What is regenerative agriculture?

What is regenerative agriculture?

Celebrities from Woody Harrelson to Jason Mraz are talking about it. Netflix made a documentary about it. Companies like Nestlé and Patagonia are investing in it.

And folks at COP26 are talking about it.

Here at Kib we built our teas around it.

But, what is it?

In short, regenerative agriculture is a way of growing that prioritises biodiversity and builds soil health. Along the way, it also retains more carbon in plants and the soil.

It’s one of the few ways humans can not just limit carbon emissions, but actually draw it down from the atmosphere.

How does regenerative agriculture do all that?

By working with nature—a guiding principle in stark contrast with much of industrial agriculture. 

Close your eyes for a moment and imagine a farmer’s field. 

If you’re in Europe or North America, there’s a good chance you thought of rows and rows of neatly planted maize or beans.

This is called monocropping or monoculture, and while it’s optimised for industrial machinery, it looks very different from nature’s, shall we say, messier patterns.

In contrast, many regenerative farms practice intercropping, intentionally planting multiple crops alongside each other in the same field. 

In places like Ethiopia, where we work, most farms are smaller than five hectares and these intercropped fields take the form of ‘food forests’--densely and diversely-sown plots of land, often smaller than a football pitch, containing avocado trees, multiple herbs, and seasonal vegetables.

Industrial Agriculture

Regenerative Agriculture


Monocropping, often season after season

Intercropping and even incorporation of tree crops (agroforestry); and crop rotation


Relies on tilling before planting

Minimises tillage

Soil Fertility

Synthetic fertilisers

Compost and manure


All these regenerative practices build soil health and maintain biodiversity in their own way.

Intercropping and crop rotation help to maintain a healthy balance of nutrients in the soil. For example, if maize pulls nitrogen out of the soil, beans help put it back into the soil.

Incorporating perennial crops (e.g., trees or many types of herbs) helps pull carbon down from the atmosphere into the soil, where it’s most valuable.

In contrast, every time a farmer tills their land they release carbon into the atmosphere. Minimising tilling keeps this valuable mineral in the soil and prevents it from adding to our already carbon-laden atmosphere.

Compost and manure help build nutrient-rich soils, without making farmers dependent on expensive fertilisers.  

And we could go on! Other farms might use livestock in rotational grazing programs to stomp down weeds. Or incorporate cover crops that reduce soil erosion.

The diversity of regenerative practices reflects the diversity of nature itself. 

But ultimately, all aim to build healthier soil. Healthier soil that is ready to produce more nutrient-rich and flavourful foods. And soil that makes farms more resilient as climate change shifts weather patterns around them.

We’ll drink (Kib) to that.

Check out The Regenerative Box, our gift box featuring regeneratively-grown ingredients from Ethiopia, Sri Lanka, and Tanzania.