Danone research project aims to improve soil health

BROOMFIELD — Danone North America, a food and beverage producer headquartered in Broomfield, is completing the third year of its regenerative agriculture program, a research project that aims to improve soil health for the benefit of both farmers and the environment. 

In year three the program, which connects experts, academics and growers, now includes 82,000 acres of farmland in the United States and Canada. 

Specifically, Danone’s regenerative agriculture program was designed to bolster carbon sequestration, the process of reversing climate change by removing greenhouse gases from the air and returning those compounds to the soil.

“At Danone, we believe that regenerative agriculture — a series of innovative farming practices that help to lock carbon in the ground where it belongs — is a key solution to tackling climate change,” Danone vice president of agriculture Nicholas Camu said in a prepared statement. “We are proud to be making real progress with our regenerative farming partnerships and that, together with our farmers, we are leading the way with the most comprehensive program of its type in the U.S. We hope our work inspires others to join and drive an even bigger impact.”

According to Danone, key focus areas and their corresponding results over the first three years of the five year regenerative agriculture program include:

  • Protecting and restoring soil:  93% of the fields in the program had a positive Soil Conditioning Index value, a figure, that according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, “can predict the consequences of cropping systems and tillage practices on the status of soil organic matter in a field.”
  • Fostering biodiversity with species, varieties and wildlife: Doubled the number of species planted to 32, including grasses, legumes and brassicas to promote crop diversity.
  • Preserving and protecting water systems: Implemented technologies such as soil moisture probes, filter strips and saturated buffers.
  • Reducing greenhouse gas emissions: Reduced more than 80,000 tons of carbon dioxide equivalent and sequestered more than 20,000 tons of carbon through regenerative soil health practices.

Danone said it “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.”

Danone senior director of agriculture sourcing Ariel Wildenauer Desmarais said partner farmers are “very receptive and engaged in our program, and this year we welcomed several new farmer partners to the program with the expansion into almond orchards and increasing our acres with organic dairies. Over the next two years, we look forward to taking our findings, quantitative outcomes, and improvement plans, to increase regenerative agriculture practices in the field and launch a comprehensive financial investment and impact model that will support farmers and their partners, confirming lasting impact — both economically and environmentally.”