The project is aimed at boosting the UK’s food security, while also reducing greenhouse gas emissions in its supply chain. According to a statement by Tesco, the roll-out is expected to reduce GHG emissions by up to 20% in the first year alone, at no extra cost to farmers.
Eight promising fertiliser alternatives will be used across 1,300 hectares in the 2023 growing season, with plans to scale up to a minimum of 4,000 hectares in 2024 across Tesco’s field veg suppliers.
With chemical fertiliser costs rising by as much as 140% over the last year, low-carbon fertilisers could also be a cost-effective alternative for farmers struggling with shortages caused by the war in Ukraine. Six of the eight fertiliser producers will be manufacturing their products in the UK from material including food waste, chicken litter, fire extinguisher waste and algae.
The UK currently imports around 60% of the fertiliser it needs, with UK production hit by the recent closure of chemical fertiliser plants. The initiative creates a roadmap to scaling low carbon alternatives.
The first year of the roll-out will produce up to 70,000 tons of fresh produce, growing to 200,000 tons in 2024. The initiative is one of many innovations Tesco is driving as part of its ambition to reach net-zero emissions across its value chain by 2050.
Sarah Bradbury, group quality director at Tesco, said: “Delivering more affordable, sustainable food means finding innovative, new ways to grow basket staples like potatoes, salad vegetables and carrots. Fertilisers are a large source of emissions in farming, but high prices and uncertainty have made it hard for farmers to take advantage of low-carbon alternatives. We hope that by working with our suppliers, our learnings from this roll-out of low carbon fertilisers can prove their potential to cut emissions and demonstrate what it would take to scale up production in the UK. It’s vital we keep costs manageable for farmers facing the most challenging market conditions in a generation and help our customers to eat in a way that’s good for planet and pocket.”
The Tesco suppliers involved in the roll-out are:
- Branston – potato supplier
- G’s – salad veg supplier
- Stourgarden – onion supplier
- Huntapac – carrot supplier
- TH Clements – sprout (brassicas) supplier
The fertilisers being used as part of the trial are:
- Bio- F Solutions – using algae-based process
- CCm – using food waste / AD digestate
- JSE Systems – using chicken litter
- Phos Cycle – using fire extinguisher waste
- Poly 4 – using mined material
- R-Leaf – using chemical composite
- Veolia – using food waste / AD digestate
- Yara crop nutrition – through use of renewables.