Regenerative agriculture

How should food businesses engage with regenerative agriculture?

Our Business Forum in March 2020 focused on regenerative agriculture – something that food businesses that are serious about sustainability need to get their heads round quickly and explore the ways they can support its development.

The term ‘regenerative agriculture’ was reportedly first coined by the Rodale Institute in the 1970s, but in reality, many of the practices originate from indigenous practices in different parts of the world. There are many definitions and interpretations, but they tend to include working with nature and striving for positive environmental (and social) impact, rather than just ‘causing a bit less harm’.

Conventional agriculture faces hurdles, particularly in the face of climate, biodiversity and obesity crises, and severe economic constraints. Regenerative agriculture is starting to gain traction and more are calling for it to become the new normal. But what does regenerative agriculture mean and how feasible is it? Is it best understood as a set of principles or as a menu of practices? Should food and farming businesses embrace it? And if so, how? We explored these and other questions at this Business Forum dinner (held in the UK before the COVID-19 lockdown).

Read our summary write-up to learn more about regenerative agriculture, including questions to ask.

Speakers for this event were Ian Pigott OBE, a farmer committed to combining conservation agriculture, education and environmental stewardship, and founder of Farmschool; Clive Bailye, a zero-till arable farmer from Staffordshire, founder and owner of The Farming Forum and Direct Driller Magazine, and former FCCT Soil Farmer of the Year; and Dr Julia Wright, Associate Professor at the Centre for Agroecology, Water and Resilience at Coventry University, specialising in quantum thinking for agroecology. Jo Lewis, Trustee of the Food Ethics Council, Trustee of Sustain and Strategy & Policy Director at the Soil Association, chaired the meeting.