Sustainable Farming Practices that Boost ROI
Watch this short video to learn how Bravante Farm Capital brings sustainability to farming and learn why it is important to and helps the environment while being good for profits and investor returns too.
Farming, arguably one of the world’s oldest occupations, has changed drastically over the years. Farming has become especially nuanced in recent years, as new technologies, mechanization and fertilizers have helped ranches become more productive.
This productivity also comes at a cost. Unless carefully managed, farming can lead to degradation of the environment.
In this article, we look at some of the sustainable farming practices that we employ at Bravante Farm Capital to ensure we are good stewards of the land. As you’ll see, many of these practices have the dual impact of boosting ROI for investors, as well.
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What is Sustainable Farming?
Sustainable farming is grounded in the idea that we must meet the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to farm the land, too. To do so, use of farmland natural resources must be balanced when trying to achieve short-term economic gains. Otherwise, the production of food will inherently degrade the natural resource base, which will limit the ability of future generations to produce and flourish.
It is worth noting that there is no single definition of sustainable farming. This is due, in part, to constantly changing issues, perspectives and values.
For example, twenty years ago, climate change was only emerging as a concern. Today, it is front and center as a global issue that requires immediate attention. Moreover, what constitutes a “sustainable” system may change depending on local conditions (e.g., soil types, climate, and labor costs). Therefore, sustainable farming should be thought of along a spectrum, from unsustainable to highly sustainable, with most farms falling somewhere in the middle.
Why is Sustainable Farming Important?
The world’s population is rapidly expanding. By 2050, the global population is expected to reach 9 billion people. This will require an estimated 70% increase in food production.
As demand for food increases, this will put more pressure on the world’s arable land – an already scarce resource. Preserving and maintaining this land is therefore incredibly important to ensuring its long-term productive capacity. Sustainable farming practices are therefore essential if we hope to produce enough food with the limited natural resources still available.
Sustainable Practices that Increase Farmland ROI
Though we are not driven by the financial benefits of employing sustainable farming practices here at Bravante Farm Capital, it is a happy coincidence that, in may cases, the practices we employ do add materially to our profitability and to our investors' returns.
The following are some examples of the practices we employ and how they impact our economics.
For many decades, farms would use new topsoil every growing season. A portion of this topsoil would inevitably wash away as a result of runoff and erosion.
Today, we are more strategic about how we plant crop, particularly at our farms located on hillsides or near drainage canals. We use special erosion control methodology to berm the land to prevent runoff and in turn, reduce the loss of topsoil.
Water conservation is also critically important, especially in California where droughts are all too common. We use the most highly efficient pumps, drip systems, and emitters to ensure we are using as little water as possible.
We also carefully monitor when we water (i.e., during which hours of the day) and at what pressure levels to maximize the value of the water we consume. Otherwise, we are forced to pump in water from a secondary location which is less efficient and more costly.
It is one thing to have enough water—it is another to have high quality water.
We work very hard to maintain the quality of our water reserves. One way to do this is by not over-irrigating. Too much irrigation will cause chemicals to get into the water system. This is a stark difference than how farming was done previously. Years ago, farmers would spray nitrogen all over their crops to help make produce grow faster.
That nitrogen eventually seeped into the groundwater and today, we are still finding nitrogen in the groundwater from more than 50 years ago (which goes to show the longevity of some chemicals, and emphasizes why it is so important to limit their use whenever possible).
We are in the process of building a reservoir and as part of that project, we plan to install a small solar field which will reduce greenhouse gasses as well as our power costs.
We will be able to pump water using solar energy, which will in turn, make the reservoir more energy efficient. This project will supplement the solar field that exists at our Madera ranch already. Our Madera property utilizes that solar field to power the on-site packing facility.
Highly-Efficient Packing House
We are a vertically-integrated operation and as such, own or own packing facility. This allows us to pack more efficiently, with fewer resources, and allows us to get products to consumers faster than if we were using a third-party. For example, we do not need to ship produce to a packing house located off-site, which reduces fuel consumption.
Moreover, our on-site packing house has been retrofitted with more sustainable elements. In partnership with PG&E, all of the motors on our equipment and all lighting has been replaced with more efficient equivalents that in turn, utilize less energy. The packing house is thoroughly insulated to prevent energy loss as well which, of course, reduces costs and increases profits and returns to investors.
Reduced Diesel Consumption
Another best practice is to move away from diesel consumption, the fuel that has traditionally powered most large-scale farm equipment. We have purchased electric and natural gas machines whenever possible to replace the outdated diesel equipment.
Rather than utilizing chemical-laden fertilizers, we often introduce pests and certain ground covers to our ranches to help combat insects that would otherwise cause diseases.
Many farmers are hesitant to bring pests to their fields, but this strategy has worked remarkably well and is a much more sustainable farming practice compared to using chemical pest control. Even in the best case scenarios, some of those chemicals will infiltrate the land and can cause long-term damage to the farmland.
We have utilized no-till farming at our ranches with moderate success. No-till farming is essentially when you stop tilling the farm every year. This reduces the amount of particulate in the air and in turn, lowers pollution.
Direct-to-consumer sales is one of the most sustainable farming practices. It helps to eliminate the waste associated with other parties in the supply chain. As noted above, we have our own on-site packing facility. This allows us to use less labor, another scarce resource. It also requires less machinery and therefore, less energy consumption than if we were utilizing a third-party packing house.
We will even sell our citrus at roadside stands. Efforts like these not only help to reduce our carbon footprint, but they also make the farm more profitable, and in turn, more economically sustainable.
Many people overlook the importance of packaging. We are very strategic about the packaging that we use. It is not enough to use recyclable packaging. Instead, we go one step further. We look at things like reducing the number and types of colors used on our packaging which in turn, makes it more likely to be biodegradable.
Non-Environmental Benefits of Sustainable Farming
Although we feel that we have a moral obligation to protect our environment, there are real cost implications associated with sustainable farming as well. For example, we utilized incentives being offered by the Air Quality Board to upgrade to low-emission tractors. These tractors pollute less, but they also get better mileage and therefore, need to be replaced less often. This ultimately saves on our capital costs.
Conserving water and energy also has direct financial benefits. We do not spend as much money pumping or buying water, and our electric bills are substantially lower now that we have made energy-efficient retrofits. Many of these energy upgrades were done in partnership with PG&E, which in some cases, helped us cut the cost of new equipment in half.
Reducing erosion is another cost-saving strategy. Less erosion means less time, labor and other resources needed to repair that damage.
In almost all cases, the sustainable farming practices we implement at our ranches have a net positive fiscal impact. Others are net-neutral. But rarely, if ever, do these efforts cost more than they generate in terms of overall environmental impact.
At Bravante Farm Capital, we care deeply about protecting the land and reducing our environmental footprint.
Farming is inherently environmentally sensitive and therefore, we feel obligated to do our part to conserve resources.
We believe that climate change is real, and that it represents a real threat to future generations of farmers.
Everyone needs to pitch in and here we are committed to doing our part to move the needle in any small way we can.
Learn more about our investment strategy and join the waitlist for our next opportunity.