McCain has pledged all of its potato products will come from spuds grown by regenerative ag practices by 2030.
Potatoes may not have the playbook when it comes to regenerative agriculture that its canola and wheat counterparts might have, but that isn’t stopping McCain Foods from pledging to help growers move towards a more sustainable future.
“The fact of the matter is that potatoes are tilled, harvesting potatoes is a tillage event. And that’s always going to occur to some expense. So, what can we do to work around those constraints?” Jess Newman, senior director of agriculture and sustainability with McCain, says in a phone interview.
On June 7, McCain released its 2020 global sustainability report entitled “Together, Towards Planet-Friendly Food.” In the report, the food company pledged that by 2030 every potato which becomes McCain Superfries, Bistro fries, potato patties, Smiles, Tasti Taters or homefries will be grown on farms using regenerative agricultural practices.
“I think for us, that really starts with climate change. And the way that it’s affecting our growers’ livelihoods, we’ve seen crop failures due to drought, wet harvests, freezes across all of our region,” Newman explains. “The time is now and there’s great urgency to partner with our growers, on working toward that regenerative future where we adapt to climate change.”
By doing this, McCain says it will restore and protect soil health and quality by using natural processes to control pests, prevent plant disease and strengthen crops against severe weather events.
What is Regenerative Ag?
Regenerative ag is defined as farming and grazing practices which, among other benefits, reverse climate change by rebuilding soil organic matter and restoring degraded soil biodiversity — resulting in both carbon drawdown and improving the water cycle, according to Regeneration International. Practices include minimal/no-tillage, soil fertility, biological ecosystem diversity and managing grazing practices.
As farmers have looked to conserve and build up their soil content, regenerative ag has become more popular over the last decade. Consumers have also become more conscious of where their food comes from and have asked for it to come from more sustainable agricultural practices.
McCain will implement regenerative agricultural practices on its three Farms of the Future, the first of which is now operational in Florenceville, NB. The purpose is to demonstrate how these agricultural practices, supported by technology and innovation, can be implemented at scale and be economically viable for farmers.
McCain’s regenerative ag plan has the company improving farmer livelihoods by restoring natural processes which support soil health, biodiversity, reduce inputs, improve yields and build climate resilience. They also plan to increase crop diversity, ensure soils are covered by living plants or plant residue year-round, reduce agro-chemical use, optimize water use, reduce tillage and integrate organic matter.
“The last thing that we’re committing to do and firing up to do is really training, training our growers. So, we have our network of agronomists in the U.S. and Canada, who are themselves going to be becoming experts on these topics, and are ready, willing and excited to assist our growers as we embark on this 10-year journey,” Newman says.
McCain’s global sustainability report is an annual report which helps the food company keep track of the goals it has set. This year’s report also pledges to move to 100 per cent renewable energy by 2030, use 100 per cent of every potato harvested, remove palm oil from all McCain branded products by 2025 and send zero waste to landfills by 2025, amongst other things.