Potato processor McCain has announced that 100% of its crop acreage will be grown using regenerative agriculture practices by 2030.
McCain is the largest buyer of UK potatoes, obtaining about 15% of the annual crop from around 250 growers.
However, globally it works with 3,500 farmers, growing 150,000ha of potatoes worldwide.
The new commitment is included in the Canadian-based firm’s latest global sustainability report, published on Monday (7 June).
The document says it would like to see the amount of carbon dioxide per tonne associated with potato farming, storage and freight reduce by 25% by 2030.
McCain also wants to improve water-use efficiency by 15% in water-stressed regions by 2025.
It says regenerative agriculture – which involves keeping plant cover on fields throughout the year, minimising soil disturbances and maximising crop diversity – is a way to increase water efficiency, protect against erosion and capture more carbon.
The report also suggests it will pump more nutrients into the earth, create greater resilience to droughts and floods and increase the yield and quality per acre.
Regenerative agriculture key
The report does not give any detail of what expectations it has for individual growers in the UK, but says that it must redefine what sustainable farming and food production of the future looks like.
“We believe that regenerative agriculture is key to this future, but it’s a journey in which we will need to partner with many others to achieve,” it says.
McCain has said it will be investing in furthering understanding of regenerative agricultural practices and their impact, costs, and benefits.
It is also investing in three McCain-owned “farms of the future” which will be dedicated to developing regenerative farming practices.
The first of these has already been established in New Brunswick, Canada, and the plan is to establish the other two in different growing regions by 2025.
Howard Snape, regional president at McCain GB and Ireland, said the business was committed to helping and protecting British potato growers to ensure the long-term sustainability of the potato crop.
“The impacts of climate change are all too real and our farmers have been hit immensely hard in recent years having faced a major drought and the wettest harvest on record,” Mr Snape said.
“This announcement will be critical in helping us reduce our collective carbon footprint, while building a resilient supply chain in which everyone can thrive.”
The pledge to shift to regenerative agriculture follows a commitment made last summer to invest £25m in the British potato industry to help farmers manage the impact of climate change and Covid-19.
The McCain Potato Farmer Pledge includes a loyalty scheme rewarding farmers who continue to grow potatoes, grant funding to help farmers invest in infrastructure and new technology, and the introduction of more sustainable contracts.