A whole day of inspiring talks about the future of agriculture has passed. Many different topics have been discussed, thus much can be written about this event. However, one aspect may need special attention: The acknowledgement of complexity and the necessity to take a systemic approach.
Indeed not all of the panellists seemed to share the understanding that the problems we are facing need new solutions. Still, there was widespread agreement on the urgency for new paths.
Dame Ellen MacArthur presenting the circular economy approach was very clear about this, calling for a fundamental systemic shift. She pointed out that people would not be able to completely solve the current problems as long as they are enchained by the present structures. The whole system needs a redesign. In the first place we need to understand that we have to apply a systemic view, in order to identify the root of current problems as well as their complex interrelations. Fort he circular economy systemic thinking is the basis, as an economic system should be designed to close all loops. She pointed out that today many products are not designed to have value, which is the reason for them being wasted, which can be illustrated with the e-waste or the plastic packaging problem. Plastic packaging poses another problem of current non-transparence. Feeding materials back into the system is impossible if the components of a product are unknown. This calls for a fundamental rethinking regarding product design, allowing them to remain in the system and to maintain their value.
The need to look at the current problems in a new manner was put forward by other panellists as well. Franz Fischler stated that we need to reshuffle the system and go beyond tweaking it here and there. He pointed out that we need to let behind the traditional thinking and to apply a closed loop approach. Allan Buckwell also pointed out the complexity of agriculture, indicating that simplistic thinking regarding policy measures does not work. This was backed by Michael Prinz zu Salm-Salm, representing farmers, emphasizing that there needs to be enough room for farmers to decide how to achieve sustainability goals best. He affirmed that farmers are happy to follow common sustainability goals, but that due to the diversity and thus complexity of EU farm systems, rigid structures are misplaced.
The slogan of the 10th Forum for the Future of Agriculture: was “Time for solutions.” The solution is to go new paths, to change the way we think and picture the world and to realize that everything is connected.