When we talk about regenerative farming, how it benefits the planet often takes centre stage. However, restorative practices also generate significant social and economic value and contribute to a more equitable, profitable and better-nourished society.
Healthy crops mean healthy people
Imagine a world where we breathe fresh air, drink clean water, and fall sick less often.
By eliminating the use of chemicals and synthetic products through employing restorative methods, we reduce contamination in our food, air, and water supply and in turn, our exposure to toxins.
Studies also show that regenerative agriculture grows more nourishing food, supporting our gut health.
These things improve our quality of life and reduce strain on healthcare services and government spending on social welfare while increasing overall productivity.
Healthy crops are tasty crops
Healthy crops also taste better. Methods that work with nature, not against it, cultivate plants that photosynthesize more efficiently, supporting the production of lipids. Lipids are a diverse group of organic compounds that provide the plant with crucial insulation from the environment, and play a vital role in developing crops' flavour and aroma profiles.
Supporting the transformation to a redistributive economy
Governments and big corporations remain skeptical about the feasibility of regenerative agriculture to feed a population projected to pass 9 billion by 2050, with a third of society already without access to adequate food. Yet, over one third of food produced by conventional methods is wasted, pointing to gross inefficiency and imbalance in the current system. With only a handful of companies commanding the global food system, most resources are in the hands of the few, resulting in less risk diversification and reduced market transparency.
Regenerative management focuses on local solutions that improve resilience and increase yield through methods like greater crop variety and focus on soil health to produce more nutritious food. These practices secure access to affordable, healthier food that can withstand supply chain shocks, to meet the basic needs of societal well-being.
From value extraction to value creation
What business wouldn't want to invest in land that produces more reliable, higher-yield crops (thanks to healthier soil) and can be managed with lower operating costs due to fewer external inputs like fertiliser and pesticides?
Chart 1: How various practices affect operational finance
Regenerative agriculture's benefits to the environment directly drive economic value, in the form of net profit increase, land value appreciation and ecosystem asset sales, something we have seen firsthand in our Restore fund project in Bali.
Farmers at Astungkara Way adopting complex rice systems and other regenerative practices, including integration of livestock, which have led to an increase in profit.
Frameworks like the Taskforce on Nature-related Financial Disclosures (TNFD) provide guidance for businesses to shift capital flows towards nature-positive solutions like regenerative agriculture that create long-term value.
Chart 2: Farmer's profit after the implementation of climate-smart agriculture (System 1 refers to the early stage of implementation 3-5 years; stage 2 refers to post-stage 1 period).
The importance of collaboration
To grow adequate, nutritious food to feed a growing population without further exploiting the planet, there needs to be a shift towards the collective management of our planet's finite resources. Along with decentralisation of power and a greater sense of accountability, public and private investment will need to combine, and this is where organisations like Zero Foodprint Asia fit in by bridging the gaps between resources and redistributing them to transform the food system through funding and education.
Smith, P. (2023) The Most Important Outcome of Regenerative Agriculture: Profitability. Linkedin. Retrieved from: https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/most-important-outcome-regenerative-agriculture-patrick-smith/?utm_source=share&utm_medium=member_ios&utm_campaign=share_via
World Business Council for Sustainable Development (2023) Cultivating farmer prosperity: Investing in regenerative agriculture. World Business Council for Sustainable Development. Retrieved from: https://www.wbcsd.org/Projects/OP2B/Resources/Cultivating-farmer-prosperity-Investing-in-regenerative-agriculture