Industrial agriculture, which is the practice of producing large quantities of food and food byproducts through intensive farming of both livestock and crops, has long been the panacea for our fast-growing world. While it is true that for much of human history, food production was dependent on the numerous independent and family-owned small farms that cultivated a diverse range of crops, things are no longer the same. Large multinational corporations have since dominated the agriculture scene by prioritising profit over ethical considerations, utilising practices that damage natural habitats, and contributing to the production of pollution and greenhouse gas emissions that impact climate change. And now, to reverse decades' worth of industrial farming, which has taken a heavy toll on the environment and since raised serious concerns about the future of food production, will sustainable agriculture be able to preserve the environment as intended?
The second Sustainable Development Goal by the United Nations aims to achieve a world without hunger by 2030 by recognising the interlinkages among several aspects, including that of supporting sustainable agriculture and tackling climate change. But what is sustainable agriculture?
Sustainable agriculture is a farming practice that prioritises the preservation of the environment and the expansion of natural resources while also improving the quality of life for humans and animals. Aiming to meet society's food needs while minimising the negative impact on the Earth's natural resources for future generations, sustainable agriculture simultaneously benefits the environment by maintaining soil quality, reducing erosion, and preserving water. As such, it is clear to see that embracing sustainable agriculture is crucial for protecting the environment, expanding natural resources, ensuring soil fertility, and promoting food security in the future. This approach can also help agriculturalists meet the demands of a growing global population and feed more people with a smaller carbon footprint.
Since agriculture places significant pressure on natural resources and the environment, countries all over the world are becoming increasingly concerned about the sustainability of their agricultural systems — and New Zealand is no exception.
According to Rabobank New Zealand, methane from livestock is a much bigger contributor to the country’s carbon emissions than most other countries. And since the main bulk of New Zealand’s agriculture revolves around livestock production, the livestock sector must play its part in reducing emissions.
Understanding that the thousands of New Zealand farmers and growers are on the frontline of the food and agriculture sector and have a huge role to play in terms of steering the food transition, New Zealand has agreed to lead a new global sustainable agriculture declaration. This initiative aims to boost sustainable agriculture and food systems and effectively tackle challenges revolving around food production. But that does not mean that adopting sustainable agricultural and farming practices alone will suffice in addressing environmental challenges and ensuring food security and nutrition for a growing population.
In addition to this concern, food waste is a huge problem in New Zealand, with large percentages of food wasted from the transition between farm and table. As a matter of fact, according to the Kantar New Zealand Food Waste Survey conducted by Rabobank and KiwiHarvest, an average family in New Zealand throws out NZ$1520 worth of edible food each year.
Therefore, to establish an efficient, circular and resilient food system, food management behaviours will also need to be reconsidered so that a cohesive strategy involving the people and the frontliners can be developed to effect this transition sustainability. And for this, there are actions and initiatives that are progressing New Zealand towards a zero-waste future. Defined as an approach that aims to eliminate or significantly reduce the amount of waste generated by human activities through sustainable practices and strategies, the goal of zero waste is to create a sustainable, circular economy that minimises waste and pollution, conserves natural resources, and reduces the environmental impact of human activities.
It is crucial to embrace sustainable agriculture practices in order to create a sustainable future for the planet and its inhabitants. By prioritising factors like environmental preservation, sustainable agriculture can help to ensure long-term food security and reduce the effects of climate change. Some of the other benefits of creating a sustainable and circular economy include:
Compared to eco-friendly and sustainable farming practices, intensive animal agriculture consumes significant amounts of water, making animal agriculture responsible for a large sum of global freshwater use. And with top-of-mind environmental issues facing New Zealand agriculture, such as freshwater quality, the sustainable farming methods that prioritise water conservation is worth considering. Utilising innovative methodologies like drip irrigation and planting perennial crops with deep roots that require less water while also employing practices like contour farming and filter strips to protect water bodies from pollution.
The health of the soil is essential as it supports life on Earth and plays a critical role in nutrient cycling, water retention, and erosion prevention. Sustainable agriculture practices aim to protect soil health, which helps to ensure its longevity and capacity to sequester carbon, mitigating the adverse effects of climate change.
The practices of industrial factory farming can lead to water pollution, air pollution, and significant amounts of waste containing phosphorus and nitrogen, which contaminate water sources and harm both marine and human life. Transitioning to sustainable agricultural methods can help mitigate these harmful effects and safeguard clean air and water for future generations.
DHL Express recognises its role as a leading logistics company and believes in prioritising environmental sustainability efforts. In line with this, we are committed to reducing our carbon footprint and upholding high social and governance standards. Understanding how carbon footprint can affect business success and the importance of implementing a green culture as part of any sustainability strategy, DHL Express has pioneered innovative green logistics solutions that can help you achieve your environmental goals.
If you are looking to work with a partner that shares the same vision of sustainable development as you, consider opening a business account with DHL Express NZ today.