Malting barley accounts for up to 10% of barley crops in Poland

Leszek Kiełtyka, Director of the Raw Material Purchase Department at Crisp Malt, which has a malt house in Bydgoszcz, which cooperates with farmers from all over Poland, tells us about the specifics of cereal cultivation for malting and brewing beer.

Leszek Kiełtyka – during inspection of the crop.

What grains are grown for malting?
In Polish conditions, two-row spring malting barley varieties are mainly used for malting purposes. Malting barley constitutes between 8 and 10% of the total amount of barley cultivated in our country.

The varieties we introduce to the market are selected based on the recommendations of breeders and malt recipients, after positive field and production tests conducted by our contracting department based on the variety selection system of Crisp Malt. These varieties are bred to obtain quality features useful for malting, such as grain accuracy, grain uniformity, yield, low protein content. They are subject to a series of field tests and micro-malting in special breeders programs and brewing institutes, e.g. Berliner Programm organized by the VLB Berlin Institute.

In addition, our malt house in Bydgoszcz deals with the production of wheat malt, for this purpose low-protein wheat is grown, which we also contract. Wheat malt is offered for the production of renowned wheat beers.

What is important when growing cereals for malting?
Growing barley for malting purposes does not have to be difficult and we always emphasize this. The desire to produce good quality grain is very important. It consists of a few simple principles – such as the selection of varieties that, thanks to breeding work, do not yield worse than fodder varieties, it is important that the soil is in good condition, the early sowing date is observed, protection against pests is carried out (not forgetting about the protection of ears) and the proper harvest dates and grain storage principles have been observed. Basically, the cultivation of malting barley differs from other crops by nitrogen fertilization. The doses of nitrogen itself, the forms used and the dates of fertilization are significant here.

A lot also depends on the farm’s capabilities, climatic and soil conditions. The right approach to the selection of soils on which barley will be grown is important. Assuming high yields, it is worth looking at the location of the crop – according to Dr. Jerzy Próchnicki, these should be soils recommended for wheat or rye, well cultivated, sandy-loamy, loamy or loess type, or having at least a more compact subsoil.

Crisp Malt facilities in Bydgoszcz.

When is malting barley sown and harvested?
In our country, spring barley is mainly used for malting purposes. In Poland, the sowing date is from February to the 3rd decade of March. It is important to sow barley as early as possible in given climatic and soil conditions. I am tempted to say that the date of sowing is the most important element determining quality and yield in the cultivation of spring malting barley. That is why our field advisors and farmers are constantly on-call to choose the optimal sowing date in spring, monitoring soil moisture and following weather forecasts. All this is done to ensure that the farmer who has the best knowledge about their farm capabilities would sow barley in the optimal time window.

Barley for malting purposes is harvested at full maturity; many producers, based on their own experience, recommend that this harvest should take place up to 7 days after reaching this maturity. At this time it is easier to be harvested, threshing is more thorough, the grain is less sensitive to damage and infestation with mold fungi is avoided. Extending this period results in deterioration of grain quality.

After harvesting the barley should go to a properly prepared warehouse – dry, free from leaks, water seeps and storage pests. Barley harvested for malting purposes must be dry, because maintaining its humidity below 13.5% facilitates its proper storage.

Is the barley from which you produce malt grown in Poland?
Yes, cereals for malt that come to us are actually grown throughout the entire country. Our field advisors offer cultivation contracts to farmers in the following regions: Lower Silesia, region of Opole, Subcarpathia, region of Lublin, Kuyavia, West Pomeranian and Pomeranian and Warmian-Masurian. Therefore, we cooperate with many farms, and the area diversity is very large. These are farmers who know their profession well, invest in the modernization of applied solutions and are willing to expand their knowledge. Barley suppliers are mainly commercial farms, most often specialized in the production of cereals which have storage facilities that allows barley to be stored in such a way that there is no doubt that it is malting barley of a given variety. Of course, this does not preclude growing barley by farms with smaller acreage.

Malting box.

