Agriculture plays an important role in society, and recent years have seen increased demand from consumers for food to be grown organically. As a result, there’s been a growing movement of organic and biodynamic farms.
But what is biodynamic farming, how do you become biodynamic-certified, and what are its benefits? In this guide, we’ll go over what you need to know about biodynamics in the fresh produce industry, and how Silo makes the lives of growers, shippers, and distributors of all stripes easier.
What is biodynamics and how is it used in the fresh produce industry?
Biodynamics is a school of thought that sees the farm itself as a living being, comprised of interconnected elements that include people, produce plants, soil, compost, and even what’s considered the farm’s soul. Growers who farm biodynamically work to harmonize these elements for a more ethical and ecologically-responsible approach to agriculture.
Biodynamic farming is, in fact, a type of organic farming that expands on its natural and sustainable elements. While the metaphysical and spiritual aspects of farming can be a part of it, biodynamic farms also focus on the humane and conscientious treatment of produce plants, animals, and the earth.
Growers practice a series of steps to work towards making biodynamic farms self-sustaining so that it provides itself with everything needed to thrive and maintain its health. It’s a closed ecosystem where the farm is more than just a place to grow food—there’s also a need to nurture each interdependent part of the farm.
Some biodynamic farms take on a more spiritual approach by practicing things like looking to the stars, the planets, or the phases of the moon for when it’s best to plant seeds and harvest, while others focus more on being environmentally-conscious and using sustainable practices when it comes to growing.
The principles of biodynamic agriculture
Here are several principles that biodynamic farmers practice.
Mixing crops and letting a variety of plants grow on segments of uncultivated land keeps the soil in good condition. The reason: the plants will be working together in situations where if one plant depletes a nutrient in the soil, an accompanying plant will return it.
Rotation of crops and animal life
Traditional farming makes use of methods like monocropping, where planting and harvesting are done on the same fields every year. Biodynamics mixes it up, with crops and animal life being varied and rotated on fields for sustainability, ensuring that soil remains healthy while reducing parasites and controlling pests and weeds.
Composting is essential and is widely practiced in traditional farming, but is all the more important on biodynamic farms. Returning organic waste and manure to the ground creates healthy soil through humus, a type of organic matter formed by decomposing plant and animal material. Humus stabilizes nitrogen levels in the soil, which helps crops thrive.
Biodynamic preparations are a part of composting, and are used to encourage humus in soil and prevent fungal diseases in crops. They use extracts from minerals, animal waste, and plants, diluting them into sprays that are used to occasionally treat soil and compost.
How farms become certified biodynamic
Before a farm can officially qualify as biodynamic, organic certification must first be obtained.
For organic certification, a farm must be inspected by a certifying agent to ensure it meets the criteria established by the National Organic Program (NOP).
Farms are required to practice organic methods for at least three years before they can achieve certification. Practices can include things like composting or using natural pesticides and fertilizers.
Once certified organic, farms are permitted to use USDA-certified organic seals and market its products as organically-produced.
After farms have been certified organic, they can apply for biodynamic certification through the Demeter Association.
Inspections and evaluations are conducted to assess a farm’s biodynamic practices. Considering the range of biodynamic farms, certification criteria can vary. Regardless, some common biodynamic standards include composting, using only plant-based pest controls, and avoiding the use of synthetic substances, hormones, and treated seeds.
Certifications must be renewed every year.
What are the benefits of biodynamics?
Biodynamic farming has many benefits, and practicing the lifestyle means that growers can be integrated into the farm’s ecosystem to help it achieve greater balance and vitality. Besides that, here’s how growers serve to benefit from implementing biodynamic practices.
Cultivates biodiversity and enhances plant health
Biodynamic farms seek to replicate the biodiversity found in natural ecosystems and landscapes. By encouraging plant diversity, the farm becomes healthier and more resilient to outside forces.
Things like biodynamic preparations enhance soil health and ensure that produce plants will be more resistant to things like pests, extreme weather and climate conditions, diseases, and fungal growth.
Increased profit margins
Better soil quality means larger produce yields, plus higher quality fruits and vegetables.
Additionally, you’ll benefit from boosting your property value since the quality of your land will be greatly improved.
Simultaneously, land maintenance will be cheaper, as you’ll be paying considerably less to maintain a self-sustaining system. Natural fertilizers cost less than chemical ones, with natural treatments cutting out the extra expenses of chemical treatments.
Biodynamic practices promote sustainability, self-reliance, future-minded routines, and protecting the limited natural resources available to growers.
Not only does it improve energy efficiency, but it can reduce the ecological impact of agriculture. Humus in soil on biodynamic farms stores more carbon compared to conventional farms, reducing the amount of carbon being released into the atmosphere.
Silo makes life easier for growers and shippers
Whether you’re adopting biodynamics as a grower or introducing new ways to manage transactions and fund your vendor, you’ll need a way to make managing your business transactions easier.
Silo is an ERP platform that empowers growers, shippers, and distributors, grow their business in a more informed way.
Build stronger vendor/customer relationships by enlisting the help of Silo’s real-time Vendor Portal to communicate payment expectations. Pay and get paid quicker with Silo Pay, bill pay and collections tools. Compile past data, compare averages, set minimums and maximums, and respond to market trends, all while controlling profit margins.
The funding of larger shipments and farms can also be achieved through Silo. Speak to your importers and shippers about how Silo’s Capital Programs can help facilitate growth.