Ribena producer Suntory Group has unveiled a research project to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from the growing of blackcurrants through regenerative farming practices.
The project, which is being carried out in collaboration with the University of East Anglia, SBF GB&I, Suntory Holdings Limited and Soil Ecology Laboratory will take place across much of the 60 hectares of blackcurrant production at Gorgate Farm in Norfolk, which has been growing blackcurrants for Ribena since the 1950s.
“Challenging climatic and economic conditions over the past few growing seasons have inspired me to investigate, and start to adopt regenerative farming practices, that will allow us to grow sustainably as well as reduce greenhouse gas emissions,” explains Rosie Begg, second generation blackcurrant grower at Gorgate Farm. “It’s thrilling to be able to bring in national experts and researchers to support this ambition and to be so supported by our customer. Collaborating with Suntory’s global team will enable us to share our learnings and learn from regenerative projects all over the world. Soil truly is the most important and essential ecosystem; it’s linked to every function on the planet. The aim is by focusing on soil biology restoration, we can allow natural processes to support blackcurrant production without so much intervention, benefiting both the environment and blackcurrants we grow substantially.”
As part of Suntory Group’s overall ambition to support crop resilience and reduce carbon emissions from its supply chain, this project aims to reduce scope 3 greenhouse gas emissions from blackcurrant production and improve soil health so that it can support plant resilience and increase the amount of carbon it can sequester. The project will focus on minimising external inputs while improving soil health, plant nutrition and environmental protection.
The pilot project will launch in April 2023 and last for at least three years. However, it is hoped that the principles and learnings developed will lead to a step change in sustainable production not just in blackcurrant but for many other crops well into the future. Creating a blueprint that could support other growers as they start their regenerative agriculture journey.
“This project represents a real shift away from more conventional practices,” comments Harriet Prosser, Suntory agronomist. “The principles are backed by credible science but have yet to be commercially tested in more mainstream perennial fruit systems. The aim is to produce quality data that will enable us to scale up these principals to the wider industry. We’re not just tackling greenhouse gas emissions, we’re looking to increase the amount of life, in our soil, in turn improving soil health and fertility which benefits the blackcurrant itself. This trial is part of a global regenerative agriculture initiative led by Suntory Holdings Limited and draws on expertise from industry and academia, it aims to facilitate healthy plant growth and re-establish a more natural soil food web.”