The future of small-scale agriculture

Many experts believe small-scale agriculture is the future of growing. For those who choose that path, success may be closely tied to controlled environments and the use of agricultural technologies.

To understand how ag-tech drives success in small-scale farming, it's important to first take a closer look at small-scale agriculture: what it is, how it works, and why some envision it as the logical next step for the agricultural industry.

Thinking small
For decades, agriculture has been dominated by a push toward larger farms with bigger grow operations that leverage various means to produce massive yields at low costs. But this kind of farming, sometimes called “factory farming,” has come with a price.

This mode of agriculture is devouring resources such as land and water. In the U.S. alone, agriculture accounts for 80 percent of ground and surface water usage, according to the United States Department of Agriculture's (USDA) Economic Research Service. In many Western states, that number is as high as 90 percent. Big farms require a lot of labor, at a time when available farm labor is shrinking. Big farms also tend to be geographically removed from consumers, which increases food costs and the level of greenhouse gases produced because goods are trucked long distances to consumers.

Small-scale farms offer an attractive alternative.

With smaller farms, there are more options available. Farming can happen all over the world—even in more densely populated areas. With small-scale farming, food is fresh and grown locally year-round. Smaller agricultural systems are also more flexible, adapting to changing climate conditions and showing a greater resilience than large farms, according to small-scale farmers like California farmer Nikiko Masumoto.

Read more at Growlink (Ted Tanner)

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