Sustainability of permaculture, organic and conventional farms

Assessing and comparing the sustainability performance of permaculture farms, organic farms and conventional farms using a complex indicator system called SMART, developed by the Swiss Organic Agriculture Research Institute (FiBL)

Would you be willing for your farm to be assessed as part of a masters thesis, undertaken by Alfred Szilágyi, a Hungarian MSc student studying Organic Agriculture at Szent István University? It would require a 2 hour interview with the farm manager and a 15 min walk of the farm. All the assessments will be
anonymous and any reference to location will only be approximate.

The benefits for you would be twofold: (1) you will receive a comprehensive sustainability assessment report about your farm where you will be able to appreciate strengths as well as opportunities for improvement of your farming system, (2) together with the written report there will be polygon graphs that can be used for advertising or to apply for any pertinent financial support in the future, e. g. subsidies or grants.

You would also be supporting innovative research. Alfred says “We will be using a state-of-the-art tool in an area where so far there has been no research comparing the sustainability of permaculture farms with other farming systems. Also we would like to test if the SMART tool is compatible with the concept of permaculture in principle or if it can be developed further to adapt to permaculture more specifically. Finally, we will gain a deeper insight regarding the sustainability performance of permaculture systems and how they fulfil the basic aim of the concept in reaching a high level of sustainability.”

SMART (Sustainability Monitoring and Assessment RouTine) is a method to assess the sustainability performance of companies and farms. It is based on the SAFA-Sustainability-Guidelines (Sustainability Assessment of Food and Agriculture systems) from the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations (FAO), which was published in December 2013. The guidelines divide sustainability into overall 58 themes within the four dimensions Good Governance, Environmental Integrity, Economic Resilience and Social Well-Being. FAO has provided a specific objective for each theme towards which companies and farms should orient themselves. The SAFA-Guidelines’ goal is to fill the term sustainability with meaning and to support players in the food sector to implement specific improvements in regards of sustainability. They provide a uniform framework and enable a comparable and transparent sustainability assessment for companies and farms of different types and sizes.

Alfred’s supervisor in the UK is Dr. Immo Fiebrig, a researcher in the Centre of Agroecology, Water and Resilience (CAWR), at Coventry University. He is also working in close collaboration with Chris Warburton-Brown leading the British Permaculture Association’s research team, who is supporting the project.

The assessments will be carried out ideally between June 15th and July 15th this year and no later than August 10th 2017.

if you are happy to participate in this research project please contact Alfred or Immo indicating which week or day would be most appropriate for you. E-mail: or

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