The United Nations considers the water-food-energy nexus crucial to our societies' ability to thrive sustainably. Moreover, a quarter of the world's energy is consumed by food production and supply. Global population growth, urbanisation, changing diets, and economic expansion push greater demand for all three. According to UN studies, agriculture is currently the world's top consumer of freshwater resources.
A new technique known as Agrivoltaics might help counter all these world problems. Pilot projects are springing up all over Europe to show how gathering sunlight on farms might benefit agriculture, particularly small-scale farmers seeking ways to increase yields while using less energy and water. A photovoltaic park on mainland Greece grows various scented herbs and flowers. Solar panels share fields with artichokes and broccoli in Spain. Panels have been put directly on top of Belgium's pear trees and sugar beets. These are examples of agrivoltaics, a new and growing sustainable alternative that could immensely contribute towards the Yield Boost Market.
Despite the EU's goal of producing 30% renewable energy by 2030, gas and oil are still used at practically every stage of food production. As a result, any increase in food production will almost certainly result in increased use of fossil fuels and, thus, greenhouse gas emissions.
Agrivoltaics may be the solution. Since crops require sunlight to grow, farms can use sunlight to fuel their manufacturing operations. Farm fields, after all, are often wide-open expanses that receive much sunlight.
The team demonstrated its work to advance the usage of agrivoltaics, taking it from an innovative concept to a real commercial solution with the help of the HyPErFarm project. Researchers hope to create a convincing financial case for farmers to produce and use renewable energy on their farms and why agrivoltaics is the best option.
The programme has pioneered a revolutionary approach to installing solar panels in farm areas in terms of output. Rather than laying the panels on the ground, HyPErFarm uses them as a canopy above the crops or as a protective windscreen to the side.
Agrivoltaic systems pave the way for total farm electrification. This will not only benefit farmers in terms of product size and costs. However, it will also ensure that agriculture contributes to Europe's climate goals.