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Funding regenerative agriculture: why collaboration is key to a future-fit food system

By Richard Zaltzman, Chief Executive Officer, EIT Food, and Marjolein Brasz, Chief Executive Officer, Foodvalley.

29 Feb 2024

By 2050, we will need to feed 10 billion people worldwide: a challenge that our current food system is woefully unprepared for.

As it stands, the food industry is responsible for one-third of total greenhouse gas emissions, while intensive agricultural practices have led to soil degradation and biodiversity loss. Over half of the world’s agricultural land is now degraded and without radical change, our ability to produce enough food for current and future populations is under threat.

To meet these challenges, it is crucial that we establish a future-fit food system for all: a transition that can only be achieved by prioritising systemic, regenerative approaches to agriculture, in a way that keeps farmers front and centre and fosters collaboration between all stakeholders in the food chain.

The systemic approach to regenerative agriculture

Regenerative agriculture – meaning farming methods that enhance soil health, water management and promote biodiversity – can improve farm resilience, thereby contributing to long-term food security, profitability, and climate change mitigation.

To transition to regenerative forms of agriculture, we need to take a systemic practical approach. This approach must prioritise farmers and deliver benefits to all stakeholders, from supporting farmers to aiding corporate businesses in their journey towards more sustainable sourcing.

The Regenerative Innovation Portfolio: leveraging potential across Europe

No single organisation alone can realise the changes needed to enable a sustainable, systemic transition to regenerative agriculture, which is why cross-value chain collaboration is crucial to bring regenerative agriculture to scale.

It is because of this that EIT Food and Foodvalley, supported by the Food Collective, have launched a €30 million Regenerative Innovation Portfolio, established as a Food Innovation Hub Europe Initiative. EIT Food, the world's largest food innovation community, will match partner contributions of €5 million per year until 2025.

Read the press release.

The Regenerative Innovation Portfolio aims to leverage regenerative agriculture's potential in Europe by demonstrating innovative pathways and scaling and accelerating existing initiatives through new coalition partnerships across agrifood value chains. The Portfolio takes a landscape-level approach, going beyond individual farms to consider collaborative approaches that span multiple sectors, working at a larger scale. To date, the Regenerative Innovation Portfolio has already identified five potential priority landscapes throughout Europe where multiple stakeholders – such as regional governments, investors, and retailers – have mutual interests and complimentary sourcing needs.

The unique approach of the Regenerative Innovation Portfolio also creates a pre-competitive, collaborative space with an independent convenor, thereby facilitating collaboration and de-risking investments. By creating a collaborative community, the Portfolio promises to share learnings and experiences, within and beyond the Portfolio, fostering more successful partnerships and innovation.

Supporting farmers

Farmers are on the frontline of the transition to regenerative agriculture, facing significant changes required to their land, accompanied with increased uncertainty, risks and possible short-term yield decline.

It’s therefore crucial to implement strategies that give farmers the support, time and resources needed to experiment with and transition to more regenerative agricultural practices.

These strategies – also known as ecosystem services – can include securing financing, working with large corporates to guarantee sales, and creating new income streams for the environmental added value of regenerative agriculture. These steps are essential in making regenerative agriculture more accessible and ensuring its widespread adoption. In doing so, we can address not only environmental concerns of agriculture, but also support a just transition by supporting the livelihoods of the people that grow our food.

The opportunity for corporate businesses

In the shift to regenerative agriculture so far, there have already been significant efforts and initiatives from farmers and cooperatives. Now, we need to practically scale and expand these approaches – especially as the world looks to act on the food systems agreements laid out at COP28.

The COP28 Declaration on Sustainable Agriculture, Resilient Food Systems, and Climate Action set out the importance for food to be at the heart of climate plans for 2030. As part of this, it stressed the need to scale-up and enhance access to all forms of finance from the public, philanthropic and private sectors.

Since starting the initial phase of the Portfolio in 2023, over 25 companies and supporting organisations involved in the programme have already begun to recognise the range of benefits of being involved in the programme, and how these can help accelerate their journey towards regenerative sourcing and supply system management. This includes creating scalable new sourcing models, sharing costs and knowledge, multiplying investments, and learning from other innovation initiatives.

This is where corporates can play a key role. EIT Food is matching funding from corporates that invest in landscape level collaborations in the portfolio from farm to fork, to enable a significant commitment to the regenerative transition within Europe.

One such business is Diageo, which is involved in the Regenerative Innovation Portfolio. “At Diageo, we believe in the importance of collaboration across regenerative agriculture to help us build resilient supply chains for our business and communities,” said Vanessa Maire, Global Head of Regenerative Agriculture at Diageo.

The Regenerative Innovation Portfolio enables this, along with the growth of landscape strategies and food systems change in a coordinated way at a landscape level to bring mutual benefits to those involved.”

The landscape-based approach of the Regenerative Innovation Portfolio also aligns with companies' emissions reduction goals and contribute positively to compliance with the EU's Corporate Sustainability Reporting Directive (CSRD). The Portfolio also introduces new models to de-risk, incentivise, and reward farmers for their environmental performance, aligning with companies' sourcing goals.

Regenerative agriculture holds great potential for transformative changes to our agri-food systems; now, we need a collaborative community to make it happen. By joining the Regenerative Innovation Portfolio as a corporate business, you can help unlock a unique range of benefits while driving forward the cutting edge of regenerative approaches.

For more information about how your business can be involved, please contact Innovation Lead Jolijn Zwart- van Kessel at Foodvalley at or +31 6 82096140.

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