Tesco's CEO, Ken Murphy, has called on political parties to stand by their net zero commitments and give businesses the confidence to invest. The call to action came as he unveiled the rapid expansion of one of Tesco's key agricultural innovation initiatives, the UK's largest commercial field trial of low-carbon fertilisers.
Speaking at the Reuters IMPACT event in London, Murphy said green innovation in the food industry could be transformational in helping to cut costs and carbon, protect food security and stimulate green growth. But he warned levels of investment in the UK remain well below the OECD average and that Government and industry must work together to enable and unlock large-scale innovation.
Committing to leaving no stone unturned in its championing and scaling of cutting-edge innovation, Murphy announced that Tesco will expand its trial of low-carbon, mainly domestically produced fertilisers, partnering with its suppliers to drive a tenfold increase in the number of hectares being cultivated by low-carbon alternatives for the 2024 growing season. It has committed to sharing the findings so other businesses can learn and benefit.
With conventional fertiliser costs rising by as much as 140 percent last year and the closure of the UK's last remaining fertiliser plant, low-carbon fertilisers could be a cost-effective and less volatile alternative for farmers struggling with shortages caused by the war in Ukraine.
During the first year of the trial, 1,300 hectares of land were cultivated using eight different low-carbon fertilisers, six of which were manufactured in the UK from material including food waste, chicken litter, fire extinguisher waste and algae, producing 70,000 tonnes of produce such as lettuces, carrots and potatoes for Tesco customers. Initial results found they were as effective as conventional fertilisers and cut emissions by up to 50 percent.
Now Tesco plans to increase the trial to 13,000 hectares next year, paving the way for widespread take-up of low-carbon alternatives. As well as its leading vegetable suppliers, Tesco plans to roll out the initiative to more of its Sustainable Farming Groups, which manage pasture and forage-based systems for rearing livestock.
As we work to protect customers and suppliers from rising costs today, we must also do all we can to safeguard the shopping basket from shocks tomorrow. That means building a more resilient, sustainable and productive food system. One that guarantees customers a long-term supply of quality, affordable food and improves their economy and world,
"As we work to protect customers and suppliers from rising costs today, we must also do all we can to safeguard the shopping basket from shocks tomorrow. That means building a more resilient, sustainable and productive food system. One that guarantees customers a long-term supply of quality, affordable food and improves their economy and world," said Murphy.
He continued, stating that innovations like low-carbon fertiliser are part of the solution. As the early results show, they have enormous potential to cut greenhouse gas emissions, enhance soil health and water quality, provide greater cost certainty for farmers and create an industry here in the UK.
"I am so pleased with our plans to increase usage next year. But to realise the full benefits, we also need to see action beyond our supply chain."
"We'll only get there through cross-industry and cross-party collaboration. We all need to drive towards the same goal and be better at sharing learnings and resources. The food industry is willing to invest but needs more stability and confidence regarding future policy. That is why it's critical that all parties, regardless of political creed, stand by their Net Zero commitments and timelines."