How will we feed over 9 billion mouths in 2050? At the heart of this question are the people who grow our food. Combining technology and ecological innovations, these five farmers are sowing the seeds for the future of food security.
The future of the food we eat is central to the wellbeing of the planet and its inhabitants. In our regular Smart Farmer column, we support and promote the work of farmers advancing clever practices in areas such as energy, waste, soil health, and supply chain stability. Some are pioneering the latest data collection devices; others are adopting well-worn eco-friendly traditions.
You reap what you sow, and these farmers know that tackling issues like biodiversity and food waste is not just smart for the environment or our health – it’s smart business. Here are five smart farmers who are truly growing a better world together.
A pig farm with a negative carbon footprint
Edwina Beveridge, Blantyre Farms, Australia
2,200 pigs produce a lot of gas. But Edwina Beveridge has turned a problem into a solution. Using in-ground methane digesters she transforms the greenhouse gas her pigs create into enough energy to fuel her farm, and more. “We are no longer releasing methane into the environment,” says Beveridge. “That feels good.” Using manure as fertilizer and food waste products as pig feed, Blantyre Farms is a model of circular innovation.
Pasture farming in Chile makes the most of natural resources
Cristian Swett, Manuka, Chile
“You can’t have a successful business if you don't take care of the environment,” says Cristian Swett, CEO of dairy company Manuka. The former salmon farmer travelled to New Zealand to study grass management and grazing techniques, which he took home to Chile. Manuka is now the largest pasture-based dairy producer in the country. The company’s environmentally friendly outlook isn’t altruistic, Swett maintains: “It’s a long-term business necessity. It’s just common sense.”
Follow the data: less fertilizer for higher yields
Derk Gesink, Potato farmer, The Netherlands & Denmark
Derk Gesink is a ‘precision agriculture’ acolyte. Using tools like drones and sensors, he’s been collecting data on his potato farm for the last four years. Productivity has increased since he began applying insights from the data he’s gathered. “As a result, we use less fertilizer,” says Gesink. “We now only apply it where and when it will really make a difference.” Those are some smart potatoes.
Sharing salt farming solutions for shifting soils
Marc van Rijsselberghe, Salt Farm Texel, The Netherlands
Over 1.5 billion hectares of land globally are too salty for food cultivation – and climate change is making the problem worse. On the small Dutch island of Texel, Marc van Rijsselberghe has been researching salt-tolerant vegetables, and he’s sharing what he’s learned with farmers across the world. If these crops prove viable in other countries, he says, “it will mean a breakthrough for the world’s food problem. Millions of hectares of saline soil will once again be available for agriculture.”
The citrus orchard that transformed a community
Cristina Kress, Frutika, Paraguay
When Cristina Kress’ family started a fruit farm in Paraguay in 1977 there was nothing around but jungle. Since then, Kress has helped turn the area into a flourishing town with steady employment opportunities, housing, healthcare and schools. In addition to organic fruit cultivation and juice production, education and technology are key to Kress’ vision. The local school now has mechatronics and robotics classes, and will offer a technical degree program focused on agriculture.