ESG investing, which focuses on environmental, social, and corporate governance, is the new trend in finance. Sustainable agriculture is a subset of that sector that is starting to heat up. Here are some ideas to watch out for.
Agriculture is ripe for revolution. It’s known for its large use of fertilizers, pesticides, and genetically modified seeds. All of these can have a devastating impact on the environment.
Investors have taken notice. Of the $17 trillion dedicated to ESG issues, $2.38 is being used to address sustainable agriculture. Unfortunately, it’s more difficult for individual investors. There are no specific mutual funds dedicated to this promising sector.
However, there are some publicly traded stocks of companies related to sustainable agriculture. The sector is still in its early stages, like renewable energy a decade ago. A smart investor can still get in early on this trend. Unfortunately, some have poor worker policies while others are relying on genetically modified organisms for revenue.
US agriculture is a big producer of pollution. It accounts for almost 10% of total US greenhouse gases in 2018 according to the Environmental Protection Agency. However, if the right technologies are implemented, theoretically the sector could be a carbon sink. This would mean that it would offset its carbon emissions. Getting to that point would require a lot of work though. It would involve more heavy use of cover crops and compost, a reduction in tillage, and precise application of fertilizers.
There is even some political talk of policies that could benefit the sector. For example, Biden is considering setting up a carbon bank. This financial institution would pay those who return carbon to the soil.
If you asked the average person in the street what sustainable agriculture meant, they might think of small organic farming. This is not necessarily true. There are a variety of methods and they sometimes involve competing practices.
Research and development will play a major role. For example, one firm is creating enzymes as a treatment for seeds. Plants will be able to intake nutrients more efficiently.
One large pollutant that most people are probably not aware of is enteric fermentation. It’s the farts and burps of cows, sheep, and goats. These emissions are a result of animals not properly digesting their food. A company is developing a feed additive that reduces these methane emissions.
ESG investing is here to stay. Sustainable agriculture has many opportunities.