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Regenerative Agriculture

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Regenerative agriculture is an increasingly used term to describe farming – think “organic” or “sustainable” as other categories in the same family. It is meant to convey a holistic approach to agriculture that puts the health of ecosystems as well as human communities next to crop production value. Importantly, there is no current consensus on the exact description or measurement of these practices, and its use is growing. As this term is shaped, and its value in the market evolves, it will drive large opportunities for investment in different aspects of the agricultural systems and their intertwined ecological and human communities.

The 3 primary buckets that make up Regenerative Agriculture are outlined below

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Justin Freiburg

Managing Director at Yale Carbon Containment Lab

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Soil Health

  • Soil quality and health

  • Water quality

  • Carbon sequestration

  • Biodiversity

  • Seed preservation

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Animal Welfare

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Farmer & Community Wellbeing

  • Economic resiliency of farms

  • Livable wages

  • Increased food security

  • Under represented minorities increasing land ownership

Why is Soil Health so important?

Improving soil health improves land productivity, long-term sustainability, and importantly helps store a significant portion of carbon - all important in fighting climate change and providing food for a growing global population.

Improving Soil Health is the most agreed upon pillar of Regenerative Agriculture
The main practices included in Regenerative Agriculture to increase soil health and biodiversity

THE KEY DIFFERENCES ACROSS DEFINITIONS (LIST)

3 Examples of Regenerative Agriculture in practice and used be non-profits and for profit organizations

1. Macro

1. Danone

2. Soul Fire Farm

3. Regeneratie Organic Alliance

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Where does the term Regenerative Agriculture come from?

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Social inequity and RA

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Construction Site

Forecasting the opportunity for RA

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What's Next 

-Misuse: Greenwashing

Label confusion

Label creation

Here are some helpful resources for further readings:

Overview of Sustainable material management

2021 State of the Industry Report: Next-Gen Materials

Examples of Circular Design Solutions

STOP (below for extra design specs)
Bioplastics from wood
Kitchen items

A research team led by Dr. Yuan Yao and Dr. Liangbing Hu successfully created bioplastic from wood byproducts using a simple manufacturing process. Currently available bioplastic materials don’t have comparable mechanical strength to fossil fuel plastic. However, this bioplastic has high mechanical strength, stability when holding liquids and UV-light resistance, is biodegradable, and has a lower life-cycle environmental impact when compared with petroleum-based plastics and other biodegradable plastics. 

Mushroom-based Styrofoam
Wild Mushrooms

Several companies have created sustainable alternatives to Styrofoam using mushrooms. Among these are packaging materials created using low value agricultural waste streams as feedstocks for growing mushrooms. The mushrooms in turn are used to create biodegradable and recyclable packaging.

Key Challenges

Exhaustion

All physical resources are finite. Some materials are so widely available that their exhaustion is of no concern, while others are very scarce. When a certain scarce material becomes in high demand for one or more specific applications, we are at risk of its depletion.

Limits to Recycling

While recycling is critical for prolonged usage of existing resources, there are thermodynamic limits to recycle and recover materials close to their original state. Both theoretical and empirical evidence show that the work/energy needed to remove every bit of impurity from a near-pure material increases infinitely as the purity requirements increase. Hence, considering the energy required to recycle waste materials, recycling may not be the end all and be all solution to waste management

Concentration

Modern industrial production has led to geographical concentration of key resources creating near-monopolistic scenarios for several resources. A well-known case is that of concentration of cobalt. As a leading producer of cobalt, Democratic republic of Congo can create artificial scarcity by limiting export of cobalt, a critical material for batteries used in electric vehicles

Progressive degradation

As a result of limits to recycling, the longer we keep a material in circulation through recycling processes, the more this material will degrade because of impurities. Many modern materials are created by combining various elements to achieve extremely specific set performances. These compounds can, for example, have very small percentages of rare metals that are very beneficial to the material during its lifetime, but end up as unwanted impurities during its recycling stage.

 Waste 

Every product that enters the socioeconomic sphere will eventually turn into waste, sooner or later. Thus, it is reasonable to assert that for each ton of materials that is created, there will be one ton of corresponding waste stream. Waste carries many challenges, from the physical collection and sorting to the introducing contaminants and hazardous substances into the ecosystem.

Emissions

Practically all industrial processes are associated with environmental emissions. These emissions might be airborne like CO2 and methane as well as contaminants that enter land and/or water. Even seemingly emission free activities generate indirect emissions. For example, while power plants operate on renewable energy, they still generate environmental impacts throughout their life cycle—albeit to a much smaller degree compared with their non-renewable counterparts.

Watch Dr. Alessio explain the life cycle of materials, their impact on our environment and ways to mitigate the same.

Here are some helpful resources for further readings: