April 14, 2023
This guest post was authored by KIND, one of our best-selling brands. KIND makes healthy snacks and bars with almonds, granola, and other nutrient-dense, wholesome ingredients.
Almonds are our number one ingredient. We use millions of pounds of them each year, which is exactly why we’re focusing on understanding how to grow them differently. We’re looking into regenerative agriculture as a potential solution. Regenerative agriculture helps restore the land and resources needed to grow the foods we like (like almonds).
Our goal is to source 100% of our almonds from farmland leveraging regenerative agriculture practices by 2030, on a mass balance basis. That’s why we’ve launched the KIND Almond Acres Initiative, to learn how applying established regenerative principles can help make almonds more sustainable. This initiative is a three-year, 500-acre pilot project testing a combination of regenerative agriculture practices and new technologies on California almonds.
No one quite knows what combination of regenerative agriculture practices and new technologies works best for almonds in California. So, we’re testing five—some proven, some longshots—to find the best combination to scale.
Strong soil holds more water and stores carbon, helping us reduce the amount of carbon in the atmosphere. Being kinder to the soil means we can grow the almonds we love for generations to come. One of the primary goals of regenerative agriculture is to nurture the soil, which helps us be kinder to the planet along the way.
We’re trying to find the right mix of technology and regenerative agriculture to increase carbon and nutrients in the soil, while reducing emissions, using water more efficiently and supporting biodiversity. No big deal, right?
First, we’re testing certain practices that build soil health and focus on putting nutrients and carbon back into the ground. Some of these practices, like cover crops and composting, are used across the US by many farmers, but others are unique to tree crops, like almonds. Learning how these practices work together in an orchard will be crucial for improving the health of the whole system.
We’re also testing new technology to help growers understand the challenges and benefits. Off-ground harvesting and subsurface irrigation are new to the almond industry, but we believe they have a lot of potential.
Through this Initiative, we hope to learn what practices provide the best benefit to the soil, the farm as a whole, and the planet.
Whole Orchard Recycling: When an almond tree reaches the end of its productive life (which takes roughly 25 years, by the way) the trees are removed to make way for more almonds. With whole orchard recycling, these trees are ground into chips and reapplied back onto the orchard floor. That’s good fertilizer, but it also helps keep organic carbon in the orchard. We’re dedicating 38 acres to testing whole orchard recycling’s effect on soil health.
Cover Crops: We’re using a blend of five cover crops to test how introducing this practice can build soil structure, increase soil carbon levels, create pollinator habitats, and help the land become more resilient in the face of a changing climate.
Compost and Biochar: Biochar is a charcoal-like substance created from slow-burning almond shells. When combined with compost, a proven regenerative practice, this organic matter could potentially store carbon, decrease the need for fertilizer and increase water retention. We’re testing how well it works for almonds and whether biochar can compound its effect.
Off-Ground Harvesting: Traditionally, almonds are harvested by shaking them off the tree, then sweeping them into rows. Collecting the almonds off trees instead of off the ground decreases soil disturbance and reduces the amount of dust in the air during harvest. Off-ground harvesting also protects the soil organic matter from being swept up, keeping everything the soil needs exactly where it should be.
Subsurface Irrigation: The California almond community has committed to reduce the amount of water used to grow a pound of almonds by an additional 20% by 2025. To do our part in understanding the best way to achieve this, we are investigating technology like subsurface irrigation. This is an irrigation system that allows growers to ensure more of the water applied is used directly by the tree.
Regenerative agriculture is still new for the almond industry. We’ve designed the KIND Almond Acres Initiative specifically to be immediately practical and help us scale to our goal, because experimenting with cover crops, investing in new farm equipment, and putting in a lot of extra work is a lot to ask of farmers. We are putting our money where our mouth is by co-creating a pilot with our supplier to trial new practices and measure their benefits.
We’re looking for solid, science-based data that clearly shows the most impactful combination of practices and tools for almonds grown in California.
The KIND Almond Acres Initiative is a living, learning lab—so no secrets here! We’re inviting everyone to learn alongside us on our journey to benefit California growers and the planet, too.
Learn more about how we’re bringing the KIND Almond Acres Initiative to life here.
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