Society as a whole needs to phase out fossil energy sources in order to meet the climate targets. This applies to all industries and value chains. Lantmännen shows the way within the food value chain from field to fork. We are now adding a crucial piece of the puzzle – fossil-free mineral fertilizer – and enabling what is likely to be the world’s first, large-scale, fossil-free production of food.
Emissions from food production must be reduced for us to achieve the Paris Agreement targets and stop climate change. At the same time, food production must increase to meet the needs of a growing population. Through innovation and collaboration, we can phase out the use of fossil fuels from the entire value chain for food and break the link between increasing production and emissions.
Today fossil fuel is often used in tractors, combine harvesters, mills, driers, and for the transportation of grain as well as for production of mineral fertilizer and other inputs. These areas of use can be converted to renewable fuels today.
Overall, fossil energy accounts for the largest part of total emissions from the grain value chain. However, there are also biogenic emissions that impact the climate, such as nitrous oxide leaking from farmland or from organic soils. To reduce biogenic emissions, other measures are required, such as efforts to further sequester carbon in soil, and cultivation methods that keep areas green with cover crops.
What does Lantmännen mean by fossil-free?
Lantmännen has analyzed emissions from the food value chain and gradually introduced alternatives to fossil-based energy. The largest areas of use for fossil energy can now be replaced with fossil-free alternatives. What remains is less than 5 percent of fossil energy use in the entire value chain from field to fork. The last part is the sum of several smaller flows that are currently difficult to manage, for example energy use in the production of lime, plant protection products and certain packaging.
Lantmännen shows the way
Phasing out fossil energy is an important part of making farming climate neutral. Since 2015, Lantmännen has changed energy use within various parts of the value chain. The bar chart shows our transition to fossil-free energy use within various areas in the value chain for flour from Swedish winter wheat, grown according to our cultivation program Climate & Nature.
During the harvest in 2015, fossil energy accounted for approximately 80 percent of the total energy use. Since then, fossil energy has been replaced with renewable energy and today less than five percent fossil energy remains in the cultivation of winter wheat.
Important measures for a fossil-free value chain
Fossil-free plant nutrition
In 2019, Lantmännen and Yara began collaborating to launch one of the world’s first fossil-free mineral fertilizers. Instead of using fossil fuel, such as natural gas, to produce ammonia – the basis of fertilizer – mineral fertilizer is produced with green ammonia based on renewable energy from Europe, such as for example, Norwegian hydropower. The fertilizer accordingly has an 80-90 percent lower climate footprint. Already in 2023, fossil-free fertilizer is used in the cultivation of grain within Lantmännen's Climate & Nature program.
Fossil-free field work
Fossil-free field work means that fossil fuels in tractors and combine harvesters have been replaced with biofuels. Since 2020, this has been a criterion in the Climate & Nature cultivation program.
Fossil-free transport, drying and milling of grain
Lantmännen has worked extensively to phase out fossil energy sources for transport, drying of grain and milling. In 2023, only fossil-free energy sources will be used within Climate & Nature. Lantmännen's goal is to have fossil-free energy use throughout its own production by 2025 in Sweden and Norway, by 2030 in the rest of the Nordic region and by 2040 throughout Europe.
Scientific climate targets
The Science Based Targets initiative (SBTi) has developed specific climate targets for the agricultural sector, so-called FLAG targets (Forest, Land & Agriculture). The new guidance specifies the rate at which greenhouse gases from agriculture should be reduced according to what science says is required to achieve the 1.5 degree target and limit climate change. SBTi defines target levels for various agricultural raw materials. For wheat, for example, the target is a 36 percent reduction in the climate footprint between 2020 and 2030 per kilo of wheat.
In 2023, when fossil-free mineral fertilizer is introduced witin Climate & Nature , the reduction for the program will be 50 percent compared to baseline of 2015. This means that grain grown according to Climate & Nature in 2023 will achieve the 2030 targets according to SBTi FLAG.
Lantmännen's fossil-free grain value chain shows that the transformation of farming can be made already today. Collaboration is required to increase production and change food production on a wide scale. The market and politics must support the transformation and the increase in costs need to be shared throughout the value chain.
In addition to a fossil-free transformation, it is also important to reduce biogenic emissions, for example using new cultivation methods to capture and store carbon dioxide in farmland, as well as to protect and promote biodiversity. Within the Climate & Nature cultivation program, new measures are continuously being developed that contribute to these areas.
What are biogenic emissions?
In addition to fossil emissions, biogenic emissions occur that contribute to agriculture's climate impact. Nitrous oxide and emissions from organic soils are examples of biogenic emissions. Nitrous oxide is formed when nitrogen is converted in the soil from various compounds. Nitrous oxide also comes from so-called organic soils. The organic soil breaks down when in contact with oxygen and carbon dioxide and nitrous oxide is then released. Nitrous oxide (N2O) is a powerful greenhouse gas that remains in the atmosphere for a long time - emissions of one kg of nitrous oxide corresponds to the emissions of approximately 298 kg of carbon dioxide from a 100-year perspective. The short carbon cycle, for example the capture of carbon by crops and in the next stage decomposition, is not referred to in this definition.
Collaboration in the value chain
Lantmännen works with various actors in the food value chain to speed up the development of future fossil-free farming. This involves research and development, testing of new cultivation methods and making fossil-free alternatives available to the market.
Together with industry colleagues through the platform “Fossilfree Sweden”, we have developed a roadmap for Swedish agriculture's fossil—free transition.
In partnership with Yara, Lantmännen will launch fossil-free mineral fertilizer in 2023 and with it probably the world's first fossil-free food value chain.
Lantmännen is part of Sigill’s Quality system work on developing a definition of what “fossil-free” isfor the food and agriculture industry.