Our Vision is one where businesses can thrive by championing regenerative, climate-smart, agriculture systems in which farmers’ livelihoods and their communities are continuously strengthened. As a result, we increase the resilience of our ingredient supply and meet goals for net carbon reduction, numbers of acres in regenerative agriculture, water quality and quantity, biodiversity, and social well-being.
The Scale Lab is a pre-competitive group facilitated by the Sustainable Food Lab with our thought partners. We use a systems approach—applying tools that increase our understanding of the larger system while working on very specific high-leverage actions.
The Scale Lab is, by design, a one-year process that encourages us to move quickly to test proposed solutions. Our goal is to strengthen existing platforms such as the Midwest Row Crop Collaborative, Field to Market, SAI Platform, USFRA, Climate Collaborative, and Cool Farm Alliance. Our assumption is that these existing platforms are the nodes within which action is already happening and where more will take place.
Our process through 2021 is shown below.
The following three models have evolved from conversations among partners. They are not models of the agricultural system, but rather models of the the relationship between farmers and corporate supply shed programs designed to support regenerative or climate-smart agriculture. For the Scale Lab, this is the relationship that is in scope. Other drivers of change are also very important, particularly crop insurance, federal conservation programs, investor priorities, and markets for carbon and other ecosystem services.
We also caution that all models are limited by the perspectives of those who create them. We offer these to spark further inquiry, and, more important, action.
The models provide a system view from which Scale Lab action is evolving on two fronts:
- Developing a monetization model, exploring financial risk assessment, and creating cross-function alignment tools to support a business case for investment in regenerative agriculture; and
- Improving the support systems for farmers to invest in new practices and approaches.
2. Barriers and Success Factors for Business Alignment
- Work with NYU Stern School on their ROSI model to quantify and articulate benefits for investing in regenerative agriculture.
- Support use of the Task Force on Climate-related Financial Disclosures (TCFD) for decision-making information that serves governance, strategy, risk management, and metrics and targets.
- Support sustainability managers to bridge language and strategies across internal functions (procurement, supply, finance, marketing, etc.).
- Increase learning among companies to continuously improve enabling conditions for farmers to invest in regenerative or climate smart agriculture, including technical support, financial incentives, and cultural acceptability.
- Increase the scale and capacity of independent advisor networks to implement supply shed programs.
- Support the engagement and capacity of Ag Retailers.
The Scale Lab is co-convened by the Sustainable Food Lab and the Midwest Row Crop Collaborative. It builds on the Sustainable Food Lab’s work facilitating diverse groups of stakeholders and creating spaces where people can share not only their successes but also look critically at what’s not working and support each other in learning and action.
Our goal is to strengthen the shared learning within existing platforms: the Midwest Row Crop Collaborative as well as Field to Market, SAI Platform, US Farmers and Ranchers in Action, Climate Collaborative, and Cool Farm Alliance. Our assumption is that these existing platforms are the nodes within which action is already happening and where more will take place.
During late 2020 and early 2021 the following people contributed insights that resulted in the system maps, shown on the Leverage Points webpage:
- AB InBev: Nick Mylet
- Cargill: Ryan Sirolli, Tai Ullman, Matt Schmitt
- Danone: Chris Adamo, Christina Owens
- General Mills: Jay Watson, Steven Rosenzweig, Christina Skonberg
- Kellogg’s: Kate Schaffner
- Mars: Luc Beerens
- PepsiCo: Margaret Henry
- Unilever: Stefani Millie Grant, Jan Kees Vis, Giulia Stellari
- SAI Platform: Nick Betts
- Field to Market: Rod Snyder, Betsy Hickman
- US Farmers and Ranchers: Erin Fitzgerald, Amanda Raster
- Climate Collaborative: Erin Callahan
- Midwest Row Crop Collaborative: Ryan Whisnant
- Cool Farm Alliance, Daniella Malin
- Cheney Lake Watershed Coordinator & farmer, KS: Lisa French
- Cover crop leader & farmer, NE: Keith Berns
- Practical Farmers of IA: Sarah Carlson, Alisha Bower, Nick Ohde
- Precision Conservation Management, IL, Clay Bess, Laura Gentry
- IL Corn Growers, Rod Weinzierl
- WWF Institute: Jason Clay
- University of Arkansas: Marty Matlock
- University of Missouri Center for Regenerative Ag: Rob Myers
- Purdue: Linda Prokopy
- Walton Family Foundation: Paul Wolfe
The Scale Lab was launched by a group from Unilever, PepsiCo, Mars, Kellogg’s, AB InBev, and The Nature Conservancy. Additional people have come from Danone, Ingredion, and General Mills, and more will be involved over time.
We gratefully acknowledge seed funding from the Walton Family Foundation.