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Case Study:
Collaborating to Cultivate Regenerative Practices Throughout the Value Chain

Bayer and Perdue have joined forces to drive regenerative-ag practices throughout the value chain to cut emissions, reduce environmental impact and improve soil health at scale. We caught up with them to learn more.

Last fall at SB’23 San Diego, Bayer and Perdue presented findings from their unique partnership aimed at driving regenerative-agricultural practices throughout the value chain to cut emissions, reduce environmental impact and improve soil health at scale.

We caught up with Leo Bastos — SVP of Global Commercial Ecosystems, Crop Science Division at Bayer — and Perry Aulie, SVP at Perdue AgriBusiness, to learn more about the results of the partnership to date and its goals.

What have been some of the key lessons learned from this first partnership with Perdue?

Leo Bastos: We are incredibly excited to see our vision come to reality. Last year, we announced a company-wide commitment to regenerative agriculture, knowing we can’t stop with the mentality of “do more with less” — we must focus on regeneration and doing and restoring even more. We have learned a lot since we first began our work with Perdue, but the top things that come to mind for me are:

  • The need for a systems approach — this means treating each farm as an ecosystem, with its unique soil and environment.

  • Continuous listening and learning from farmers — we must listen and learn directly from the farmers doing this important work and support them in adopting practices that aren’t always easy to do and require investment. This means providing the right knowledge and expertise, tools, and incentives to make it a viable and desirable business solution.

  • A data-first approach — Precision and digitization allow for the connection and understanding on the farm but also across the value chain.

Perry Aulie: I agree with so much of what Leo shared and would echo the value of digital connection. The partnership with Bayer provides a critical digital footprint in connecting Perdue directly with our farmers through Climate FieldView. This reach provides us with something we cannot do ourselves. It also gives us a unique connection with both our business customers and consumers of our products.

Our growers trust us — we've been working with them for years and many are already using sustainable farming practices (cover crops, no-till) to reduce GHG emissions. What we have learned is we need to be able to take away some of the complexity they’ve experienced with regenerative initiatives and make this easier and less time-consuming on growers. If we do that, we expect to produce 250 million pounds of low-carbon chicken and low-carbon food oil — which we look to achieve annually within the next 5 years. If we see sufficient customer demand, then we’ll get to that number faster.

In your presentation, you mentioned scaling the program — what challenges do you see?

PA: At this point, we are seeing more opportunities than challenges. We are entering our second growing season with many learnings under our belts and incredible momentum. The most eye-opening is the value of having our own data and being directly connected to the farms and seeing the results all the way to consumer’s plates, or at least to the grocery store. Our biggest challenges will likely be effectively communicating these results to consumers in a way that resonates and keeping the momentum going. Farmer engagement has been strong; but we need to keep this up and keep building on the strong foundation built so far.

LB: Our biggest challenge and focus at Bayer will be to continue building on our learnings to reach even more farmers while also supporting Perdue in achieving their sustainability goals. The data we are collecting from farmers and Perdue allow companies buying the soybean oil or chicken to benefit from 1) the accuracy of primary data and 2) the removals (which can be used to achieve Scope 3 carbon-reduction targets under FLAG guidelines).

We must continue to think big but not lose sight of the basic tenets of our success thus far — farmer engagement and digital connection.

Leo Bastos presents at SB’23 San Diego | Image credit: Sustainable Brands

What KPIs are Perdue using to track success of this program? Are there time-bound goals around these?

PA: Our metrics will focus on carbon reduction and removals, payments made to farmers, and the volume of low-carbon oil and chicken delivered to our customers. We plan to review our goals annually and look to double our impact every year. What we learn from the data we collect is important; however, the real climate impact will come from capturing carbon in the soil and then not releasing it due to cover crops and not tilling. In looking back, the data that Bayer collected from the growers was used to form a first estimate of the reductions and removals. Currently, we are in the process of reviewing these calculations and ensuring we will achieve a trusted, credible carbon impact.

Calculating or guaranteeing permanence of carbon sequestration in soil can be tricky – how does this factor into your companies' long-term Scope 3 emissions-reduction claims or goals?

LB: It is tricky to calculate or guarantee permanence of carbon sequestration and it is an evolving practice. From our perspective, Bayer is committed to following the Greenhouse Gas Protocol’s Corporate Value Chain (Scope 3) Standard and the new Land Sector Removal Guidance to be released this year. In our programs, participating growers sign up to continue no-till or strip-till for the program’s length; plus an additional, 10-year retention period as required by the standard for us to monitor and report these practices. We know that unforeseen circumstances can arise — such as weather events — where reversals may take place, and we will be required to report such events to our customers and account for these reversals appropriately. Overall, our goal is to work with growers on their long-term commitment to support the permanence of carbon sequestration — which is monitored and verified on a regular basis.

What advice do you have for other companies considering partnerships such as this?

LB: Be open-minded but selective. We can’t aggressively progress unless we leverage existing supply chains, channels and infrastructures that are already designed to support farmers in the field. We need to see more partnerships from different links in the supply chain, coming together to solve this problem. Our hope is to see more and more companies working together — perhaps, even some that have historically competed — to continue to create change in agriculture. The second piece is to ensure you have the right partner and structure in place to deliver the data and validation needed for high-quality credits. We are not seeing apples to apples comparison in the market right now.

PA: I would say you really need to find partners with aligned values and goals, and the spirit of continuous learning and improvement. Regenerative agriculture is not new, but our ability to grow and scale and accurately measure our impact is still maturing. Finding a partner to grow with you is critical. And most importantly, never lose sight of the farmer at the center. The work and our ability to drive change starts and ends on the farm.