Sustainable agriculture - feeding the planet without degrading resources

Posted on 25 April 2019.

Using compost as an alternative to chemical fertilizers or treated wastewater for irrigation... Over the last few years Veolia has promoted circular economy principles for agriculture.

Sustainable agriculture applies sustainable development principles to limit its negative impact on the environment.

Aimed at maximizing yields, the use of fertilizers, pesticides and chemical fertilizers has grown dramatically over recent decades. But the consequences are alarming: the planet's soils and resources are being depleted and the environment is deteriorating. In France, the WWF estimates, for example, that 93% of French rivers and 70% of the groundwater is contaminated by pesticides.

Against this background a large number of farmers are turning to a sustainable agriculture model to meet the demand of consumers that are increasingly concerned about the source and quality of what they eat. But what is it exactly?

Sustainable agriculture applies sustainable development principles to limit its negative impacts on the environment. In practice, it produces (food, wood, fiber, etc.) to meet the growing needs of the world's population while also respecting natural resources and protecting biodiversity.

This includes circular economy inspired initiatives. For example, limiting the pollution of natural environments by replacing chemical fertilizers with organic bio-waste, using compost and optimizing the use of natural resources such as water.


Cooperative initiatives

As a leading optimized resource management player, Veolia has been working on these topics for many years. In particular, the Group partners France’s national institute for agricultural research (INRA) on the project known as QualiAgro, which started in 1998.

On some forty plots spread over 6.5 hectares to west of Paris, Veolia is experimenting with the efficiency of different types of compost used as fertilizer for wheat and maize crops. Among the different composts tested are bio-waste, sewage sludge, residual garbage and manure. The aim is to evaluate the sanitary and environmental quality of these composts and to observe the long term effects on the soil, plants, water and air.

The first results in 2013 demonstrated the agronomic quality of the biowaste and sewage sludge composts. Experiments have continued since 2014 on organic farming criteria.

In 2018, again alongside INRA, Veolia partnered with IRSTEA (France’s national institute for research in science and technology for the environment and agriculture). Together, they aim to develop sewage sludge and wastewater recovery as an alternative to chemical fertilizers.

As France's leading agricultural cooperative group, InVivo renewed its collaboration with Veolia in 2018. The goal is to continue joint research into the risks of agricultural pollution and develop an irrigation project for viticulture using treated wastewater.

With INRA, IRSTEA and InVivo, Veolia is working on initiatives for developing a form of sustainable agriculture that is more respectful of resources and the environment.