In Consumer Concern, Consumer Values, Environmental Positioning, Innovation Trends, Market Trends, NEXT Concept Lab, NEXT Trend Database, Quick Bites, Regenerative Agriculture, Sourcing Responsibly, Sustainability, Waste Reduction

Digging into Regenerative Ag

If COVID-19 has any sort of upside (other than getting to know your immediate family really, really, really well), it might be the climate. According to a CNBC article, “Canal water in Venice has cleared up without boat traffic. Air pollution in China has plunged amid unprecedented lockdowns. In Thailand and Japan, mobs of monkeys and deer are roaming the streets now devoid of tourists.” We’re all hoping the coronavirus crisis is short-lived, while at the same time wishing the environmental benefits will be the opposite of short-lived. Climate change demands it.

Regenerative agriculture is one answer to climate change on a significant scale – maybe more than you thought. What is regenerative agriculture? It’s basically a collection of farming and ranching methods that sequester carbon back into the soil.

Patagonia recently shared a story about their regenerative cotton pilot, in which they paint this picture of regenerative agriculture in action:

“Where on a conventional farm rows are separated by soil, we saw marigolds, lentils, chickpeas and vegetables growing between and around the field of orange-pink blossoms of early cotton… these additional crops had a purpose. They were there to help maintain fertile and pest-free topsoil, naturally adding nitrogen and potassium to the soil. They were effectively replacing fertilizers and drawing carbon back into the soil. They were also there to increase the livelihood of subsistence farmers and their families. This was going beyond organic. Regenerative organic finds solutions within nature: it rehabilitates soil, respects animal welfare and improves the lives of farmers.”

Is regenerative agriculture really that powerful when it comes to the climate? The answer seems to be yes. Consider these three stats:

  • The UN estimates we have 60 years of topsoil left unless something drastic changes.
  • A 1% increase in soil organic matter can hold 20,000 gallons more water per acre when it rains.
  • Regenerative agriculture enhances and sustains the health of the soil by restoring its carbon content, which in turn improves productivity (just the opposite of conventional agriculture): vital microbes proliferate, roots go deeper, nutrient uptake improves, water retention increases, plants are more pest resistant, and soil fertility compounds. Farms are seeing soil carbon levels rise from a baseline of 1 – 2% up to 5 – 8% over ten or more years, which can add up to 25 to 60 tons of carbon per acre.

Stay tuned next week as we dig into how companies and farmers are approaching regenerative agriculture, as well as how consumers are reacting. In the meantime,NEXT will be monitoring which brands are innovating in regenerative and which new products are showing the greatest success. Curious how moving into regenerative might impact your product? NEXT’s Concept Lab is here to help.