How do you support your suppliers?
We prefer contracting as the main basis for obtaining raw material for our malt house. We believe that contracting engages the parties in the striving to produce good quality raw material. The group of field advisors who visit producers are people with extensive agrotechnical knowledge who are familiar with agriculture. This is the crew that supports the producer from sowing to delivery to the malt house. Advisors visit barley producers, each of them inspects the plantations together with the farm’s agronomist, inspecting and assessing them. Our advisors hold several hundred joint meetings like these per season. We have developed a system of selection of varieties and their regionalization based on cooperation with farmers. Suppliers are also helpful in creating contracting offers. We see that we can still gather valuable experience, which is the fruit of our cooperation with farmers. Each link in this sustainable chain is important to us, and farms are the place where this whole chain of complicated dependencies begins.

At the same time, we are constantly striving to increase the share of barley from sustainable sources. These are the expectations of malt recipients and beer consumers today. Our advisors are equipped with the knowledge necessary to carry out a farm sustainability assessment with the farmer on the basis of the FSA list (Farm Sustainability Assessment). Our farm sustainability assessments are optimistic. A large share of suppliers at all levels of certification confirms that this is the right direction, important also for agricultural producers. Which makes us very happy.

How is malt formed?
Malt is made by germinating grains under controlled conditions to produce the appropriate enzymes and change their structure, and then they are dried to preserve the product. After cleaning the grain from field impurities, it is soaked, the purpose of which is to quickly increase the humidity, which enables the beginning of germination. The process continues in the so-called Saladin boxes, where the grain produces rootlets and a cotyledonous sprout, the structure of the grain is loosened and enzymes are formed. The process is interrupted in the dryer by intensive evaporation of water from the grain at low air temperatures. After the drying process, the malt is subjected to the separation of roots, which are a valuable fodder product.

Our malt house in Bydgoszcz is a plant established in the late 1960s, thoroughly modernized in 2008-2010, processing over 100,000 tons of grain annually.

Dryer grid.

Who are the recipients of your malt?
The beer market in Poland is highly consolidated. Although we currently have more than 250 active breweries, more than 90% of beer volume is brewed in several industrial breweries and these industrial breweries are our main customers. In Poland, we do not have any installations for roasting or smoking malts, which is why we mainly supply pale malts to the market, the so-called Pilsner or pale ale and those with a slightly darker color of the wort, e.g. Viennese or Munich type. Wheat malt, used for the production of more and more popular white beers, is becoming increasingly important in our offer.

What is the specificity of the Polish malt market compared to other EU countries?
Crisp Malt has a wide range of malts produced outside Poland, also in England, Scotland and Germany, supplies regional breweries, international breweries, the most famous producers of Scotch whiskey and a huge number of craft breweries and home brewers around the world. Beer production trends in Europe are very similar to those in Poland – craft breweries, small installations at restaurants or at homes are developing intensively, and in the case of industrial breweries, non-alcoholic beers in styles from typical pils through IPA / APA to various flavors are becoming more and more important.

Brewing is a very traditional industry, but the development of Polish beer production in the last thirty years is impressive. During this period, the industry has been completely modernized, while maintaining traditional Polish beer brands – and what is important, it is looking for local raw materials for its production. This approach enables us to develop production in Bydgoszcz. Pale malt remains the main beer raw material and, despite the development of biotechnology and the introduction of more and more perfect enzymes that allow the replacement of malt with unmalted raw materials (syrups, corn grits, raw cereals), it still has the highest recognition among brewers.

Product changes that we see in the brewing industry include the search for new beer styles, new flavors, colors, frothiness and flavor additives. Besides, an important trend is development with respect for the environment – breweries are working on ecological packaging, increasing the share of returnable and recyclable packaging, investing in intelligent logistics processes, reducing emissions, water and energy consumption.

Barley seeds.

How do you implement the principles of sustainable agriculture in practice?
We care about obtaining domestic raw material with respect for the soil we have at our disposal, hence we are in favor of regular crop rotation. We know that the production of good quality agricultural produce should ensure a stable level of profitability, but we also know that rapid changes in the supply of agricultural produce lead to fluctuations in agricultural production costs and may lead to a market collapse.

The sustainability of malt starts with barley and farmland is the place to which we devote a lot of attention together with farmers. Searching for sustainable raw material, we look at the farmland not only from the perspective of the harvest year, but several years back and a few years forward. The actions taken by farms focused on reducing the impact of agriculture on the environment are important, in which the cultivation of malting barley fits perfectly – because it is sustainable in itself: it requires less fertilization, the use of changing forecrops and does not have to be subjected to energy-intensive post-harvest drying.

