Danone North America recently launched a ground-breaking soil health initiative with renowned experts and academics to build best-in-class soil health programs to benefit our farms and communities. The company shared an ambition to commit up to $6 million for the research program over the next five years.
This program will begin with products involved in The Dannon Pledge, and may have impact in the future across the Danone North America product line. The Dannon Pledge is the company’s commitment to a range of practices focused on sustainable agriculture, transparency and more natural products. These yogurt products, which are Non-GMO Project Verified, include Dannon®, Oikos® and Danimals®.
“Soil is the foundation of our food system, with an estimated 95 percent of food directly or indirectly reliant on soil,” says Ryan Sirolli, agriculture director, Danone North America . “We saw an opportunity to initiate this breakthrough research program with our supply chain. We will evaluate soil on the farms of growers who provide feed for cows and on the dairy farms where we buy milk. We know this work requires collaboration to make a meaningful impact, and we are excited to bring together uniquely skilled partners to help us to continue to fulfill our ambition.”
Danone North America will be advancing its soil health research program over the next 18 months. The company will initially work with 16 of its farmers who are based around the company’s manufacturing facilities in Utah and Idaho, western Kansas, Indiana, and Ohio.
“Those are diverse geographies, farm sizes, and climate and soil types,” Sirolli says. “It’s a spectrum of farms providing feed and forage.”
Danone North America will work with what Sirolli describes as “a dream team in the soil health space.” These include Dr. Rattan Lal and the Carbon Management and Sequestration Center at The Ohio State University, who will lead soil sampling, Dr. Harold van Es at Cornell University will conduct soil health analysis, and EcoPractices, working with EFC/Ag Solver as a service provider, will gather information from program partners to analyze and share reports to create an understanding of what the data means.
Working with those partners, Sirolli says: “We should have a pretty robust understanding about the 16 pilot farms that are working with us and from there determine the next steps.”
The goals of the soil health initiative, according to Sirolli, are to enhance organic matter and fertility in soil, reduce agricultural chemical use, better understand how to sequester more carbon, and improve water holding capacity and water infiltration rates.
“Ultimately, we want to create better economic resiliency for our farmers and our supply chain. We believe that all of those things are complementary toward this focus on soil health,” Sirolli says.