Agriculture is facing major challenges to respond to the growing demand for food, calories and fuels, in a world where the population is expected to increase to nine billion in the decades to come. Across the 20th century, industrial agriculture has represented a paradigm shift from the traditional farming system, proving great increase in productivity and efficiency, making food abundant and affordable.
This was the result of the application of knowledge including engineering, chemistry and genetics, new technologies and managerial practices to crop production. At the same time, agriculture has largely ignored the externalities generated by the novel industrial farming practices at environmental and social levels.
At the moment, agricultural systems that rely on mono-culture, large use of chemicals, and heavy mechanization are also contributing to the degradation of key ecologically and socially interconnected processes. These methodologies drive climate change, loss of bio-diversities, erosion and contamination of soil, fresh and marine water eutrophication from phosphorus and nitrogen fertilizers. Consequently, an increasing demand for the development of sustainable agriculture techniques has been raised.
Farming activities are now required to respond to the food challenge while protecting the natural environment being socially fair and equitable, and economically viable and beneficial.