In a new farm-level pilot project, Nestlé and Yara are collaborating to improve sustainability, productivity, and profitability in dairy farming.
A 2019 Food and Land Use Coalition report concluded that the food system destroys more value than it creates, due to hidden costs related to health, environment, food waste and rural welfare.
If we don’t compensate farmers for the increased costs related to producing in a more sustainable way, we are asking the farmer to pay the price for climate change.
However, agriculture is becoming increasingly integrated into the food value chain. Input providers are joining forces, farms are growing in scale and professionalism, the food industry is moving upstream, conscious consumers are putting pressure on the food and agriculture industry to achieve new levels of sustainability, and the food companies are increasingly vocal about their ambitions of climate-neutrality.
A case in point is Yara’s pilot project in Colombia with global food company Nestlé. By collaborating from soil to supermarket, sustainability in dairy production is improved, farmer profitability increased, and consumer demands for sustainable dairy products met.
As the world’s largest buyer of milk, Nestlé has led the effort to improve sustainability in the dairy supply chain for a long time, and this pilot project with Yara is one of many projects to foster agripreneurship and reduce the environmental impact of dairy farming.
For the project, four farms in the regions César and Caquetá in Colombia were selected. The farms “Génesis” and “Panorama” produced milk with intensive grazing and the farms “El Rosario” and “Nido de Amor” produced milk with traditional grazing.
The farmers have valuable local expertise and knowledge of the challenges facing tropical dairy production. Yara’s agronomists supported them with premium crop nutrition products, agronomic knowledge, and digital tools for precision farming.
“Although still early days, the results so far have been very promising for all partners – the farmer, Nestlé and Yara,”
“The purpose of the project is to demonstrate the improved sustainability, productivity and profitability that is possible with an integrated solution that includes best practice crop nutrition, knowledge transfer and tech innovation,” says Food Chain Specialist in Yara, Estefania Chaves Chaves, who has worked closely with the trial farmers.
“Although still early days, the results so far have been very promising for all partners – the farmer, Nestlé and Yara,” Estefania continues.
By increasing grass yields and quality, the cows became healthier and milk quantities and farmer profitability increased.
“Before, I was giving vitamins and concentrates to the cows, but I was neglecting the soil. When I fertilize the soil correctly, my cows don’t need extra vitamins. It also led to a decrease in diseases, and thus in use of medicines,” says one of the pilot farmers, Carlos Rodríguez Padilla, at El Rosario farm.
“We started with one trial plot, but after seeing the results, we chose to expand this practice to all plots”
Pilot farmer Saul-Alexánder Trujillo of the Genesis farm agrees on the importance of healthy soil and grass. “Strong forage crops have helped our cows reach their full genetic potential”, Trujillo says.
“Fertilizing optimally has contributed to multiplying our dairy production. We started with one trial plot, but after seeing the results, we chose to expand this practice to all plots,” Trujillo says.
“Through our combined technical expertise, and by working with farmers for farmers, this partnership has proven that there are solutions that enable the sustainable intensification of milk production in a tropical environment,” says Pascal Chapot, Group Head of Sustainable Agriculture Development at Nestlé.
Even more impressive are the environmental results. After 9 months, the two intensive grazing farms reduced the CO2 emissions per litre milk by 21%. The traditional grazing farms reduced their CO2 emissions per litre milk by 5%.
By growing the production using sustainable solutions, farmer income increases, while the environmental impact of food production is reduced, and consumer demands are met. Yara can play an important role in an increasingly integrated food value chain, providing sustainable solutions to create value for the farmers, food companies and the planet.
“Nestlé and Yara share the ambition of making farming more sustainable environmentally, socially and economically. It starts with the field and the farmer: Together we can create a more sustainable food system, and it is natural that we join forces in the field to support farmers to make the change towards new, sustainable practices,” says Chrystel Monthean, EVP Yara Americas.
“The Colombia pilot underlines the value of collaboration in the interest of farmers, the consumers, society and ultimately the planet. We strongly believe in the need to leverage partnerships to solve supply chain challenges in the food industry,” says Robert M. Erhard, Sustainable Agriculture Development – Global Lead Dairy at Nestlé.
“The goal in 2021 is to spread the message about these best practices and their successes to all Nestlé farmers in the region, and ultimately, to lay the foundations of sustainable dairy production in all of Colombia,” concludes Estefania Chaves Chaves.