LENs Hungary is being implemented in the Western Transdanubia region of Hungary, with current trading centred around the town of Bük, Vas County. The landscape in this region has a long history of intensive agriculture, with farmers facing multiple challenges, including moisture retention, waterlogging, soil loss and nutrient depletion. Nestlé Purina Petcare, an important purchaser of crops in this region, currently forms the sole demand party – both in the inaugural 2022 trade and the 2023 trade currently in progress. Trade facilitation is provided by Preferred by Nature, with support from 3Keel. Through LENs Hungary, Nestlé Purina Petcare seeks to improve the resilience of their supply chain by supporting the implementation of regenerative practices on their suppliers’ farms. As well as receiving implementation funding, farmers in the program are supported by a network, coordinated by Preferred by Nature, of technical experts from a range of agri-businesses and practitioners in Hungary. This network works together to develop intervention specifications, provide on-farm technical assistance, and monitor project outcomes.
The ongoing war in Ukraine, as well as several years of acute water stress, have posed challenges to the roll-out of LENs in Hungary. Despite this, in 2022 the team successfully developed a LENs stakeholder network and built strong relationships with farmers by offering a consolidated programme of measures. In this first trade, LENs Hungary supported three farmers to establish regenerative agricultural practices across 2183 hectares. This project delivery included a trial of replacing synthetic with organic fertiliser, with impact on yields measured and favourably compared with conventional practices. Building on these results, the LENs team, with the support of Nestlé Purina Petcare, are running specific trials to test a range of technologies, input materials and farm practices on two farms from 2023. Through these trials we plan to showcase regenerative agriculture practices and their outcomes to local farmers, in order to facilitate the transition to a lower environmental impact agriculture. The trials are designed and planned by Biospheres, with implementation and specialised testing coordinated by Syngenta’s local team of experts.
The measures funded in the 2022 trade can be clustered into two main categories, i) in-field agronomic measures, and ii) introduction of innovative technologies at the farm level. Measures include:
- Cover crops: Establishing autumn-sown cover crops enhances water quality and maintains soil moisture, as well as ensuring soil is not left bare, thereby protecting it from erosion over winter.
- Integrated fertility programs: Evaluating organic fertility sources in an effort to reduce the carbon footprint at a farm level. These practices also enrich soils, improving their ability to hold water and slow nutrient depletion.
- Reduced cultivation/tillage: This measure improves soil health, increases organic carbon content and supports soil biology development. Robust soil biology leads to better soil structure and water infiltration, helping plant root penetration and greater access to water and nutrients. This can result in more stable yields during challenging conditions, such as drought.
- Promotion of precision agriculture: Through a combination of soil sampling, satellite imagery and GPS systems installed on farm machineries, with this measure farmers benefit from accurate soil mapping. This enhances the efficiency of farming practices by reducing and optimising inputs such as fertilizers, herbicides, and insecticides, while maintaining or increasing crop yields. This service is provided by Switzerland-based company AgriCircle, who combine satellite data, machine learning and soil samples to develop a high-resolution soil nutrient map, allowing a precise adjustment of input materials.
- Farmer network: Support is provided for farmers to develop networks in which participants can share and discuss their experience and knowledge of regenerative agriculture.
- Trials: Funding experimental field trials allows farmers to trial advanced regenerative agricultural practices at a small scale, thereby showcasing new technologies that successfully reduce environmental impact, while increasing crop production resiliency.
Following the pilot trade in 2022, LENs Hungary is expanding rapidly. In 2023, LENs Hungary expects to support over 10 farmers who seek to adopt regenerative agricultural practices. At the same time, the team remains in discussion with governmental bodies to ensure that LENs continues to complement national and EU-governed agri-environmental schemes as these evolve, as well as support societal needs.
Looking forward, LENs Hungary seeks to further grow the current trade, as well as onboard additional funders – companies, public bodies or third sector organisations with ecosystem interests in the Western Transdanubia region. These partnerships will allow the growing LENs Hungary community to increase impact by stacking multiple beneficial ecosystem and supply chain outcomes across a wider geography.
Landscape Enterprise Networks: Regenerative agriculture and landscape resilience in Hungary, ©Nestlé Europe’