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26 March 2024

Farm Level Sustainability Data to Inform Buying Decision by Schools and Hospitals for the First Time



Sustainability data at a farm level will soon be provided to schools and hospitals in a first for UK public procurement.

Soil Association Exchange is set to deliver the environmental measures for farms in public sector purchasing as part of the Crown Commercial Service’s (CCS) Buying Better Food and Drink agreement.

This agreement is available for all UK public sector organisations to use for buying food and drink through a single online access point, which is to be provided by Entegra, a Sodexo company, and expert in procurement solutions, using AgileChain technology by Equilibrium Markets Ltd following a tender process in 2023.

As well as a shift to more dynamic food procurement – which removes barriers to allow small producers to contribute to larger public sector orders – the updated service will also use Exchange’s holistic farm assessments for sustainability.

Exchange measures the environmental impact of farm operations by assessing six key areas – soil, water, carbon, animal welfare, social impacts, and biodiversity.

It does this by collecting data through on the ground farm surveys, satellite imagery and other datasets on metrics like soil carbon and bird counts, alongside considering the food production and community benefits a farm provides.

Holistic farm sustainability metrics

Soil Association Exchange Chief Executive Joseph Gridley said:

“It is hugely important for our public institutions to serve food that supports sustainable, British farm businesses and we are excited to start delivering data that will help to make this easier. Exchange is already working with hundreds of farms who have helped to develop our wide-ranging sustainability metrics. These measurements consider the full picture and can help to show schools and hospitals all of the brilliant things that farmers are doing to support nature while producing good quality food. With our farm level sustainability data and new technology from Equilibrium Markets designed with small businesses in mind, we hope we will soon see a much wider variety of producers accessing this important market.”

The AgileChain technology developed by Equilibrium Markets applies dynamic food procurement principles that seek to deliver greater transparency and break down barriers for small and medium-sized enterprises (SME), primary producers. AgileChain does this via smart automation making fulfilment along short supply chains more efficient for producers, distributors and wholesalers.

The Buying Better Food and Drink agreement from CCS sets new parameters for procurement enabling more informed sourcing decisions based on individual farm levels and the social, environmental, and economic impact of food and drink choices.

Equilibrium Markets Chief Executive Rich Osborn said

“We are thrilled to be working with Exchange, who will bring an industry changing level of farm production data to public procurement for the first time. It will enable buyers to see the social and environmental impact at a farm level, on a wealth of different factors from soil health and biodiversity, to animal welfare and social good.

“The combination of Exchange and AgileChain technologies brings unprecedented transparency to public sector procurement. Shining a light on the good work of productive, sustainable British farms enables buyers to make better informed decisions. There is over a billion pounds being spent by public sector kitchens that can be used to compensate farmers for efficient, lower carbon food production in harmony with nature.”

Buyers can express interest in the Buying Better Food & Drink agreement, which is due to launch in late 2024.

Food procurers in the public sector can express their interest now by emailing buyingbetter@entegraps.uk.

Any farmer can get involved by obtaining a sustainability score from Soil Association Exchange for free at www.soilassociationexchange.com.

 



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