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HEINEKEN embarks on low carbon barley farming trial

15 September 2021

HEINEKEN UK is launching an innovative trial to explore how one of the main ingredients of beer, barley, can be grown in a more sustainable way to help reduce CO2 emissions.

The trial is a collaborative effort between HEINEKEN UK, malt supplier Muntons, supply chain consultancy Future Food Solutions and Yorkshire-based barley farmers. In the first year of the pilot, which will begin with the 2021 Autumn crop-sowing campaign, 10 farmers will be taking part and around 7,000 acres of winter and spring barley varieties will be grown yielding up to 25,000 tonnes of grain, enough to brew almost 300 million pints of beer.

The ambition is to use the learnings from the pilot to scale the project over the coming years to help contribute to HEINEKEN’s global ambition to reduce emissions from agriculture by 33% by 2030 versus a 2018 baseline, and to achieve a carbon neutral value chain by 2040.

The barley grown as part of the trial will first go to Muntons’ plant at Flamborough, Bridlington, for malting. From there, it will be transported to HEINEKEN’s brewery in Tadcaster where it will be used in the brewing process.

Matt Callan, Supply Chain Director at HEINEKEN, said: “Without barley we can’t make beer. This trial is very much about ensuring we create a sustainable long term supply chain that benefits farmers, the planet and biodiversity. Agriculture is the second biggest contributor of our carbon footprint and with our new ambition to hit carbon neutrality through our entire value chain by 2040, tackling this part of our footprint is key. This is the reason we have partnered with Future Food Solutions and Muntons. They help farmers to integrate a range of innovative ideas into their processes to reduce carbon emissions and improve soil health; exactly the things we need to make our barley more sustainable.”

Rachel Scholes of JS Scholes Farmers Sledmere, said: “We’re delighted to be taking part in this HEINEKEN initiative to trial low carbon farming. As a farming enterprise 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.”

Steven Cann, Director of Future Food Solutions, said: “Farmers benefit from improved soil health and lower farm input costs. Spring barley, which is what most brewers prefer, is prone to drought but increasing soil organic matter means the land retains far more water, so the farmers get greater resilience built into their crops. This equates to better crops and better margins. HEINEKEN benefits from a more sustainable, more resilient supply chain that will help the business meet its carbon neutrality targets and the consumer enjoys a tasty, refreshing beer in the knowledge that it has had a significantly reduced impact on the environment. It is a win for everyone.”

Dr Nigel Davies, Director of Technical and Sustainability at Muntons, said: “As a business that started its sustainability journey all the way back in 2000, it is an exciting project for us to be involved in. We work closely with Future Food Solutions to help farmers cut their carbon emissions and this has helped us to reduce the carbon footprint of our barley supply chain by 32% in the past 12 years. As a result, the malt we make is certified 100% sustainable by the Farm Sustainability Assessment standard.”

The pilot will focus on a number of sustainable farming techniques including inter-row cropping, growing cover crop mixes including varieties such as phacelia, oil radish and clovers, 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 HEINEKEN global programme: the 2040 Low carbon farming programme, which has been launched in 10 countries, with the aims of reducing carbon emissions and capturing CO2 in the soil.

HEINEKEN UK is the UK’s leading cider, beer and pub company. The company’s beer brands include Heineken®, Birra Moretti, Foster’s, John Smith’s, Red Stripe and many more household names.