Biomimicry in Agriculture: Is the Ecological System-Design Model the Future Agricultural Paradigm?

  • Milutin StojanovicEmail author


Comprising almost a third of greenhouse gas emissions and having an equally prominent role in pollution of soils, fresh water, coastal ecosystems, and food chains in general, agriculture is, alongside industry and electricity/heat production, one of the three biggest anthropogenic causes of breaching the planetary boundaries. Most of the problems in agriculture, like soil degradation and diminishing (necessary) biodiversity, are caused by unfit uses of existing technologies and approaches mimicking the agriculturally-relevant functioning natural ecosystems seem necessary for appropriate organization of our toxic and entropic agro-technologies. Our thesis is that eco-curative and sustainable uses of agro-technology require a paradigm shift from the chemical model of agro-systems to the ecological system-design model of agriculture. Particularly, following the new biomimetic paradigm of ecological innovation, we question in what sense can we mimic natural solutions in agriculture. We discern among Integrated agriculture and Permaculture, analyze their biomimetic status from the perspective of the philosophy of biomimicry, and argue that the former nature-mentored approach (contrary to the latter nature-modeled approach) is a more appropriate solution for sustainable broadscale agriculture necessary for the growing world. However, it is not clear how this agricultural bio-integration will interact with the predicted automatization of work, urban demographic momentum, and the Earth system instability, and can the Permaculture alternative emerge as a social safety-net for the anticipated technologically-redundant or economically or environmentally endangered workers. We argue both for the importance to understand Permaculture as a social safety-net and as experimental testing ground for cutting edge biomimetic technologies.


Sustainable agriculture Biomimicry Anthropocene Ecological design Integrated agriculture Permaculture 



This work has been funded by the Ministry of Education, Science and Technological development of the Government of Serbia.


  1. Ball, P. (2001). Life’s lessons in design. Nature,409, 413–416.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Bensaude-Vincent, B. (2007). Reconfiguring nature through syntheses: From plastics to biomimetics. In B. Bensaude-Vincent B & W. R. Newmann (Eds.), The artificial and the natural. An evolving polarity (pp. 293–312). Cambridge: MIT Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Bensaude-Vincent, B. (2011). A cultural perspective on biomimetics. In M. Cavrak (Ed.), Advances in biomimetics (pp. 1–12). Rijeka: INTECH.Google Scholar
  4. Bensaude-Vincent, B., et al. (2002). Chemists at the School of Nature. Journal of European Chemistry,26, 1–5.Google Scholar
  5. Benyus, J. (1997). Biomimicry: Innovation inspired by nature. New York: Harper Perennial.Google Scholar
  6. Blok, V. (2017). Biomimicry and the Materiality of ecological technology and Innovation. Techné: Research in Philosophy and Technology. Scholar
  7. Blok, V., & Gremmen, B. (2016). Ecological innovation: Biomimicry as a new way of thinking and acting ecologically. Journal of Agricultural and Environmental Ethics,29(2), 203–217.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Chakrabarty, D. (2009). The climate of history: Four theses. Critical Inquiry,35, 197–222.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Dicks, H. (2016). The philosophy of biomimicry. Philosophy and Technology,29(3), 223–243.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Dicks, H. (2017). Environmental ethics and biomimetic ethics: Nature as object of ethics and nature as source of ethics. Journal of Agricultural and Environmental Ethics, 30(2), 255–274.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Farre, G., Twyman, R. M., Zhu, C., Capell, T., & Christou, P. (2011). Nutritionally enhanced crops and food security: scientific achievements versus political expediency. Current Opinion in Biotechnology,22(2), 245–251.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Foley, J. A., et al. (2005). Global consequences of land use. Science,309, 570–574.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Foley, J. A., et al. (2011). Solutions for a cultivated planet. Nature,478, 337–342.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Folke, C., et al. (2011). Reconnecting to the biosphere. AMBIO,40(7), 719–738.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Griggs, et al. (2013). Sustainable development goals for people and planet. Nature,495, 305–307.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Harman, J. (2013). The shark’s paintbrush: Biomimicry and how nature is inspiring innovation. Ashland: White Cloud Press.Google Scholar
  17. Hendrickson, J. R., et al. (2008). Principles of integrated agricultural systems: Introduction to processes and definition. Renewable Agriculture and Food Systems,23(4), 265–271.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. IPCC (2007). Climate change 2007: Synthesis report. Contribution of working groups I, II and III to the fourth assessment report of the intergovernmental panel on climate change [Core Writing Team, Pachauri, R.K and Reisinger, A. (eds.)]. IPCC, Geneva, Switzerland, 104 pp.
  19. IPCC. (2014). Contribution of working group iii to the fifth assessment report of the intergovernmental panel on climate change.Google Scholar
  20. Mathews, F. (2011). Towards a deeper philosophy of biomimicry. Organization and Environment,24(4), 364–387.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Mollison, B. (1988). Permaculture: A designer’ manual. Tyalgum Australia: Tagari publications.Google Scholar
  22. Montgomery, D. R. (2007). Dirt: The erosion of civilizations. Berkley: University of California Press.Google Scholar
  23. Noll, S. (2014). Liberalism and the two directions of the local food movement. Journal of Agricultural and Environmental Ethics, 27, 211–224.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Norton, B. (1992). Toward unity amongst environmentalists. New York: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  25. Rockstrom, J. (2015). Bounding the planetary future: Why we need a great transition. Great transition initiative (April 2015).
  26. Rockstrom, et al. (2009). Planetary boundaries: Exploring the safe operating space for humanity. Ecology and Society,14, 32.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Scholes, M. C., & Scholes R. J. (2013). Dust unto dust. Science, 342, 565.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Steffen, W., et al. (2015). Planetary boundaries: Guiding human development on a changing planet. Science. Scholar
  29. Stiegler, B. (2015). Automatic society 1: The future of work. Translated in La deleuziana—online journal of philosophy—ISSN 2421-3098, N.1/2015: 121–40.Google Scholar
  30. Van der Ryn, S., & Cowan, S. (1996). Ecological design. Washington, D.C: Island press.Google Scholar
  31. Wahl, D. C. (2006). Bionics vs biomimicry: From control of nature to sustainable participation in nature. WIT Transactions on Ecology and the Environment. Scholar
  32. Winner, L. (2013). A future for philosophy of technology—Yes, but on which planet? Keynote lecture at the Society for Philosophy and Technology biannual meeting, Lisbon, 2013, reprinted in the Chinese Journal Engineering Studies. Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V., part of Springer Nature 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PhilosophyUniversity of BelgradeBelgradeSerbia

Personalised recommendations