BEER BREWER Guinness is backing an ambitious 'regenerative agriculture' pilot in Ireland, with an emphasis on reducing the carbon emissions of barley production.

What is planned is an extensive, three-year farm-based programme using regenerative techniques to improve soil health and its carbon sequestration potential; enhance biodiversity; reduce synthetic fertiliser use; enhance water quality; and all while improving farmer livelihoods. The ambition is for the barley grown under the pilot to be used to brew Guinness.

In the first phase in 2022, the programme will begin with at least 40 Irish farms across spring and winter barley sowing, and as the pilot develops, it is expected that many more farmers will be engaged to take part.

Guinness will work in collaboration with farmers and suppliers including Boortmalt, Glanbia and Comex McKinnon, to understand the most effective regenerative practices, and adapt them to the local context and the specific needs of Irish barley production.

One of the farmers involved in the pilot, Walter Furlong Junior, said: “We’re delighted to be partnering with Guinness on this programme. The great thing about regenerative agriculture is the simplicity of the approach. It’s not a complicated process – it works in harmony with nature whilst providing a commercial benefit for farmers.

Read more: Regenerative agriculture leads to productivity and sustainability at Castleton

"We already use regenerative agricultural practices and have seen a marked improvement in the quality of the soil on our farm. It is a highly effective approach that leads to much better outcomes."

The Irish Minister for Agriculture, Food, and the Marine, Charlie McConalogue TD, commented: “This pilot shows the importance of sectors working together to reduce emissions. It is welcome that one of Ireland’s most iconic brands is taking a strong leadership position on farming and the environment, as we all work towards reducing carbon emissions and meeting our ambitious but necessary climate change targets.

"Delivering on the three pillars of sustainability – environmental, social and economic – is a key priority of mine and is core to the Food Vision 2030 strategy I am implementing. I look forward to the roll-out of the programme and continued engagement with Guinness on its progress.”

The president of Guinness' owners Diageo Europe, John Kennedy, added: “This pilot is the first such programme being implemented by Diageo and the outcomes will help inform other potential opportunities, not just in Ireland, but in other countries where we source raw materials.

“We will openly share the results from the pilot programme so that other farms can learn and adopt practices that have demonstrated the highest potential impact from an environmental and farm profitability standpoint. Like the Irish farming community, we are ‘all in’ for the long haul – for our people, products, partners and planet. At St. James’s Gate, we are only 263 years into our 9000 year lease and we will never settle in pursuit of a more sustainable future.”