Today, much attention is paid to the content of humus in the soil, and we know that its formation takes a long time, which is why it is necessary to maintain a positive balance of organic matter.

At the same time, for many years we have been utilizing the pre-selection system of harvested barley, we pre-assess its quality, which significantly limits the supply of raw material that is useless to us. Therefore, we do not generate unnecessary transport, that would bring unwanted burden on the environment. In addition, nothing is wasted at our plant – we use solutions that ensure that raw materials that do not meet the specifications for the malt house are still used in our plant groats production line.

Germination of barley grain.

And how do you implement the principles of sustainable development as a company?
Sustainability issues have been an important element of Crisp Malt’s strategy for years. We joined the Polish Association of Sustainable Agriculture “ASAP” 9 years ago, at the stage of its creation, noticing together with recipients of malt the need for sustainable activities in an important part of our business, i.e. obtaining raw material for production. Crisp Malt is also a member of the SAI Platform, an association that pioneers sustainable actions.

In addition, for years we have been implementing technologies that allow us to reduce water consumption or lower the demand for energy. However, the most important thing for the plant in Bydgoszcz is the acquisition of Polish raw material. Being able to produce from local grain, we reduce the negative impact of the supply chain on the environment. For years, we have been developing our own warehouse base so that the raw material is dispatched directly from farms to the plant in Bydgoszcz, avoiding additional transport of cargo around the country. The plant has a connection with the railway line, as well as access to the Vistula quay. We hope that along with the development of national infrastructure, we will be able to use these types of transport in our logistics processes, even if they are used to a limited extent today.

Thank you for the interview.

The molecular future of agriculture

How can advanced scientific knowledge be quickly translated into the conditions of agricultural production? What is the role of molecular testing in fighting pathogens? What and how should be tested on the agri-food market? Karolina Felczak-Konarska, Director of the Fertico Research Agency, tells us about it.

Please tell me what Fertico does?
We started in 2008 as an institution conducting research on the effectiveness of plant protection products – phytotoxicity tests, which were used in the process of registering plant protection products, fertilizers and growth regulators. We conduct such a research to this day in several facilities throughout Poland. In addition to the headquarters in Błędów near Grójec, our stations are also located in the Wielkopolskie Voivodeship – in the vicinity of Września, Grodzisk Wielkopolski, Piła and Gniezno, and in the Lubelskie Voivodeship we have branches in the vicinity of Lublin, Opole Lubelskie and Hrubieszów.

In the following years, we expanded the scope of our activities, e.g. including the aspect of field activities based on GLP (Good Laboratory Practice), starting to study residues of plant protection products. At the same time, in a natural way, due to the fact that our facility leased the fields necessary to conduct our research, we were able to observe what was happening in these fields on an ongoing basis. Based on this knowledge, we began to create our own outlines of detailed tests that addressed the current challenges faced by farmers and fruit growers. After a few years, having extensive experience confirmed by the GLP certificate in testing residues of plant protection products, we decided to expand our offer with laboratory tests. Hence, in 2017, the idea of establishing our own laboratory was born. A year later we started this project. The laboratory of the Agronomic Institute Fertico received accreditation from the Polish Center for Accreditation (PCA) and was officially opened in 2019.

Our laboratory specializes in analytical tests, which is the second component of field research. Currently, our standard list includes more than 710 active substances that we can analyze.  An important aspect of our scientific and research activity is the physico-chemical research department, which deals primarily with the implementation of physico-chemical tests of soil, water and plant tissues as well as parameters of food products. We also conduct molecular studies of pathogens, in particular studies of the early stage of pathogens development in plants, at the stage when the symptoms are not yet visible, but it is already possible to detect their presence using molecular techniques. The laboratory also has a microbiology department which focuses primarily on microbiological testing of food and water. These are the main directions of our research and technology.

Our clients are primarily companies from the agricultural and food industry – industrial scale processing companies – producers of juices, processed food, concentrates, companies that process fruit and vegetable, as well as distribution companies. A significant group of recipients of our research are individual clients with their own farms.

