Barley is one of the most susceptible sectors of the brewing industry to climate change. A 2018 study suggested that severe climate events such as drought and heat could affect global barley yields, with potential average yield losses ranging from 3% to 17% depending on the severity of conditions.
The new partnership will use Benson Hill’s computational platform Breed with ‘CropOS’: a platform that brings together machine learning, big data analytics and biological knowledge.
The platform can help researchers predict, select and control desirable traits, bypassing generations of experimentation to bring crop and ingredient improvements to market more quickly.
For example, the ‘predictive power’ of Breed lets producers identify favourable traits – such as taste or pest-resistance – and bring them to market faster.
Gary Hanning, Global Director of Barley Research, AB InBev, said: “Brewing quality beer starts with the best ingredients. That requires a healthy environment and thriving communities.
"Benson Hill's powerful Breed application positions us at the forefront of innovation to develop more resilient and sustainable varieties of barley for growers and the best quality malt for our brewers."
Benson Hill’s system is already being used by confectionery and food giant Mars to improve the productivity, stress tolerance and climate resilience of cacao trees.
Plants and predictive power
How can computers and data help with crop shortages on the ground?
CropOS identifies the most promising genetics for the desired outcome – such as a higher yield, environmental sustainability or enhanced nutrition.
With the input of each field trial and each set of data, the platform can learn and predict the best outcomes.
This can overtake generations of experimentation.
AB InBev - the world’s largest brewer whose brands include Budweiser, Corona and Stella Artois - runs a ‘Smart Barley’ program as part of its 2025 Sustainability Goals. The platform uses data, technology and insights to help barley farmers in the AB InBev supply chain improve the productivity and environmental performance of their farms.
The platform allows farmers to benchmark their progress and share best practice tips across a global network, with around 5,000 farmers participating so far.
The idea is that the platform can help identify gaps or opportunities: for example, data showed that farmers in Mexico tended to over-apply fertilizer.