#SustyTalk: ADM’s Michelle French on scaling regenerative agriculture

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The #SustyTalk series is all about keeping edie’s loyal readers connected to sustainability leaders across the world, even if they only have 20 minutes to tune in.

It launched in the early stages of the pandemic in 2020 and has continued since then, keeping us connected to the leaders who are continuing to drive sustainable business and climate action.

This new episode sees edie’s content editor Sarah George in conversation with Michelle French, director of global sustainability programmes at multinational food processing and trading giant ADM.

The Sustainable Markets Initiative estimates that just 15% of the world’s croplands were managed using regenerative practices in 2021. This will need to increase to 40% by 2030 if global climate and biodiversity agreements orchestrated by the UN are to be delivered.

French talks us through how ADM was able to work with suppliers to implement regenerative agriculture practices on more than 2.8 million acres to date, and how it intends to scale that work to five million acres globally by 2025.

Practices that more than 28,000 farmers across the world have implemented include reducing tilling; being more precise with pesticide and fertiliser application; shifting away from the highest-impact pesticides and fertilisers; maintaining roots and cover cropping.

Changing processes on farms is no always easy, French explains. Farmers will grapple with challenges such as accounting for changes in income and expenditure, capturing and sharing environmental data and improving their sustainability knowledge.

But partnerships can help them to navigate the transition, which is necessary to tackle the climate and nature crises and comes with a wealth of benefits for ensuring a farm’s long-term financial viability.

French says: “For farmers, sustainability is being able to pass their farm on to the next generation. It’s really about their legacy. When we developed this programme, we knew that we couldn’t go to a farm asking to talk about carbon emissions… it was the wrong language.”

French also gives her thoughts on how other parts of the food system can engage on the regenerative transition, including retailers, consumer goods brands and customers.

Click here to see our catalogue of #SustyTalk interviews

Want to be featured on a future episode of #SustyTalk? Email [email protected]. Please bear in mind that our interview calendar is now booked for June 2024.

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