Where does the need for food tests come from?
The need to perform tests in an accredited laboratory is influenced by several factors. Firstly, it results from the obligations specified in the applicable legislation concerning the production and sale of food. In Poland, these are primarily legislative requirements resulting from regulations, it is a requirement to determine the compliance of results, e.g. in the case of heavy metals, pesticide residues or the presence of microbes – bacteria found in food products or in water. The second issue is the need to have PCA accreditation. Even if a large part of processing companies have their own production laboratories, they do not have the necessary accreditations. Accredited tests require a number of additional activities in the laboratory, including: proficiency tests, verification of methods, external auditing, etc. Therefore, PCA accreditation guarantees the credibility and recognition of the obtained results – both in Poland and in other European countries. This is especially important for companies exporting agricultural products or processed products. The motivation to perform tests results more and more often from companies’ internal requirements, caused by their own quality assurance procedures or audit needs. They result mainly from market requirements and the desire to maintain competitiveness – they often take the form of credibility or admissibility confirmation programs, as in the case of MRL (Maximum Residue Level), also retail chains have internal quality programs that have their own food standards.

What does the process of performing accredited tests look like in practice?
Although the tests themselves do not take a long time, the process of obtaining the PCA mark is not that simple. The first step is to prepare the laboratory to be an accredited laboratory. The accreditation process takes on average from six months to a year. Then the laboratory undergoes an audit and receives accreditation from the Polish Center for Accreditation. In order to issue accredited results, the laboratory must meet a number of criteria, including: proficiency tests, verification of the equipment used by the laboratory, calibration and certification – so as to be sure that the equipment works well and the measurements that are made on this equipment are correct. The next step is to verify the analysts who prepare the samples and perform the analyzes. They must undergo a number of trainings, obtain appropriate permissions and authorizations to perform certain types of tests. What is more, this process is repeated periodically – the laboratory, which is already accredited, undergoes verification audits every year.

In addition to the technical and formal part, obtaining accredited results consists of the appropriate methodology and research process – from the moment of accepting the sample to the moment the result is issued. Sampling is one of the most important aspects of the entire research process. At this stage, errors most often occur that affect the final result of the test. Therefore, special instructions are required for sampling. We always recommend our clients to read our instructions before taking samples – this applies to soil, water and food tests. In the case of vegetables or fruits, we test an average of 1.5 to 2 kg of product. Parts are cut off from each fruit delivered and ground to obtain an average representative sample. Before the sample goes to the laboratory, an order form is filled out, which specifies the type of tests to be performed. Each sample receives a special barcode, which becomes its identifier at all further stages of testing. Then it goes to the stage of sample preparation for analysis – preliminary processes of grinding and adding appropriate reagents. Further, depending on the test performed, the sample goes to the appropriate testing unit, e.g. for the presence of heavy metals, after initial mineralization, this would be an ICPMS, and in case of a plant protection product residue test, this would be an appropriate chromatograph device. The test itself takes up to 24 hours, depending on the number of compounds that the analysis requires.  The obtained result is analyzed, calculated and checked with the relevant regulations and finally we prepare the final report.

How is the approach to food tests changing? What are the latest trends in this area?
First of all, our tests are becoming more and more detailed and comprehensive. New market requirements impose on us the need to constantly increase the number of active substances that we analyze. At the beginning, we started with 200, now the standard is 710 active substances that are analyzed, and the current testing capacity reaches 800. Therefore, laboratories must constantly develop, search for new research methods, and improve their processes.

There is a growing demand for testing the presence of glyphosate both in agricultural crops and in water, testing environmental pollution, and testing the presence of heavy metals in water, soil or plant tissues. The direction is to detect any contaminants as early as possible, so that they do not go to the next step in the entire food production and processing chain.

It is also worth emphasizing that the also the farmers’ approach to agricultural crop testing is gradually changing. Increasingly, we are contacted directly by the producers themselves, as they want to be sure of the quality of their products before selling. They regularly control the effects of cultivation, so it meets the highest standards.

In field research, changes and improvements of the existing methodologies are made all the time. This is particularly important in the aspect of plant protection products – in screening tests, we perform tests on plant protection product residues as a standard. Increasingly, we also study the impact on the environment – residues in the soil or in plants. In recent years, the demand for new tests of agricultural crops has also increased, e.g. in terms of changes in sugar or starch content.

