Danone North America, a White Plains, N.Y.- and Broomfield, Colo.-based maker of dairy and plant-based products, said it continues to expand its regenerative farming program, which is currently the most comprehensive regenerative agriculture dairy program in the United States. On Dec. 21, the company unveiled its year-three results from its multi-year, multi-million-dollar soil health research program.

Launched in 2017, the soil health initiative brings together experts and academics to build best-in-class soil health programs to benefit farms and communities across the Danone North America portfolio. Now completing its third year, the research program has nearly tripled to more than 82,000 acres, inclusive of 28,000 organic acres, across the United States and Canada, and recently expanded into almond orchards in the central valley of California, Danone North America said.

"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,” said Nicholas Camu, vice president of agriculture at Danone North America. “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."

Danone North America said the goal of its soil health initiative is to improve organic matter in soils, leading to increased carbon sequestration and improved yields; reduce chemical use; restore biodiversity; and enhance soil water-holding capacity, leading to improved farm economic resilience over the long-term. In year three of the five-year soil health program, Danone North America evaluated progress with a focus on five key areas of regenerative agriculture: soil health, biodiversity, water, carbon, and economy and productivity.

The company partners with Sustainable Environmental Consultants and its EcoPractices platform to conduct an in-depth field-level sustainability analysis and reporting on soil health and related goals leading to continuous improvement on enrolled farms. Danone North America said the year-three assessment revealed key performance updates for the following environmental impact areas:

  • Protecting and restoring soil: On the third year of the program journey to enhance organic matter in soils, farmer partners plant cover crops on 64% of the program acreage versus the national average of 5%, and practice reduced or no till management practices on 77% of the program acreage versus the national average of 33%. Ninety-three percent of the fields in the program had a positive Soil Conditioning Index value in the third year of the program.
  • Fostering biodiversity with species, varieties and wildlife: To support wildlife habitat and pollinators such as bees and butterflies that are critical to agriculture — and to ensure a more resilient and sustainable supply for farmer partners — Danone North America doubled the number of cover crop and cash crop species, up to 32, including grasses, legumes and brassicas to promote crop diversity.
  • Preserving and protecting water systems: The company is enhancing soil water-holding capacity through improved soil health management and protecting its water supply through technologies such as soil moisture probes, filter strips and saturated buffers.
  • Reducing Greenhouse Gas emissions and sequestering carbon: To date, Danone North America's soil health program has reduced more than 80,000 tons of carbon dioxide-equivalent and sequestered more than 20,000 tons of carbon through regenerative soil health practices, progressing efforts toward its global net-zero-carbon by 2050 goal.
  • Ensuring ongoing viability: The program monitors improved yields and efficiency, and supports the farmer economic value proposition, achieving lower input costs associated with reduced nutrient application and supporting farm economic resiliency as a result of regenerative agriculture practices.

"We're now three years into our five-year soil health research program and have established a solid foundation of research and data down to the individual field level,” said Ariel Wildenauer Desmarais, senior director of agricultural sourcing, Danone North America. “Our farmer partners 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," she added.

To learn more about the Danone North America soil health program and its year-three results, visit https://youtu.be/4yV2Awu2vuw.