Two of Ireland’s leading drinks companies are joining forces to promote regenerative agricultural practices in barley farming. Irish Distillers and HEINEKEN Ireland are coming together for a three year collaboration which will support malting barley farmers in adopting regenerative agricultural practices on their farms.
This pilot project is part of a global collaboration initiated by HEINEKEN and Pernod Ricard on the resilience of agricultural raw materials. Learnings from the Irish study, including information on the environmental impact of the measures adopted, will be shared and leveraged by both companies to inform sustainability strategies for other raw materials.
Collaboration and knowledge-sharing will be key to the success of the project which involves key players in the supply chain, including a selection of 15 participating farmers from across Carlow, Kildare, Laois and Wexford and partners Earthworm Foundation and Boortmalt.
The overarching aim of the initiative is to support each farm’s transition towards regenerative agriculture and share this knowledge with other farmers, ultimately with a view to improving the economic and climatic resilience of malting barley farming in Ireland.
The project will seek to improve soil health and carbon retention, increase biodiversity, improve water quality and improve the livelihoods of farmers through the adoption of a series of regenerative agricultural practices including minimising soil disturbance, increasing crop diversity, increasing soil cover by maintaining living roots all year round and reducing chemical inputs.
As part of the project, Earthworm will measure various metrics in participating farms, such as soil cover, fertilizer usage, water infiltration and profitability. A report detailing the performance of each farm against defined indicators, as well as areas for improvement, will be shared with each farmer so the impact of the new farming practices can be assessed. An annual report will also be made publicly available to track progress, share learnings and best practice. A financial incentive will be provided to famers to support the cost of implementation and in-field experiments.
 Each year, the Irish drinks industry is supported with grain production from more than 2,000 farmers producing approximately 300,000 tonnes of grain from approximately 45,000 hectares.
 Earthworm Foundation is a leading not-for-profit organisation specializing in building value chains that work for people and for nature.
Commenting on the launch of the programme, Kathryn D’Arcy, Communications and Corporate Affairs Director at Irish Distillers said: “
“At Irish Distillers, we have a proud history of buying quality grain from Irish farmers to produce our whiskeys. In line with the Pernod Ricard 2030 Sustainability & Responsibility roadmap ‘Good Times from a Good Place’, we are committed to working in partnership with our suppliers to develop regenerative agricultural practices that enhance natural ecosystems and respond to the challenges of climate change.
Through the regenerative agriculture pilot programme for malting barley, we will support Ireland’s barley farmers as they strive to reduce carbon emissions while ensuring a sustainable supply for the future production of Irish whiskey. This is a global programme which is being piloted in Ireland and will run for three years. Along with our partners, we are keen to demonstrate the potential impact of the programme and assess its potential for roll out in other countries.”
Avril Collins, Corporate Affairs Director at HEINEKEN Ireland added:
“HEINEKEN are one of the first global brewers to have made a pledge for net zero carbon emissions across the value chain by 2040 and working with the source of our main ingredients is key to understanding how we can reach this goal, as agriculture accounts for 33% of our global footprint. Over the past 2 years, HEINEKEN have developed a global Low Carbon Farming programme that focuses on carbon reduction. Pilots in this programme in 2021 show an average 25% CO2 reduction and 40% increase in CO2 sequestration during the farming process. We are delighted that here in Ireland we are taking this initiative deeper to look at a number of parameters across soil health, water and biodiversity to fully understand the impact and where change can be made. We greatly appreciate that this journey requires many players to work together so we are delighted to be partnering with our peers in Irish Distillers.”
Speaking on behalf of Earthworm, Bastien Sachet, CEO of the Earthworm Foundation said:
“We are very happy to partner with HEINEKEN and Irish Distillers on this project. At Earthworm we believe that improving soil health is key to having a positive impact on climate and biodiversity. Switching to regenerative practice will ensure that farmers have healthier soils and can thrive economically while continuing to produce the raw materials our society needs. Through this project, the whole value chain from farmer to brand is joining forces around soil health to realise a common vision. We are excited to be a part of and contribute to this collaboration”
Speaking on behalf of Boortmalt, Chief Supply Chain & Sustainability Officer, Inge De Winne said:
“At Boortmalt we are pleased to facilitate this initiative. It brings together the right partners to help support farmers improve their regenerative practices with the goal of reducing and even sequestering emissions in the soil. Having a long tradition of working very closely with farmers in Ireland, it is good to see this engagement extended to respected customers and 3rd parties. We look forward to the experience, the learnings and to sharing the findings and best practices.’