Nestle unveils regenerative wheat farming plan as other food majors join new sustainable Agribusiness task force

Image: Nestle Cereals

The new Agribusiness Task Force will form part of the Prince of Wales’ Sustainable Markets Initiative (SMI), which already operates collaborative industry workstreams in sectors including health and finance. Its overarching aim will be to accelerate the adoption of regenerative agricultural practices – those which restore nature – to the extent that they become “predominant” across global food systems.

Scientific research into the historic and continuing degradation of nature due to agricultural expansion has improved in recent years. The UN’s environmental scientists estimate that agriculture has been the driver of 75% of deforestation by area size to date, and that it creates at least one-fifth of global annual emissions. This makes it a key contributor to biodiversity loss and the climate crisis.

Food systems are also highly exposed to climate and nature risks, as well as other systemic issues like conflict risks and water mismanagement. This results in systemic economic and social challenges; proponents of regenerative agriculture claim it offers solutions across these axes.

While an ever-growing cohort of businesses large and small have been piloting and scaling regenerative approaches, the SMI estimates that the proportion of the world’s agricultural land adopting these practices is increasing at a rate of just 0.6% each year.

The new Taskforce will focus on wheat, potatoes and rice crops in the first instance, and publish a set of practical steps which can be taken to transition their supply chains to regenerative by the end of 2022. This resource will be made available to policymakers and to businesses beyond direct Task Force participants.

Businesses represented on the Task Force are Mars, Mondelez, PepsiCo, Olan, Bayer, Yara International, McCain Foods, Waitrose and Partners, McDonald’s and Indigo Agriculture. Trade body the Sustainable Food Trust and sustainability-as-a-service platform HowGood are also represented.

“Regenerative agriculture has clear long-term benefits including helping address the challenges of climate change – yet the rate of adoption is too slow,” said Mars’s chief executive Grant F. Reid, who has been appointed as Task Force chairman.

“Our aim is to help identify ways to overcome the systemic barriers and accelerate the transition to regenerative farming and unlock these benefits. We’re confident that the convening power of HRH The Prince of Wales’s SMI and the collective brainpower, creativity, pre-competitive collaboration and knowledge sharing of the Task Force’s participants, will help identify ways to accelerate the adoption to regenerative agricultural systems.”

Nestle Wheat Plan

In related news, Nestle Cereals, which makes brands including Cheerios and Shredded Wheat, has launched a new plan to support its UK-based wheat farmers to adopt regenerative agriculture practices such as cover cropping, hedgerow planting and reducing their use of pesticides.

The plan will see regenerative approaches already being trialled at several UK farms improved and scaled to other locations.

Nestle has stated that it will facilitate the scaling using the Landscape Enterprise Networks scheme (LENs), which was created to enable businesses and other stakeholders to coordinate action in local areas on sustainable land management and the creation of nature-based solutions. The FMCG giant first invested in LENs last year to provide funding to 32 land managers and farmers across East Anglia.

The business will measure the environmental benefits of regenerative farming in terms of water quality, soil erosion, soil carbon sequestration and biodiversity improvements.

Nestle UK and Ireland’s responsible sourcing manager Robin Sundaram said: “We know that production of crops depends on the state of the natural environment, which can be uncertain due to changing weather conditions. We also know that this will only get worse due to climate change.

“By supporting our wheat farmers to transition to more regenerative farming practices, they will become more resilient in the long term, as well as reducing their environmental impact with benefits for carbon, flood mitigation, water quality, air quality and soil health. Ultimately, this will also help us maintain the stable wheat supply necessary to continue producing the nation’s favourite cereals.”

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