We initiated our smart agriculture strategy with barley – the “soul” of beer. We have a long history of working with our barley growers through our research and agriculture teams to help them produce high-quality malt barley while reducing their environmental impact.
Our Global Barley research team is responsible for developing new malt barley varieties that increase growers’ productivity and reduce environmental impact, while driving the quality we need to brew our world class beers. We have a team of over 75 barley agronomists across 14 countries, who work with our farmers in the field, supporting them to adopt the best agricultural practices to improve yields and quality while managing costs.
In 2013, we created SmartBarley – an innovative platform and incubator which leverages data, technology and insights to help growers solve challenges and improve their productivity, livelihoods and environmental performance. SmartBarley enables farmers to benchmark their barley practices and performance across our global grower network, exchanging best practices that drive improved productivity and environmental practices. By the end of 2016, over 4,500 growers had participated in the program.
The data gathered through SmartBarley helps to identify gaps and opportunities, which are addressed through a portfolio of agronomic, environmental and management initiatives.
Water stress is a major challenge affecting agriculture globally, as climate change, population growth and water mismanagement increase pressure on freshwater resources. In 2012, we set ourselves a goal of reducing water risks and improving water management in 100% of our key barley-growing regions by 2017. We have achieved this by working with growers in our supply chain and setting up projects to improve productivity and water-use efficiency across key regions in the US and Mexico. But we recognize water issues are complex and long term in nature, and we will continue to work collaboratively with to strengthen water stewardship.
SmartBarley in action
Growing our local sourcing in Mexico
SmartBarley, the innovative platform and incubator, leveraging data, technology and insights to help growers optimize production and profitability, has been most successful in Mexico. We’ve gone from locally sourcing 70% of malting quality barley in 2014 to 86% in 2016, and we’re on track to achieve 100% local sourcing by 2017.
Agrible in Brazil and the US
In 2015, we worked with Agrible, an agriculture technology start-up that aims to leverage big data for the development of a comprehensive, mobile-enabled, digital barley crop management tool for our farmers. Born out of the Bud Lab, the company helped us pilot this program with more than 20 farmers in Brazil and the United States in 2016.
eLeaf in Russia
eLeaf uses satellite technology to help farmers identify potential problem areas in their fields during barley growing season with an online interface that provides weekly field updates, identifying high- and low-yield areas. Developed in the Netherlands in 2014 for Russian farmers, the program grew to 30 farmers in Russia and the U.S. by 2016.
UK Grower Day
The UK Grower Field Day brings farmers and agricultural leaders together with guest speakers to Essex to showcase Budweiser barley. In conjunction with SmartBarley, the local Barley for Budweiser program started with 23 farms in 2014 and has grown to 90 farms, growing malting barley with guidance and support from our local agricultural partners.