All this imposes on us the need to introduce new types of tests and related procedures to our offer, invest in new equipment and generally increase its capabilities. In addition, having accreditation involves passing audits performed by two main offices that exercise the main formal supervision over the work of laboratories in Poland – the Polish Center for Accreditation and the Bureau for Chemical Substances.  These institutions also constantly increase the requirements for laboratories.

And what is the role of tests in the sustainability of agricultural production and the implementation of the European Green Deal?
Laboratory testing is an important element in the sustainability and balance of all agricultural, fruit or breeding practices. Starting from the moment of field preparation and soil and water testing, through the identification of pathogens and the testing of agricultural products, including the analysis of heavy metal residues and plant protection products, to the processing where the raw material is tested. Thanks to the introduced tests standards, farmers are able to produce healthy food of better quality and of greater value.

And it all starts with the soil and physico-chemical tests. They are already a standard in Poland, and their main purpose is to support farmers in clarifying the necessary amount of fertilization. We have long moved away from giving fertilizer “by feel”. More and more often we consciously use the available technological possibilities that show us what are the real parameters of the cultivated soil – the content of micro and macro elements, pH, content of organic substances, nitrogen, phosphorus, magnesium or calcium. Thanks to regular soil tests, farmers not only optimize the amount of fertilizers used, but also improve the quality of the soil itself. The increase in costs and the decline in the availability of fertilizers have only accelerated these changes in recent years. Our AgroFertiLab service, which combines precise field or orchard mapping with laboratory soil analysis, meets these expectations and allows for precise determination of soil fertility and precisely define fertilizer recommendations. This means not only less use of fertilizers, but also less intensive use of agricultural equipment, which means lower CO2 emissions.

Another area of research that supports farmers in the implementation of European Green Deal are tests that identify pathogens. They are performed before symptoms appear, at a time when we can still react appropriately. This allows for the appropriate selection of plant protection products and limiting their preventive use. Farmers today have access to molecular testing, which allows them to make better decisions about the use of crop protection products and potentially use smaller amounts, as earlier detection of the pathogen means that smaller amount of crop protection product that will be effective. Performing such tests also translates into a more accurate selection of the pathogen control agent, which increases the effectiveness of its use and improves biodiversity in the fields, crops or orchards. At the same time, it is a very good example of how advanced scientific knowledge can be quickly and practically translated into agricultural production conditions and applied in practice.

So we can say that food in Polish stores is healthy?
Yes. The purpose of the tests is to control and maintain quality. Consumers are not fully aware of the path of food products to the store shelf and the role of food testing. Agricultural production is a complex process, and the composition and content of the final food product is influenced by many factors. The food industry is one of the most regulated sectors of the economy. All food products, before hitting the store shelf, are tested, usually at several different stages – from soil and water testing, at the stage of cultivation, testing of the raw product – both in terms of the content of active and microbiological substances, and then testing of processed products and final food products. Even restaurants test the vegetables and fruits they buy, which are then used for catering purposes.

Thank you for the interview!

Emissions in the center of sustainability

Dynamic changes in the agricultural market make sustainable development one of the basic directions of business development, which covers more and more areas of business activity. We are talking to Adam Kopyść, Head of Digital Business and Sustainability Venture at Bayer Sp. z o.o. (Poland, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Estonia, Lithuania and Latvia), Member of the Board of the Association of Sustainable Agriculture in Poland “ASAP”.


How does Bayer approach the development of sustainable agriculture?
For us, it is not only an element of social responsibility, but above all the direction of development of our business. Agriculture that we are a part of, as a producer of plant protection products, seeds, digital solutions and sustainable services, is changing more and more intensively. With our actions, we want to adapt to the current and future needs of our customers to support them in the development of sustainable agriculture.

What are sustainable business activities?
In general, they are combination of three pillars of sustainability, i.e. economic (to make it profitable), environmental (to reduce environmental impact) and social (to make agriculture socially acceptable). Specifically, in our case, it is the inclusion of sustainability in our portfolio. For example, our corn seed varieties contain less moisture, which translates into lower energy consumption and financial expenditure on drying the yield and our plant protection products allow farmers to reduce the number of treatments. Our digital platform FieldView enables farmers to automatically record data, optimize costs and maximize yields in the spirit of sustainable agriculture. Last year, we introduced a yield mapping kit to Poland that allows farmers to use our platform also on older harvesters. Therefore, digital solutions are at the fingertips of all farmers.

