Earth911 Podcast: The Resource Renewal Institute’s Chance Cutrano on Putting Fish Back in the Fields
Chance Cutrano is director of programs at the Resource Renewal Institute in Fairfax, California. He and his team are experimenting with blending two activities, rice and fish farming, to reduce the emissions from rice fields while creating additional income for farmers. It’s a practice recovered from antiquity that led to the launch of the Fish in the Fields program, which lowers carbon equivalent emissions created by rice farming by as much as 66% while improving biodiversity. Fish in the Fields recently won the 2023 JMK Innovation Prize from the JM Kaplan Institute.
Nature does an amazing trick: it uses everything. Wherever there is an untapped source of energy, nature facilitates the differentiation of species to evolve a creature, large or small, that will consume that energy. Human industry went the other way, dumping every leftover item of waste instead of finding a way to use it — the consequence is a society that cannot live within the planet’s ability to provide enough resources each year. Farming is an excellent testing ground for integrating previously disconnected industries. For example, last year, we talked with Lundberg Family Farms’s Bryce Lundberg, who embraced a regenerative approach to growing rice that supports migratory birds during winter when fields are flooded.
Farming, which can be closely tied to nature when it breaks with industrial thinking, is a natural incubator of complex systems that minimize or reduce waste while contributing to the restoration of biodiversity. It might be the place where businesses will learn regenerative practices. The transition to a green, carbon, and resource-neutral economy will see many companies, communities, and nations begin to tear down the arbitrary silos in which they operate today to create circular flows of materials and energy at levels of efficiency we cannot dream of from the confines of the take-make-waste worldview.
You can learn more about the Resource Renewal Institute at https://www.rri.org/fish-in-the-fields