March 7, 2018
DanoneWave, America’s largest yogurt maker, announced a five-year, $6 million commitment to launch a groundbreaking soil health initiative with renowned experts and academics to build a best-in-class soil health program. The initiative aims to identify ways to enhance organic matter and soil fertility.
The program will begin with products involved in The Dannon Pledge and may have future impact across the DanoneWave portfolio. The Dannon Pledge is the company’s commitment to a range of progressive practices focused on sustainable agriculture, transparency and naturality, which DanoneWave says enables it to offer consumers more yogurt choices. One aspect of the pledge includes the company’s Non-GMO Project verification for its Dannon, Oikos and Danimals brands.
“Soil is the foundation of our food system, with an estimated 95% of food directly or indirectly reliant on soil,” Ryan Sirolli, agriculture director of DanoneWave, said. “As America’s largest yogurt maker, we saw an opportunity to initiate this breakthrough research program with our supply chain. When we announced our pledge, we committed to championing sustainable agriculture, which includes reaching for better soil health.”
Sirolli said the initiative will evaluate soil on the farms of growers who provide feed for cows and on the dairy farms producing milk.
“The long-lasting relationships we have with our growers and dairy farmers -- who have a passion for change and strive for continuous improvement -- have empowered us to launch this program. We know this work requires collaboration to make a meaningful impact, and we are excited to bring together uniquely skilled partners to help us to continue to fulfill our ambition,” he said.
DanoneWave will be advancing its soil health research program over the next 18 months. The aim of the soil health initiative is to identify ways to help regenerate soils, looking at enhancing organic matter and soil fertility, with long-term benefits such as soil carbon sequestration, reduced chemical use, better soil water holding capacity, increased biodiversity and economic resilience in farmers' communities.
Key activities with participating grower and dairy farmer partners and third-party soil health experts will include soil sampling, yield review, grower engagement, data collection and analysis, first reports and field days with farmers to provide training on soil health best practices.
Rick Clark, who grows Non-GMO Project Verified feed for the supply chain that supports brands involved in The Dannon Pledge at Clark Land & Cattle in Williamsport, Ind., said, “A priority on my farm is stewardship of the land. When we steward the soil well, we have better yields, and we help Mother Nature. I am looking forward to working with DanoneWave to continue to improve soil health, and I am excited to look at the outcomes of this research program to consider how it impacts my farm and our practices.”
The DanoneWave soil initiative includes the following partners:
Dr. Rattan Lal and the Carbon Management & Sequestration Center at The Ohio State University will lead soil sampling across a set of grower and dairy farmer partners. The team will analyze the samples and provide data for analysis. The team will then look at the data to identify practices to help increase the carbon intake of soil.
Dr. Harold van Es and the soil health team at Cornell University will partner on soil health analysis for the program. The team will use results to make recommendations to be implemented over the next five years with an aim to improve soil health with participating grower and dairy farmer partners.
EcoPractices, working with EFC/Ag Solver as a service provider, will gather information from program partners to analyze and share reports that help create an understanding of what the data mean for many stakeholders, particularly the farmer partners.
In addition to announcing partners for the soil health initiative, DanoneWave announced that it is also joining The Carbon Underground, Green America and other food companies to inform the design and development of a new global certification standard for food grown in a regenerative way.
“With all life beginning and ending in soil, there is urgency to promote agricultural practices that can help regenerate soils. As a soil scientist who has conducted research in this area for the last 50 years, I am privileged to work with DanoneWave -- a company that is setting an example for the private sector with a commitment to become carbon neutral,” Lal said. “The support of the private sector will ensure we can make changes on a significant scale. I hope that others will be inspired by this work and consider options for becoming involved.”
“Working with the private sector to tackle the question of how to improve soil health will help us make an impact at large scale," van Es added. "I’ve spent my career exploring opportunities to improve soil health, and I look forward to working with DanoneWave and the soil health program research team to implement changes based on what we learn through the research.”
The company also said it is exploring options to participate in the Regenerative Organic Alliance, a group working to develop a new standard that will be known as Regenerative Organic Certification. The work with the Regenerative Organic Alliance would be complementary to DanoneWave’s continued commitment to the U.S. Department of Agriculture's organic standard through pioneering brands.
“DanoneWave seeks to understand how this proposed certification can benefit our planet and farming communities through soil health, animal welfare, social fairness and offering more choices for our consumers and our business,” the company stated.
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