This event was hosted by TABLE and WWF on 7 February 2024 and took the format of a panel discussion with:
Dr Tara Garnett (director of TABLE);
Matthew Ryan (Nestlé);
Melissa D. Ho (WWF-US);
Sara Farley (The Rockefeller Foundation);
Jyoti Fernandes (Landworkers' Alliance).
Summary coming soon!
Here is a non-exhaustive list of resources mentioned during the event and referenced by the panelists during pre-event planning:
- Visual: Exploring the ebbs and flows of Regenerative Agriculture, Organic and Agroecology (TABLE)
- Initiative: Global Farm Metric
- Journal Article: Approaches to sustainable agriculture (IUCN, 2020)
- Report: A Nourishing, Regenerative Tomorrow (The Rockefeller Foundation)
- Platform/Tool: Agroecology/Biodiversity (Solagro, originally published in French)
- Report: The Economics of the Food System Transformation (Food System Economics Commission, 2024)
- Report: Feeding Britain (Sustainable Food Trust, 2022)
- Explainer: What is ultra-processed food? (TABLE) (Summary version)
- Article: Using the NOVA classification system to identify and estimate intake of ultraprocessed foods (American Society for Nutrition, 2023)
- Report: The Politics of Knowledge: Understanding the evidence for agroecology, regenerative approaches, and Indigenous foodways (Global Alliance for the Future of Food, 2021)
- Article: 13 Principles of Agroecology (Agroecology Info Pool)
- Explainer: What is regenerative agriculture? (TABLE)
- Methodology: Our Approach (Global Alliance for the Future of Food)
- Report: From Uniformity to Diversity (iPES-Food, 2016)
- Perspectives Paper: The Role of Regenerative Agriculture to Drive Food Systems Transformation (WWF, 2023)
- Initiative: The Food Systems Countdown
- Initiative: The Vision for Adapted Crops and Soils (US Goverment)
- News article: Greenside Primary School's food programme (The Guardian)
- Article: Birmingham's Food Revolution (Food, Farming & Countryside Commission, 2023)
- Case Study: Natural Farming through a Wide-Angle Lens: True cost accounding study of community managed natural farming in Andhra Pradesh, India (Global Alliance for the Future of Food, 2023)
- News article: Mumbai's Models of Service Excellence (on meal delivery in Mumbai) (Harvard Business Review, 2012)
- Organisation: Regen Ag Lab
- Report: The Four Labours of Regenerative Agriculture (FAIRR, 2023)
- Press Release: Food Sector Making "More Promises Than Progress" On Regenerative Agriculture (FAIR, 2023)
Please contact us if you attended the event and have resources to share that are missing from this list.
‘Regenerative Agriculture’ is a concept now commonly referred to in discussions about food system transformation. Along with the farmers and agronomists who have been contributing to the regenerative movement for some time, large multinational agribusinesses, politicians, and food marketeers are now also deploying its language. Their arrival is potentially changing what it means to practise regenerative agriculture, with greater emphasis being placed on measurement, accreditation and marketing, and less on its credentials as a farmer-led movement organised around the redistribution of power in the food system. Whilst some welcome this ‘broad church’ approach, others are worried that regenerative agriculture will be co-opted by corporate interests, with its fundamental principles diluted.
This ‘broad church’ approach to regenerative agriculture raises the possibility (for some) of doing away with definitions altogether. Indeed, the lack of a clear definition of regenerative agriculture may be the very thing that has catalysed such a diversity of ideas as to how food production systems might be redesigned.
But the arrival of large commercial actors in the regenerative space raises questions as to whether more politically radical goals, such as the revitalisation of relations between farmers and buyers, will remain part of the regenerative model into the future.
Some proponents of regenerative agriculture, particularly farmers, are suspicious about the utilisation of the regenerative term by large agri-businesses, and wary about what will happen to aspects of the regenerative model that are less amenable to corporate dilution, accreditation and greenwash. These aspects include the importance of farmer-led knowledge networks, attentiveness to context and site-specificity and the prioritising of processes and mindsets rather than on more simple and measurable outcomes, such as tonnes of carbon stored in the soil.
