As I sit here and draft up a list of my own goals for the upcoming year, the team at Danone North America is already celebrating a huge accomplishment, as the company announced that it has reached a huge milestone in its multi-million-dollar soil health research program, now spanning across 82,000 acres.
"We're now three years into our five-year soil health research program and have established a solid foundation of research and data down to the individual field level. Our farmer partners are very receptive and engaged in our program, and this year we welcomed several new farmer partners to the program with the expansion into almond orchards and increasing our acres with organic dairies," said Ariel Wildenauer Desmarais, Senior Director of Agricultural Sourcing, Danone North America. "Over the next two years, we look forward to taking our findings, quantitative outcomes, and improvement plans to increase regenerative agriculture practices in the field and launch a comprehensive financial investment and impact model that will support farmers and their partners, confirming lasting impact–both economically and environmentally."
Danone’s soil health initiative, which launched in 2017, brings experts and academics together to build state-of-the-art soil health programs that will benefit farms and communities across the company’s portfolio, according to the press release. Fast forward three years and the program has almost tripled in size to nearly 82,000 acres, including 28,000 organic acres, in the U.S. and Canada, with the recent expansion into almond orchards in the central valley of California.
The goal of the initiative is to improve the organic matter in the soil to increase carbon sequestration and improved yields, restore biodiversity, reduce chemical use, and enhance soil water holding capacity. In the third year of the program, Danone North America focused on five distinct areas of regenerative agriculture: Soil Health, Biodiversity, Water, Carbon, and Economy and Productivity, the press release noted.
With the help of partner Sustainable Environmental Consultants and its EcoPractices® platform, Danone conducted an analysis of soil health and related goals to achieve improvement on enrolled farms. Key performance indicator updates can be found here.
"At Danone, we believe that regenerative agriculture–a series of innovative farming practices that help to lock carbon in the ground where it belongs–is a key solution to tackling climate change," said Nicholas Camu, Vice President of Agriculture, Danone North America. "We are proud to be making real progress with our regenerative farming partnerships and that, together with our farmers, we are leading the way with the most comprehensive program of its type in the U.S. We hope our work inspires others to join and drive an even bigger impact."
Among the farms active in Danone’s soil health program over the last three years is VanTilburg Farms in Northwestern Ohio, a Co-Owner of MVP Dairy.
"As a family that has been farming for more than 100 years, we are committed to using conservation practices to preserve the land for generations to come," said Kyle VanTilburg of VanTilburg Farms and MVP Dairy. "We are fortunate to work directly with Danone North America to continuously assess and improve the soil health of our farm, allowing us to build in regenerative agriculture practices to drive returns over the long term. We are proud of the progress to-date from this comprehensive program and encourage others to join us and secure both the financial and environmental future of their farms."
Deli Market News will continue to report as companies continue to cross ambitious goals off their lists.