Over the years, REVITALIZATION has documented many regenerative initiatives backed by breweries, most of them focused on restoring watersheds and rivers.
Now, on February 23, 2022, Dublin-based Guinness (St. James’s Gate Brewery) has joined the trend, announcing that it is undertaking one of the most ambitious regenerative agriculture pilots ever to take place in Ireland.
As originally documented in a chapter of the 2002 book, The Restoration Economy, regenerative agriculture is an approach to farming that works in harmony with the natural environment to put back more than it takes out. When practiced properly on degraded farmlands and ranches, it restores the quantity and quality of topsoil, increases local biodiversity (especially native pollinators), regenerates the watershed and revitalizes both farm incomes and local food networks.
Walter Furlong Jr., one of the farmers involved in the pilot commented, “We’re delighted to be partnering with Guinness on this programme. The great thing about regenerative agriculture is the simplicity of the approach. It’s not a complicated process – it works in harmony with nature whilst providing a commercial benefit for farmers.”
“We already use regenerative agricultural practices and have seen a marked improvement in the quality of the soil on our farm. It is a highly effective approach that leads to much better outcomes,” he continued.
This extensive, three-year farm-based program intends to highlight opportunities for reducing the carbon emissions of barley production.
The key outcomes are expected to include: improvements in soil health and its carbon sequestration potential; enhanced biodiversity; reduction in synthetic fertilizer use; enhanced water quality; and improved farmer livelihoods. The ambition is for the barley grown to be used to brew even better-tasting Guinness (if that’s even possible).
In the first phase in 2022, the program will begin with at least 40 farms across spring and winter barley sowing. As the pilot develops, many more farmers will be engaged to take part.
The Minister for Agriculture, Food, and the Marine, Charlie McConalogue TD commented, “On behalf of the Government, I welcome the pilot announced today by Guinness. This pilot shows the importance of sectors working together to reduce emissions. It is welcome that one of Ireland’s most iconic brands is taking a strong leadership position on farming and the environment, as we all work towards reducing carbon emissions and meeting our ambitious but necessary climate change targets.”
“Delivering on the three pillars of sustainability – environmental, social and economic – is a key priority of mine and is core to the Food Vision 2030 strategy I am implementing. I look forward to the roll-out of the programme and continued engagement with Guinness on its progress,” he added.
A network of partners has been assembled to shape the design of this pilot, including highly respected technical partners and local Irish agronomists.
Guinness will work in collaboration with Irish farmers and suppliers including, Boortmalt, Glanbia and Comex McKinnon, to understand the most effective regenerative practices, adapted to the local context and the specific needs of Irish barley production.
John Kennedy, President, Diageo Europe, commented, “This pilot is the first such programme being implemented by Diageo and the outcomes will help inform other potential opportunities, not just in Ireland, but in other countries where we source raw materials.”
“We will openly share the results from the pilot programme so that other farms can learn and adopt practices that have demonstrated the highest potential impact from an environmental and farm profitability standpoint. Like the Irish farming community, we are ‘all in’ for the long haul – for our people, products, partners and planet. At St. James’s Gate, we are only 263 years into our 9,000 year lease and we will never settle in pursuit of a more sustainable future,” he concluded.
This program forms part of Diageo’s wider 10-year sustainability action plan, Society 2030: Spirit of Progress, and the company’s commitment to achieve net zero carbon emissions across its direct operations and a 50% reduction in scope 3 emissions by 2030.
Photo (courtesy of Diageo) shows Grainne Wafer, Guinness Global Brand Director of Diageo Ireland, alongside Walter Furlong, Cooney Furlong Grain, Co. Wexford in a cover crop field.