Researching together

Researching for a sustainable future

Laboratory employee transfers liquid from one container to another.

Research is not an end in itself for us. Together with research institutions and local civil society organisations, we want to find solutions to reduce the environmental impact along our value-added chain and strengthen local communities. That is why we work with partners to implement projects in various areas in Switzerland and abroad. Many projects are currently under way, others have already been completed. We present some of these projects here.

By sharing knowledge and experience, we can find innovative solutions together with partners.

Thomas Paroubek, Head of Sustainability & Quality at Migros Supermarket Ltd

Ongoing projects

We are currently working on many research projects regarding sustainability – get an overview!

  • Promotion of organic sunflowers from Switzerland

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    Key data

    Research topic

    Sunflowers are not very resilient to drought and high temperatures. Climate change could therefore worsen the conditions for sunflower cultivation in southern Europe while improving those in Switzerland. Today, the demand for sunflower oils in Switzerland is mainly covered by imports.

    Together with FiBL and our partners in the value-added chain, we are working to expand the cultivation and processing of organic sunflowers in Switzerland through the targeted selection of cultivation sites, soil-conserving cultivation methods for weed control and testing of new varieties.

    • Effect of regenerative agriculture in modern fruit growing

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      Research topic

      Regenerative agriculture stands for an agricultural approach or near-natural, sustainable food production that has a positive effect on humus build-up and soil fertility, as well as closing the local nutrient and water cycles. However, the effect of different elements of regenerative agriculture has been little studied scientifically, and practically none at all in fruit growing.

      We are therefore supporting the project awarded by the Müller-Thurgau Foundation (project management Ebenrain Centre for Agriculture, Nature and Food), which aims to measure the effect of central components of regenerative agriculture on soil fertility, yield and quality in order to be able to provide targeted advice to fruit growers in the future.

      • Carbon footprint of vegetable and fruit farms in an agricultural context

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        Key data

        Research topic

        Healthy, fertile soils are the central resource for vegetable and fruit producers and are significantly linked to what is known as humus development. Humus refers to organic soil matter, about half of which consists of carbon, which in turn is produced through the natural decomposition of dead plants. Humus-rich soils are therefore doubly desirable: they have high soil fertility and at the same time serve as natural carbon stores, so-called «sinks».

        How much carbon soils can store or release into the environment as CO2 depends on various factors such as the intensity of soil cultivation, soil cover or root formation. Migros is therefore supporting the project awarded by the Müller-Thurgau Foundation (project management ZHAW), which aims to formulate a best practices guide for sustainable humus development in vegetable and fruit growing.

        • Changing insect communities

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          Research topic

          Insects play an important role in nature. They not only pollinate plants, but are also an important source of food for other animals. This means that if insects die, this has far-reaching consequences for our ecosystems – and therefore for all of us. We want to help stop the extinction of species and promote biodiversity.

          That is why we are supporting the Research Institute of Organic Agriculture (FiBL). Together we want to find out what long-term effects the intensity of cultivation in agriculture has on insect mortality and biodiversity.

          Our approach: we compare the insect biomass and diversity on different farms in the periods 1996–1998 and 2022–2024. From the results, we derive appropriate measures to reduce insect mortality.    

          • Alternatives to chemical dewormers for free-range hens

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            Research topic

            Intestinal worms in free-range hens are a major problem on organic farms. They affect the health and welfare of the animals. To prevent this, chemical dewormers are often used. But these can weaken the animals’ immune system and trigger other diseases.

            We want to avoid this and have therefore initiated a four-year project at the Research Institute of Organic Agriculture (FiBL) to find alternatives to combat intestinal worms in hens.   

            • Sustainability in palm oil production in the Solomon Islands

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              • Partner: Earthworm Foundation

              • Duration: ongoing

              Research topic

              The total quantities of palm oil used by Migros meet the highest standards and are traceable back to the mill. Together with the key players in the palm oil value-added chain, we in the Swiss Palm Oil Network have decided to go beyond standards and implement additional criteria with our suppliers, as well as directly implement projects.

