Danone North America continues to expand its regenerative farming program, currently the most comprehensive regenerative agriculture dairy program in the US. The company unveiled today its year three results from its multi-year, multi-million-dollar soil health research program. Launched in 2017, the soil health initiative brings together experts and academics to build best-in-class soil health programs to benefit farms and communities across the Danone North America portfolio. Now completing its third year, the research program has nearly tripled to more than 82,000 acres, inclusive of 28,000 organic acres, across the US and Canada, and has recently expanded into almond orchards in the central valley of California.
The goal of Danone’s soil health initiative is to improve organic matter in soils leading to increased carbon sequestration and improved yields, reduce chemical use, restore biodiversity, and enhance soil water holding capacity, leading to improved farm economic resilience over the long term. In year three of the five-year soil health program, Danone North America evaluated progress with a focus on five key areas of regenerative agriculture: Soil Health, Biodiversity, Water, Carbon and Economy & Productivity. The company partners with Sustainable Environmental Consultants and its EcoPractices platform to conduct an in-depth field-level sustainability analysis and reporting on soil health and related goals leading to continuous improvement on enrolled farms. The year three assessment revealed key performance updates for the following environmental impact areas:
- Protecting and restoring soil: On the third year of the program journey to enhance organic matter in soils, farmer partners plant cover crops on 64% of the Program acreage versus the national average of 5%, and practice reduced or no till management practices on 77% of the Program acreage versus the national average of 33%. Because of this, 93% of the fields in the program had a positive Soil Conditioning Index value in the third year of the program.
- Fostering biodiversity with species, varieties and wildlife: To support wildlife habitat and pollinators, like bees and butterflies, that are critical to agriculture – and ensure a more resilient and sustainable supply for farmer partners – Danone North America doubled the number of cover crop and cash crop species, up to 32, including grasses, legumes and brassicas to promote crop diversity.
- Preserving and protecting water systems: Enhancing soil water holding capacity through improved soil health management and protecting water supply through technologies such as soil moisture probes, filter strips and saturated buffers.
- Reducing Greenhouse Gas emissions and sequestering carbon:To date, Danone North America’s soil health program has reduced more than 80,000 tons of carbon dioxide equivalent and sequestered more than 20,000 tons of carbon through regenerative soil health practices, progressing efforts toward its global net zero carbon by 2050 goal.
- Ensuring ongoing viability: The program monitors improved yields and efficiency, and supports the farmer’s economic value proposition, achieving lower input costs associated with reduced nutrient application, supporting farm economic resiliency as a result of regenerative agriculture practices.
In 2020, the program has grown by 64% and enables Danone North America to continue supporting farmers in implementing innovative farm management practices. Over the next two years, the company aims to collaboratively establish goals with farmer partners, pilot innovative technologies to drive change, launch industry leading tools and programs to encourage greater regenerative management adoption, finance projects to accelerate more impact, and achieve enrollment of 100,000 acres under the regenerative agriculture program.
One of the farms active in the soil health program over the last three years is VanTilburg Farms in northwestern Ohio, a co-owner of MVP Dairy, LLC. Boyd VanTilburg started farming in 1902 with 80 acres, and today his great-grandsons, Matt, Kyle and Luke VanTilburg, are now farming over 4,000 acres of non-GMO crops for MVP Dairy, LLC, all of which are part of the Danone North America soil health program.