In the modern era, industrial monoculture has taken a huge toll on global biodiversity. Large swaths of vital rainforest across the Amazon and Southeast Asia are cleared every year to plant staple crops like soy and palm oil. Clear-cutting has released an estimated 50 percent of the carbon from earth’s soil into the atmosphere over the last few centuries. Monoculture and industrial meat production are shrinking habitat, pushing ever more wild species towards extinction.
But increasingly, farmers and businesses are trying out a suite of new models with environmental and social benefits. Farms are incorporating polyculture and regenerative agriculture which can bolster ecosystems, improve biodiversity, and sequester carbon from the atmosphere. At Expo Amazonica in Lima, chefs and conservationists are working together to build markets for traditional Amazonian foods, saving the plants from extinction and creating livelihoods for farmers. In southern Appalachia, botanists are teaming up with a medicinal plant company to improve native populations. And researchers in California are replacing pesticides with beneficial insects and biodegradable chemicals, while others are building soil health to fight climate change.
This collection looks at business with social goals in the agriculture sector, ones rethinking how we can produce food in accordance with ecology. Often these solutions are very well-established and effective. But the question is generally whether they can prove scaleable and profitable.