Demonstrating sustainable practices in agri-food production - Insights from EIT Food Region West

The EIT Food West Community event, held on June 20 in Edinburgh, provided a vibrant platform for in-depth discussions on the role of data, the true cost of food, and regenerative agriculture. The COVERE² team attended this inspiring event, which also provided valuable networking opportunities.
The Role of Data in Demonstrating Impact

In the journey towards sustainable farming, data and the establishment of baselines play a pivotal role. They not only help in understanding the current state of agricultural systems but also in measuring the impact of innovative practices such as regenerative agriculture. This approach, which emphasizes restoring soil health, biodiversity, and ecosystem services, relies heavily on data to prove its efficacy and guide its implementation.

For instance, the large-scale study on soil quality in Northern Ireland aims to collect data to provide a clear picture of the current soil health, which is crucial for implementing effective regenerative practices. Establishing such a baseline is essential because it allows us to treat and improve conditions based on concrete evidence.

Moreover, democratizing data management is critical. Currently, detailed and actionable agricultural data often only benefits the top 1% of farmers who are already performing well. To ensure that innovations in regenerative agriculture are accessible to all, we must develop frameworks that allow smaller farmers to leverage this data effectively.

Context-Specific Versus Frameworks in Regenerative Agriculture

Regenerative agriculture is highly context-specific. What works in one region or farm may not be applicable in another due to differences in soil, climate, and local ecosystems. Therefore, it is essential to identify which frameworks can be replicated and which need to be tailored to specific contexts. Data is crucial in this endeavor, as it provides the evidence needed to adapt practices to local conditions.

Additionally, there is a pressing need to create a global definition of regenerative agriculture. The lack of a standardized definition leads to mistrust and inconsistency in implementation. By establishing clear metrics and collecting robust data, we can build a framework that fosters trust and demonstrates the tangible benefits of regenerative agriculture, particularly its impact on nutrition.

Regen10 initiative, for example, develop tools and resources that will help food system actors transition to regenerative approaches. This includes an Outcomes-Based Framework with a core set of metrics to collect, measure and understand the changes that occur over time on farms and landscapes.

The Hidden Costs of Food and True Cost Accounting

In the current food system, many costs are hidden. Environmental degradation, health impacts, and loss of biodiversity are not reflected in the price of food. True cost accounting is a concept that aims to address this by assigning a value to these hidden costs. By doing so, we can better understand the real price of our food and the benefits of investing in sustainable practices.

Who Pays for Higher Quality Food?

Transitioning to regenerative agriculture can be costly, particularly in the initial years when benefits are not immediately apparent. This raises a critical question: who will bear these costs? The supply chain’s willingness to pay for higher quality, sustainably produced food is uncertain. However, it is certain that there is a need for derisking change for farmers. 

About EIT Food West Community event

The 1st EIT Food Region West Event took place in Edinburgh on June 19-20. Were discussed exciting topics such as sustainable packaging and regenerative agriculture. Program consisted of keynotes and panel discussion from experts, start-up pitching their innovations and also lots of time for networking with others within the community!

About EIT Food 

Supported by the EU, EIT Food leads the world’s largest and most dynamic food innovation community. Find more here