the most commonly used technologies. However, it is also necessary to mention solutions, such as natural coatings, to reduce fruit waste.
PolyNatural‘s Shel-Life is an excellent example of this; innovation with a very high impact in terms of sustainability. A 100% natural emulsion (plant-based) manufactured with natural extracts, lipids, and plant polymers. This coating is applied on the fruit surface, reducing Food Waste by preventing dehydration and maintaining freshness for a more extended period.
Unlike its competitors, it contributes to environmental sustainability because it is not a synthetic wax derived from petroleum. To date, Shel-Life has helped save 157,041 cubic meters of water and avoided wasting 273.6 tons of food, resulting in a significant improvement in the agricultural carbon footprint.
With solutions like the one developed by PolyNatural, it is possible to overcome other global challenges, such as food safety and food waste, so it represents a significant contribution to increasing the sustainability of the agricultural industry.