The Sustainable Food Lab works with member companies and partners to build market incentives for climate smart agricultural practices that couple climate change mitigation and adaptation benefits.
Our flagship project, the Cool Farm Alliance brings together farmers, NGOs, multinational food suppliers and retailers to promote agricultural practices that mitigate greenhouse gas emissions. Unilever, PepsiCo, Marks & Spencer, Tesco, Yara, Heineken and Fertilizer’s Europe have joined forces as founding members of the Cool Farm Alliance whose mission is to enable millions of growers globally to make more informed on-farm decisions that reduce their environmental impact. Focusing on greenhouse gases in the first phase, the Alliance provides the Cool Farm Tool as a quantified decision support tool that is credible and standardized. The Cool Farm Alliance serves as both a knowledge platform and a tool development forum.
Leading up to the formation of the Cool Farm Alliance, the Sustainable Food Lab developed and tested ways to measure and incentivize low-carbon agricultural practices through the food supply chain with a team of member companies, university researchers and technical experts in a two-year Cool Farming Options project. Increasing soil organic matter, improving fertilizer application, and capturing methane from livestock are turning agriculture from a problem (accounting for one/sixth of global GHG emissions) into a solution (by enhancing the capacity of crops and soil to store carbon). The Cool Farming Options project supported more than 18 sponsoring companies to assess green house gas emissions by engaging farmers and identifying management options to to help reduce emissions with help the help of the Cool Farm Tool agricultural GHG Calculator.
In parallel, the Sustainable Food Lab leads a learning network on “Carbon Insetting,” investigating carbon market opportunities for farmers that enhance resilience in source communities and improve reputation and security of supply for companies all the while delivering on climate change mitigation goals.
Finally, Food Lab Member the Stewardship Index for Specialty Crops is piloting a comprehensive set of performance metrics for sustainable performance in specialty crops. The project offers a suite of outcomes-based metrics to enable farmers to benchmark, compare, and communicate their own sustainable agriculture performance. Sustainable Food Lab staff have helped steer the development of the Index and facilitated the GHG on-farm metric.
Northeast Dairy Sustainability Initiative
The Climate team at the Food Lab also facilitates the Northeast Dairy Sustainability Initiative in its home state of Vermont. a group convened and facilitated by Sustainable Food Lab since 2009 to advance sustainability in the dairy sector in the northeastern United States. This regional group of dairy businesses is anchored by Food Lab members Cabot Creamery, Ben and Jerry’s and Stonyfield who all have long-standing relationships with dairy farmers in the Northeast. Organic Valley as the dairy supplier to Stonyfield is the fourth company in the group which also includes representatives from the Vermont Agency of Agriculture, AgriMark and St. Albans Coops, the Manomet Conservation Center, the University of Vermont and NativeEnergy.
Recently the group—with a collective reach of about 80 percent of the dairy supply locally—pooled resources to fund the development of a new renewable energy handbook. A free resource to all area farmers, the handbook took the form of case studies highlighting success stories from area farms.
Jed Davis, Sustainability Director at Cabot, one of the people spearheading the project said, "The previous renewable energy handbook was put together in the 90's and was out of date and not available electronically. We felt this handbook was a resource that farmers would appreciate and the project was some thing we could all pitch in and do together."
- Solar PV on a Dairy Farm: McKnight Farm
- Digester on a Dairy Farm: Maxwell's neighborhood Farm
- Wind Energy on a Dairy Farm: Blue Spruce Farm
- On-Farm Biodiesel Production: Borderview Farm
- On-Farm heating with Biomass: River Berry Farm
- Efficiency on a Dairy Farm: Brace Farm
- Efficiency at a Dairy Processor: Commonwealth Dairy