If we can fix food, we can fix society. Food is at the heart of our communities, global health, and land-use. Through our agricultural systems – producing our daily nutrients and calories – our bodies are in direct communion with the soils. If our food systems and soils fail, so do we.
Land-use has long suffered exploitation and extraction. After two World Wars, we repurposed chemical weapons as pesticides and fertilizers. In a relentless drive to produce cheaper and cheaper food – in a new war against Nature – we poisoned our bedrock. Our soils are now perilously eroded, and foods degraded. A tomato grown today has almost no lycopene left in it, compared to one grown in 1950.
The most widely used petrochemical pesticide is Roundup. Today, Roundup’s use is so profuse, it is impossible to avoid its effects. 99.99% of Roundup never touches a weed. It is found primarily in the runoff, ending up in the water we drink and air we breathe.
There is an 85-mile stretch of land along the Mississippi River, between Baton Rouge and New Orleans, nicknamed Cancer Alley. The area accounts for 25% of the US’s petrochemical production; the incidence of cancer skyrockets.
Meanwhile, 800 million starve while 2 billion people are obese, and a third of all food is wasted.
How can we fix all this?
All it takes is a new relationship with the land. A relationship built on stewardship and care, over exploitation and extraction. This is at the heart of regenerative agriculture.
Regenerative agriculture is an alternative method of farming that focuses on rebuilding the soil and seeks to rehabilitate and enhance the entire ecosystem. Crucially, it is centred on holistic, whole systems thinking and uses the resilient features observed in Nature. Key regenerative techniques include:
Rotation and cover crops – to avoid erosion of exposed soil
Plant diversity – to create rich, varied, nutrient-dense soils
No tilling – to minimise soil erosion and CO2 release
Natural composting and fertilisers; no pesticides or chemicals
Rotational grazing of livestock
The benefits are manifold. Growing plants in healthy soils, not reliant on synthetic inputs, yields richer microbial diversity and superior quality food. Healthy soils also have a higher carbon-sequestering capacity and therefore help tackle climate change. The film Kiss the Ground demonstrates the extraordinary abilities of regenerative farming practices.
Regenerative entrepreneurs, such as those at Farmer’s Footprint, are actively addressing systemic change and scalability challenges facing our food and agricultural systems. They focus on 3 pillars: building awareness through storytelling, education and expanding regenerative learning opportunities, and economics to create financial incentives that support regenerative land management.
African superfood brand Aduna is also regenerating and reinventing food systems. Through their range of nutrient-dense products, they are creating a global market and supply chain for foods such as baobab and moringa. They use regenerative farming techniques to actively improve soil quality as well as supporting the Great Green Wall of Africa initiative, planting millions of trees from Senegal to Djibouti. This land restoration is reversing desertification while supporting thousands of small-scale African producers.
Other entrepreneurs and Positive changemakers such as regenerative design consultancy Terra Genesis International and organic food company AUGA are making waves in the food system through holistic ecological approaches – using Mother Earth as a template rather than a resource to be extracted.
If global food waste was a country, it would be the 3rd biggest emitter of greenhouse gases after the US and China. The UK alone throws away 5 million tonnes of edible food: £15 billion annually.
As well as producing food through more regenerative methods, we must also clearly better manage our consumption. This is the mission of food sharing app OLIO, which today has over 2.6 million users, having shared over 9.8 million portions of food across 54 countries.
They are redefining our food system which views throwing food away more normal than sharing it, while reinventing consumption around zero-waste and community sharing.
Curious to learn more about how we can empower our food systems? Check out our Food & Drinks Toolkit HERE.