I would like to share with you my interest in nature. Especially in agriculture and its long-term perspectives. Moreover, it is a political topic, because Swiss people will have to vote on June 13th on the ban of synthetic pesticides.
On 20th May, I visited “Kalifourrage”, a 650-hectare successful organic cereal farm based in France
This organic conversion was an ethical and a practical choice, firstly to protect the environment and secondly, over the years, they have not been able to continue growing conventional oil-seed rape, because of pests, that have become increasingly resistant to insecticides.
Since 2003, Kalifourrage has been pioneers in organic farming in the region. The Farmers have a new approach to the business. They do not cultivate anymore the classic assortment of barley, rape, and wheat, but they were replaced by alfalfa, milling wheat, organic barley, and buckwheat (high demand from bakers). This difficult conversion lasted 3 years until they found functional and efficient methods, as we can see some examples, below:
- Alfalfa is interesting from an ecological point of view, because it provides a lot of protein to animals. It improves water quality, releases nitrogen into the soil (a fertilizer to ensure plant growth), increases biodiversity, thanks to the crop flowers, which in turn attracts bees, insects, birds, etc.
- Instead, consuming chemicals, they found other methods like using mechanical tools to kill slugs.
Their philosophy is to let the land express itself, sometimes you must deal with the vagaries of the climate, that is why they are constantly looking for diversification and innovation in order to increase performance at the agricultural level.
Some concrete examples that have been put in place:
At the diversification level:
- to building an organic egg farm (economic diversification)
- or in investing in photovoltaic panels (energy diversification)
They won an innovation award from the bank. A special shed was built to capture solar energy, whose warm air will circulate in the shed to dry the hay, so they are self-sufficient in energy. The inspiration came from the drying of hay in mountainous regions.
At the experimental stage, they develop aquaponic. It is a fish farming and cultivation of leafy vegetables such as salads and spinach – thanks to the defection of fish, the plant provides food and cleans the water, which contributes directly to the circular economy.
Economically, they earn more than before, by selling their produce at 2.5 times the price than conventional agriculture, because conventional agriculture is still suffering from low sales prices and high purchase prices for synthetic products. Moreover, they export mainly to Switzerland, which allows them to be quality conscious. Farmers, who want to make an organic transition, could receive state support, or obtain an incentive label (“bas-carbone” – in France). From an environmental point of view, organic farming is a practice with an ecological long-term vision without soil pollution. As a societal perspective, organic farming generates more manual labour and innovation, resulting in more employment opportunities.
Long-term perspectives and new opportunities
In the future, farmers will diversify into energy production like in Jura. During my studies at the HEG, we interviewed in 2019 at Bure (Jura-CH) Claude Etique concerning the methanation and the production of 100% renewable Jura fuel. As a consequence to produce carbon-neutral fuel with agricultural waste and to contribute to the development of the circular economy in the region.
Finally, 100% organic agriculture for 9 billion inhabitants in 2050 could be possible if we reduce food waste and limit our consumption of animal products. It is not only farmers who need to change their way of working, but consumers their way of eating.
If you are more interested about new mecanisation methods in the organic field, I recommend you to watch this video taken in Jura – CH
Cortot,J-F. (2021, Mai). Interview title : “from conventional to organic farming”
California Foundation for Agriculture in the Classroom 2004. “Commodity Fact Sheet Alfalfa” Available: https://alfalfa.ucdavis.edu/-files/pdf/alfalfafactsheet.pdf
The AquaponicSource 2021 “WHAT IS AQUAPONICS?” Available: https://www.theaquaponicsource.com/what-is-aquaponics/
Ministrère de la transition écologique 2021 “Label bas-carbone : récompenser les acteurs de la lutte contre le changement climatique” Available: https://www.ecologie.gouv.fr/label-bas-carbone
Nature.com 2017. “Strategies for feeding the world more sustainably with organic agriculture” Available: https://www.nature.com/articles/s41467-017-01410-w