By Alison Taylor, Chief Sustainability Officer, ADM
ADM’s purpose is to unlock the power of nature to enrich lives. We recognize that maintaining biodiversity and other natural resources is essential to an abundant future and to our ability to meet the nutrition needs of a growing global population. We are investing in regenerative agriculture not only because ecosystem services like water quality and soil health are of strategic importance for our business, but also because they support the livelihoods of grower communities around the world.
Regenerative agriculture is an approach that promotes soil health by nurturing microorganisms and insects. It improves water retention and bolsters the resilience of crops to pests, disease and extreme weather events, which are becoming more frequent as a result of climate change. Regenerative practices also include moving away from monocropping and instead supporting crop rotations and cover cropping. Other sustainable agricultural practices with regenerative effects include low or no till cultivation, reducing agricultural inputs, and restoration of natural areas that border farmland.
We are collaborating with farmers, peers, customers, NGO and government partners to implement a range of innovative projects that have the potential to reduce the impact of our agricultural value chain while safeguarding biodiversity and the environment. We are proud to have engaged over 13 million acres in sustainable agriculture programs globally, and have many examples of successful collaborations across different commodities and geographies.
In India, for example, we have partnered with the Ministry of Agriculture for more than two decades to promote more sustainable soybean production. By providing small and midsize soybean growers with sustainability resources, technology, market connections and best conservation practices, the program is increasing farmer income and helping to meet growing global demand for certified organic and non-GMO soy. As a result of the partnership, 250,000 smallholders in India’s Maharashtra and Karnataka states are now registered vendors with ADM and able to access global markets.
In Brazil, we partner with Alianca da Terrafor the Produzindo Certo or Doing it Right program, which provides technological resources for Brazilian soy farmers to adopt more sustainable farming practices. By encouraging the use of new technologies to maximize production with fewer agricultural inputs, the initiative helps growers to increase productivity and achieve higher yields using less cultivated land. So far, the program has supported more than 500 soy farms spanning 3.7 million acres across Brazil, reducing their overall environmental footprint and supporting better working conditions for employees.
In Europe, we are working with the Cool Farm Alliance to help growers pinpoint where the majority of greenhouse gases are being emitted at the farm level using new technology. The alliance’s Cool Farm Tool is a science-based online application that simplifies the complexity of calculating a carbon footprint. By entering data such as the types of crops grown, soil characteristics, the use of fertilizers, irrigation and transport, the tool can produce detailed information on the types and sources of greenhouse gas emissions across the growing process enabling more efficient management that can lower emissions.
In North America, through the Alliance for Sustainable Agriculture’s Field to Market collaboration, we are partnering with downstream customers to implement practices that address water quality and soil health. These include cover crops, reduced tillage, complex crop rotations, and nutrient management to reduce soil erosion, nutrient run-off, and greenhouse gas emissions. Farmers benefit from these conservation practices by keeping their most valuable asset—their soil—and expensive inputs like nitrogen on the field instead of in the local waterways. Currently, we have nine active projects in the U.S. spanning 735,000 acres of wheat, corn and soy.
Also in the U.S., we are piloting a digital technology platform called Gradable with the Farmers Business Network that helps growers measure the carbon intensity of their crops and price them accordingly. That intensity score will be maintained through processing to the final consumer product. Verifiable carbon scoring of grain can help reward farmers for sustainable practices, such as improved irrigation, water usage, and tilling.
Looking ahead, we will continue to invest in technology solutions that can measure sequestration of carbon in the soil, and partner on pilot projects that reward growers based on their practices and results. Next year, through our partnership with the Ecosystem Market Services Consortium (ESMC), we expect to see the roll out of a national scale program to recognize and compensate farmers and ranchers for their environmental services. ESMC will stack and sell the carbon and water quality credits to meet corporate reporting requirements and improve agricultural resilience.
Our work to lower the carbon footprint of ingredient production, transportation and processing applies not only to food for human nutrition but also to livestock feed, biofuels and bio-based materials. Following UNFCCC COP26, we expect to see increasing demand for more sustainable options across these areas of ADM’s portfolio, which will further incentivize the transition to regenerative agriculture.
Alison Taylor is Chief Sustainability Officer for ADM. She oversees the company’s global sustainability strategy and guides implementation of the company’s Respect for Human Rights policy, policy to Protect Forests, Biodiversity and Communities, Strive 35 environmental stewardship program, and ADM's philanthropic efforts through ADM Cares.