Large corporate interests are not necessarily uninterested in these social and political aspects of the regenerative project. Although in their nascency, the regenerative strategies these companies are developing engage with the importance of farmer-led innovation, peer-to-peer learning, and the need to employ context-relevant practices. In the main, though, corporate versions of regenerative agriculture tend to offer a relatively status quo political vision for the future of food, with the dynamics between consumer, producer, distributor and processor largely unchanged.
Join TABLE for a two-part event with panellists from different sectors (the regenerative agriculture movement, civil society, industry).
Part 1 discussion (11 January, 4-5:30pm GMT):
- Definitions of regenerative agriculture.
- Compatibility with corporate agendas in the food system.
- Policies that could support credible commitment to regenerative agriculture.
Part 2 debate (7 February, 4-5:30pm GMT):
- A continuation of the previous event to explore:
- Takeaways from Part 1.
- Principles of regenerative agriculture.
- The conditions for credible corporate engagement in regenerative agriculture.
Matthew Ryan is Regeneration Lead for Nestlé UK & Ireland. Matt is responsible for delivering Nestlé's regenerative agricultural commitments in the UK & Ireland, with a specific focus on the dairy and cereals supply chains. Matt has been with Nestlé for 7 years, and in previous roles oversaw water resources management and initiated a number of collaborative water stewardship initiatives across the UK. Prior to Nestlé, Matt spent 10 years in environmental consulting working for clients in Australia and in the UK across a number of sectors including water, agriculture, mining and energy. Matt currently sits on a number of advisory boards and working groups for UK nature restoration and regenerative agriculture programmes.
Melissa D. Ho, senior vice president for Freshwater and Food at WWF-US, leads an integrated team working on place-based and market-based initiatives that aim to protect freshwater resources, conserve critical landscapes, and strengthen regenerative, resilient food systems. Melissa has over 20 years of experience as a scientist, policy advisor, and development professional and takes a system’s approach to address the two biggest threats to nature and climate: agriculture and infrastructure. Throughout her career, Melissa has leveraged a keen focus on the intersection of water and agriculture, and the connections to health, energy, and development. She has worked at the landscape level, with large-scale irrigation systems, agricultural value chain development, and community-based water resource management, as well as at the household level driving water technology adoption through the private sector and addressing gender inequity and child malnutrition through nutrition-sensitive agriculture interventions. In 2021, Melissa was appointed to the National Academies Climate Security Roundtable. She currently serves on the board of several domestic and international organizations. She has a PhD in plant physiology from the Pennsylvania State University, an MSc in soil science (plant-water relations) from the University of California, Davis, and a BSc in environmental systems from Cornell University.
Sara Farley leads the global portfolio for The Rockefeller Foundation’s food team, leading such signature initiatives as the Food Systems Vision Prize. In this capacity she is driving the Foundation’s inaugural regenerative/agroecological food systems strategy and its big bet on food+climate in addition to leading the diet quality portfolio, expanding the good food purchasing portfolio, and scaling the true cost accounting work globally with the aim of shifting the diet quality of 500 million underserved people by 2030. Previously, Sara co-founded the Global Knowledge Initiative, which she led for a decade, nurturing it from a concept to an organization designated as one of the "Top 100 Social Innovations for the next century.” Sara graduated with honors in Science, Technology, and Society from Stanford University’s School of Engineering where she also earned a Masters degree in International Policy Studies. Following her time at Stanford, Sara did post-graduate study in Technology Policy and Management at the Universidad de Buenos Aires on a Rotary International Ambassadorial Fellowship. Sara’s list of publications includes more than 70 monographs, studies, and papers.
Jyoti Fernandes is an agroecological smallholder farmer with a micro-diary based in Dorset. The farm is part of a local smallholders’ cooperative that shares processing facilities and markets the products of the members’ smallholdings collectively. She coordinates the Policy, Lobbying and Campaigning work of the Landworkers' Alliance and is a co-founder. She is also a spokesperson for the global small-scale farmers coalition La Via Campesina, which represents over 200m people in more than 180 countries.
Chair: Dr Tara Garnett, Director of TABLE