Good things are taking root as Guinness continues its regenerative agriculture pilot

30 May 2023

The Guinness regenerative agriculture pilot launched in February 2022 to work with the farmers who grow the barley for our much-loved drinks, so they can farm in harmony with the natural environment. We hope to achieve a reduction of 30% in the greenhouse gas emissions of a spring barley production during the pilot.

Since launch, we’ve recruited 44 farms across Ireland to participate, and we’ve gathered the baseline data1 so we can accurately track the impact of our pilot. Some of the highlights from the data are:

  • The carbon footprint of growing spring barley across our participating farms is lower than other international studies
  • Of this carbon footprint, almost three quarters is from the use of nitrogen fertiliser
  • We sowed cover crops last autumn to protect the land on which our barley is grown. We’ve been able to see this has absorbed a significant amount of nitrogen, phosphorous and potassium2 that would usually go into water, but is now able to be recycled into the next crop.
  • The soil carbon stocks demonstrate great care and heritage of Irish soils3.

The data was reviewed by soil scientist Neil Fuller, Future Food Solutions, who said “The baseline numbers are very impressive. The pilot farmers are doing a fantastic job as custodians of the land, building on firm soil foundations laid by previous generations. Irish farmers are producing barley with excellent yield and quality with a low carbon footprint, and still there is tremendous potential to further reduce emissions. But this is only half the story. All the baseline metrics demonstrate that Irish soils are in great health.”

Speaking about the pilot, Vanessa Maire, Global Head of Regenerative Agriculture, Diageo commented, “We now have the ability to analyse 44 different farms and share learnings and best practice. This will give farmers a fantastic opportunity to reduce emissions without compromising yield or quality, while at the same time removing carbon from the atmosphere. We want to thank the growers and our suppliers for working with us on this project - we really appreciate their support and commitment.”

The next project milestone includes examining how fertiliser selection can reduce emissions and the establishment of baseline biodiversity measurements for birds and pollinators. Listening devices will be placed on selected farms that will record the sounds from birds and pollinators. The sounds will be analysed to determine the number of species on the farm.

At Diageo, our supply chain (scope 3) emissions are one of our biggest challenges in achieving our goals set in our ESG action plan, Society 2030. We’ve committed to halving our carbon emissions by 2030, and to reaching net zero across our supply chain by 2050. Within our supply chain emissions, sourcing raw materials and agriculture make up one third of this. To find out more about the Guinness Regenerative Agriculture pilot, click here.

 

1 Baseline measurement:

Baseline data was taken between October 2022 and January 2023 from the 44 participating farms. Baselining farms uses a methodology that converts crop management data into production emissions, using Internationally approved emissions factors. Results are reported on a “per-hectare” and a “per-tonne” basis to monitor changes in absolute and relative carbon emissions. This data is combined with very detailed soil sampling to assess soil health, soil organic carbon and the soil nutrient status. The data is then integrated to define opportunities for reducing emissions and removing carbon from the atmosphere, effectively defining a de-carbonising pathway for each farm. Part of the process is to understand which farming activities generate the most carbon emissions, and what practical measures farmers can take to reduce or remove them, without compromising crop yield or grain quality.

2 Crop analysis has shown that they are intercepting 28kg of nitrogen, 3kg of phosphorus and 26kg of potassium per tonne dry matter grown.

3 Soil carbon stocks are 104 tonnes of CO2e per hectare which is an impressively high figure when compared with other international studies.

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