Friday, April 12, 2024

Unilever launches first UK regenerative agriculture project

Unilever has launched its first regenerative agriculture project in the UK, working with farms that grow mustard seeds and mint leaves used in Colman’s products.

This is the latest regenerative agriculture project from Unilever, building on global programmes that have seen the adoption of Unilever’s Regenerative Agriculture Principles to grow ingredients in Hellmann’s and Knorr products in the United States, France, Spain, Argentina and Italy.

Globally, Unilever have an ambitious roadmap in place to invest in regenerative agriculture practices on 1.5 million hectares of land and forests by 2030, helping to ensure food security and supply chain resilience through the supply of agricultural raw materials.

The project will initially trial the application of regenerative agriculture practices across mustard and mint farms around Norwich and Peterborough over four-years, including mustard farms which have supplied Colman’s products for over 200 years, with the first crop of the programme due to be sown next month.

The project brings together Unilever and two farming cooperatives, the English Mustard Growers and Norfolk Mint Growers, with a group of technical and academic partners, Farmacy and National Institute of Agricultural Botany (NIAB). Designed to address the unique challenges and needs of these crops and landscapes, regenerative agriculture practices new to these farms will be trialled including the use of low carbon fertiliser, crop nutrition strategies, planting of cover and companion crops to reduce pesticides use, new digital water irrigation scheduling systems and reduced cultivation.

Unilever has worked with the farms to collect and establish baseline data and created a framework to measure the impact these practices will have over four-years, collecting data on soil health, fertiliser use, biodiversity, water use efficiency and carbon reductions as well as impact on yields and farm profitability. Unilever is also funding the development of new technologies to improve data collection on farms, including a device that will be able to measure carbon levels in soil in situ.

Andre Burger, Head of Nutrition, Unilever UK & Ireland, said: “Healthy soil should matter to all food businesses and as the climate crisis continues to impact the natural world, we need to not just protect but to help regenerate the soil and farmland used to grow the crops and ingredients we enjoy every day. Colman’s is a British condiment staple and our new regenerative agriculture project will help to ensure the sustainable supply and future of the delicious ingredients and farms that put the big flavour into our products.”

Michael Sly, Mustard Farmer, said: “As with all farmers, we are facing the challenges of climate change directly on our land. Alongside our English Mustard Growers Group, we’re on the journey with Unilever and NIAB to integrate regenerative agriculture practices that include strong measurement processes, to improve our yield, improve the soil health, and maintain the flavour of a fantastic product alongside that.”

David Bond, Mint Farmer, said: “To increase our resilience and continue to produce high quality products, we need to work with our climate, which means adapting our practices. This new project with Unilever will enable us to implement regenerative agriculture practices on a wider scale, together with more measurement and analysis from our partnership with NIAB, so we can continue to learn and improve for the future.”

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