Regenerative Agriculture: What It Is & The Business Benefits
- Regenerative agriculture enhances soil and ecosystem health while reducing issues like carbon emissions, erosion, and polluted runoff.
- Trailblazing companies implementing and monitoring regenerative sourcing will benefit by securing their supply and proving sustainability commitments to stakeholders.
- Data-driven farming approaches that leverage end-to-end traceability are key to tying your regenerative agriculture initiatives to a specific product. So you can prove your net zero commitments with confidence.
With the world on the brink of reaching the 1.5 C warming threshold, climate action is becoming more urgent by the day. Did you know that agricultural products account for approximately one-third of the world's greenhouse gas emissions? It's no wonder why regenerative agriculture has become such a hot topic lately, as it presents a practical solution to this pressing issue. But what exactly is regenerative agriculture, and why is it so important? Can it actually make a difference for people and the planet? And how can companies harvest the benefits of regenerative sourcing for their commodities?
What Is Regenerative Agriculture?
Regenerative agriculture (aka carbon farming) is an approach to land management that enhances soil and ecosystem health while reducing issues like carbon emissions, erosion, and polluted runoff. It's a win-win for farmers and the environment, boosting farm productivity and profitability while safeguarding our planet. Simply put, regenerative agriculture moves beyond sustainable agriculture by preserving and improving the environment.
It's important to recognize that regenerative agriculture is not a novel idea; its roots originate from traditional farming practices. For centuries, Indigenous Peoples have used regenerative principles, viewing themselves as caretakers of the ecosystem rather than dominators of the land. Conventional farming practices like monoculture, tilling, separating livestock, and harmful chemical inputs deplete the land's resources. By adopting regenerative farming practices, we can nourish the earth for a sustainable future.
So, what does this mean for your business? As the demand for responsible business booms and sustainability regulations gain momentum, forward-thinking companies that can tie (and prove!) their regenerative agriculture claims to specific products will future-proof their business while creating a lasting impact on people and the planet.
The 5 Key Regenerative Agriculture Practices & Principles
While every farmer faces unique circumstances based on their farm and geographical region, the five fundamental principles of regenerative agriculture can guide responsible sourcing. Here’s how they work:
- Soil Armor: Soil armor provides a protective layer to the soil surface with organic materials (e.g., crop residues or cover crops). This creates favorable conditions for plant growth by helping to reduce erosion, retain water, moderate soil temperature, and suppress weed growth.
- Plant Diversity: Like humans requiring a diverse diet for optimal health - the soil community needs diversity to thrive. Rather than relying on monoculture, regenerative farms cultivate numerous plant species through crop rotations to enhance natural nutrients for the soil.
- Maintain Living Roots/Plants: Regenerative farmers maximize the time living roots and plants are in the soil (e.g., perennial or cover crops). This is essential for nutrient cycling, elevating microbial activity, and refining soil structure, resulting in a significant increase in fertility.
- Minimize Soil Disturbances: In contrast to conventional farming, regenerative practices minimize or eliminate tilling and the use of chemicals. Doing so improves soil structure, organic matter, and water-holding capacity.
- Livestock Integration: Incorporating grazing animals (e.g., cattle, sheep, or poultry) into farming systems mimics natural ecosystems and offers numerous benefits, including nutrient cycling from the organic matter left behind by animal manure. Critical to success is applying good grazing practices by frequently moving cattle and avoiding overgrazing.
Regenerative Agriculture & Carbon Sequestration
There's been a lot of buzz about regenerative agriculture and its potential for combatting climate change. But the big question is: does it actually work? While regenerative agriculture will not be the one-stop-shop solution to solving climate change, when done right, it can enable the agriculture industry to mitigate rather than amplify carbon emissions.
Conventional farming practices no longer cut it. Studies show there may not be enough arable topsoil to feed the world in 50 years. From desertification to deforestation, conventional farming practices harm the planet and strip the land of its natural resources.
