Chivas Brothers launches new sustainable agriculture programme for Scottish farmers

Image: Chivas Brothers

The business will work in partnership with agricultural merchant Scotgrain and malt producer Bairds Malt to help farmers continually improve their environmental sustainability practices and enhance climate resilience.

Farmers will be supported to measure their emissions and the levels of biodiversity on their farms and track how these metrics change over a period of at least three years. They will be guided in making interventions that should cut emissions and enhance nature at the same time, such as optimizing fertilizer use, planting wildflower strips and planting cover crops.

Eight farms producing barley near the Dalmunach distillery in Speyside will participate in the initiative in the first instance.

Data and learnings gleaned from the trial will help Chivas Brothers identify opportunities for expanding its work to other suppliers. Around 60 farms currently engage with Bairds Malt and Scotgrain.

Chivas Brothers has calculated that around one-third of its carbon footprint is generated in the growing and processing of its agricultural raw materials, making work with growers and processors key to aligning with Pernod Ricard’s 2050 net-zero targets.

“Establishing partnerships with our growers represents a critical moment in Chivas Brothers’ sustainability journey,” said the firm’s environmental sustainability manager Ronald Daalmans.

“Working together makes us stronger – not only to reduce carbon emissions at pace, but also to provide invaluable insights that can benefit the farming community at large.”

Daalmans said that grain growers in Scotland need extra support from end-user businesses at present, as they grapple with rising energy and fertilizer prices and reduced yields resulting from extreme weather.

The 18 months leading up to April 2024 were the wettest in Britain on record. Polling from the National Farmers’ Union (NFU) recently revealed that eight in ten farmers have seen either ‘fairly negative’ or ‘very negative’ impacts to their land and infrastructure from wet weather over the past months.

Regenerative agriculture funding

In related news, innocent Drinks has announced which of its ingredient suppliers will benefit from a share of its £1m Farmer Innovation Fund this year.

The Fund first launched in 2021 and this year’s edition was confirmed back in March. Funding is allocated on a competitive bases to farmers demonstrating a commitment to regenerative agriculture practices and implementing novel technologies and approaches to make their farms more sustainable.

innocent is notably aiming to halve its Scope 3 emissions by 2030. More than half of the business’s total carbon footprint is attributable to ingredients.

Four of the 11 Fund recipients for 2024 have been successful applicants in previous years. They are Spanish grape growers Agrarias Manchegas; Polish apple suppliers Time 4 Bee; British blackcurrant producers Pixley Berries and Fruitlight, which produces pineapples in Costa Rica.

The other seven Farmer Innovation Fund recipients span Europe, Asia and Central America, supplying innocent with ingredients ranging from carrots to dragon fruit.

Pixley Berries’ managing director Anna Ralph said: “Regenerative farming is a learning curve and being a winner for the second year running means we can advance our work to identify pragmatic approaches with deliverable benefits to blackcurrant growing and other crops.

“By combining biostimulants, measuring chlorophyll, microbials, and focusing on minimum cultivations we’re pioneering a new approach. Through this we hope to develop a revitalised agronomy fit for our times, both adapting to and mitigating climate change.”

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