Circular economy

Regenerative Agriculture

FARMING PRACTICES THAT CREATE ECOSYSTEMS

Using agricultural methods to get carbon dioxide from the atmosphere back to the soil is known under the term regenerative agriculture [1]. Restorative agriculture is used to build up organic material and revive biodiversity in the soil. In order to achieve this, methods, that support the soil microbiome, reduce input and output of nutrients and enhance growth of plants, are used accordingly to surrounding conditions [2].
The original derivation of permaculture is “permanent agriculture“, representing a wholistic concept for a sustainable life (economic, ecological and social) [3]. Permaculture is a planning system in order to create [4] life-supportive cycles [5]. The aim is to create systems that cover demands, while neither exploiting nor polluting, therefore being sustainable on the long-term. Nature and natural ecosystems are role models. Elements shall be combined in a way that a productive system can develop which is not only stable and robust and has a use for human needs but also forms a living space and food source for animals and plants. Important principles for planning are that one element fulfils more functions and one function should be provided by more elements [6]. Restorative agriculture can also be applied underwater. 3D Ocean Farming is one example. An underwater-garden is created by growing kelp and mussels on floating ropes while having oyster and clam cages on the seabed below. Kelp is known as „rainforest of the sea“ with which a high yield can be realized since it is fast-growing [7]. It can soak up to 5 times more carbon than land-based plants and therefore they can be seen as environmentally friendly source of food [8]. Thanks to the filtering characteristics from shellfish and seaweed of drawing out nitrogen, quality of water may also be improved.
Other areas of restorative agriculture can be operated by using waste water, like for example at the extensive fish farm Veta la Palma in Spain. Through a system of canals and pumps, water is distributed among separate ponds. Apart from only sometimes controlling the amount of the input stream, water is treated and cleaned by plant-based and animal organisms living in the ponds and by some birds from outside the water and then brought back into the water cycle [9].
Future applications might concern fertigation (fertilisation and irrigation) of agricultural processes by using anthropogenic waste water and therefore saving drinking water and reducing the use of fertilizers. Challenges could be the treatment of waste water and waste flows in order to enable uptake of nutrients for plants.

[1] Transition Town Bielefeld e.V., Gerd Wessling, June 2017, http://www.ttbielefeld.de/content/gesundheit-aus-dem-boden-vortrag-von-dr-ute-scheub-forum-offene-wissenschaft
[2] Humusrevolution, Stefan Schwarzer, June 2017, http://www.humusrevolution.de/neudefinition-der-regenerativen-agrikultur-2/
[3] LebensraumPermakultur, Stefan Schwarzer, June 2017, http://lebensraum-permakultur.de/permakultur/
[4] Perma-Norikum,Bernhard Gruber, June 2017, https://permanorikum.wordpress.com/about/definition/
[5] AutarcaMatricultura, Claudia von Werlhof, März 2016, http://www.matricultura.org/pdf/Permakultur_Defnitition_Ethik_Prinzipien_Original_Erweitert.pdf
[6] LebensraumPermakultur, Stefan Schwarzer, June 2017, http://lebensraum-permakultur.de/permakultur/
[7] Kickstarter, Bren Smith, June 2017, https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/greenwave/3-d-ocean-farming-saving-our-seas?lang=de
[8] Eatglobe, Michael Friedländer, June 2017, http://www.eatglobe.com/news/farming/797-farming-3-d-ocean-farming.html
[9] Die Zeit, Wolfgang Lechner, Juni 2012, http://www.vetalapalma.es/publi/101_DIE%20ZEIT.pdf