Briefing: McCain targets new regenerative ag farms in South Africa

The Canadian frozen foods multinational has a 2030 target to implement regenerative agriculture across 100% of its potato acreage.

Frozen foods brand McCain will establish two new farms in South Africa as part of its long-term plans to transition to regenerative agriculture.

The Farms of the Future project will add two locations totaling 465 hectares of irrigated land and 90ha of dryland, on which McCain will grow 125ha of potatoes per year.

The first McCain Farm of the Future was announced last year and will be based in New Brunswick, Canada. The company plans to open a third regenerative farm by 2025 in a different climate region to its first two.

Why it matters

The move is part of McCain’s target to implement regenerative agriculture across 100 percent of its potato acreage by 2030.

“If we don’t change the way we farm, feeding the world in 30 years will require an 87 percent increase in carbon emissions,” said McCain CEO Max Koeune in a statement.

“The implications of that are bleak – and we cannot allow it to happen. Farmers are on the front line here – they see the impacts every day, with extreme weather wreaking havoc on the growing season.”

McCain’s farms will focus on enhancing productivity, while prioritizing soil health, water efficiency, the reduction of agro-chemical impacts and the introduction and preservation of biodiversity.

The background

Regenerative farming practices have become widely accepted as one of the solutions to reducing global food production’s annual contributions to greenhouse gas emissions, as it is considered more sustainable to conventional farming.

Practices geared towards minimizing soil disturbance, maximizing crop diversity, cover cropping and integrating livestock, among other farming methods, can have the effect of enriching the soil, enhancing biodiversity and removing more carbon from the atmosphere.

AXA, Unilever and Tikehau Capital signed a memorandum of understanding in May to launch a $1 billion regenerative agriculture impact fund, which will take a picks-and-shovels approach as it targets the enabling process.

Elsewhere, Climate Asset Management is working to deliver $150 million for the Restore Africa project, which aims to restore two million hectare of land across Kenya, Ethiopia, Malawi, Tanzania, Uganda and Zambia through community-led regenerative farming and land restoration efforts.

The HSBC and Pollination joint venture firm drew capital from its carbon strategy, which will deliver returns to investors in the form of carbon credits.

“What we’re putting together is not a classical investment product, but more a solutions product,” CAM’s CIO for nature-based carbon strategy Martin Berg told Agri Investor in January. “We’re helping these corporates access these types of projects in order to source high-quality offsets over a longer time period.

“So, it’s really early-stage work, getting the projects off the ground and then ensuring corporates have a stable stream of carbon credits over time. And that really fits neatly with their net-zero targets because the time horizon is generally around 2030, some are 2040 and some are looking at 2050.”