Arla explores the potential of regenerative dairy farming through agricultural pilot project

Sep 20, 2021 — Arla Foods examines how dairy farming can help improve soil biology, carbon capture, water quality and biodiversity through regenerative farming methods.

The dairy cooperative will explore regenerative dairy farming practices on 24 pilot farms and create data-driven evidence of their impact on nature and climate. At the same time, more than 900 Arla organic farmers will measure the carbon content of their soils and record practices that promote biodiversity.

“The program lasts four years. One of our biggest challenges is that while there is a general consensus that improving soil health and biodiversity are essential elements of regenerative agriculture, there is no no universally accepted definition of the approach, ”Janne Hansson, Chairman of the Arla Organic President’s Council and member of the Arla Board of Directors. , recount FoodIngredientsFirst.

“In addition, there are very few scientific examples of regenerative methods being implemented on dairy farms in Europe that farmers can use as a guide. Arla wants to help fill this important data gap by using the experience and knowledge of its farmer owners.

To help explore and define the impact of regenerative dairy farming, 24 Arla farmers from the UK, Sweden, Germany, the Netherlands and Denmark will be pilot farmers for four years.24 pilot farmers in five countries
To help explore and define the impact of regenerative dairy farming, 24 Arla farmers from the UK, Sweden, Germany, the Netherlands and Denmark have agreed to be pilot farmers for a period of four years. They are a mix of conventional farmers with both grazed and fully housed systems and organic farmers.

Arla’s own agricultural experts and external experts from FAI Farms – an agribusiness research, data and advisory firm – will train and coach the 24 pilot farmers to manage their farms in a regenerative way.

Farmers will help collect data and evaluate various methods to understand the effect they may have on soil health, carbon capture, biodiversity, ecosystem processes, farm profitability and farmer well-being. .

At FAI Farms, Claire Hill, Director of Regenerative Agriculture, is leading the project, which will collect data from soil samples from the 916 Arla organic farms that will be analyzed by a third-party lab to establish a baseline of their carbon in the soil.

“Arla is by far the biggest partner we have in regenerative agriculture in the dairy sector,” she notes.

“[This initiative] can dramatically increase our knowledge of what regenerative transition looks like, the challenges, and the benefits that will help us understand how more farmers can begin their journey.

Starting next year, farmers will also assess soil health indicators such as soil odor, ease of spading and the number of earthworms.

Biodiversity activities carried out by farmers
Regenerative agriculture has caught the attention of producers, retailers, researchers and consumers as one of the responses to the twin crisis of climate change and biodiversity loss.

In 2020, Arla joined One Planet Business for Biodiversity, an international intersectoral and action-oriented coalition on biodiversity with a particular focus on agriculture.

Arla is joined by other industry giants, including PepsiCo and Nestlé, who have each launched their own initiatives to develop regenerative agriculture in their supply chains in recent months.

Still in this area, EIT food recently joined forces with the new European Carbon + Farming Coalition to promote regenerative farming practices by organizing educational workshops and “test farms” to pilot new agro-technological start-up ideas. -unique ups.

“As a farmer-owned dairy cooperative, we have a great interest in understanding how we can reduce the negative impact and maximize the positive impact of dairy production,” says Hansson.

“While we give our full attention to reducing our negative impact, the positive impact that we can create as stewards of the earth has not yet been fully scientifically proven. We want to gain more scientific knowledge so that dairy farmers can take the right steps for the future. “

By Benjamin Ferrer

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