Thirty-two farmers and land managers have received almost £1m in funding during the 2021-2 crop cycle. The cash is to support them implement a regenerative approach to farming across 4,335 hectares of land in the East of England. Measures include cover cropping to protect water quality and prevent soil erosion; reduced cultivation to support soil health; crop rotations to reduce pest pressure, build soil structure and cut the use of synthetic fertilisers; and hedge planting to support biodiversity, carbon capture and – again – soil health.
These nature-based solutions are the foundation of regenerative farming principles, which aim to lessen the environmental toll of agricultural production.
The initiative is being sponsored by a new trading community, Landscape Enterprise Network (LENs). This is an independent mechanism to allow businesses that have a common interest in protecting the environment to work together.
The landscape initiative in East Anglia is being supported by Nestlé, Nestlé Purina Petcare, Nestlé Cereal Partners UK (the group’s JV with General Mills) and Anglican water, with support from sustainability risk management group 3Keel.
The importance of collaboration and taking a ‘business’ approach
“LENs connects different businesses to land managers, most often farmers, to deliver programmes which are often centred around water quality, flooding, management of carbon or biodiversity, or air quality,” explained Matt Ryan, Regeneration Lead at Nestlé UK and Ireland. “It’s about looking at what businesses and the landscapes need to thrive, and about shared interests. Collaboration is at the heart of the LENs model.”
Chris Gerrard, Natural Catchment and Biodiversity Manager at Anglican Water, echoed the importance of collaboration to drive change at a landscape level. “The LENs project allows us to work in collaboration with landowners and other sectors to protect the environment and improve water quality. It is essential to work together to solve big challenges like this for the future,” Gerrard commented.
For Tom Curtis, Founding Partner of sustainability experts 3Keel, a ‘critical success factor’ is that the initiative is ‘business-like’ in its approach. “The trades we set up deliver tangible value; protecting assets, workforce and supply chains, and they represent a profit-making opportunity for farmers.”
Delivering local solutions in complex supply chains
“Equally critical is that LENs is local. Collaborations, land management solutions and trades are all organised within the regional economy,” Curtis continued.
Indeed, Nestlé’s cereal and pet care businesses in the UK decided to work with farmers in this region because it is an important sourcing location for the company, according to Ryan. “East Anglia is an important area for sourcing wheat for our cereals and petfood products which are manufactured at our Staverton and Sudbury factories,” he revealed.
Looking to the future, 3Keel expects to continue to expand the project and support further farmers invest in regenerative efforts.
“We have already increased the number of funders from three to six in the last few months and are seeing a rise in the number of proposals from farmers requesting funding. I am looking forward to seeing LENs… achieving he outcomes that make sense to the communities and ecosystems we operate in,” Curtis concluded.