In response to the challenges associated with climate change, agriculture is obligated to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and to implement practices and technologies aimed at limiting energy consumption, resources, and production inputs. Because of this, a Green Transformation of the agricultural sector is necessary, encompassing production, technological, and business aspects. This transformation pertains not only to individual farms but also to rural areas. In the context of this change, new innovative technologies are being implemented, such as hydroponics, aquaponics, agrophotovoltaics, precision agriculture, and agricultural biogas plants.

Hydroponics is an advanced method of soilless cultivation, involving the growth of plants in a water-based solution instead of traditional soil. Plants are placed in an inner container filled with materials like vermiculite or perlite, allowing the roots access to nutrients. One of the key advantages of hydroponics is its efficient resource utilization. Plants grown in hydroponic systems consume less water and nutrients compared to traditional methods. Additionally, products obtained from hydroponic cultivation are richer in nutrients because plants directly absorb them from the water solution rather than from the soil. Due to the ability to cultivate year-round and the reduced susceptibility to weed growth, hydroponics enables stable production of high-quality yields. Moreover, this cultivation system allows for better control over plant growth and minimizes the risk of contaminating products with pesticides or heavy metals. Because of these benefits, hydroponics represents an attractive option for agricultural producers, especially in the context of seeking new solutions for organic food production on smaller surfaces.

Aquaponics is a combination of fish farming with plant cultivation, where the by-products of one process serve as a source of nutrients for the other. This modern approach ensures efficient resource utilization and minimizes waste and negative environmental impact. Additionally, aquaponics enables food producers to save costs and enhances their competitiveness in the market. Not only does aquaponics bring economic benefits, but it also has a positive environmental impact. By utilizing fish waste as a natural fertilizer for plants and recycling water, the system allows for significant water savings and minimizes greenhouse gas emissions. Furthermore, by implementing this system, it is possible to achieve nearly emission-free production of fish and vegetables and significant energy savings compared to traditional food production methods.

Agrophotovoltaics, also known as agrivoltaics or Agri-PV, is a solution that allows for the simultaneous use of agricultural land for energy production and crop cultivation. By installing PV panels above or between rows of plants, farmers can effectively protect crops from adverse weather conditions such as hail or drought, resulting in agricultural production stability. Additionally, the generated electrical energy enables farms to achieve energy self-sufficiency and even produce surplus energy that can be sold to the grid, thereby supporting the development of sustainable energy. Technical and environmental aspects, such as reducing soil erosion and increasing biodiversity through maintaining green spaces under the panels, provide additional benefits for the natural environment, highlighting the significance of agrophotovoltaics for sustainable agricultural development and environmental protection.

Precision agriculture utilizes advanced technologies and IT tools to gather data about soil, plants, and weather conditions. Through devices such as GPS, sensors, or drones, farmers collect precise information about soil moisture, nutrient levels, and atmospheric conditions. This data enables the determination of optimal conditions for plants and the adjustment of cultivation and fertilization to their needs. The primary goal of precision agriculture is to increase crop efficiency, reduce production costs, and improve the quality of agricultural products. By precisely applying fertilizers and pesticides and adjusting irrigation systems to plant needs, it is possible to achieve higher yields with less consumption of natural resources.

Agricultural biogas plants are special installations that process organic matter through anaerobic fermentation into biogas, which can be used for electricity and heat production in cogeneration units. This is a beneficial solution that allows farms to partially meet their energy needs and the possibility to sell excess energy. Biogas production can represent a new direction for the development of Polish farms, utilizing the significant raw material potential existing in agriculture. The benefits of farm biogas plants are numerous. Firstly, they enable farms to become independent of energy supplies, which is particularly important in peripheral areas. Surplus energy can be sold to the grid, generating additional income for farms. Biogas plants also stabilize the energy grid in rural areas. The utilization of by-products from agriculture and the agri-food industry in biogas plants contributes to environmental protection, reducing costs associated with the disposal of these materials. Additionally, energy production in biogas plants is characterized by a zero-carbon dioxide emissions balance and a reduction in greenhouse gases, which is significant for the environment.

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Cover photo: lamyai/Getty Images (Artificial intelligence plays critical role behind the scenes in precision farming | Farmtario)