US – Food Production giants Danone North America and Ingredion have pledged to improve water stewardship and adopt sustainable agriculture practices on more than 1 million total acres of land as part of the Ceres and World Wildlife Fund AgWater Challenge.

 As part of its new commitments, Danone North America — which has participated in a previous Ag Water Challenge round — will focus its efforts on land growing dairy feed and almonds, while Ingredion will center on corn, tapioca, potato, pulses, and stevia.

Danone North America set goals of supporting soil health and water outcomes on 18,000 additional acres across the United States by 2025, which is on top of its earlier commitment on 82,000 acres.

The company will also offer incentive programs to cover all of the acres and farmers covered under this commitment, and work with NGOs on to support high water risk watersheds.

As part of the AgWater Challenge, Ingredion is adopting regenerative farming practices on 500,000 acres of corn, tapioca, potato, pulses and stevia grown in high-risk watersheds by 2027, and across 1 million acres by 2030 — representing about 30% of its total global sourcing.

It will also provide technical assistance and training to farmers and work with the Sustainable Agriculture Initiative Platform to develop a food and beverage industry regenerative agriculture standard set for 2022.

Launched in 2016, the AgWater Challenge encourages large food and beverage companies to be more conscious about their water usage.

The AgWater Challenge also focuses on sustainable agriculture which includes soil health and nutrient management through technological advancements and incentive programs.

Previous AgWater Challenge participants include Diageo, General Mills, Hormel Foods, Kellogg and PepsiCo.

Apart from packaging and emissions, analysts also front water use and sustainable agriculture as areas that have the potential of helping a corporation lower its environmental footprint

According to Ceres, the global food sector accounts for 70% of the world’s fresh water use, making efforts targeted towards its efficient use to be equally important as those directed at plastic use.

The United Nations estimates that demand for water will be 40% more than supply by 2030, creating a potential source of conflict between domestic consumers and large food corporations.

Already, some major corporations such as Nestle have felt the brunt of public backlash over their water use and have been taken to court several times by environment activists protesting their water use practices.

Ceres further notes that unsustainable agricultural practices — using excess fertilizers and pesticides and intensive tillage — can pollute water and erode soil. 

To bolster sustainable agriculture, large food corporations partnered with environmental and sustainability groups to support sustainability goals.

Tyson is, for instance, working with the Environmental Defense Fund on a land stewardship initiative that will allow the meat company to cut back on its water use, reduce greenhouse gas emissions and help farmers yield more food.

These sustainability efforts come as consumers increasingly grow more concerned about the impact that food can have on the environment.

According to an August survey from Informa’s NEXT Data & Insights shared by Food & Beverage Insider, 65% of consumers value who grows their food and how it was made, up from 55% on April.

This makes water and agriculture two powerful ways that CPG companies can address consumer concerns and the sustainability puzzle.

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