Source: Waitrose

Waitrose pledged to make its UK farm-supplier network net zero by 2035

Waitrose is turning its Leckford Estate farm into a “test bed” for future agricultural innovation and regenerative farming practices over the next 15 years.

The retailer will use its own estate to experiment with different farming techniques and research methods as part of its larger plans to fight climate change.

“Whether it’s planting trees to promote biodiversity, reducing water usage to protect resources or using regenerative soil practices that help sequester carbon, our focus will be on biology rather than chemistry,” said Waitrose executive director James Bailey.

“Leckford will be an experiment in farming best practice, one we hope will pave the way to genuine solutions to help conserve our soil, air and water for future generations and, importantly, help us to deliver our 2035 commitment.”

Bailey added there was “little value” in keeping the research findings for the company – instead, the John Lewis Partnership hopes to share the data it gathers with the agriculture and retail industries in order to “elevate regeneration and conservation from a status of ‘nice to have’ to essential everyday farming practice”.

Bailey said Waitrose was working in partnership with its farmers and suppliers to find and implement alternative practices that are more environmentally-friendly.

The supermarket chain pledged last year that its UK farm-supplier network would be net zero by 2035.

The Leckford Estate farm will also continue to produce some of the products that are sold in Waitrose such as mushrooms, apples, rapeseed oil and sparkling wine.

Read more: Waitrose to extend beef production at its Leckford Estate farm

“We hope therefore that by leading this work, we can define what the future of UK farming should look like,” Bailey said. “And in its discovery, use what we’ve learned to create a balance in our food system that will help reduce the impact food production has on our planet.”

Some of the agricultural practices taking place at Leckford Estate include using captured methane for biofuel, using waste byproducts as natural energy sources or animal feed, mixed farming methods, topsoil regeneration, and peat removal and replacement.

“It is so vital that we look at our farming systems and make sure the regenerative agriculture techniques and learnings at Leckford are spread through the supply network,” said MP for Romsey and Southampton North, Caroline Nokes.

“I am confident this will help farmers make food production as kind to nature and the planet as possible.”

Environment Secretary George Eustice added it was “good to see” Waitrose commit to innovative farming practices that will help reach its net zero ambitions.