PepsiCo and AgMission award Charles Sturt University $2.1 million grant

Charles Sturt University’s Cool Soil Initiative has secured close to $2.1 million AUD to spearhead research in sustainable agriculture and expand the initiative into new regions and commodities.

PepsiCo and AgMission, a global initiative co-founded by the Foundation for Food & Agriculture Research (FFAR) and the World Farmers’ Organisation (WFO), have partnered to unlock agriculture’s potential to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, awarding three grants to researchers in Australia, Mexico and Canada.

The total combined investment of USD $6.7 million will support evidence-based research on the effectiveness of climate-smart agriculture practices that incorporate regenerative agriculture principles.

A grant of USD $748,394 was awarded to Charles Sturt by AgMission, generously matched by PepsiCo and supplemented by the University. The total investment of USD $3,783,598 is set to significantly benefit Australia’s grain industry through enacting climate-smart agricultural practices.

The research initiative builds upon the foundation laid by the Cool Soil Initiative since its inception in 2018, collaborating with farmers to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and improve soil health through a scientifically credible and globally recognised framework.

AgriSciences Research and Business Park (AgriPark) executive director Nick Pagett said the research was indicative of Charles Sturt’s commitment to driving innovation in agriculture.

“It’s not just about driving innovation, but also demonstrates our value in working with partners to find solutions to the challenges posed by climate change,” said Pagett.

“It’s a great honour to be one of only three recipients of this global grant and to have the opportunity to provide the Australian cropping sector with new insights into climate smart practices.

“It’s great to see companies like PepsiCo, who is one of the six partners of the Cool Soil Initiative, looking for opportunities like AgMission to support climate smart agriculture in Australia and around the world.”

PepsiCo ANZ sustainability manager Brent Gapes said the partnership and grant would deliver meaningful results for farming on a global scale.

“As one of Australia’s largest snack manufacturers we are committed to ensuring the development and implementation of Australia’s sustainable farming practices,” he said.

“Our partnership with AgMission is helping us to further charter a new course to drive positive action for the planet and people, building a circular and inclusive value chain.

“We’ve seen the benefit of the Cool Soil Initiative first-hand in the past twelve months and we’re delighted to be able to further support the growth transformative work of Charles Sturt University within this space.”

In 2023, PepsiCo helped to extend the reach of the Cool Soil Initiative, bringing canola to the greenhouse gas (GHG) reduction program for the first time.

The partnership enabled PepsiCo to contribute to supporting farmers in future-proofing their farming systems, while ensuring PepsiCo can continue to source  canola from Cool Soil regions into the future.

The new grant will enable Charles Sturt researchers to leverage the learnings and insights from the Cool Soil Initiative’s five years’ worth of on-ground support and GHG reporting across wheat, canola and corn farms on the east coast of Australia, while establishing a new farmer cohort for oats in Western Australia.

Researchers are evaluating more than 300 Australian farms to understand how different agricultural practices and geographic locations influence soil health, to understand current climate-smart agriculture innovation for each major Australian cropping system.

Cool Soil Initiative director Ms Fiona McCredie said the funding provided a tremendous opportunity to expand understanding of climate-smart agricultural practices across different regions in Australia.

“In having this understanding, we can then work with farmers to build resilience as they navigate climate-related challenges,” she said.

“The Cool Soil Initiative is all about sustainable production and making a difference on ground by translating science and insights into practical actions which support sustainable food production and have those practices recognised by the supply chain.”

This funding is part of a broader $10 million investment to expand the Cool Soils Initiative, providing science-backed solutions to improve soil health, reduce greenhouse gas emissions and support sustainable farming practices.

The initiative is crucial for enhancing environmental sustainability and providing valuable Scope 3 GHG and impact reporting through the supply chain to the food industry.

Pagett added that the investment marks a significant step towards realising their vision of a more sustainable, innovative and resilient agricultural industry.

“By collaborating with industry partners and leveraging cutting-edge research and technology, we are poised to address pressing challenges and unlock new opportunities for growth and development,” he said.

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