Anheuser-Busch partnership will produce more efficient rice-growing practices, while General Mills has committed to regenerate 1M acres of farmland by 2030.
Indigo Agriculture, Anheuser-Busch partner on climate-friendlier rice
Image credit: Budweiser
This week, Anheuser-Busch announced a partnership with Indigo Agriculture — a company that works with growers to improve profitability, environmental sustainability, and consumer health through the use of natural microbiology and digital technologies — to advance sustainable rice production.
Indigo has committed to delivering 2.2 million bushels of Indigo Rice™ to Anheuser-Busch that is grown with specific environmental attributes. Growers contracting with Indigo to produce rice for Anheuser-Busch will reduce water and nitrogen used by 10 percent and achieve at least 10 percent savings in greenhouse gas emissions compared to state benchmarks. This partnership is the first of-its-kind to offer growers an end-to-end solution that incentivizes the commercial production of sustainable rice.
“Anheuser-Busch is leading the food and beverage industry in meeting consumer demand for sustainably-grown ingredients,” said David Perry, Indigo’s CEO. “Indigo is leveraging its end-to-end, integrated approach to agriculture to grow, capture and preserve the value of sustainably produced ingredients. We are thrilled to partner with Anheuser-Busch, a company that shares our vision for beneficial agriculture, to create meaningful value for the growing community and higher quality options for consumers. By collaborating with leaders across the supply chain, we’re conserving natural resources, preserving farmland for future generations, and producing healthier final products.”
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Anheuser-Busch buys rice from all over the US, and mills approximately 2.6 million pounds of rice a day at a company-owned facility in Jonesboro, Arkansas. The brewer is the largest end user of rice in the US; the grain — which helps provide a clean, crisp taste — has been part of the Budweiser recipe since 1876.
"Sustainability isn't just part of our business, it is our business. Partnering with Indigo to source rice with unique environmental attributes rewards our farming community for adopting sustainable agricultural practices and incentivizes further innovation,” said Ingrid De Ryck, VP of Procurement and Sustainability at Anheuser-Busch. “Most importantly, this trailblazing collaboration supports three of Anheuser-Busch’s 2025 Sustainability Goals by advancing smart agriculture, watershed health and carbon-emissions reductions.”
With Indigo’s microbial technology and data-driven agronomic support, growers are able to improve rice yield while reducing the use of chemicals, irrigation and fertilizers. Anheuser-Busch will leverage these capabilities to assure a high-quality final product, meeting consumer demands for thoughtful sourcing and preservation of the environment, while enabling growers to earn more for their grain.
“Indigo’s field teams, data-collection tools and commitment to grower profitability make them the ideal partner to source rice with lower environmental impact,” said Jess Newman, Director of Agronomy for Anheuser-Busch. “Beyond the sustainability gains, we are excited that this partnership is a win-win for grower profitability. Growers can earn a premium for progressive practices, save on water and nutrient input costs, and realize yield increases due to the Indigo microbial seed treatment for rice. By creating a market for rice grown with innovative practices, we are delighted to empower and support our growers as they continue to move the industry forward on farm efficiency.”
General Mills plans to regenerate 1M acres of farmland by 2030
A field of oats near Winnipeg, Manitoba destined for Cheerios. | Image credit: General Mills
Meanwhile, last week General Mills committed to advancing regenerative agriculture practices on one million acres of farmland by 2030. The food giant says it will partner with organic and conventional farmers, suppliers and trusted farm advisors in key growing regions to drive the adoption of regenerative agriculture practices. A contributor to climate change, the global food system is estimated to account for roughly one-third of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and 70 percent of water consumption.
“We have been feeding families for over 150 years and we need a strong planet to enable us to feed families for the next 150 years,” said Jeff Harmening, Chairman and CEO of General Mills. “We recognize that our biggest opportunity to drive positive impact for the planet lies within our own supply chain, and by being a catalyst to bring people together to drive broader adoption of regenerative agriculture practices.”
Regenerative agriculture is a holistic method of farming deploying practices designed to protect and intentionally enhance natural resources and farming communities. These practices focus on pulling carbon from the air and storing it in the soil, in addition to helping the land be more resilient to extreme weather events. General Mills will partner with key suppliers to drive adoption across key ingredients including oats, wheat, corn, dairy feed and sugar beets.
“Our first on-farm training and education academies will focus on North American growers where we source high-quality oats for Cheerios, Annie’s, Cascadian Farm, Nature Valley and Blue Buffalo,” said Jon Nudi, president of North American Retail for General Mills.
General Mills is granting $650,000 to non-profit organization Kiss the Ground to support farmer training and coaching through Soil Health Academies, where growers will learn how to increase farm profitability, build resiliency into the land and decrease input costs using soil health practices.
“Investing in soil health and regenerating our soils has numerous benefits including water infiltration, reduced pest pressure, resilience to unpredictable weather, and reducing greenhouse gasses,” said Lauren Tucker, executive director of Kiss the Ground. “We have an opportunity to not just sustain our natural resources, but to restore them for generations to come. We can only advance the adoption of these practices that benefit people and the planet if we partner with and support our farmers.”
This announcement builds upon General Mills’ commitment to improve soil health and to reduce its absolute GHG emissions by 28 percent across its full value chain by 2025. The company has reported it is nearly halfway to that goal, with its GHG emissions footprint down 13 percent in 2018 compared to 2010.
General Mills also drives awareness of regenerative agriculture with consumers through its brands. For example, in 2018, Annie’s launched two limited-edition products with ingredients grown using regenerative practices, and this year will offer two additional regenerative agriculture products: Macaroni & Classic Cheddar and Shells & White Cheddar. Cascadian Farm, in partnership with The Land Institute, is working to commercialize organic Kernza — a perennial grain whose 10-foot roots are able to capture carbon and water, while preventing soil erosion. And EPIC Provisions is helping connect mission-based companies to progressive livestock producers using regenerative practices. Its Sweet & Spicy Sriracha Beef Bites product was the first consumer packaged product to feature the Savory Institute Land to Market Ecological Verification Outcome seal, which measures outcomes versus practices.
General Mills is leading the development of measurement science to connect regenerative agriculture practices, such as no-till and cover cropping, to environmental and economic outcomes:
Healthy Soil: Carbon-rich, biologically active soil plays an essential role in cleaning and storing water, supporting biodiversity and regulating the climate.
Above-Ground Biodiversity: Diversity in crop varieties, grazing animals, wildlife and pollinators supports resilient ecosystems that can better withstand disease, pests and climate fluctuations.
Farmer Economic Resilience: Regenerative agriculture practices can strengthen whole-farm profitability and resilience over time.
Healthy soil is the foundation for regenerative agriculture and since 2015, the company has invested more than $4 million to advance soil health initiatives. Previous and ongoing examples of General Mills’ work include:
Development of The Soil Health Roadmap in partnership with The Nature Conservancy, which outlines key steps to achieve widespread adoption of soil health systems on more than 50 percent of U.S. cropland by 2025. These efforts could deliver $50 billion in societal benefits annually.
Development of a Regenerative Agriculture Self-Assessment tool to help farmers understand how their practices influence soil health, biodiversity and economic resilience.
A strategic sourcing agreement with Gunsmoke Farms LLC to convert 34,000 acres of conventional farmland in South Dakota to certified organic acreage, using regenerative agriculture practices, by 2020.
"We need companies like General Mills, who have the scale and commitment to create sustainable agricultural systems," said Larry Clemens, North America Region Agriculture Director for The Nature Conservancy. "Efforts to improve soil health and enrich biodiversity are critical to addressing climate change and other environmental challenges."