Agribusiness Task Force: Sustainable Markets Initiative launches new regenerative agriculture push

The Sustainable Markets Initiative (SMI) will today formally launch a new Agribusiness Task Force, designed to bring together CEOs from across the food and agricultural sector and leading experts in the expanding sustainable farming sector to explore how to establish regenerative agriculture as the “predominant agricultural system in the world”.

The SMI – which was founded by the Prince of Wales with a mission to establish sustainable markets that “harness the power of Nature combined with the transformative power, innovation and resources of the private sector” – said that despite clear long term, the rate at which farmers are adopting regenerative practices is well short of the level needed to ensure global climate and biodiversity goals are met.

Regenerative agriculture is currently practiced on approximately 15 per cent of cropland and is being adopted at a rate of just 0.6 per cent hectares per year, according to a recent study cited by the group.

As such, the new SMI Agribusiness Task Force aims to identify what actions are needed from each part of the food and drink value chain to make a regenerative a “no-brainer” business decision for farmers.

The group is to be chaired by Grant F. Reid, CEO of Mars, Incorporated, and will feature bosses from a host of influential agribusiness and food companies, including PepsiCo, Mondelez, Olam, Bayer, McCain Foods, Waitrose, and McDonalds. They will also be joined by Patrick Holden, founding director of the Sustainable Food Trust and Alexander Gillett, CEO at sustainable food data platform HowGood.

“Regenerative agriculture has clear long-term benefits including helping address the challenges of climate change,” said Reid. “Yet the rate of adoption is too slow. Our aim is to help identify ways to overcome the systemic barriers and accelerate the transition to regenerative farming and unlock these benefits.

“This is at the very heart of our ambition for the SMI Agribusiness Task Force. 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.”

Numerous studies have shown that a wide range of regenerative agricultural practices that seek to curb pesticide and fertilizer inputs and reduce environmental impacts can deliver both cost savings and improvements in yields for farmers. However, a combination of upfront cost concerns, skills shortfalls, and other factors has meant regenerative agriculture has struggled to displace the intensification that has dominated the sector in recent decades.

The Task Force has been tasked with exploring how barriers to adoption can be addressed, with the membership having committed to creating a scalable value chain blueprint, from which they can transfer learnings from different crops more widely. The group will initially look at wheat, potato and rice production in the US, UK, and India, and members have committed to uncovering practical actions to help transition value chains and unlock greater adoption of regenerative farming by the end of 2022, which will then be shared with policymakers and businesses.

The news came in the same week as the food giant Nestle launched a new initiative to encourage wheat farmers in the UK that supply its cereal brands to embrace a range of regenerative agricultural practices.

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