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Source: M&S 

The initiative will help the retailer meet its target of reaching net zero emissions by 2040

Marks & Spencer has launched a new programme that will see it collaborate with suppliers, industry and farmers to “deliver rapid decarbonisation of livestock production” as part of its Plan A roadmap to net zero by 2040.

The retailer’s new Farm of the Future programme will aim to support livestock farmers to rapidly decarbonise, “demonstrating leadership on the road to net zero”, M&S said.

The seven-year programme will see seven M&S Select Farms act as focus projects across six key production sectors to identify and implement practical activities that will help farms achieve net zero.

Undertaken in partnership with suppliers and Harper Adams University’s School of Sustainable Food and Farming, the initiative will cover the beef, lamb, dairy, chicken, pork and egg sectors, and aim to help the nominated farms to decarbonise and maximise wildlife and habitat creation.

M&S added it would also “create a supportive network, with access to advice and mentoring from recognised practitioners across the fields of agricultural sustainability, farm efficiency and animal welfare”.

Knowledge would then be shared across all M&S Select Farms and the wider industry, while the programme will also “provide the opportunity to identify where system change may be required, all within the context of continuing to produce the high-quality food that M&S is known for”, the retailer said.

M&S Farm of the Future is being delivered in collaboration with Cranswick, Skea Eggs, Dunbia, Scotbeef, Linden Foods, Müller and 2 Sisters Food Group.

“As part of our sustainability action plan ‘Plan A’, we have committed to reducing our carbon footprint to net zero by 2040,” said Steve McLean, M&S Food head of agriculture & fisheries.

“Over 70% of the emissions of our food business come from primary agriculture, particularly the livestock and ruminant sectors, so it is clear this needs real focus,” he added.

“We recognise the challenges this brings on farm, and the need to continue to produce affordable, high-quality food from sustainable supply chain relationships. We are committed to helping our M&S Select Farmers navigate these challenges, and this new initiative will enable us to support innovative approaches on seven of our M&S Select Farms, with the findings being shared across our whole supply base and the wider industry to help drive real change.”

Simon Thelwell, director of Harper Adams’ School of Sustainable Food and Farming, said: “A key part of our work is centred around making sure that every part of our supply chain – from farm to fork – is kept up to date with the latest innovations, knowledge and training around sustainable agricultural production.

“Strengthening that relationship between farmers, retailers and centres of specialist knowledge such as Harper Adams University is mutually beneficial and helps drive improvement throughout the supply chain.

“With that in mind, this latest partnership with M&S, which places us at the heart of a key decarbonisation drive for the company, is excellent news – and we can’t wait to get started on the project.” 

The initiative builds on the success of M&S’ Farming with Nature programme – which has focused on increasing biodiversity and long-term climate resilience in the fresh produce supply chain, as part of M&S’ wider Plan A roadmap to net zero.

Since launching in 2021, the programme has supported the trials of in-field AgriSound sensors, which use acoustic technology to measure pollinator abundance and support growers to deliver interventions to increase pollinator numbers.

Following a successful trial in two M&S Select Farms this year, the technology has been scaled to a further 18, making up 8% of M&S growers.