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Recycling in Farming: Why It Is Important and How to Do It Properly

Twenty-first century farming is mainly concerned not only with WHAT to grow, but HOW to grow it. The huge development of technologies and satellites has made farming more controlled, profitable and effective in terms of management process. But as it happens in any other technological and industrial sector, long-term use of machinery and tools requires appropriate recycling.

As mentioned in the “Agricultural waste” paper by Mónica Duque-Acevedo et al. (2020), ‘Agricultural production has increased more than three times over the last 50 years because of: the expansion of soils for agricultural use; the technological contribution of the green revolution which influenced productivity; and the accelerated growth of population (FAO, 2017c; (FAO and OECD, 2019b). Agriculture produces an average of 23.7 million food tons per day worldwide (FAO, 2017c). This growth in worldwide production has created greater pressure on the environment, up to the point of causing negative impacts on soil, air and water resources (FAO, 2017d), with subsequent influences population health and the sustainability of ecosystems put at risk. Agriculture is responsible for 21% of greenhouse gases emissions.’

World leaders, now, look not only at mitigating the current damages, but also finding strategies to meet the need to produce more food and energy. In fact, the global population will exceed 10 billion people by 2050 (Monica Duque-Acevedo at al., 2020).

Within UNSDG, one of the key climate actions is recycling. Agricultural waste can be divided into natural and non-natural wastes (Chartered Institute of Waste Management). Natural wastes come from manure from animal breeding, and post-harvest losses. Non-natural wastes are pesticide containers, plastics, bags and sheets, tyres, batteries, clinical waste, old machinery, oil, packaging waste, and others.

According to the WWF-UK Hidden Waste Report 2022, ‘about 3.3 million tonnes of food is lost and wasted on farms in the UK each year […] Previous research has demonstrated that much of the food loss occurring on farms is beyond the control of the farmers, driven by poor system practices and policies. 48% of the food loss which occurs is pre-harvest, i.e. food left on fields, driven by decisions made post farmgate (e.g. standards and specifications) and an inflexible, broken food system.’

Lack of weather and soil information and/or low connectivity also influence local farmers’ decisions on waste. When Farmer Charlie’s team visited Cȏte d’Ivoire, it emerged that the lack of data on water irrigation levels, on weather patterns but also on sale and market prices causes huge post-harvest losses in the country. Cooperatives, plantations and local farmers all need technology that could help them save their crops and sell excess production.

How should farmers treat their wastes?

First, they should work out a policy to regulate waste management. It means that non-natural waste like plastic, bags, containers, etc. should be sorted and disposed of properly. Old machinery can be repaired, sold to other farmers, or sold as scrap metal.

Second, when buying technology they should enquire about the producers’ recycling policy. For example, Farmer Charlie’s policy sets out that when the life of a tool ends, it should be returned to Farmer Charlie for appropriate further utilisation. This way, we control that no sensors or other pieces of equipment remain unused in the fields.

Third, they should think about methods of processing their production while avoiding natural wastes. Let’s consider the example of cassava (manioc). Cassava is harvested by hand extracting the plants, then collecting the tubers. The peel and leaves of each cassava fruit generate remarkable waste, which you can recycle: for instance, the peel can be used for feeding poultry, and the potential of the plant to produce biomass and energy has been explored (Vincent Ifeanyi Okudoh et al., 2014).

Farmer Charlie app helps you decide how to manage your crops and recycle waste. Farmer Charlie advises farmers on the optimisation of their activities and quality of their yields, giving access to farmers’ hubs and farming practice support.

We call farming of the 21st century “wise farming” because of the application of modern technologies, waste management, and the attention paid to the farmers' welfare. We stand for sustainable development and help small and medium farmers to grow.

-Marina Novokhatska

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