General Mills wants to make its cereals greener
Agriculture and the overall food ecosystem account for about one third of global greenhouse gas emissions. Growing things is a dirty business, but new technology from General Mills now offers both farmers and big food companies ways to make it cleaner.
Growing everything we eat in the increasing volumes we need depletes the soil of nutrients and produces harmful carbon emissions. Regenerative agriculture aims to reduce emissions and protect the soil through various practices. These include crop rotation, cover crops, increased biodiversity, composting and livestock integration. Increasingly, it also includes improving the resilience of crops to climate change.
One example is Regrow Ag, a startup that focuses on both carbon emissions and agricultural renewal. It takes satellite images, weather data, government soil maps and observations on the ground at specific farms and feeds it all into a computer model that knows how soils and crops behave based on different conditions. Regrow Ag also works with farm management partners, including John Deere, to directly import crop, harvest and management data into its platform.
“We monitor 1.2 billion acres where we observe the adoption of the agricultural practices so that we can inform both private and public sectors on how to act around it,” says co-founder and CEO Anastasia Volkova. ‘Is it good for the environment, good for water, good for soil health?’ Is it sustainable? Does it provide resilience to the farm and society?”
The model also offers ways to improve. Regrow Ag then sells all the information to customers like General Mills, which has pledged to promote regenerative agriculture on one million acres of farmland by 2030.
“We buy ingredients such as oats for Cheerios and wheat for Pillsbury, so we really buy from the Great Plains in the US and Canada. “We buy dairy products from the Great Lakes region, so we really needed tools that could model the impact of agriculture in those places,” says Steve Rosenzweig, leader of agricultural science at General Mills.
Companies, such as General Mills, that promise net zero emissions, buy the company’s software and offer it to farmers, in addition to payments for ecosystem benefits. So if the farmer changes practices on their farm in a way that helps sequester carbon or remove carbon from the atmosphere, they get paid for that carbon and Regrow Ag helps estimate that amount.
Regrow Ag is backed by Galvanize Climate Solutions, Main Sequence Ventures, Microsoft’s M12, Time Ventures, Rethink Impact and Cargill. Total funding to date is about $60 million, according to the company and Pitchbook.
General Mills is a popular US dividend stock.
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