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    intensive agriculture

    What is Intensive Agriculture? Types, Examples, Features & How does it work?

    With the exponential increase in the world’s population, businesses involved in the production of food are also growing exponentially. Due to the high rising demand for edibles, large multinational corporations are setting up vast production facilities to churn out incredible amounts of food to meet the demand for food, while making tremendous profits. The demand for cheaper food in great volumes can only be met with lower production costs, this is the basic concept that has given rise to a controversial type of agriculture, known as Intensive Agriculture. Due to it being financially beneficial to the producers it is now the most used type of agriculture throughout the world. But it comes with a price to pay in the form of 

    What Is Intensive Agriculture?

    Intensive agriculture is the method of farming in which large amounts of labor and investment are used to increase the yield of the land. This is basically done with the help of pesticides, fertilizers, and other chemicals that increases yield with fewer resources. It also involves the acquisition and use of machinery to aid in planting, chemical application, and picking of crops. The basic aim of using these artificial resources to increase yield is to produce more than the natural capability of the land and to eventually earn more profits. But the biggest setback of this method is that the major share of profits is taken up by the large corporations and farmers continue to practice intensive agriculture to stay economically viable.

    In opposition to intensive agriculture, there’s another form of agriculture called extensive agriculture, which refers to systems that use relatively small amounts of inputs, and majorly rely on naturally occurring resources such as fertile soil, instead of chemical-based fertilizers. Yields are no doubt low in this form of agriculture, but it greatly favors the living conditions of farmers, environmental protection, and better living conditions for livestock. All these amenities are unimaginable in intensive farming setups. Since Intensive agriculture produces higher yields per unit of land, it is backed by policymakers in almost all regions of the world, including the United States. 


    Types and Examples of Intensive Agriculture

    Intensive farming can be of following different types:


    Intensive livestock farming is done on factory farms which are based on concentrated and mechanized animal feeding operations, and these are places of extreme cruelty for the animals. The breeding of livestock in traditional intensive farming setups is unimaginable for a living being, where these animals are forced to live in crowded, highly constrained, and often filthy environments. Species such as cows, pigs, chickens, and sheep are the usual animals for intensive farming, where they are bred, born, and forced to live drastically shortened lifespans. 

    The use of medicines and antibiotics is common to manage these animals throughout their lives, to save them from the diseases which are widespread in these filthy and below-the-standard living conditions for the animals. Although through these practices’ farmers are able to increase their milk, eggs, and meat production, all of it comes with the price of poor animals’ well-being and damages to environmental sustainability.


    The production of crops through intensive farming techniques involves planning large areas of land with a single crop, such as wheat or corn. The heavy use of synthetic fertilizers is done to ensure maximum productivity, as the pieces of land are not allowed to regain their natural fertility through crop rotation or any other natural process. Hence production is highly dependent on the use of synthetic fertilizers. In addition to synthetic fertilizers, the use of pesticides and genetic engineering is also common, to cultivate certain traits within seeds to ensure greater yield capabilities. 


    Aquaculture is the farming of marine animals including fish, algae, and other organisms. The use of artificial methods for fish breeding raises severe concerns over its environmental impacts and the quality of fish being produced in intensive aquafarming facilities. If these setups are interconnected to oceans and rivers, it pose high risks of environmental pollution and spread of diseases.

    Key Feature that Distinguishes Intensive Agriculture from Horticulture

    Horticulture is distinguished from intensive agriculture by the scale of production, specialization, and commercialization. Intensive Agriculture features in industrialized societies are used to supply food to large urban populations. It involves the farming of large fields through artificial and synthetic measures. Whereas horticulture is basically setting up gardens, mixing several different crops with the aim of utilizing most of the natural resources such as natural pest and disease control.

    Effects of Intensive Agriculture on the Lives of Peasant Farmers

    With the increase in demand for food throughout the world, peasant farmers have now started relying on intensive farming techniques to meet this need. Fearing a shortage of labor, they have started relying on new machinery and other synthetic ways of increasing productivity.  This brought its due impacts on the lives of small peasant farmers who could not afford to use these artificial methods of farming. Richer farmers were at the advantage of expanding their production through advanced techniques and hence they increased their profits and became powerful. On the other hand, the poor farmers left their villages in large numbers and moved to other cities in search of jobs, because their farming income became unstable, their jobs became insecure, and their livelihoods suffered a downfall.

    Effects of Intensive Agriculture on the Environment

    The most problematic effect of industrial agriculture on the environment is its contributions to climate change. Globally, agriculture is one of the largest drivers of climate change, accounting for around twelve percent of total emissions, and nearly a quarter of greenhouse gas emissions. Industrial crop production hampers the ability of soil to act as a carbon sequester, ultimately turning it into a carbon emitter. Animal agriculture (most of which is raised intensively) accounts for large amounts of greenhouse gas emissions, including 37% of all methane emissions and 65% of nitrous oxide.  

    Apart from climatic concerns, intensive agriculture also produces large amounts of pollution, which includes animal waste and many other forms of waste. It also poses a high risk of pollution to surface and groundwater and can devastate freshwater, brackish, and saltwater ecosystems.


    The expansion of agriculture has no doubt played an enormous role in uplifting the lives of farmers, by allowing them to feed the exponentially growing population of the world. However, intensive agriculture as its being done today is no longer sustainable or necessary. The methods employed have many negative impacts on the environment, human health, animal lives, and communities. Its high time for policymakers to take steps to reduce these practices and to make policies that support the purchase of food from farms that rely on more environmentally friendly and ethical methods of production.

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