There is also more and more talk in agriculture about reducing greenhouse gas emissions. How do you see this trend?
Agriculture is a significant emitter of greenhouse gases which, very importantly, has the potential to sequester CO2. In addition, all agricultural practices that reduce emissions, e.g. simplified tillage, growing cover crops, optimization of means of production, etc., also bring other environmental benefits. Therefore, it can be said that action to reduce field emissions is at the center of sustainability. As a company running projects for the food industry in the field of emission reduction through cooperation with farmers from their supply chain, we see great potential of these activities for the development of sustainable agriculture in Poland.

To what extent is the educational aspect important in the promotion of sustainable agriculture?
It is crucial, but the benefits for farmers are even more important. If they see the benefits, they are more likely to expand their knowledge.

Cooperation with other companies or agricultural organizations to effectively talk about sustainable agricultural practices and the benefits themselves is extremely important. Therefore, Bayer is a proud co-founder of the Association of Sustainable Agriculture  in Poland “ASAP” and we are glad that the number of the Association’s members continues to grow.

In my opinion, social acceptance of farmers’ work also plays a key role for the future of agriculture. That is why, since 2019, we have been running the social campaign “Farmer produces your food” in social media. It was met with great support from the agricultural community, because it is worth reminding non-farmers that food does not grow on store shelves and showing that sustainable agriculture is not the future, but the present of Polish agriculture (although there is still a lot to do).

Thank you for the interview.

100% sustainable

Sustainable agriculture is no longer a novelty, but a standard for many recipients of agricultural raw material. We talk about the challenges related to the implementation of sustainability standards among suppliers of agricultural products with Krzysztof Stańkowski, head of the Agro department at PepsiCo Polska.

What does it mean in practice that your food production system is sustainable?
The first thing that comes to mind while talking about sustainable food production is, of course, cooperation with farmers. However, in reality, the entire structure of our company is responsible for the implementation of this policy, even those areas of the company that are seemingly not related to sustainable production. We approach this issue holistically, from the point of view of our entire business activity and we optimize processes wherever possible and rational. Our basic activity in this area is contracting agricultural products – both in Poland and in the world. We have developed standards of cooperation with farmers many years ago and this area is particularly important to us. It is worth emphasizing that this was not an easy process, because on the one hand we try to be competitive on the market, and on the other hand, the contracts are followed by specific expectations that we set for farmers and require their acceptance. However, thanks to many years of consistent cooperation with farmers, we were able to develop specific standards. We regularly undergo audits of our sustainable agriculture program and their subsequent results confirm that, for example, our Polish potatoes are produced in a sustainable way. We have achieved a level of 100% sustainability in this respect. So in practice, all farms cooperating with PepsiCo in Poland meet high standards regarding  sustainable agriculture.

Other element that is part of our pro-environmental processes is packaging. We are talking here about a significant impact  because we are one of the world’s largest manufacturers of snack and beverage packaging. Therefore, it is a big challenge. However, we consistently take steps to ensure that the packaging we use is produced in such a way as to limit its impact on the environment and climate in the shortest possible perspective. We strive to reduce this impact to zero. The most important of our initiatives are bottles made of 100% recycled plastic, the so-called rPET and currently this solution has been implemented by us for 85% of the Polish portfolio. Switching to this type of bottles is part of our global program.

An important element in the implementation of the principles of sustainability is also the functioning of the production plants themselves. In this case, we strive to achieve almost zero-emission. Over the past few years, we have implemented a number of programs aimed at minimizing our environmental footprint. Let me give you an example – in our factory in Grodzisk Mazowiecki, we have launched our own sewage treatment plant, which means that we purify the water used in the entire production process ourselves, thus being able to close its circulation and use it repeatedly.  The electricity used by both our plants and offices comes from 100% renewable sources. In turn, the thermal energy resulting from our production processes is recovered and is used, among others,  for heating buildings and water.

These are just some of the ways we try to approach sustainability in food production holistically. In selected areas we are already at a fairly advanced level, and in some areas, if we have not yet achieved 100% results, we are already very close to this goal.

