Barley is a cereal grown around the world, representing the main raw material used in brewing. In conjunction with malt supplier Muntons and supply chain consultancy Future Food Solutions, Heineken UK will start a trial this autumn with 10 Yorkshire farmers. This will cover around 7,000 acres of winter and spring barley, yielding up to 25,000 tonnes of grain – enough for around 300 million pints of beer.
The pilot will focus on a number of sustainable farming techniques including inter-row cropping, growing cover crop mixes including varieties such as phacelia, oil radish and clovers, using less invasive measures to prepare the land and optimising crop nitrogen use.
Outcomes will be measured in terms of the amount of CO2 sequestered by the soil and the reduction in the amount of nitrogen needed to be added to the crop to produce healthy yields.
The barley from the trial will first go to Muntons’ plant at Flamborough, Bridlington (East Riding of Yorkshire), for malting. From there, it will be transported to Heineken’s brewery in Tadcaster (North Yorkshire) where it will be used in the brewing process.
Tackling agriculture's carbon footprint
Agriculture is the second biggest contributor to Heineken’s carbon footprint. This trial is part of a global Heineken programme: the 2040 low carbon farming programme, which has been launched in 10 countries to reduce carbon emissions and capture CO2 in the soil.
Learnings from the Yorkshire pilot will be used to scale the project over the coming years to help contribute to Heineken’s global ambition to reduce emissions from agriculture by 33% by 2030 versus a 2018 baseline, and to achieve a carbon neutral value chain by 2040.
Steven Cann, Director of Future Food Solutions, explained the Yorkshire trial should benefit both Heineken and farmers. “Farmers benefit from improved soil health and lower farm input costs. Spring barley, which is what most brewers prefer, is prone to drought but increasing soil organic matter means the land retains far more water, so the farmers get greater resilience built into their crops. This equates to better crops and better margins.
"Heineken benefits from a more sustainable, more resilient supply chain that will help the business meet its carbon neutrality targets and the consumer enjoys a tasty, refreshing beer in the knowledge that it has had a significantly reduced impact on the environment.”
Matt Callan, Supply Chain Director at Heineken, said: “This trial is very much about ensuring we create a sustainable long-term supply chain that benefits farmers, the planet and biodiversity.
“Agriculture is the second biggest contributor of our carbon footprint and with our new ambition to hit carbon neutrality through our entire value chain by 2040, tackling this part of our footprint is key. This is the reason we have partnered with Future Food Solutions and Muntons. They help farmers to integrate a range of innovative ideas into their processes to reduce carbon emissions and improve soil health; exactly the things we need to make our barley more sustainable.”