Other Alternatives for Farmers

Alternatives for farmers (apart from those associated with Ecosystems Services) include:

  • Organic Agriculture
  • Hemp
  • Biofuels
  • Wind and Solar Farms

A recent article from AgriLand stated that: “Farmers are looking for land-use alternatives – 16% of the land use in Ireland is controlled by 40,000 farmers that have a standard output of less than €8,000 per year.  Within the Teagasc National Farm Survey about a third of those farms are not viable.  So, there are a lot of farmers within Ireland that are genuinely looking for land-use alternatives, but supports are going to be needed to get the infrastructure in place.”

Organic Agriculture:

Why Organic?

About 3,000 tonnes of pesticides, insecticides, fungicides and herbicides are released into the Irish Environment each year.  These can be toxic to both human health and the environment. 

In January 2017 the UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food produced a report on pesticides for the UN General Assembly, which stated that: “Pesticides cause an array of harms.  Runoff from treated crops frequently pollute the surrounding ecosystem and beyond, with unpredictable ecological consequences.  Furthermore, reductions in pest populations upset the complex balance between predator and prey species in the food chain, thereby destabilizing the ecosystem.  Pesticides can also decrease biodiversity of soils, which can lead to large declines in crop yields, posing problems for food security.”  He goes on to state that: “Without or with minimal use of toxic chemicals, it is possible to produce healthier, nutrient-rich food, with higher yields in the longer term, without polluting and exhausting environmental resources.  The solution requires a holistic approach to the right to adequate food that includes phasing out dangerous pesticides and enforcing an effective regulatory framework grounded on a human rights approach, coupled with a transition towards sustainable agricultural practices that take into account the challenges of resource scarcity and climate change.” 

Organic horticulture has been shown to produce high yields.  You can read about Kildinan Farm in Cork here on page 87.  This organic farm produces a range of salad leaves on 5 acres and manages to make a per hectare income that is 90-125 times the income for sheep and beef farms in Ireland and 33 times the average per hectare income of dairy farms.

The Irish Horticulture Sector:

We import far more food crops than we actually grow here at home.  This needs to change.  We need to establish a large horticultural sector substituting imported foods that can be grown in Ireland.  This will require government support for agricultural education, research facilities and support services, as well as government and private sector investment in high-tech greenhouses.  Trade protection will be needed to allow Irish plant based markets to become competitive, as well as large scale investment in the development of plant based meat and dairy alternatives.


Hemp can be used to make over 25,000 different products – these include food, clothing, footwear, cars, building materials and biofuels. 

Read more in our Hemp Factsheet here.

The Hemp industry in Ireland is currently in its infancy but is growing.  For more information see the following links:


Plant-based Biofuels can be made from a variety of plant sources.  Some are produced by the extracting of sugar or starch from crops and then fermenting it to make alcohol. Other biofuels are made by the decaying of organic matter such as municipal wastes and food industry by-products and wastes, and the capturing of the resultant gases.  Biofuels for heating may also be derived from forestry (ie. wood pellets). 

See the following links for more information:

Wind and Solar Energy:

For information on wind and solar energy see the following links: