The Situation:

The General Mills Foundation cares about environmental sustainability, which is why it’s committed to advancing regenerative agriculture practices on 1 million acres of farmland by 2030. General Mills defines regenerative agriculture as “agriculture that protects and intentionally enhances natural resources and farming communities” and includes six core principles which are: understanding farm context; minimizing soil disturbance; maximizing crop diversity; keeping the soil covered; maintaining living root year-round; and integrating livestock.

In order to advance its commitment, General Mills created three pilot programs, which is where Ecotone became involved. Ecotone was brought in by General Mills Foundation to identify and measure the impacts of Regenerative Agriculture in one of these pilot regions. The pilot is a 3 year program that launched in Cheney Lake Watershed which was targeted in conjunction with the Kansas Department of Health and Environment to improve water quality. It’s an important reservoir because 650,000+residents in Wichita and other local Kansas communities rely on it for drinking water.

In collaboration with General Mills, Kansas Department of Health and Environment, Cheney Lake Watershed, Inc. and No- till on the plains, Ecotone Analytics conducted an Impact Analysis and estimated a social, economic and environmental return on investment (SROI) for Regenerative Agriculture (RA) practices in comparison to conventional agriculture practices. 

 

Ecotone’s Work / The Outcomes:

Based on Ecotone’s research and analysis it found that the SROI was approximately $5, though depending on the specific context Regenerative Agriculture is implemented in, the SROI could range from $4-$6. This means that for every dollar invested into Regenerative Agriculture practices there is a projected return benefit of $5, which is equal to a projected 400% return on investment. There is also an estimated $189 return on investment per acre per year

The people seeing these benefits include farmers and landowners, taxpayers, local community members, overall society, and municipal water users.  

In the Logic Model below you can also see the inputs, outputs and outcomes

Below you can see the 5 dimensions of impact and below that the KPIS identified by Ecotone. 

What This Means:

This project was completed recently, and some of the project team in Kansas are using the Impact Overview to facilitate conversations around the benefits that regenerative practices have on and off-farm. 

The evidence-based findings can also be used as a reference point when making future decisions. For example, the analysis can serve as a framework for the data collection in future pilot programs.

The use of the term Regenerative Agriculture is relatively new in literature, and there are some research gaps that exist. Along with finding the projected value of this program, Ecotone’s analysis helped to identify where these research gaps are, that if filled could better support the costs and benefits associated with Regenerative Agriculture. 

Banner Photo Credit: Steve Swaffar

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