A transition towards more sustainable agriculture
While our company has already come a long way in terms of sustainability, we are determined to continue leading the way in this regard.
We have already carried out research into the impact and financial considerations of transitioning towards practising regenerative agriculture.
Regenerative agriculture is a form of sustainable farming. While traditional sustainability principles try to keep the impact of agricultural activities to a minimum, regenerative agricultural principles target conservation and restoration, focusing on agricultural and grazing practices that not only limit, but even cancel out, the effects of climate change.
Regenerative agriculture focuses on:
- soil restoration
- improving soil quality and structure
- increasing biodiversity (both below and above soil level)
- improving the water cycle and the ecosystem
- improving soil carbon sequestration
- increasing resilience to climate change
- improving water retention capacity
- strengthening the health and vitality of agricultural land
Soil restoration ensures that regenerative farms:
- become more resilient to changes in weather conditions and the impacts of climate change
- make savings in key areas such as animal feed, animal health and pesticides
- receive higher prices for their vegetable crops
- produce vegetables with a relatively higher nutrient content
- become more economically resilient through diversification
- become more likely to attract talent
Circular livestock farming
Thanks to our dual focus on livestock and arable farming, we are succeeding in closing the cycle of nutrients and organic matter internally or locally. As a result, we are practising what is known as circular or closed-loop agriculture, based on the principle that the nutrients and organic matter that disappear from an area as a result of agricultural activities must be restored. Available biomass is used as optimally as possible, whereby residual flows from one chain are the raw materials for another.
We use our own compost (green, fruit & veg or garden), organic manure from our cows or from local pig farmers. Conversely, a considerable proportion of the farm’s own arable crops are reserved for the production of cow feed, thereby avoiding having to import soya from overseas to feed our cows. This is why feed crops such as grass, beet, maize, cereals and field beans together account for around half of the farm’s available agricultural land.
However, these are by no means all the efforts we are making to keep our livestock farming more sustainable. Audited annually by KoeKompas, we make sure to follow their recommendations on animal health and welfare.
The Agrifood Progress Score
As with VP Capital‘s other investment domains, agrifood (which includes us at VP Landbouw) is subject to an annual sustainability screening, analysing which areas we can address to reduce any negative impact, along with those where we can increase our positive impact. The results from this screening, i.e. our Progress Score, are given a score out of 10. In 2021, VP Landbouw achieved a score of 6.5/10. This score is based on both our ESG and impact scores.
Areas looked at include animal welfare, biodiversity, greenhouse gas emissions, environmental pollution, fire safety, use of antibiotics and excess manure production.
From the very beginning, people, animals and the environment have taken centre stage at VP Landbouw, with our level of investment a reflection of our determination to improve these aspects. In recent years, we have taken numerous steps in this regard, both small and large, with some having had a greater impact than others.
Thanks to VP Capital’s ESG and Impact scores, we have been able to develop a concrete roadmap for the future. In recent years, this has seen us take a number of sustainability initiatives. In an initial phase (2021), we focused on analysing the sustainability and financial impact of a transition towards regenerative agriculture. Now, we are entering a phase in which we hope to continue shaping our strategy, as well as its implementation. In livestock farming in particular, we have to take a considerable number of steps and we continue to carry out analyses of the soil, plant sap and manure.
We have set ourselves the following targets for the coming period:
- Working towards a farm that is, at a minimum, CO2-neutral.
- Integrating an ever greater number of regenerative agricultural practices, including cover crops, crop rotation, boosting biodiversity (e.g. through strip cropping and agroforestry), minimising non-inversion tillage and minimising the use of artificial fertilisers and pesticides.
- Integrating (partial) meadows and cows as part of the ecosystem
- Improving the health of cows even further through improved barn conditions
- Achieving higher prices for our end products
- Raising the proportion of raw and protein-rich feed produced off our own land
- Boosting the share of permanent grassland to increase biodiversity and carbon sequestration
- Adding value to ecosystem services (e.g. carbon credits)
- Creating food hubs and a workable business model in cooperation with the local community