Crop diversity and water conservation are critical aspects of sustainable agriculture, but to truly future-fit our food system, ensuring soil health is imperative. To do this, DanoneWave has launched a new soil health initiative to build best-in-class programs to support sustainable agriculture in its farming communities. As part of the initiative, DanoneWave will commit up to $6 million for the research program over the next five years.
Products involved in The Dannon Pledge, the company’s commitment to a range of progressive practices focused on sustainable agriculture and transparency, will be the primary focus of the soil initiative. Brands include Dannon®, Oikos® and Danimals®.
Over the next 18 months, DanoneWave and a team of experts will work to identify ways to regenerate soils by enhancing organic matter and soil fertility. Improved soil health offers a number of long-term benefits for both the environment and farming communities, including greater carbon sequestration, water retention, biodiversity and economic resilience. What’s more, it reduces the need for excessive chemical use.
“Soil is the foundation of our food system, with an estimated 95 percent of food directly or indirectly reliant on soil. As America’s largest yogurt maker, we saw an opportunity to initiate this breakthrough research program with our supply chain. When we announced our pledge, we committed to championing sustainable agriculture, which includes reaching for better soil health,” said Ryan Sirolli, Agriculture Director at DanoneWave.
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“We will evaluate soil on the farms of growers who provide feed for cows and on the dairy farms where we buy milk. The long-lasting relationships we have with our growers and dairy farmers, who have a passion for change and strive for continuous improvement, have empowered us to launch this program. We know this work requires collaboration to make a meaningful impact, and we are excited to bring together uniquely skilled partners to help us to continue to fulfill our ambition.”
Researchers at the Carbon Sequestration Center at Ohio State University and Cornell University, as well as consultants at sustainability platform EcoPractices, have partnered with DanoneWave to execute the initiative. Ohio State will lead soil sampling across identified farms, analyze samples and identify practices to increase the carbon intake of soil. Cornell will evaluate soil health to make recommendations to be implemented over the next five years at participating farms; and EcoPractices, in partnership with EFC/Ag Solver, will gather information from program partners to analyze and share reports that help create an understanding of what the data means for various stakeholders.
“With all life beginning and ending in soil, there is an urgency to promote agricultural practices that can help regenerate soils. As a scientist who has conducted research in this area for the last 50 years, I am privileged to work with DanoneWave, a company that is setting an example for the private sector with a commitment to become carbon neutral,” said Dr. Rattan Lal, Professor of Soil Science and Director of the University of Ohio’s Carbon Management and Sequestration Center. “The support of the private sector will ensure we can make changes on a significant scale. I hope that others will be inspired by this work and consider options for becoming involved.”
In addition to launching its new soil health initiative, DanoneWave has partnered with The Carbon Underground, Green America and a consortium of major food companies to develop a new global certification standard for food grown using regenerative agriculture practices. The company is also exploring options to participate in the Regenerative Organic Alliance, which is in the process of developing the Regenerative Organic Certification standard.