With the Project:
Sustainable and integrated production of medical herbs
The main goal of this project was the production of medical herbs and bee products without the use of chemicals. Other essential parts of this holistic initiative are the use of renewable energies, protection of the soil and animal rights, the re-use of agricultural waste and the cultivation of renewable resources like wood or reed. Plants and plant products were chosen which usually have to be imported to Europe and therefore have to be transported over a long distance. Producing these plants in Europe thus reduces transport routes and CO2 emissions.
Medical herbs are often imported to Europe which leads to long transportation routes and therefore the emission of CO2. A big challenge was the competitiveness with conventional agriculture. Growing herbs without any chemicals led to 30% less harvest during the first few years compared to other farms using chemicals. Another obstacle was the low environmental awareness of surrounding farmers who used to dispose of their packing material on their fields which affected surrounding farms as it was carried away by the wind.
A farm in Serbia was chosen for this project which had been left uncultivated for many years. Traditional knowledge combined with modern techniques allowed the farmer to refrain from the use of chemicals. Old animal breeds were chosen which had been long forgotten in order to preserve these old breeds and to contribute to agricultural biodiversity. These animals are provided with fodder from the farm only. Traditional seed selection and seed multiplication strengthen the resilience of the plants and careful tillage protects the soil.
Next to organic agriculture, well treated animals and self-sufficient operation of the farm, intra-continental seed exchange is an innovative concept. Plants produced under different climatic conditions or in other soils, are less likely to be affected by local pests since they are not used to these kind of plants. Another aspect is the combination of bee-keeping with plant production. Through pollination, up to 20% of harvest differences compared to conventional agriculture can be compensated. Retreats for owls, raptors and snakes minimise damages by rodents.
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