To do so, the Mars Inc’s pet food brand is teaming up with Soil Capital, an agronomy company that motivates, trains, and helps reward farmers to implement climate-smart practices that lower carbon emissions through sequestration and reduction.
The partners aim to:
- Engage, train, and financially support farmers to adopt regenerative agriculture practices on up to 300,000 acres of farmland, an area larger than Luxembourg.
- Deliver 150,000 tons of greenhouse gas (GHG) removals and reductions, on average, each year – the equivalent of taking 30,000 cars off the road.
The partnership will initially focus on supporting the transition of 250 farmers in Belgium and France to such practices, before expanding into other European countries. Similar partnerships are being developed in North America and are being explored in Latin America and Asia.
Mars Inc’s Sustainable in a Generation Plan seeks to achieve net zero GHG emissions across its full value chain by 2050.
There is not yet one definition of regenerative agriculture, but the term includes agricultural processes that provide benefits such as reducing GHG emissions, improving biodiversity, better soil health, better climate resilience and improved water retention, said Luc Beerens, global sustainable sourcing director, Mars.
"The farmers that are part of the Soil Capital partnership will be supported in taking measures towards carbon reduction and sequestration that are best suited to the particular farm. Some examples of these measures include organic fertilization, reduced or no tillage, legumes in the crop rotation, cover cropping, reduced fuel use and reduced use of synthetic inputs," he told FeedNavigator.
Participating farmers draw up a GHG balance-sheet of their farm, which is analysed and benchmarked against others in their region in order to prioritise actions that will improve both its profitability and its emissions impact, explained Beerens.
They will receive carbon certificates corresponding to the on-farm results obtained by implementing such regen-ag practices. "These certificates are brought to the voluntary carbon market and sold to companies that wish to actively support producers of their raw materials in becoming carbon neutral or better."
Call to arms
Mars Inc is part of the Sustainable Markets Initiative (SMI) Agribusiness Taskforce. Also involved in that undertaking are executives from Bayer, HowGood, Indigo Agriculture, Mars, McCain Foods, McDonald’s, Mondelez, Olam, PepsiCo, Sustainable Food Trust, Waitrose & Partners and Yara International.
In November 2022, the taskforce released an action plan to scale regenerative farming, warning that adoption rates were currently lagging far behind the rate needed to effectively tackle climate change. The taskforce cited analysis from Systemiq claiming that regenerative farming needs to make up at least 40% of global cropland by 2030, up from around 15% today, to limit climate change to 1.5 degrees.
The SMI is calling for common metrics and market-based financial incentives for environmental outcomes, targeted government policy and an overhaul of food sourcing to make transition to regenerative agriculture an easy business decision for farmers.
Task Force Chair, Grant Reid, remarked in November: “These are unprecedented times with supply chains under enormous pressure and the impacts of climate change all too real. Regenerative farming is a critical part of the solution, and our report shows all too clearly that – despite pockets of great work – adoption rates are far too slow as the short-term economic case for change is not compelling enough for farmers. As an industry, we need to address these areas with urgency if we are to hit our net zero commitments and protect against future supply-chain disruption.”
The SMI outlined five key areas which it believes require urgent action to make the economics of regenerative farming more appealing to farmers. These are:
- Agree common metrics for environmental outcomes
- Build farmers’ income from environmental outcomes such as carbon reduction and removal
- Create mechanisms to share the cost of transition with farmers
- Ensure government policy enables and rewards farmers for transition
- Develop new sourcing models to spread the cost of transition
And in March this year, the SMI launched a project whereby global law firms work to advance efforts on climate change and sustainability. The initiative aims to amplify the contribution of lawyers and other legal professionals in using the law to effect sustainable solutions, building momentum for a positive impact.