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Some of the world’s biggest food giants – including potato processors McCain and PepsiCo – have pledged a bigger focus on regenerative agriculture. The... Potato processing giants switch to regenerative agriculture

Some of the world’s biggest food giants – including potato processors McCain and PepsiCo – have pledged a bigger focus on regenerative agriculture.

The companies have committed to a new global framework which they will use to transform agricultural practices to ensure future food security by implementing regenerative farming practices.

Thhe Sustainable Agriculture Initiative Platform ‘Regenerating Together’ – programme offers a global definition of regenerative agriculture. It is being used by over 20 food  companies and farmer cooperatives across their global supply chains.

Supporters say consumer expectations, the challenge of climate change and a growing world population make it imperative that agricultural practices are transformed to ensure future food security.

Developed in consultation with farmers, academics and non-government organisations, the Regenerating Together programme will assess, monitor and verify farm practices to as the companies involved make the switch to regenerative methods.

The programme identifies four key areas which companies must focus on as part of their transition: water, soil, biodiversity and climate. In each case, it outlines what steps should be taken and which regenerative practices should be implemetned.

It aims to mitigate and adapt to the impact of climate change, improve soil health, support biodiversity, retain water in the soil and reduce its consumption while keeping farmers’ business viability central in a just transition approach.

Common goal

SAI Platform director general Dionys Forster said: “Regenerative agriculture is the way forward to ensure productivity and farm ecosystem viability – we must act now and further transition towards farming practices that protect the future of our planet.”

Ms Forster said the ambition was to unite the agriculture industry with a common goal – a resilient and productive food system that will revitalise natural ecosystems and improve the quality of farmers’ livelihoods.

ABF Sugar group director Katharine Teague said: “The framework is an exciting opportunity to drive outcomes and further build collaboration across the food and agriculture industry to make a more resilient, sustainable food system.

Impact on farmers

“We are looking forward to a framework that delivers long-term impacts for our farmers and value chain. By coming together, we can find workable solutions to tackle climate change, biodiversity loss and reducing soil health.”

McCain global director for ustainable agriculture Yves Leclerc said: “The framework launched today will enable farmers to take action and implement regenerative practices, and crucially support the measurement and verification of progress.

“Having piloted the resources with our growers, I see the potential this can have to provide clarity and consistency on what regenerative agriculture means and the outcomes we are looking to achieve.

“The potential impact is huge and the development of this global Framework through cross-industry collaboration is a key step towards scaling the transition to more sustainable farming practices.”

Ambitious goal for potato processor McCain

Processor McCain has pledged to implement regenerative agricultural practices across its entire potato area — estimated to encompass some 150,000ha worldwide — by 2030.

It defines regenerative agriculture as an ecosystem-based approach to farming that aims to improve farmer resilience, yield, and quality by improving soil health, enhancing biodiversity, and reducing the impact of synthetic inputs.

Minimising soil disturbance remains a big challenge for root crop growers. But benefits can include lower input costs, reduced greenhouse gas emissions and improved biodiversity.

Soil health can improve with increased water-holding capacity, says McCain , which is encouraging growers to keep intensive tillage to a minimum across the rotation..

Reliable supply

The company  also wants farmers to ensure at least 30% of their soil surface is under cover crops or crop residue all-year-round.

Both these targets will be introduced gradually. The transition to regenerative agricultural practices and systems will help secure the quality and quantity of potato crops into the future, explains McCain.

“That means we should be able to access a reliable supply of the very best potato products for our retail customers and consumers.”

To measure the quality of the land, McCain is assessing soil health across a representative sample of its UK growers annually. It says regenerative practices are helping to improve soil organic matter and biology.

The £25m McCain Potato Farmer Pledge was introduced by the company in 2020.

Since then, McCain has committed a further £50m to British farming – including contract price increases for its growers and a supplementary energy support package.