Part 1: Summary
Resource management changes continually based on new experiences, knowledge, and advice. Various farming practices depend on where and how agricultural activities are performed. Activities that tend to be sustainable include crop rotation, riparian buffer strips, rotational grazing, and direct marketing (1).
Figure 1. A crop rotation schedule is important for maintaining soil quality, reducing weeds, and improving yields (2)
The overall goal is to create an agro-ecosystem that produces food and fiber. This ecosystem is linked to a food system that produces, processes, distributes, and consumes food. The efficient management of resources is essential when dealing with such complicated systems (1).
Part 2: Application to Greenhouses
Strong food value chains (FVCs) follow a sequential order, to maximize productivity and limit losses.
Figure 2. Six general stages of a FVC
With an affordable greenhouse system, the FVC components are as follows:
Production- The plants grown in the greenhouses rely on the local soil, seeds, fertilizers, and potentially pesticides. The purchased inputs can be limited by reusing seeds produced by plants and using compost as fertilizer. To sustain the soil and limit pests, crop rotation techniques can be established.
Processing- The processing of the raw farm product includes simple steps including washing or cooking vegetables. The crops sold from the greenhouse typically need minimal processing before sale.
Storage- The storage sites for the crops can include technologies like metal silos or hermetically sealed bags. If not available, crops can be stored for days to weeks, depending on the crop. Storage also may not be necessary, depending on the demand for the crop.
Marketing- The marketing of the produce varies based on the market site established. If the crops are sold from a supermarket, there is limited need for advertising. Word of mouth marketing is useful if the crops are sold from home or a local community center.
Distribution- Utilizing expert agents to help secure strategic market linkages, the crops produced from the greenhouses can be distributed. There may also be informal sites established to sell crops, including at home or a local community center.
Consumption- The shelf-life of the vegetables can be increased by refrigeration before sale. Fires, solar cookers, or stoves can be used to prepare the food for consumption.
Waste management- The waste throughout the food production process can ideally be discarded into a compost bin, to be used as fertilizer during another crop cycle.
Part 3: Activity
With a greenhouse or another farming system, analyze the levels at which the practice is sustainable. What resources could be optimized to increase sustainability? What are the benefits of a sustainable system?