for more sustainable farming

Co-op Foundation and Co-op research into developing a greener and fairer future

We commissioned researchto explore solutions to reduce UK farmers’ reliance on soy-containing animal feed and synthetic fertiliser.

The study aimed to contextualise and inform our decisions for our Carbon Innovation Fund round two (CIF2) funding.

Round two of our partnership with Co-op is funding seven organisations committed to innovating in the farming sector. 

Read our report and appendix.

What’s in the report 

This report presents the review of four solutions to reduce reliance on soy-containing animal feed, and 17 solutions to reduce reliance on synthetic fertiliser.

Our Learning partner Eunomia reviewed lowand hightech solutions in terms of their: transformation potential and scalability; wider environmental impact; development stage; barriers to uptake; strength of evidence; and applicability to the UK context. 

Key findings

Soy Production

  • To address deforestation and promote natural regeneration, we need to find land-efficient alternatives to soy; one solution involves cultivating more pulses in the UK for animal feed. 
  • Food waste can be fed directly to animals in some circumstances, or become feed via the use of insect farming to generate an alternative feed.
  • Microbial protein which involves micro-organisms synthesising protein could create new sources of proteins which can be used for animal feed.

Synthetic Fertiliser

There are two main categories of solutions for reducing synthetic fertiliser reliance: 

  • Reducing the overall need for fertiliser for example with controlled release fertilisers, precision fertiliser technology, leguminous cover crops, genetically modified nitrogen-fixing crops and multi-species swards. 
  • Replacing synthetic fertilisers with organic alternatives, such as compost, manure, seaweed, human urine, nutrients gathered from wastewater. 

The best approach would be to prioritize the overall reduction of need for fertiliser and replace the remaining demand as far as possible. 

We would like to thank Dr Donal Murphy-Bokern for his invaluable advice and for reviewing the report.

Read our full report and appendix.

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