The intensification of industrial agriculture in the last century (high input of fertilisers and agrochemicals, heavy mechanisation, over-use of irrigation and natural resources, monoculture) has contributed to environmental degradation and loss of agricultural efficiency. It is necessary to reverse course and focus on maintaining ecosystem services to ensure a future for agri-food production, agricultural profits and healthy food. Agriculture contributes to climate change and biodiversity loss, but it can also be a solution to reduce and compensate for the impact on the environment by adopting the agroecological principles that the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) promotes to contribute to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the agroecological transition. Europe identifies agroecology as one of the practices to be supported to achieve the targets of the Farm to Fork strategy, which aims to accelerate the transition to a sustainable agri-food system that is carbon neutral, resilient and climate-change mitigating and supports biodiversity and full accessibility to safe food.
The OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development) defines agroecology as “the study of the relation of agricultural crops and environment”. In agriculture, agroecology seeks to understand how human activity, through agronomic practices, affects environmental components such as soil, air, water, living organisms and their interactions. Agroecology is based on a systemic approach supporting sustainable production in line with nature and ecosystem services, focusing on nutrient recycling, production diversification and careful management of biodiversity and soil fertility. This approach allows farms to be self-sustaining over time. Organic farming, as well as biodynamic farming, conservation agriculture and precision farming, are examples of agricultural practices that follow the agroecological approach.