Regenerative and ultra-processed? (Part 1) - What does corporate engagement mean for regenerative agriculture?

Please note this is a two-part event, one on 11 January and the 2nd part on 7 February. You can sign up for both through links on our website:

‘Regenerative Agriculture’ is a concept now commonly referred to in discussions about food system transformation. Along with the farmers and agronomists who have been contributing to the regenerative movement for some time, large multinational agribusinesses, politicians, and food marketeers are now also deploying its language. Their arrival is potentially changing what it means to practise regenerative agriculture, with greater emphasis being placed on measurement, accreditation and marketing, and less on its credentials as a farmer-led movement organised around the redistribution of power in the food system. Whilst some welcome this ‘broad church’ approach, others are worried that regenerative agriculture will be co-opted by corporate interests, with its fundamental principles diluted.

This ‘broad church’ approach to regenerative agriculture raises the possibility (for some) of doing away with definitions altogether. Indeed, the lack of a clear definition of regenerative agriculture may be the very thing that has catalysed such a diversity of ideas as to how food production systems might be redesigned.

But the arrival of large commercial actors in the regenerative space raises questions as to whether more politically radical goals, such as the revitalisation of relations between farmers and buyers, will remain part of the regenerative model into the future.

Some proponents of regenerative agriculture, particularly farmers, are suspicious about the utilisation of the regenerative term by large agri-businesses, and wary about what will happen to aspects of the regenerative model that are less amenable to corporate dilution, accreditation and greenwash. These aspects include the importance of farmer-led knowledge networks, attentiveness to context and site-specificity and the prioritising of processes and mindsets rather than on more simple and measurable outcomes, such as tonnes of carbon stored in the soil.

Large corporate interests are not necessarily uninterested in these social and political aspects of the regenerative project. Although in their nascency, the regenerative strategies these companies are developing engage with the importance of farmer-led innovation, peer-to-peer learning, and the need to employ context-relevant practices. In the main, though, corporate versions of regenerative agriculture tend to offer a relatively status quo political vision for the future of food, with the dynamics between consumer, producer, distributor and processor largely unchanged.

Join TABLE for a two-part event with panellists from different sectors (the regenerative agriculture movement, civil society, industry):

Part 1 discussion (11 January, 4-5:30pm GMT)
Part 2 debate (7 February, 4-5:30pm GMT)

Be sure to sign up for both events.