Irish Distillers and Heineken Ireland are coming together for a three-year collaboration that 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.
According to the drinks companies, findings 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.
Commenting on the launch of the programme, Kathryn D’Arcy, communications and corporate affairs director at Irish Distillers, said, “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.”
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 Foundation will measure various metrics in participating farms, such as soil cover, fertiliser usage, water infiltration, and profitability.
Avril Collins, corporate affairs director at Heineken Ireland, added, “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.”
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 and share findings and best practice. A financial incentive will be provided to famers to support the cost of implementation and in-field experiments.