Wm Morrison is the UK’s fourth largest supermarket chain, with 1,600 supermarkets and convenience stores. It is British agriculture’s single biggest direct customer and is working with its 3,000 farmers and growers to achieve Net-Zero emissions by 2030.
The company, which has been transparently reporting its own emissions since 2007, realised that one of the keys to achieving its ambitious target for 2030 was building the levels of organic carbon in the soil on its farms.
But with properties spread across the British Isles, it was faced with the daunting task of measuring and monitoring carbon levels across a huge range of landscapes. Assessing soil health has historically been a major challenge, with traditional methods, such as soil sampling, proving expensive and logistically complex. Morrisons knew that taking sufficient samples from every field over many years would be an impossible task and turned to Downforce Technologies for help.
We first worked with the company to set benchmarks and monitor five “blueprint” farms across England, Scotland and Wales and, after the success of that project, are working to support more properties.
Downforce uses multiple sources of data from field surveys and earth observations in tandem with data fusion techniques and machine learning to analyse historical variability in soil carbon and biodiversity. The process can accurately quantify changes in soil carbon every 10 days over the past six years at 10 metre resolution.
Through Downforce’s platform, Morrisons can assess the soil carbon and biodiversity trends across all its properties, arming the company and its farmers with insights to measure their impact on soil health and carbon sequestration.
Since each farm is unique in terms of land use, local weather patterns and soil types, these insights help to identify and optimise sustainable farming practices that work for each site. The data can inform and monitor strategies for increasing soil organic carbon, such as changing tilling practices or adapting crop rotations.
“Reaching Net Zero is an ambitious goal and one we need to deliver by working to improve soils, biodiversity and landscapes. By working alongside our farmers and experts like Downforce Technologies, we can help support the farmers supplying us on this important journey”
- Sophie Throup, Technical and Sustainability Director at Morrisons