The pilot project in Ireland is part of a collaboration initiated by the two alcohol industry giants on the resilience of agricultural raw materials: with the aim that learnings will be rolled out globally in the future.
Lessons from the Irish study, including information on the environmental impact of the measures adopted, will be shared and leveraged by both companies to inform sustainability strategies for other raw materials.
Collaboration with farmers and key supply chain players
Each year, the Irish drinks industry is supported with grain production from more than 2,000 farmers producing approximately 300,000 tonnes of grain from approximately 45,000 hectares.
Paris-headquartered Pernod Ricard – whose brands include Irish whiskeys Jameson, Redbreast and Midleton - and Dutch beer heavyweight Heineken say that collaboration and knowledge-sharing will be key to the success of the project. This means involving key players in the supply chain such as malting company Boortmalt, the global non-profit Earthworm Foundation, and 15 participating farmers.
“The overarching aim of the initiative is to support each farm’s transition towards regenerative agriculture and share this knowledge with other farmers, ultimately with a view to improving the economic and climatic resilience of malting barley farming in Ireland,” say the partners.
The project will seek to improve soil health and carbon retention, increase biodiversity, improve water quality and improve the livelihoods of farmers through the adoption of a series of regenerative agricultural practices including minimising soil disturbance, increasing crop diversity, increasing soil cover by maintaining living roots all year round and reducing chemical inputs.
Various metrics will be measured by Earthworm: with these including soil cover, fertilizer usage, water infiltration and profitability.
Farmers will then see a report on each on the defined indicators, allowing them to identify areas of improvement and track the impact of new farming practices.
Each farmer will receive a financial incentive of an undisclosed amount to support the cost of implementing new practices and in-field experiments.
An annual report will also be made publicly available to track progress, share learnings and best practice.
Commenting on the launch of the program, Kathryn D’Arcy, Communications and Corporate Affairs Director at Irish Distillers said: “In line with the Pernod Ricard 2030 Sustainability & Responsibility roadmap ‘Good Times from a Good Place’, we are committed to working in partnership with our suppliers to develop regenerative agricultural practices that enhance natural ecosystems and respond to the challenges of climate change.
“Through the regenerative agriculture pilot program for malting barley, we will support Ireland’s barley farmers as they strive to reduce carbon emissions while ensuring a sustainable supply for the future production of Irish whiskey. This is a global program which is being piloted in Ireland and will run for three years. Along with our partners, we are keen to demonstrate the potential impact of the program and assess its potential for roll out in other countries.”
Avril Collins, Corporate Affairs Director at Heineken Ireland added: “Heineken is one of the first global brewers to have made a pledge for net zero carbon emissions across the value chain by 2040 and working with the source of our main ingredients is key to understanding how we can reach this goal, as agriculture accounts for 33% of our global footprint.
“Over the past two years, Heineken has developed a global Low Carbon Farming program that focuses on carbon reduction. Pilots in this program in 2021 show an average 25% CO2 reduction and 40% increase in CO2 sequestration during the farming process. We are delighted that here in Ireland we are taking this initiative deeper to look at a number of parameters across soil health, water and biodiversity to fully understand the impact and where change can be made."