The FAO describes regenerative agriculture as holistic farming systems that, among other benefits, improve water and air quality, enhance ecosystem biodiversity, produce nutrient-dense food, and store carbon to help mitigate the effects of climate change. Many farmers and landowners are considering the switch to regenerative practices but are concerned about its profitability.
This blog post will discuss the potential profitability of regenerative agriculture, and offers insights into managing the challenges during the transition period.
Photo by Stevanovicigor
Transition: the Profitability of Regenerative Agriculture
Are you (consider)in(g) transition to regenerative agriculture? Research and real-world examples demonstrate that regenerative agriculture practices can be profitable for farmers and growers. Although profitability may vary depending on factors such as specific practices, location, market demand for regenerative products, and the scale of the operation, there are several benefits to adopting regenerative practices found by the Rodale Institute:
Improved soil health: Regenerative practices can improve soil health by increasing organic matter, soil biodiversity and water retention, reducing soil erosion, and promoting natural pest control. Healthier soil helps farmers save cost, e.g. on irrigation and expensive synthetic pesticides.
Increased resilience to climate variability: Regenerative practices can make farms more resilient to droughts, floods, and other extreme weather events, reducing the risk of crop losses.
Market premiums and subsidies: A growing number of consumers are willing to pay a premium for products from regenerative agriculture systems. Additionally, government subsidies or incentives may be available for adopting these practices.
Carbon sequestration credits: Regenerative practices could sequester more than 100% of current emissions of CO2. Farmers can be able to participate in carbon markets and receive payments for their contributions to climate change mitigation.
Challenges in The Transition to Regenerative agriculture
Adopting regenerative practices is an excellent way for farmers to improve their land, increase the health and productivity of their crops, and support regenerative agriculture. However, there are a number of challenges farmers face when adopting RegenAg practices, as they expressed during the Soil Health expo in Juneau and in this article of op2B.
Financial burden. Regenerative practices require significant investments in money to implement. Farmers need to purchase equipment, supplies, and materials necessary for their new practices. Together with the concern about a yield dip, the concern about finances might be too much to adopt RegenAg practices.
Lack of data driven approach. Regenerative practices require farmers to dedicate time to learn about regenerative agriculture practices and how it can work best for their land.
Lack of support. Colleagues, agronomists and the wider network might not always be in support of adopting regenerative farming, since conventional farming is the most common way used for agriculture.
Put another way, with the right financial incentives, data-driven approach and support, the transition will be much smoother!
The success story of Gabe Brown
During the Soil health expo in Juneau, where 180 farmers and crop consultants attended, Gabe Brown shared his success story.
In 1991 he took over the farm of his in-laws who retired. He used the same practices on the 1,760-acre farm outside Bismarck, N.D: tillage, fertilizers, pesticides, fungicides, and conventional grazing practices. 5 years later, he experienced 4 years of crop failures because of storms, and he almost lost his farm.
He decided to change his story and started regenerative agricultural practices step by step. He started with no tilling and allowed biomass left from the previous harvest to lie. Later he started using multi-species cover and companion crops, as well as managed grazing techniques. In 2010, he also eliminated synthetic fertilizer use, fungicides, and pesticides. He only used a small amount of herbicide. At every step, he monitored the results closely. Eventually, he had lower input costs, improved soil health, and eventually higher yields.
How to manage the transition period
Transitioning to regenerative agriculture can involve upfront costs and may require a shift in mindset and management practices. Here are some strategies to help farmers navigate the transition period:
Educate yourself: Read books, attend workshops, and engage with experts and practitioners in the field to gain a deeper understanding of regenerative agriculture principles and practices. You can also educate yourself with our FAQs.
Assess your land: Conduct a soil test and evaluate your current farming practices. This will help you identify areas for improvement and determine what changes you can make to move towards a regenerative system.
Start doing: You can start with regenerative practices, including making a crop rotation plan to maximize diversity, start conservation practices to increase soil health and integrate livestock into your farming system. You can read more about regenerative agriculture here.
Monitor and adapt: Regularly assess your practices and make changes as necessary to continually improve your system. Keep detailed records of your soil health, crop yields, and other important metrics to help you identify areas for improvement.
Connect with others: Join a local regenerative agriculture community, attend events and workshops, and connect with other farmers to share knowledge, experiences, and support.
Experts we know who give workshops and you can reach out to include: CO2L Farming, Regeneration Academy, Regenerative Agriculture Online Course, Regenerative Agriculture Podcast. You can consider participating in the 4 Returns learning network of Commonland or the global movement of the Savory Institute.
SoilBeat: The app to make RegenAg profitable
You might consider using SoilBeat during your transition to regenerative farming for the following reasons:
Reduce the Yield Dip: With monthly PlantSap analysis, you can detect nutrient deficiencies and intervene ahead of time with optimal nutrients and treatments.
Make Regenag profitable: Increase profitability due to lower input costs, higher yields & resilient crops, premium pricing because of healthier organic products, and using your data to get paid from ecosystem services.
Learning on the job: With our dashboards and recommended tasks, shared with your agronomist and driven by your soil & plant data, you will learn how to interpret soil and plant data. You’ll no longer be guessing what works on your field.
Try SoilBeat and start your journey of making RegenAg profitable! Create a demo account today!
Sources for more information:
Gloria Hafemeister: Regenerative farming practices takes farmer from near ruin to success
One Planet Business for Biodiversity: These regenerative agriculture trials prove that farming can improve soil health without sacrificing yield
White Paper Rodale Institute: Regenerative agriculture and the soil carbon solution