Renewed partnership with food giants aims to expand renewable agriculture

The pilots are finished. Evidence gathering. The white papers are written. Now is the time for regenerative agriculture to take over and become the default way farmers grow their crops. To scale up renewable farming, food companies and farmers need massive monitoring efforts. This is where Regrow Agriculture comes in.

The New Hampshire-based company was founded in 2016 and has seen a few acquisitions (FluroSat and Dagan) during that time becoming a major partner to major consumer food players such as General Mills and Kellogg Co. Partnered with Regrow to monitor 175 million acres of farmland in areas where General Mills buys the most dairy and wheat — California, the Great Lakes, the Corn Belt, and the southern and northern plains of the United States. And in February, Kellogg and Regrow partnered to work to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from rice cultivation.

Regrow offered triple, according to CEO and co-founder Anastasia Volkova. First, the company does extensive satellite monitoring of crops to determine everything from crop type, harvest date, growth stages, cover crop use, tillage, nitrogen fertilizer use, and other environmental influences. The second part is the models that Regrow uses to determine greenhouse gas emissions from satellite data. Regrowth can use this information to assess the impact of a particular decision, such as moving to no-till farming or planting a more diverse crop mix. Finally, Regrow will work to validate these claims using field soil carbon samples to calibrate the models.

“It brings transparency, accountability, long-term monitoring and traceability to the system,” Volkova said.

Regrow decided to work with channel partners such as Kellogg, Cargill and General Mills to connect with farmers. By working with these huge food companies that have connections with thousands of farmers, Regrow can register farmers through these partnerships so that farmers can identify the acres in their satellite imagery and take advantage of the data collected by Regrow.

“Farmers are really getting value from increased transparency,” Volkova said. “There are a lot of people who have had great practices and want to be seen as the preferred supplier.”

But the partnership with General Mills goes beyond just the company’s suppliers. Of the 175 million acres Regrow General Mills helps monitor, only a small portion goes directly into the company’s value chain. According to Jay Watson, Senior Director of Global Impact Initiatives at General Mills, the goal is to understand broader trends in the breadbasket and plains regions of North America as a whole.

“To answer questions like Where do we see gains? Where do we see progress as it relates to regenerative systems? Where can we also see systems going in the wrong direction and what does that mean for the outcomes we care about as they relate to climate, water, biodiversity and the economy?” he explained.

General Mills has known that monitoring would be an important part of the equation and has invested heavily in research and development of these systems for years, according to Watson. But the company chose to work with Regrow because the product readiness was at the level General Mills needed.

The goal is widespread adoption. We want to monitor those effects across these entire regions, which we can’t do just by sampling on Earth.

“I think they brought the most comprehensive value proposition across innovation costs and service quality,” he said. “We really liked the interconnectedness of the industry and the sector in general.”

The regrowth system will also help General Mills monitor how its investments in renewable agriculture are performing. The company has implemented more than three years of pilot programs on renewable farming, but according to Steve Rosenzweig, a soil scientist and agricultural sciences leader at General Mills, gathering data on these pilots has been a small manual process with researchers and graduate students. This partnership will help expand its reach significantly.

“The goal is widespread adoption,” he said. “So we want to monitor those impacts across these entire regions, which we can’t do just by sampling on the ground. We have to move toward modeling with these Earth observation tools so we can get that kind of scale that we’re looking for.”

General Mills’ pilot regenerative farming programs ran on only about 115,000 acres of land. Surveillance on 175 million acres will include the vast majority of General Mills farms, according to Rosenzweig. This will help General Mills meet its sustainability commitments to advance renewable agriculture on 1 million acres and reduce GHG emissions in Scopes 1, 2 and 3 by 30 percent by 2030 (compared to 2020), and reach net zero emissions by 2050.

[Interested in learning how we can transform food systems to equitably and efficiently feed a more populous planet while conserving and regenerating the natural world? Check out the VERGE 22 Food Program, taking place in San Jose, CA, Oct. 25-28.]

The Regrow Partnership will help Kellogg reach its goal of reducing Scope 3 emissions by 15 percent by the end of 2030 and 50 percent by the end of 2050 from the 2015 baseline. The Kellogg Program focuses on methane emissions that occur during the dumping of rice cultivation in Arkansas and Louisiana. When the floodwaters drain, methane is released from soil microbes that began to develop during the anaerobic conditions of the flood season. Kellogg and Regrow are monitoring some strategies that could affect irrigation including alternating flooding and drying, which reduces the amount of methane emissions.

“Building a successful climate-smart program in the agricultural supply chain requires a lot of different strategic and technical competencies which I believe are a real challenge for any of our partners,” said Kate Schaffner, global business partner for sustainable agriculture at Kellogg. . “We really appreciated [Regrow’s] An approach with this – their eagerness to adapt to build a program with us and with additional partners who had already worked together for years to achieve something successful.”

The hope is that such partnerships can bring scale to the regenerative agriculture movement. If Regrow can do it, that will be its defining legacy.

“We need to start talking about crowd investing,” Watson said. “No one or even a few organizations will be able to push the total declining supply in terms of emissions or push the entire supply forward because it correlates with some of these outcomes from regenerative systems. A different approach could be more inviting to collective investment in action.”

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