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Tesco unveils rapid expansion of low-carbon fertilizer trial

Published by , Editorial Assistant
World Fertilizer,

Tesco’s CEO, Ken Murphy has called on political parties to stand by their net zero commitments and give businesses the confidence to invest. The call to action came as he unveiled the rapid expansion of one of Tesco’s key agricultural innovation initiatives, the largest commercial field trial of low-carbon fertilizers in the UK.

Speaking at the Reuters IMPACT event in London, Murphy said green innovation in the food industry could be transformational in helping to cut costs and carbon, protect food security and stimulate green growth. But he warned levels of investment in the UK remain well below the OECD average and that Government and industry must work together to enable and unlock large-scale innovation.

Murphy announced that Tesco will expand its trial of low-carbon, mostly domestically produced fertilizers, partnering with its suppliers to drive a tenfold increase in the number of hectares being cultivated by low-carbon alternatives for the 2024 growing season. It has committed to share the findings so other businesses can also learn and benefit.

With conventional fertilizer costs rising by as much as 140% last year, and the closure of the UK’s last remaining fertilizer plant, low-carbon fertilizers could be a cost effective and less volatile alternative for farmers struggling with shortages caused by the war in Ukraine.

During the first year of the trial, 1300 hectares of land were cultivated using eight different low-carbon fertilizers, six of which being manufactured in the UK from material including food waste, chicken litter, fire extinguisher waste and algae, producing 70 000 t of produce such as lettuces, carrots and potatoes for Tesco customers. Initial results found they were just as effective as conventional fertilizers and cut emissions by up to 50%.

Now Tesco plans to increase the trial to 13 000 hectares next year, paving the way for widespread take-up of low-carbon alternatives. As well as its main vegetable suppliers, Tesco also plans to roll out the initiative to more of its sustainable farming groups, many of whom manage pasture and forage-based systems for rearing livestock.

Ken Murphy said: “As we work to protect customers and suppliers from rising costs today, we must also do all we can to safeguard the shopping basket from shocks tomorrow. That means building a more resilient, sustainable and productive food system. One that guarantees customers a long-term supply of quality, affordable food as well as improving the economy and world they live in.”

“Innovations like low-carbon fertilizer are part of the solution. As the early results show, they have huge potential to cut greenhouse gas emissions, enhance soil health and water quality, as well as providing greater cost certainty for farmers and create industry here in the UK – which is why I am so pleased with our plans to scale up usage next year. But to realise the full benefits, we need to see action beyond our supply chain, too.”

“We’ll only get there through cross-industry and cross-party collaboration. We all need to drive towards the same goal, and be better at sharing learnings and resources on the way. The food industry is willing to invest, but needs more stability and confidence when it comes to future policy. That is why it’s critical that all parties, regardless of political creed, stand by their Net Zero commitments and timelines.”

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