On the other hand, regenerative farming focuses on soil health, and healthy soil means more carbon sequestration. If adopted on a major scale, healthy agricultural soils have the potential to sequester 250 million metric tons of CO2 annually.
Critical to success are accurate carbon accounting and legitimate claims. Brands must eliminate greenwashing and stay up-to-date on climate-friendly farming practices in their supply chains, using evidence-based data to back their strategies and decisions.
The Business Benefits of Regenerative Agriculture
In addition to the ecological, economic, and societal benefits, the top two business benefits of regenerative agriculture include:
Securing Your Supply
Secure your supply at the farm level to avoid shortages and disruptions in your supply chain. Regenerative farming boosts crop yields and farm resilience, propelling productivity and mitigating risks. Additionally, soil health will be vital to securing fertile land as desertification rises. Brands and suppliers that promote regenerative sourcing can future-proof their commodities, drive strategic forecasting, and enhance farmer livelihoods.
Proving Sustainability Commitments
Companies that implement regenerative sourcing can stay ahead of the curve in meeting the sustainability demands of conscious consumers and investors. From reducing carbon emissions to preserving biodiversity, companies monitoring and tracking regenerative practices – with quantitative and qualitative data – can demonstrate to stakeholders their commitment to sustainability.
Monitoring Regenerative Agriculture Practices: Choosing the perfect traceability partner.
Data-driven farming is king for monitoring your regenerative agriculture practices and supporting your decarbonization strategy. Accurate monitoring of what’s happening at the soil and farm level and tying that to your products requires a traceability solution. Farm-level traceability provides numerous advantages, including the primary data needed to meet regulatory compliance (e.g., EUDR, CSRD) and secure your supply.
But beware, not all traceability software is created equal. To back up your sustainability claims with verifiable data, follow these four criteria for choosing the perfect traceability partner:
While companies may know the initial tiers of their supply chains, such as the supplier or manufacturer from where they source a product or semi-final product, many brands lack visibility upstream at provenance. With farm-level visibility, brands can prove regenerative sourcing of their commodities. The traceability solution you choose should provide the granularity needed to prove your sustainability claims, including the geo-coordinates of the farmer’s plot of land and primary data on the specific regenerative practices used.
Maintained chain of custody
To ensure the validity of your regenerative agriculture claims, it's crucial that your traceability partner can track and report on the chain of custody throughout your entire supply chain. This includes every movement of your commodities, from the plots of land to the end products. The best traceability solutions should maintain unaggregated, source-level data even after transportation and transformations, allowing you to confidently tie specific products to the farm they originated from.
To ensure compliance amidst constantly evolving regulations, it's crucial to have a traceability partner that can be agile in delivering the necessary data requirements. Otherwise, businesses will find themselves continually redoing calculations or starting from scratch. Seek a flexible and scalable platform with a metadata layer that seamlessly integrates new parameters to meet changing compliance demands. Additionally, your traceability partner should be able to smoothly integrate with your existing systems to avoid errors and inconsistencies.
Due to the complex nature of supply chains and remote working environments, your traceability solution should be completely accessible and device agnostic. The most effective solutions are designed with the end user in mind, ensuring practicality and data accuracy from the ground up. Ensure your traceability partner has experience capturing the data inputs you need at the farm level.
Regenerative Agriculture Conclusion
As the world faces the urgent need for climate harm reduction, regenerative agriculture offers a practical and sustainable way forward. Trailblazing companies that can tie their regenerative agriculture initiatives to a specific product through end-to-end traceability can future-proof their business while keeping sustainability claims honest and accurate.
BanQu is a true traceability platform built for companies across all industries, with multi-purpose solutions to prove your sustainability claims and achieve audit-proof compliance with farm-level primary data. Our blockchain-based platform captures verifiable data from soil to shelf, enabling you to monitor and track your regenerative agriculture practices and carbon reduction initiatives while maintaining the chain of custody even after mass balance. Set up a discovery call with our expert team today!