Can you tell us more about your plans to support sustainability in agriculture?
It is worth starting with the fact that this is a constant process for us. We regularly undergo audits to ensure the sustainability of our supply chain, including the origin of agricultural raw materials. Although we have already done a lot in this area, we are still motivated to constantly improve our processes. New suppliers are joining us all the time and this requires us to show them the standards and knowledge we expect in terms of sustainability. We also have defined plans for regenerative agriculture. We started implementing this program at the beginning of 2021 and in the initial period we worked together with farmers to define mutually acceptable rules of cooperation. This was done by reviewing our global requirements, jointly adapting them to the local conditions of Polish agriculture and checking to what extent Polish farms already meet these standards. We have found that many Polish farmers are already very advanced in applying environmentally beneficial practices. Very often, the farms we cooperate with conduct their own research independently of us which they use to draw conclusions for their activities. Therefore, we can exchange knowledge with many partners and look for even more advanced solutions. At the same time, there is also a group of farmers who, although they are already aware of the need for change, have not yet taken real steps to implement them. Therefore, we try to point to the experience of farms that have already implemented the required practices, highlight the benefits and indicate the figures that best appeal to farmers. Important arguments are, of course, yields and profitability, but farmers are also aware that farm resources cannot be exploited indefinitely and that intensive farming practices can lead to rapid soil degradation. Farms are passed down from generation to generation, so it is very important for farmers to maintain the right conditions to obtain good yields, also in the future. That is why we often encounter a situation in which suppliers already carry out specific activities and we can also learn many things from them.

What challenges are you currently facing in terms of working with farmers?
This year, due to the difficulties affecting the entire sector, farmers are particularly focused on profitability and the issue of the future of production. Rising prices of fertilizers, fuels and energy mean that all participants of the agricultural market are forced to make difficult decisions. Therefore, at the beginning of the year, we reacted quickly and introduced appropriate conditions to our contracts that would secure our suppliers. We always try to look at the changing market situation and analyze the main price-setting factors that reduce or increase the costs of agricultural production on an ongoing basis. Our agronomists working in the field meet and talk to farmers about current problems, which allows us to react quickly to any changes. A similar situation prevails on other European markets where we conclude contracts for the supply of raw materials.

What standards must your suppliers meet?
Just a few years ago every farm that started working with PepsiCo was required to join the GlobalG.A.P. certification within two years of starting cooperation. Throughout the process of preparing for certification and audit, we supported suppliers in this regard. However, at present the GlobalG.A.P certificate is already required by us at the time of concluding the contract. The change in our approach was influenced by fact that farmers already have a significant awareness of the importance of certification for the ability of their farms to compete. This is part of a broader trend that we observe on the market, because an increasing number of processors or retail chains require farmers to ensure the appropriate quality or a specific standard of raw materials at a very early stage of production. This means that a significant part of the suppliers take care themselves to obtain the appropriate certifications.

In addition to the GlobalG.A.P certificate, we also have our internal sustainable agriculture program, which we have been implementing in Poland for 7 years. This means that every farm cooperating with PepsiCo is subject to annual monitoring, checking whether it meets our SFP (Sustainable Farming Program) standards. We constantly check whether the farm requires support and what areas need improvement. Our agronomists visit farms several times a year and react to possible problems on an ongoing basis. Once a year, a summary report is prepared. This means that despite the three-year validity period of the certificate, in addition, every year we check 100% compliance with the program standards ourselves.

We are also preparing to implement solutions measuring emissions from potato crops. We are already able to monitor emissions in our internal systems for each hectare of crops, and we intend to make the developed solutions available to our suppliers soon.

In 2023, we plan to pilot the implementation of the principles of regenerative agriculture on several farms and make measurements using experimental plots. In this way, we want to see whether the principles of impact on soil emissions and quality that we have defined are applicable in practice.

What impact does sustainability have on the consumer market?
Consumer expectations play a decisive role in a number of initiatives we have taken to sustain our production, including reducing our impact on the environment and climate. We listen to what consumers say and try to make every effort to ensure the safety of our products – hence, among other things, we require the suppliers to have GlobalG.A.P. certification or the implementation of internal quality programs. These requirements also affect the way of production as well as the composition of our products – this is the reason why we have completely abandoned the use of palm oil, or changed our packaging to one that uses recycled plastic. We also conduct a number of educational activities addressed to consumers.

Thank you for the interview!