Nestlé pilots low-carbon fertiliser project in the UK

In pursuit of Nestlé’s 2050 net-zero objectives and commitment to advancing regenerative agriculture, the company is initiating a pilot programme to evaluate the feasibility of using cocoa shells sourced from a confectionery facility in York to produce low-carbon fertiliser. The cocoa shells are supplied by Cargill.

The two-year trial aims to assess the fertiliser’s impact on crop yield, soil health, and greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. If successful, it could lead to the production of up to 7,000 tonnes of low-carbon fertiliser for farmers within Nestlé’s UK wheat supply chain, equivalent to approximately 25% of Nestlé UK’s total wheat fertiliser usage.

Traditional fertiliser production contributes to around 5% of global GHG emissions, with more than half of the carbon footprint associated with wheat farming in the UK attributed to fertiliser use.

By recycling valuable nutrients from food system waste streams, there’s an opportunity to establish a lower emissions supply chain. Scaling up the production of low-carbon fertiliser can offer farmers a more sustainable product at a stable price point.

“Farmers often find themselves to be among the first groups exposed to global issues, and these risks are then borne by the food system we all depend upon,” said Matt Ryan, Regeneration Lead at Nestle UK & Ireland. “We have to find ways to build more resilience into the system and optimising our use of natural resources is a critical part of this.”

“This project is a small, but very meaningful step towards a net zero future, where farmers, local enterprises, and nature all stand to benefit,” added Ryan.

The trials, which were designed and are being overseen by York-based Fera Science Ltd, are currently taking place on arable farms in Suffolk and Northamptonshire.

Richard Ling, farm manager at Rookery Farm, Wortham in Norfolk, who supplies wheat to Nestlé Purina, said: “We have now finished harvesting, and we’ve successfully grown a winter wheat crop using this new fertiliser. We’ve compared two parts of the field, one which used the cocoa shell fertiliser, and one which used with the conventional fertiliser. There is no significant difference in the yield, so we can see that it works!”

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