Agriculture has a dual role as an energy user and as an energy supplier in the form of bioenergy. This energy function of agriculture offers important rural development opportunities as well as one means of climate change mitigation by substituting bioenergy for fossil fuels.
Agriculture uses energy directly for pumping water, housing livestock, cultivating and harvesting crops, heating protected crops, drying and storage and indirectly in the fertilizers and chemicals produced off the farm. After harvest, it is used in processing, packaging, storing, transportation and consumption.
However, energy is becoming rarer and more and more expensive, threatening the profitability of agriculture. The sector needs to become less fossil fuel dependent.
Among the most obvious solutions is to simply improve the energy efficiency of food production and distribution. This can be accomplished by shifting from energy-intensive industrial agricultural techniques to less intensive methods (e.g., pasture-raised livestock, drip irrigation, non-synthetic fertilizers, no-till crop management, etc.), using more efficient machinery and equipment, reducing food processing and packaging, promoting decentralization of food production and improving the efficiency of food transportation.
Farms can also generate their own energy. While houses, barns and other buildings provide ample roof space for the installation of solar panels, farms with large swaths of land in windy areas are ideal sites for wind turbines. Energy crops and agriculture wastes (dung, residues) are also a source of bioenergy.