Syntropic Farming & Agroforestry

Tara C. Trapani

The field of Syntropic agriculture was established by Swiss farmer and researcher Ernst Götsch. He began his research into alternative forms of agriculture in the 1970s in Switzerland and Germany, and it was catalyzed by one question:

“Wouldn’t we achieve greater results if we sought ways of cultivation that favor the development of plants, rather than creating genotypes that support the bad conditions we impose on them?”


In the 1980s he moved to Brazil and began extensive agricultural experiments using a new perspective and a new set of principles. He began seeing extraordinary results, as the plants responded dramatically to this new mutually and collectively-enhancing framework. Götsch's website has this to say in response to the question “what is syntropic agriculture?”

There is no quick answer. We have to be honest and immediately warn that you won’t find a recipe ready to copy and paste here. Syntropic Agriculture (also described as successional agroforestry) is not a technology package that can be purchased, nor a definitive design plan that fits all tastes. It is first and foremost a change in perspective. It’s a new proposal for reading the ecosystem which enables the farmer to seek his/her answers using another reasoning, quite different from what we’re used to.


This short video from Gotsch provides a beautiful introduction to the topic:

Many of the principles and practices involved in Syntropic Agriculture likely feel very familiar to those who have studied Indigenous cultivation and Traditional Ecological Knowledge.  I'd even say that TEK is fundamentally, inherently syntropic–life-giving, collectively enhancing–a structured system, but from a very different ground-up perspective. 

Our last offering for today is an 11-minute video from Permaculture New Zealand. The drawings in this short film illustrate very effectively the mutually and collectively-enhancing collaborative aspect of Syntropic farming. We can easily see from this demonstration how the farm or forest is a microcosmic example of the macrocosmic planet on which we all reside and how these principles can be applied to our societies, local and global for the enrichment of all.