For companies looking to advance multiple, intersecting impact goals, regenerative agriculture could be a gamechanger.
Regenerative agriculture reimagines farming in line with natural systems, with a focus on replenishing, restoring, and reusing key resources. When done right, it can help companies make good on targets linked to climate change, deforestation, biodiversity loss, water quantity and quality, and farmer livelihoods.
It also reflects a critical shift in perspective—from doing “less bad” to doing “more good." At a time when companies have struggled to find and implement effective solutions, regenerative agriculture is a legitimate pathway to tangible social and environmental impact.
Regenerative Agriculture Trends for 2022
Looking ahead, we’ve identified five regenerative agriculture trends for 2022. Some of these trends will happen in the background, forcing companies to respond to new pressures and market demands. Other regenerative agriculture trends reflect what forerunning companies have already put in motion—and what we expect to continue to build in 2022.
1. Financial Incentives for Farmers to Make the Transition
It costs farmers time, money, and effort to embrace regenerative agriculture practices and principles. However, most farmers lack the capital to make this shift. Recognizing this significant barrier, more companies will build creative partnerships to incentivize and support farmers as they make this transition.
What might this look like? We expect to see more companies making long-term contract commitments to buy from farmers who deploy regenerative agriculture practices. Companies can also partner with financial and lending institutions to shape financial incentives for farmers who successfully transition their farms and practices.
2. Pre-Competitive Collaboration for Regenerative Agriculture in Overlapping Supply Chains
Companies can no longer solely focus on the one crop they need grown during one growing season. Increasingly, companies realize that what happens on the farm off-season impacts them too.
We see more companies advocating and supporting farmers’ long-term health and viability, yet these companies realize they do not, on their own, have the power or influence to make a transformative impact at scale. That’s where pre-competitive partnerships come in. Companies that buy from the same farmers, but in different growing seasons, can form strategic partnerships, taking a landscape approach to advancing sustainable impact in 2022.
3. More B2B Companies Will Join in on Regenerative Agriculture
To date, regenerative agriculture has mostly attracted B2C (business to consumer) companies. But 2022 will be the year that more B2B (business to business) companies get in the game, helping to find and deploy regenerative agriculture solutions, and helping farmers transition to regenerative agriculture practices and principles.
We see roles for heavy equipment companies to design new farming tools in line with regenerative farming; for technology and service providers to develop hardware and software that farmers can use to collect, analyze, and verify on-farm data and impact; and for financial institutions to help farmers obtain appropriate and catalytic financing.
4. More Debate on Standards (but Without Resolution)
At a recent conference, we heard from a farmer who said he works under 10 different company programs, each using different metrics to measure regenerative agriculture success. This won’t work.
Such a setup is unsustainable and inefficient—taxing farmers and diverting resources and momentum away from the impact we need. A first step is aligning and agreeing on standards for carbon sequestration, watershed health, and biodiversity impacts. For example, we’ve heard from many sustainability professionals in different industries who want industry-wide standards for climate-smart agriculture. Yet they recognize regenerative agriculture is a principle-based approach that needs to be tailored to local contexts. In short: the debates over what these standards should look like are already underway.
This year, we will see debate ratchet up, especially around science-based targets and the best metrics for carbon pricing and carbon payment strategies. A caveat: it’s unlikely we’ll see resolution on these issues in 2022. But if your company wants to have a voice in where industry sustainability standards go, this is your year to get involved.
5. Farmers Matter
Our regenerative agriculture trends for 2022 share one thing in common: they center the farmer.
Regenerative agriculture cannot work unless, and until, farmers are an active and empowered participants. Companies today have already begun this work, and it will grow in 2022. We see more companies embracing inclusive design, to better engage farmers in their supply chains to understand the unique challenges they face, their barriers to transitioning to regenerative agriculture, and the solutions that might enable farmers to make the switch.
Act Now on Regenerative Agriculture Trends for 2022
In 2021, we saw many forward-thinking companies embrace regenerative agriculture. And this isn’t slowing down in 2022. As promising a pathway as regenerative agriculture is—and it is—transformative results won’t happen overnight. It takes time for farmers to transition their farms and time to see and measure results.
But the sooner you start with strategic and intentional investments in regenerative agriculture, the sooner your company will be primed to drive sustainable impact and get results.