Morrisons has partnered with science-led data services company Downforce Technologies in its pursuit to optimise sustainable farming practices across five pilot sites, as part of the retailer’s ambition to become the first UK supermarket supplied by net zero carbon British farms by 2030.
The retailer, which claims to be British agriculture’s single biggest direct customer with 499 supermarkets and around 1,100 convenience stores spread across the country, is pushing ahead with plans to increase sustainability in its supply chain by harnessing innovative data fusion technology.
Through the Downforce Technologies platform, Morrisons can model the soil carbon and biodiversity trends across its five “Blueprint Farms”, aiding the company’s quest to increase the level of carbon stored in soil (soil organic carbon) at scale to achieve net zero.
Using the platform will equip the supermarket chain with the insights needed to optimise sustainable farming practices across the ecologically-diverse sites, as well as to measure their impact on soil health and carbon sequestration.
“Reaching Net Zero is an ambitious goal and one we need to deliver by working to improve soils, biodiversity and landscapes,” said Morrisons technical and sustainability director Sophie Throup.
“By working alongside our farmers and experts like Downforce Technologies, we can help support the farmers supplying us on this important journey.”
Through working with Downforce Technologies, Morrisons has gained access to a high-resolution view of the carbon profile of each site, in Northamptonshire, Wales, Cumbria, Scotland and Yorkshire.
Since each farm is unique in terms of land use (including arable land and livestock), local weather patterns and soil types, these insights will be pivotal to identifying and optimising sustainable farming practices that work for each site. This data can inform and monitor strategies like changing tilling practices, adopting crop rotations, or promoting agroforestry.
Historically, measuring and monitoring soil health has been a real challenge, with traditional methods such as soil sampling proving expensive, laborious and often inaccurate.
In contrast, Downforce Technologies uses data fusion and machine learning technology to accurately quantify changes in soil carbon every 10 days, over the past six years at 10m resolution, as well as biodiversity and habitat change over several decades.
Commenting on the collaboration, Downforce Technologies CEO Josephine Wapakabulo said: “To achieve its Net Zero ambition, Morrisons needs insight over the past, present and future of soil carbon and biodiversity of its farms, and Downforce Technologies delivers this in a fast and scalable way.
“The platform models how close each farm is to achieving Net Zero and provides Morrisons and its partners with the data needed to instigate and maintain sustainable approaches to land management.”