Malt barley is one of the primary ingredients in beer. So, we place a high priority on cultivating quality barley.
We have a long-standing history of working collaboratively with our network of barley growers around the world. Helping provide access to quality seeds and inputs. Developing improved varieties with higher barley yields and increased water efficiency. And assisting growers in the art of producing malt barley.
Our SmartBarley program was created to revolutionize agriculture. By accelerating agricultural innovations, we are working to establish a local and resilient supply of high quality raw materials, improving crop productivity and enhancing grower livelihoods.
Investing in Growers
SmartBarley began in 2013, when we invited 340 growers to participate in a benchmarking pilot coordinated through our local agronomists in Argentina, Brazil, Canada, China, Russia, the United States and Uruguay. The pilot allowed participating growers to compare their growing practices anonymously with one another and to work with our agronomists to learn how they could grow barley more efficiently and productively. Since then, we expanded our SmartBarley program to include not only benchmarking, but also a portfolio of grower-centric programs to address local needs.
Between 2014 and 2015, we worked with more than 3,200 growers around the world and that number continues to grow. SmartBarley helps our teams identify and address the pressing challenges our growers face, focusing on initiatives that influence grower productivity, resource use efficiency and profitability.
For example, in 2016 in Zacatecas, Mexico, we launched a program in partnership with the local government to provide farmers with access to improved farm equipment by financing 100% of the cost. Due to the high costs of modern machinery, growers are using antiquated methods to plant and harvest their barley, but with access to new harvesters and seeders, growers are able to increase their productivity and profitability.
In the United Kingdom, we established a collaboration with UK partners to develop a local Budweiser barley program in 2014. Prior to this, there was no local barley origination for UK Budweiser production. Through SmartBarley and the guidance of local agronomists, growers harvested over 25,000 MT of Budweiser-quality barley in 2016 that will be malted and brewed locally.
And in Idaho, U.S., many growers are facing increasing pressures to reduce their water use. We are working with the University of Idaho and the Bureau of Reclamation to find solutions that will improve water management and reduce consumption. In 2016, we trialed LESA (low energy spray application), a new irrigation technology that improves water use efficiency, and are planning to expand these trials in 2017.
We are committed to exploring and testing innovations that will deliver value across the farm production system and strengthen SmartBarley's value to our growers.