The Suntory Group, headquartered in Osaka and with a diverse global portfolio of consumer beverages including whisky, beer, gin and soft drinks, has signed up to an innovative regenerative agriculture trial with Suffolk based maltster, Muntons plc, to explore how barley can be grown in a more sustainable way to reduce Green House Gas (GHG) emissions and protect water.
The trial is a collaborative effort between The Suntory Group, award winning sustainable malt supplier Muntons plc, supply chain consultancy Future Food Solutions Ltd. and Norfolk-based barley farmers lead by Dewing Grain Ltd. In the first year of this sizeable pilot, which has begun with the 2022 autumn crop-sowing campaign, 16 farmers are dedicating around 400 acres specifically to the trial producing over 1000 tonnes of barley from spring and winter varieties. This will be made into malt by Muntons and be used in Suntory’s beer and whisky production from 2024.
The project will start by baselining all crop-related emissions, which will inform an innovative nature-based programme of interventions that seek to reduce emissions, enhance soil health and protect water, while maintaining crop performance and grain quality. The ambition is to produce barley with 50% lower GHG emissions within five years.
Adrian Dyter, Head of Procurement & Technical at Muntons plc, comments, “Muntons sees the importance of taking a practical and holistic view to reducing GHG emissions and we’re proud to have been the first maltster to develop a carbon calculator to help identify where the biggest impact of reductions can be made.
Malted barley contributes 39% and 41% to the carbon footprint of beer and whisky respectively. So, the success of this trial could pave the way for reducing the overall value chain of production by 20% in a single leap. We have invested heavily in reducing Scope 1 & 2 emissions and water conservation and have decarbonised our maltings by 83% since 2007. We are now looking to Scope 3 and collaborations with forward leaning farmers and drinks producers to help achieve ambitious net-zero goal of 2030 and vision to make a real difference.”
Regenerative agriculture is a sustainable farming method that reduces dependency on chemical fertilizers and pesticides through the use of cover crops and no-till farming. It not only lowers GHG emissions but also increases soil biodiversity, thus improving soil fertility and water retention, leading to sustainable use of agricultural land.
“Thriving agricultural systems is crucial to our business and we place regenerative agriculture as one of the core solutions in transitioning to sustainable agricultural practices,” said Brian Golden, Senior General Manager, Suntory MONOZUKURI Initiative, Suntory Holdings Limited. “We will further our collaboration with various supply chain partners to procure more sustainably and to decarbonise our value chain.”
Josh Dewing, Trading Director of Dewing Grain Ltd comments, “We’re delighted to be taking part in this Suntory initiative to trial low carbon farming. As an agricultural business that has taken sustainability very seriously for some time now, it is fantastic to see leadership on this issue from big brands looking to bridge that gap between producer and consumer. With the trial covering a huge amount of acreage, it has the potential to generate some really positive outcomes for the environment and demonstrate farming’s vital role in mitigating climate change.”
Steve Cann Director at Future Food Solutions said “Having the opportunity to build field-based collaboration involving global brands like Suntory and UK barley farmers, shows the added value that innovation partnerships can bring to the UK’s food and drink sector. Focusing on improving efficiency, lowering CO2 emissions, whilst also improving on farm biodiversity results in benefits for everyone, including the environment”
The pilot will focus on a number of sustainable farming techniques including inter-row cropping, growing cover crop mixes including varieties such as Siletina Oil Radish, Winter Rye and Oats, Berseem Clover and Phacelia using less invasive measures to prepare the land and optimising crop nitrogen use. Outcomes will be measured in terms of the amount of CO2 sequestered by the soil and the reduction in the amount of nitrogen needed to be added to the crop to produce healthy yields. This trial is part of a Suntory global programme with the aims of reducing carbon emissions and capturing CO2 in the soil.