SPAIN – Unilever’s yearlong Regenerative Agriculture (Regen Ag) project on tomato production in Spain has yielded positive results, with a record 37% decrease in greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions per kilogram of tomatoes compared to before the project.

This trial, which form’s part of the first set of Unilever’s Regen Ag projects in Spain, Italy, and the USA aimed at improving water and soil management during tomato cultivation.

The experiment utilized sensors and soil probes to provide farmers with accurate information on the optimal amount of water required for irrigation. This helped to ensure cost efficiency and enhance the resilience of their production systems.

The trial findings, as recorded in their final report, suggest an increase in soil organic matter and fertility, from 1% in 2020 to 1.27% in 2022.

Spain was chosen as the trial location due to the partnership between Unilever and farmers from the Badajoz region in the southwest of Spain.

These farmers supply Unilever with tomatoes for its Knorr brand, which produces soups, seasonings, sauces, and bouillon cubes.

The area is facing challenges due to decreased rainfall and depleted underground water reserves.

This prompted Knorr to collaborate with tomato supplier Agraz to assist farmers in the region in dealing with the impacts of climate change.

It is also noted in the report that this climate variability had an impact on the trial results because high temperatures and droughts increase the need for irrigation, and thus the greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions associated with it.

“However, in both normal and extreme climatic conditions, Unilever’s approach would reduce the impact on water footprint,” outlines the report

It is also crucial to note that in 2020, Unilever pledged to invest €1 billionn (USD 1.06 bn) in climate, nature, and resource efficiency projects with the goal of transforming the way its products are manufactured and disposed hence their current tomato project in Spain.

Regenerative agriculture is a farming practice that focuses on improving soil health and biodiversity, while reducing the use of water and other inputs. 

Other than Spain, conventional and intensive agriculture is causing numerous climate-related issues in other regions including Greece, Italy, and Portugal, reveals a Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) report.

The result of these farming systems includes soil erosion, an ongoing reduction in soil fertility, a decline in biodiversity, and a lack of both drinking water and water for crops.

The European Commission has also outlined that food security is at risk in the Mediterranean area, with 30% of its semi-arid regions already being affected and 8.3 million hectares of agricultural land lost.

“Methods of regenerative agriculture are intended to halt further desertification,” asserts the report.

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