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General Mills, Unilever Gifts to Support UMD Research on Sustainable and Regenerative Agriculture

By Rachael Grahame ’17

Two consumer goods giants, General Mills and Unilever, recently made significant investments in a University of Maryland-led initiative to evaluate the adoption and efficacy of climate-smart farming practices.

The Harvest Sustainable and Regenerative Agriculture Initiative, or Harvest SARA, uses satellite measurements to shed light on the suitability of certain land management techniques for producing robust yields that are gentle on the ground from which they came.

“We are seeing more studies that use satellite data that measure the state of adoption of different practices like cover cropping, reduced tillage and grassed waterways over very large areas, and we also are seeing studies that use satellite data to map agricultural outcomes like crop yield over very large areas,” said Alyssa Whitcraft, Harvest SARA’s founding executive director and a research professor in UMD’s Department of Geographical Sciences. “But there have been comparatively fewer studies that link practices with outcomes, which we saw as a missed opportunity to support sustainable and regenerative transitions.”

Established through funding from NASA, Harvest SARA is one of three NASA Harvest initiatives; all use satellite observations of Earth to increase food security, improve agriculture, strengthen the environment, and combat climate change in their areas of focus. Unilever and General Mills’ gifts to the Harvest SARA Initiative Fund will be used to build a robust and actionable evidence base for various management practices, and provide science-based, good practices for quantifying environmental, economic and social outcomes associated with their adoption.

These insights will be accessible to a global audience of scientists, companies, farmers and ranchers, thanks to Harvest SARA’s setup within the University of Maryland College Park Foundation, through which the initiative operates as a 501(c)3 that anyone can contribute to, and benefit from.

Inquiries about opportunities to partner with the Harvest SARA initiative can be directed to

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