Farming systems research is a multi-disciplinary holistic approach to solve the problems of small farms. Small and marginal farmers are the core of the Indian rural economy constituting 0·80 of the total farming community but possessing only 0·36 of the total operational land. The declining trend of per capita land availability poses a serious challenge to the sustainability and profitability of farming. Under such conditions, it is appropriate to integrate land-based enterprises such as dairy, fishery, poultry, duckery, apiary, field and horticultural cropping within the farm, with the objective of generating adequate income and employment for these small and marginal farmers under a set of farm constraints and varying levels of resource availability and opportunity. The integration of different farm enterprises can be achieved with the help of a linear programming model. For the current review, integrated farming systems models were developed, by way of illustration, for the marginal, small, medium and large farms of eastern India using linear programming. Risk analyses were carried out for different levels of income and enterprise combinations. The fishery enterprise was shown to be less risk-prone whereas the crop enterprise involved greater risk. In general, the degree of risk increased with the increasing level of income. With increase in farm income and risk level, the resource use efficiency increased. Medium and large farms proved to be more profitable than small and marginal farms with higher level of resource use efficiency and return per Indian rupee (Rs) invested. Among the different enterprises of integrated farming systems, a chain of interaction and resource flow was observed. In order to make farming profitable and improve resource use efficiency at the farm level, the synergy among interacting components of farming systems should be exploited. In the process of technology generation, transfer and other developmental efforts at the farm level (contrary to the discipline and commodity-based approaches which have a tendency to be piecemeal and in isolation), it is desirable to place a whole-farm scenario before the farmers to enhance their farm income, thereby motivating them towards more efficient and sustainable farming.