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Soya beans before flowering

Sustainable Farming

Brazilian authorities require that new farmland developments are environmentally sustainable and compatible with national and local environmental regulations. Agrifirma’s farming methods are fully compliant with government policy. The company’s strategy is to develop land only in areas where other farm operators have successfully applied for environmental licences in the past.

Our philosophy is that taking care of the environment is the most certain way to obtain the best results from the land which we are developing. Environmentally friendly farming methods make the soil richer and healthier and preserve the land’s potential for future generations.

  • Agrifirma has no operations in the Amazon rainforest or areas at risk of deforestation. The land being developed is typically low density scrubland or pastureland;

  • All set-aside requirements and land preservation notices are scrupulously enforced as a matter of corporate policy. In practice we set aside more land on our farms than is required in law;

  • Brazil has higher set aside requirements than most other countries (20%-35%), and is the only country where farm operators receive no financial compensation for complying with these requirements.

  • Agrifirma has a consultancy arrangement with The Nature Conservancy (TNC), one of the world’s most prominent environmental NGOs, to advise on best environmental practice. We also work with Aliança da Terra;

  • Crop developments are based on state-of-the-art technology, including fertilization, crop rotation, irrigation and weed controls to ensure that our production is sustainable over time;

  • Wherever possible Agrifirma adopts minimum and no-till technology. No-till farming minimises the use of water, saves on fuel consumption and retains natural soil nutrients, which in turn increase yields and reduces carbon emissions;

  • With no-till methods, straw and other organic matter left behind by the previous crop is retained. As a result soil fertility improves, carbon dioxide is retained rather than released into the atmosphere, water is used more efficiently and soil erosion is avoided. Fewer chemical fertilisers and fossil fuels are needed;

  • By adding new grasses on a regular basis, over the life cycle of a farm development, sustainable farming methods ensure that cultivation results in net carbon sequestration rather than a net carbon loss – a major difference from commercial farming operations in the northern hemisphere;

  • Agrifirma’s policy is one of 100% compliance with Government regulations on the use of GMO seeds;

  • We regularly monitor the condition of all water sources on our farms (rivers, ponds and wells). To date we have found no traces of fertilizers, chemicals or any other by-product of our farming activities in the water sources. No underground aquifiers are being depleted.

  • Set aside and preservation areas on our farmland are carefully planned so as to link five rivers and create a continuous living space for a wide range of native species.

  • The success of Embrapa, the Brazilian agricultural research institute, in developing methods to allow the cultivation of previously unsuitable soils is an important milestone in the development of new sources of food and animal feed for the world. The breakthrough was highlighted in an article in The Economist (see “The Miracle of the Cerrado”, August 2010);

  • Brazil is the first country in the world to demonstrate that it is possible to achieve world class agricultural yields from commercial farming in a tropical region. All the main food baskets of the world, such as the Prairies in Canada, the Mid West in the United States and the Steppes in Europe, are in temperate zones;

  • Unlike those temperate zones, where ploughing is necessary to grow crops successfully, Brazilian farms are able to make much greater use of no-till and minimum-till farming methods, which produce better carbon retention and ultimately, with the addition of new grasses, sequester more carbon than they use;

  • The Brazilian model therefore holds out the prospect of a material improvement in the current imbalance between supply and demand in the global market for food with a reduced risk of serious and enduring environmental detriment – a positive development for the welfare of mankind in the 21st century;

  • For that to be realized however, it is important that environmentally sustainable farming methods are both encouraged and implemented effectively. Despite the rapid economic growth of the past 20 years, 60% of Brazil’s landmass retains its native biome and landscape. The comparable figure in Europe, after several centuries of cultivation, is less than 1%.

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