Reduce Food Waste
One-third of the food we grow is wasted, and yet nearly a billion people experience hunger. The global food chain is an incredible and complex system that employs more than a third of us. Every step in the food chain consumes natural resources and produces greenhouse gases. The waste of one-third of the food that we produce therefore represents a huge, unnecessary stress on the environment and the economy. Food waste is an urgent problem, and it is one that must be addressed today if we are to feed the growing population of tomorrow.
Silvopasture integrates trees and cattle into a single system in which they work together to sequester carbon both aboveground and in the soil. Trees offer livestock protection from extreme heat and wind, and they also provide better forage. The shelter and improved nutrition increase animal health as well as the production of milk, meat and offspring. In return, cattle provide natural weed control and fertilizer. Farmers reap the financial rewards from this decrease in inputs, and the trees provide a more diversified income, shielding farmers from financial risk.
Regenerative agriculture’s aim is to continually improve the health of the soil by restoring its carbon content. More carbon in the soil means more life in the soil, including beneficial microbes, making plants more resilient and pest-resistant. Examples of regenerative agriculture include no tillage, adding a variety of cover crops, no or reduced pesticides and synthetic fertilizers, and multiple crop rotations. These practices also increase organic matter, fertility and water retention, and they address problems such as pests, drought, weeds and yield.
Whereas industrial agriculture sows a single crop over a large area, tree intercropping and other regenerative practices plant a variety of crops in the same space. This not only improves soil health, but leads to healthier crops and higher yields with lower inputs. In addition to increasing carbon content in the soil, tree intercropping allows different crops to work together to protect one another from severe weather, erosion and excessive sunlight. Plants are also enabled to help one another draw nutrients from the soil, and the system creates habitats for birds and beneficial insects.
Wild grasslands are just as dependent on herds of grazing animals as the herds are on the grasslands. Animals eat the grass and fertilize the soil before moving to fresh pasture. The soil and grass thrive in this arrangement, retaining water and carbon and producing abundant and nutritious forage for when the herd returns. In managed grazing practices, cattle are moved frequently to mimic the effect of migratory herds on open grassland. Switching from standard to managed grazing can sequester carbon in the soil, which helps reduce carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.
Decomposing organic waste releases methane, but one way to control this process is to use tanks that harness the power of microbes. These organisms work in an airtight, oxygen-less tank to break down the waste into two important components: biogas, an energy source; and digestate, a nutrient-rich fertilizer. Biogas can be harnessed to replace fossil fuels for heating and electricity, reducing demand for sources like wood and charcoal. Digestate can enrich agricultural plots while at the same time reducing landfill volumes and pollutants that find their way into our water sources.