Published 4 years ago.
About a 4 minute read.
“Without barley, we have no beer — it’s that simple. Helping our growers future-proof their own businesses makes sense for ours.” — Bill Dempsey, Molson Coors’ Chief Procurement Officer
The Molson Coors Brewing Company, one of the
world’s largest beer producers, is helping its barley growers better understand
the impact of weather conditions on crops and adopt more sustainable practices
by installing weather stations and soil moisture probes across barley farms in
Montana, Idaho, Wyoming and Colorado. Molson Coors has invested
over $20 million in the past 10 years in its Better Barley, Better
the company’s sustainability commitment to help farmers in its supply
chain future-proof their business.
Molson Coors buys hundreds of thousands of tons of barley
annually. Malting-grade barley is a sensitive crop and needs just the right
amount of heat and water — too much or too little of either means low-quality
grain or none at all. According to a study in the Nature Research Journal,
changing weather patterns and increasing droughts can lead to diminishing yields
on barley and can ultimately cause an annual decline of up to 17 percent. This
potential decrease in high-quality barley supply could result in increases in
beer prices — up to 15 percent.
“Without barley, we have no beer — it’s that simple,” says Bill Dempsey,
Molson Coors’ Chief Procurement Officer. “Helping our growers future-proof their
own businesses makes sense for ours. We’ve focused our efforts on bringing
farmers on board our sustainability journey and helping them implement
sustainable practices that are accessible, relevant and effective.”
Much as fellow brewing giant AB In-Bev has done to ensure a supply of sustainable barley, one of Molson Coors' programs focuses on in-depth research into barley varieties to
explore various beneficial properties of different strains. This work led to the
development of Bill Coors 100 — Molson Coors’ own irrigated barley cultivar
— that was launched in 2016 as a malt barley that reduces the need for water and
can offer up to 33 percent higher yields. The barley-breeding program is helping
farmers integrate more sustainable growing practices and grow a more successful
crop, despite shifts in weather patterns and growing conditions. This work
contributes to the brewer’s 2025 goal of improving water efficiency in its
agricultural supply chain and malting operations by 10 percent.
This research-driven approach extends to the company’s unique partnership
with The Nature Conservancy (TNC). In
2011, MillerCoors and TNC teamed up to develop
Showcase Barley Valley in Silver Creek, Idaho, to explore techniques in
irrigation efficiencies and create a body of research on tested practices that
reduce risk for farmers. The brewer works with farmers to implement proven
programs and tools, such as weather stations and soil moisture probes, which
measure soil water content. Knowing how much water is already in the soil is
crucial for helping farmers manage their irrigation systems and timings more
effectively, ensuring no water is wasted. The weather stations also enable
farmers to make more data-driven decisions around planting and irrigations
Molson Coors also offers a unique digital Grower Direct Portal, which
enables farmers to collect precise data of agricultural best-management
practices at the field level. This in turn allows Molson Coors to aggregate data
and identify higher-level sustainability trends and opportunities.
To date, roughly 800 barley growers in the US are using the portal. While the
portal isn’t yet available for the 149 barley growers in its UK-based Molson
Coors Growers Group (MCGG), all MCGG farmers participate in the
Tractor sustainability certification
standard, which also tracks a number of sustainability indicators. Tracking
growers’ sustainability performance contributes to the brewer’s goal to source
100 percent of its barley and hops from sustainable suppliers in key growing
regions by 2025.
Molson Coors financially incentivizes its growers to be more sustainable by
paying more per bushel weight. Farmers are paid more to align their growing
practices with Molson Coors’ recommendations and show progress on reducing
inputs on their farms (tracking water, energy, nitrogen, phosphorous,
fertilizer, etc). The program, launched in 2018, will help farmers lay the
foundation for continuous improvement on several sustainability areas and reduce
the overall environmental footprint of their crops.
“As a grower for MillerCoors, we try to grow the highest quality crop while
using all the technology that is available to us today to grow the most
sustainable crop that is least impactful on the environment,” says Lucas
Spratling, an irrigated grower for MillerCoors.
Through these combined initiatives, Molson Coors is providing a comprehensive
way to help its farmers embed sustainability in their business, adapt to climate
change and bring them along on its own sustainability journey.
Published May 24, 2019 11am EDT / 8am PDT / 4pm BST / 5pm CEST