More than 1,800 companies from 42 countries flocked to Paris from Feb. 24-28 for the 2019 SIMA International Agribusiness Show to showcase a global look at current — and emerging — equipment and agriculture trends. The 42 countries represented this year included 6 new countries: Israel, Serbia, Slovakia, Saudi Arabia, Sri Lanka and Sweden.

The 5-day show, which is held every other year in Paris, France, drew a crowd that represented all sectors of the ag industry, including crop and livestock farmers, dealers, distributors and researchers.

Among the well-established manufacturers exhibiting at the show was the Start-Up Village, which featured 35 young companies that were launching a number of products and services ranging from geolocation tools and agricultural robotics to the first crowdfunding site for agriculture.

In addition to the products on display, a number of seminars took place during the week, with soil health and cover crops getting a lot of attention. One session — “Soil, Agroecology & Agricultural Sectors: Supporting the Transition Toward a Living Agriculture” — included presentations from Jill Clapperton, principal scientist at Rhizoterra Inc., and Odette Menard, an agricultural engineer and soil and water conservation specialist for Québec’s Ministry of Agriculture and Food.

Maryland no-tiller Trey Hill attended the session and says his main takeaway from Clapperton and Menard was that he needs to increase the cover-crop mixes he uses on his operation. “I need to get more mixes, get more diversity in the soil. There's a lot of guys doing the 10-way mixes, but I would say I've been kind of a late adopter to some of that. So that was my main takeaway along with just being open-minded and seeing what others are doing,” he says.

Ahead of SIMA, Hill attended and presented at the first ever International Meeting for Living Agriculture, which took place Feb. 20-24. The meeting brought together 500 farmers, scientists, restaurant owners, wholesalers and others from around the world. Ver de Terre, which organized the event describes living agriculture as bringing together “a set of agricultural techniques  known as agro-forestry, direct seeding under cover crops, conservation or regenerative agriculture, permaculture and market gardening on living soil.” These methods  are based on no-till, permanent ground cover and maximizing plant production. 

“A living soil allows plants to develop optimally when properly nourished and rich in carbon…”

“Soil is at the center of this new agriculture. A non-tilled soil that is always covered is a healthy soil that is full of life. The reduction of tillage preserves the habitat of insects, earthworms and millions of fungi, bacteria and other micro-organisms essential to the proper functioning of our ecosystems,” Ver de Terre says. “The use of plant covers, giant plants and the reintroduction of trees in agricultural plots enables the reconstruction of organic matter stocks in the soil. A living soil allows plants to develop optimally when properly nourished and rich in carbon. Fertilizer is no longer needed because the soil can produce just as much, if not more, than in conventional agriculture.”

Hill says the event was different than anything he’s attended in the U.S. “To me it was eye-opening, I learned a lot. But it was definitely not normal production scale agriculture as we think of it. It was all about soil health and trying to figure out new ways to farm and different ways to farm with a focus on sustainability and countering climate change, that sort of thing,” he says. However, he adds that his presentation showed that the practice is scaleable and that a larger farmer — Hill farms 12,000 acres — can still grow covers and plant green. “It doesn’t matter what size farmer you are, you can do this stuff,” he says. 

Don Reicosky, carbon management consultant, also spoke at the Living Agriculture conference and attended the show, and says Europe is lagging behind North America when it comes to no-till and soil health. “They might have been poking around for the last couple of years, but I think they're seeing what's happening here in the U.S. We’re quite a bit ahead of them and I'm happy to share to try to get them caught up because we're not going have enough to eat if the population keeps growing. We’ve got to do something to protect and preserve the soil.”