IRELAND – Guinness, one of the most successful alcohol brands worldwide, is embarking on a three-year regenerative agriculture programme that will produce barley for its beverages.  

The programme which aims to benefit both the farmer and the planet will initially include at least 40 farms in Ireland across spring and winter barley sowing.  

The outcomes of the pilot are expected to include improvements in soil health and its carbon sequestration potential. 

The pilot also aims to achieve enhanced biodiversity, a reduction in synthetic fertiliser use, enhanced water quality and improved farmer livelihoods. 

Regenerative agriculture is framed as part of the solution to the twin nature and climate crises. 

Soil degradation is an issue facing many nations which have now been intensively farming for decades.  

The Irish government estimates that 33% of arable land has been lost to soil erosion or pollution to date.  

And, in the UK, Future Food Solutions estimate that soil organic matter has fallen by 50% over the past 60 years. 

This can have knock-on impacts on nature, carbon sequestration potential and, ultimately, on the yields that land is able to support.  

Loss of organic matter in soil also bears both environmental and social consequences against a backdrop of population growth. 

As well as helping farmers adopt low-emission practices, regenerative agriculture can improve carbon sequestration and tackle issues relating to soil and ecosystem degradation. 

John Kennedy, president of Diageo Europe, commented: “This pilot is the first such programme being implemented by Diageo, and the outcomes will help inform other potential opportunities, not just in Ireland, but in other countries where we source raw materials”. 

Guinness will collaborate with Irish farmers and suppliers, including Boortmalt, Glanbia and Comex McKinnon, in order to understand the most effective regenerative agriculture practices, altered for the specific needs of Irish barley production. 

This programme forms part of Diageo’s wider 10-year sustainability action plan, Society 2030: Spirit of Progress. 

It also supports the company’s commitment to achieve net zero carbon emissions across its direct operations and a 50% reduction in scope 3 emissions by 2030. 

Other businesses piloting and scaling regenerative agriculture solutions in response to these challenges include Unilever, Nestle, Danone, Patagonia, McCain and KP Snacks. 

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