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Food Manufacturers Embrace Sustainable Fertilisers to Cut Carbon Emissions

CCm Technologies is among the start-up company founders benefiting from rising interest in green fertilisers.The company mixes CO₂ captured from industrial activities with organic materials, including sludge from sewage plants and byproducts from food factories, to make crop nutrients 

Major food and beverage giants, including PepsiCo, Heineken, and Nestlé, are intensifying efforts to shrink their carbon footprint by addressing a significant but often overlooked source of emissions in their supply chains: fertilisers. With impending disclosure rules mandating greenhouse gas emissions reporting for supply chains next year, these companies are turning to green fertiliser start-ups for solutions. Agricultural ingredients’ fertilisers contribute approximately 15per cent of total emissions in beer supply chains and 35-40per cent in bread production, according to industry experts. Nitrogen-based fertilisers and farm manure constitute 5per cent of global greenhouse gas emissions, surpassing the combined emissions from global aviation and shipping, as reported by Nature Food.


Green fertiliser start-ups, such as Switzerland-based Atlas Agro, are gaining attention as they offer solutions to reduce emissions. Petter Ostbo, CEO of Atlas Agro, emphasised that the technology to reduce emissions from crop nutrients is available and competitive, urging food producers to become aware and lend their support. Recognising the need for change, Nestlé UK’s regenerative agriculture efforts are highlighted by Matt Ryan, who stresses the company’s responsibility as a global food and beverage leader. Starting in January, EU companies will be required to report their entire supply chain’s carbon footprint, known as “scope 3” emissions.


Manufacturing fertilisers contributes nearly 1.5per cent to global CO₂ emissions, but the real issue arises when applied to land, leading to the production of nitrous oxide, a potent greenhouse gas. To address this, companies like CCm Technologies are emerging, capturing CO₂ from industrial activities to produce lower-carbon fertilisers. CCm recently partnered with Nestlé and Cargill to produce fertilisers using cocoa shells, aiming to reduce emissions by at least 70per cent. Heineken, part of an investor consortium supporting FertigHy, seeks low-carbon fertilisers for its net-zero goal by 2040.


Tesco, the UK’s largest food retailer, is also engaging with low-carbon fertiliser manufacturers, including start-ups like CCm. Initial trials demonstrated a 50per cent reduction in emissions, prompting Tesco to expand trial areas tenfold from 2024. Despite the potential, challenges persist, with the small scale of production leading to high prices. State support and government subsidies are deemed crucial by industry executives to bridge the price gap between traditional and low-carbon fertilisers.


While investments in green fertilisers have seen a boost, the industry acknowledges that these innovations are yet to be scaled up. According to Edouard Piens of InVivo, regulations on scope 3 emissions are necessary but insufficient, requiring governmental support. Nestlé’s Matt Ryan envisions collaboration with PepsiCo to establish a low-carbon fertiliser production hub in the UK, emphasising the need for collective action to drive industry-wide change.

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