What’s The Difference Between Syntropic Farming And Permaculture?

Syntropic farming fits perfectly under the theoretical permaculture umbrella of whole habitat design, modelling from natural systems. Syntropic farming is a refined practical development providing clear steps, practical detail and instruction combining  the “food forest” & “kitchen/Market Garden” elements  of a permaculture design system and taking production quickly to the next level. 

The main difference: 

Permaculture = designing the entire human habitat (includes philosophy, ethics, property access, natural building (houses & other structures), food forests & kitchen gardens, energy, water & exchange systems, culture & community living and development to name a few) The key term is “culture” and all that this entails.

Syntropic Farming = combining, designing & implementing   the food forest & kitchen garden elements of permaculture, with a very developed practical, systemised and scalable application. The key term is “farming” utilising the farming components of permaculture but developing them into very refined, pragmatic & productive methods and systems


tropic farming and permaculture have very much in common.

Both permaculture and syntropic farming are sustainable design systems that model nature and natural ecology particularly of forests to create sustainable food systems for humans. 

Both permaculture and syntropic farming have their strengths and weaknesses, both compliment and overlap each other in their breadth and depth nicely. 

Permaculture is a more wide reaching or  culture based whole property design approach that deeply examines holistic design of entire habitats.

Permaculture provides the insight, training and tools to ascertain and design everything that is needed on a property; from access, structures, water systems, finances, time frames and of course including within this food production systems for flora and fauna.

The food forest aspect

One of the main features of permaculture design when it comes to food production is a focus on food forests.

Permaculture develops an intimate view of not just a sustainable, but a regenerative food forest, that is a forest majoring in food that produces excess, or abundance of top soil, air and biomass.

A permaculture food forest will still include non-food flora to provide needed fuel, building material or even aesthetics; anything needed by the overall development. 

The point is, there is a diversity of flora designed to grow in a mutually supportive system, requiring less and less labour and no chemical support from humans as it establishes. 

Syntropic farming’s  focus is on the food production combining the food  forest & kitchen garden aspects of permaculture; following precise step-by-step instructions.

The food forest layers

A permaculture food forest is conceived of and  designed to comprise of 9 layers in space with different light needs  (known as strata in the systropic system) and development across multi stages in time known as succession all the while focusing on interactive mutually supporting groups of plants known as guilds in permaculture (consortium in syntropics)

Permaculture design proceeds to provide principles, tools and training to flesh these layers out by design and then implement this design, as part of an overall holisitic and ethically based approach to habitat design.

Syntropics focusses mainly on the food production, but in a more practical, developed and reproducible manner.

Syntropic farming and permaculture are both modelled of a nature, with particular focus on forests.

Syntropic farming has developed over last 40  years from the ecologically and financially viable field of agroforestry.

Syntropic farming and permaculture are both systems which are modeled of a forest, with its focus on growing trees in a polyculture (a mix of species).  

Syntropic farming takes the agroforestry concept more in the direction of permaculture by introducing and even focusing on food, while still utilising long term fuel and building crops, just like in permaculture. 

Specific metrics and scalable design data

To this end, syntropic farming stands out with its development of very specific metrics and scalable design data describing exactly what is needed for each of the layers in space based on light needs (stratification), progression in time (succession) and associated or companion planting (guilds/consortiums). A number of unique refinements and much work has resulted in a process allowing for very accurate design and layout of highly productive and very financially, commercially viable systems utilising syntropic farming. Has to be seen to be appreciated! 

We teach syntropic farming as a stand alone course or as part of a bigger and encompassing permaculture discipline.

A must-watch video about syntropic farming:

Syntropic farming & permaculture courses:

At Noosa Forest Retreat we run weekend courses for syntropic farming, as well as residential permaculture courses and online.

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Any question around syntropic farming or permaculture?
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