Many of the winning projects in Tesco’s Innovation Connections Programme have been trialled with fresh produce suppliers

The winners gave an update at an industry event

The winners gave an update at an industry event

The winners of WWF and Tesco’s 2022 Innovation Connections Programme - many of whose work directly relates to fresh produce - have given an update their progress after working with leading Tesco suppliers.

The goal of the work with suppliers was to help accelerate research and better understand opportunities – and challenges – to scale in a commercial setting.

Each innovator shared key outcomes secured through the programme, supporting their development, including being able to work with a major commercial supplier to trial their products.

The five winning projects set out their progress at an industry event this week, providing feedback and learnings to representatives from across the food industry. They included:

Listening for pollinators

AgriSound tested its ‘Polly’ AI devices that listen out for key pollinator species across three Spanish citrus farms and four UK apple orchards to quantify the benefits of insect biodiversity in different farming systems.

As a result, fruit producer AM Fresh has now committed to extending bee-friendly certification across all its Spanish citrus production sites, and continues to work with AgriSound to explore the relationship between pollinator numbers and regenerative agriculture. It also plans to use the technology to measure Med Fruit Fly thresholds to reduce pesticide applications.

Lower-carbon potatoes

Over the past 10 months, CCm Technologies and Andermatt have collaborated with Branston on a major trial of novel low-carbon fertilisers. Focused on potatoes, new approaches to fertilising the potato crop have been investigated and benefits to both the environment and carbon footprint have been demonstrated.

The Farm Carbon Toolkit has supported the project through conducting carbon footprinting analysis of the products and associated systems to understand further the emissions dynamics associated with this approach. Building on this trial. Tesco has embarked on its own extensive trial of a range of low-carbon fertiliser products, including CCM, as a key part of its effort to reduce emissions in line with key climate targets.

Farm carbon data

Working with RBOrganic, Farm Carbon Toolkit has increased its functionality to support aggregated reporting of farm carbon data at a supplier level, supporting better tracking of Scope 3 emissions through the food supply chain including developing a version of the tool to enable reporting from producers outside of the UK. RBOrganic and Farm Carbon Toolkit aim to continue to work together into 2024 to track the businesses’ carbon footprint year on year.

AI birdsong monitoring deployed its AI-enabled devices – which listen out for and identify bird song – at 30 sites on 15 farms across the UK and Northern Ireland. The results showcased the variety of bird life, with an average of 34 species, ranging up to 48 species on the most biodiverse farm. Fourteen threatened species, including skylarks and yellowhammers, were also reported. Chirrup’s programme is establishing baseline data to support multi-farm benchmarking and future tracking of birds as an indicator of wider biodiversity on farms.

Alice Ritchie, lead nature and forests manager at Tesco, said: “Innovations like these are critically important when it comes to building a more resilient, sustainable and productive food system. As these results show, they have huge potential to cut greenhouse gas emissions, enhance soil health and water quality, and provide a clearer picture when it comes to monitoring biodiversity in our supply chains.

“We’re really pleased a number of the winners are now progressing their plans with our suppliers, as well as sharing learnings with the wider industry along the way.”