Even though the term was first used in 1978 by Australians David Holmgren and Bill Mollison, Permaculture has only recently started to make waves in the farming industry. The word originally referred to "permanent agriculture" or "permanent culture" and can be defined as follows: "a philosophy of working with, rather than against nature; of protracted & thoughtful observation rather than protracted & thoughtless labour; of looking at plants & animals in all their functions, rather than treating any area as a single-product system".
In other words, Permaculture is a system that tries to simulate or utilise patterns initially observed in natural ecosystems. Permaculture goes beyond organic food production in the way that it operates on very different techniques. It is the strong belief that bio-diversity is the key to a stable future on Earth.
The Permaculture philosophy follows three core values:
The first value is called Earth Care; it refers to providing for all living systems with ongoing care. In its core, it is the understanding that all life forms are inherently valuable to society and to the planet. People Care is the second value and can be defined by providing access to resources necessary for survival to all human beings. The goal is to keep a compassionate and empathetic approach, by providing companionship and community congregations. The third value is labeled Fair Share, which means reinvesting the surplus into the first two values. It is also admitting that each of us should take no more than what we need and give the rest.
Permaculture isn't only a green and sustainable solution to the agriculture industry, it is also beneficial to several other industries such as building, landscaping, land planning, forest management and more.
Turning theory into action.
David Holmgren, who intially defined the term, also provided a set of principles for Permaculture in his book Permaculture: Principles and Pathways beyond Sustainability. The core 12 principles are explained as follows:
1. Observe and interact: engage with nature, connect to bio-diversity and natural resources, learn about their benefits and their growth, take a different perspective on each living things.
2. Catch and store energy: develop a system that creates and stores abundant resources, use them in times of need, cultivate a micro-climate for change, adopt sustainable harvesting.
3. Obtain a yield: exchange skills or information to other permaculture farmers/gardeners, teach the next generation, yield crops and collect resources.
4. Apply self-regulation and accept feedback: stay subject to feedback control, which can be big, like global warming, or small, like replanting unproductive areas of the garden, or improving soil that has been impoverished.
5. Use and value renewable resources and services: make the best use of abundant natural resources, do not depend on non-renewable systems.
6. Produce no waste: admit that everything you produce can have value, learn about the ways to re-use natural resources, check out the Zero Emissions Research Institute - which has a lot of examples on reducing waste.
7. Design from patterns to details: seek to understand and mimic successful arrangements witnessed in natural environments, understand the observed pattern and leverage them rather than work against them.
8. Integrate rather than segregate: place resources in the right combinations to help them grow in cooperation and to make them support each other's, use the synergy between certain elements to create these combinations.
9. Use small and slow solutions: accept that small systems are easier to maintain than bigger ones, stop aiming for the quick fix, scale back from the industry-sized systems.
10. Use and value diversity: understand concepts such as vulnerability and resilience, experiment and determine what responds best to a variety of threats and takes advantage to the unique natural resources.
11. Use edges and value the marginal: aim to make use of the maximum of space available, convert traditional edges and designs, check out this example of transforming urban environment in Tokyo.
12. Creatively use and respond to change: accept that change is inevitable in agriculture, adapt to seasonal changes and to shifting patterns of weather, turn them to your advantage.
What are the business opportunities in Permaculture?
First of all, educational revenue models are highly valued in the Permaculture field. You can organise workshops, classes, training activities and raise awareness on the Permaculture philosophy through books or video materials. Schools are growing around the world; for example in Europe, the Otter Farm (United Kingdom) has just reached its £60k crowdfunding target, and L'école de permaculture du Bec Hellouin (France) proposes several training courses on the topic.
In addition to teaching, you can use your expertise on Permaculture as a consultant. Several revenue streams are available, such as property planning, full gardening designs, project management of smart farming projects, etc.
Finally, perhaps the most obvious revenue stream is production itself. From farming (producing vegetative products) to ranching (producing animal products), Permaculture is a good way to add a sustainable environmental impact to your business.
Permaculture is one of the only sustainable systems to provide food for the planet without destroying our ecosystem. The question isn't about if we shift to Permaculture but when. Any kind of business venture in this field will be looking at a market that is constantly growing.
To learn more about Permaculture, check out the resources below:
Take this free online course "Intro to Permaculture" from Oregon State University (course starts May 2nd, 2016).
Check out this video where David Holmgren explains how Permaculture can change the world.
Read this article which gives ideas on practicing Permaculture wherever you live.
Share your thoughts in the comments down below! Are you using this philosophy on your personal garden? Do you have any other social business ideas on using Permaculture? Do you see it as a trend or as the system that will revolutionise the food industry?