Heineken and Pernod Ricard’s subsidiary Irish Distillers have launched a project in Ireland to help malting barley farmers transition to more regenerative agricultural practices.

The three-year pilot study is part of a global initiative to build resilience into the production of agricultural raw materials. The project involves 15 farmers from across Ireland, as well as malt producer Boortmalt and sustainability non-profit Earthworm.

Data gleamed from the study – such as the environmental impact of the practices adopted – will be shared by both parties and will be used to inform future material strategies.

Avril Collins, corporate affairs director at Heineken Ireland said: “Over the past 2 years, Heineken have developed a global ‘Low Carbon Farming’ programme that focuses on carbon reduction. Pilots in this programme in 2021 show an average 25% CO2 reduction and 40% increase in CO2 sequestration during the farming process.

“We are delighted that here in Ireland we are taking this initiative deeper to look at a number of parameters across soil health, water and biodiversity to fully understand the impact and where change can be made.”

While regenerative farming initiatives can cover an array of approaches and systems, the concept is primarily based around five principles: do not disturb the soil; grow a diverse range of crops; keep the soil surface covered; keep living roots in the soil; and bring grazing animals back to the land.

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The flexible definition of the concept, however, had lead some campaigners to raise concerns over the possibility of greenwashing or ESG ‘box-ticking’.

Last month, the Carlsberg Group set out its plans to reshape its European supply chain by transitioning to a “regenerative model” and the use of 100% regenerative agricultural practices by 2040.

Carlsberg’s regenerative farming project has begun in the UK, Finland and France. The brewer is currently working with 45 farmers in France and has pledged to use barley sourced from regenerative farming practices for all beer sold under its 1664 Blonde brand by the year 2026.

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