              With our most important supplier Florin and its most important supplier in the Solomon Islands, an island state in the South Pacific, we are therefore committed to improving the CO2 footprint of palm oil production and strengthening local communities. Our partner organisation Earthworm Foundation (EF) supports the goals set and local operations. On the one hand, with the help of systematic monitoring of the entire cultivation area and surrounding areas using Starling analysis, and on the other hand through advice and assistance in the reforestation of degraded areas and efficient cultivation, as well as through targeted interventions in the individual communities to promote resilience and improve the economic situation.

              • How can we make feeding the world’s population sustainable – now and in the future?

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                • Partner: Various

                • Duration: ongoing

                Research topic

                Feeding the world’s population is one of the biggest challenges of the future. Every year, more than one billion tons of food is wasted, while millions of people are undernourished. In addition, our current methods of food production will soon no longer be sufficient to feed the growing world population.

                We want to tackle these environmental and social challenges by working with the EPFL Integrative Food and Nutrition Center to find innovative solutions. In doing so, we are using EPFL’s expertise, particularly in the areas of digital technologies and materials science. For example, we are using artificial intelligence to explore how new and innovative products can reach consumers.   

                • Saving packaging and making products more sustainable

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                  • Partner: Various

                  • Duration: ongoing

                  Research topic

                  Recycling and minimising waste are crucial to preserving our environment. That is why we are constantly working on reducing the packaging for our products or making it more environmentally friendly. We rely on the life cycle assessments of the packaging.

                  For simpler issues, our technical experts prepare the life cycle assessments themselves. For more complicated issues, we work with external experts. We commission specialists such as Carbotech to analyse our products and their impact on the environment. The results show us how we can make our product range even more sustainable in the future.

                  One example: We have been offering environmentally friendly veggie bags in our branches for several years. Reusable bags are also available at our refill stations. We want to find out what the ecological footprint of different materials is. To do this, we are analysing polyester, 100% recycled polyester, European organic cotton and wood-based materials. The findings of this life cycle assessment are now being incorporated into the procurement of our reusable bags.

                  • Climate-relevant and economic effects if Swiss dairy cows live longer

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                    Research topic

                    Today, cows have to produce significantly more milk than in the past. At the same time, however, the lifespan of cows has decreased in recent years. Cows are among the best-known producers of climate-damaging methane gas.

                    As a milk purchaser, we are keen to reconcile economic efficiency, animal welfare and climate protection in milk production. This is the focus of a project co-financed by us at the Research Institute of Organic Agriculture (FiBL).

                    The researchers are analysing all the factors that influence the lifespan of dairy cows and, based on the results, are developing sustainable strategies to increase the useful life of Swiss dairy cows again – for the welfare of the animals, to protect the climate and to improve the economic situation of milk producers.

                    • Methane production potential of species-rich Swiss pastures

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                      Key data

                      Research topic

                      Methane emissions from ruminants such as cows or sheep contribute significantly to the greenhouse effect. Previous research assumes that the composition of roughage influences methane production. It is assumed that a high content of tannin (a plant tanning agent) in forage plants reduces methane emissions, while a high fibre content increases them.

                      Since 2022, we have therefore been supporting a FiBL project that investigates the interplay between tannin and fibre content of different plants on an experimental pasture and the resulting methane formation potential in the animal rumen. The results can be used to learn, for example, whether and how the intensity of pasture management affects methane formation potential and which plants have a particularly high or low methane formation potential for ruminants.

                      • Migros Humus Programme

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                        • Partner: AgriCircle

                        • Duration: 2022 – 2030

                        Research topic

                        Soils are an important component of the Earth’s ecosystem and play a central role in food production. In the context of the current and future challenges facing humanity (food security, climate change and biodiversity loss), maintaining and improving soil quality must be a top priority. Soil organic matter (SOM; or humus) plays the most important role in this context. The quantity and quality of SOM are central to climate regulation, water balance and the provision and storage of nutrients. The development and establishment of agricultural measures and concepts to stabilise or build up SOM are therefore of utmost importance for agriculture and food production.

                        The Migros Humus Programme is implemented by the company AgriCircle and financed by the Migros M-Climate Fund. The programme focuses on humus-building measures in regenerative agriculture. These include optimised arable farming measures (reduced tillage, crop rotation, green manuring), composting and the introduction of biochar. AgriCircle and its partners have established a measurement and advisory concept to ensure that the farms receive optimal support on site over the course of the programme. The Research Institute of Organic Agriculture (FiBL) provides scientific support for the project to ensure that the latest findings from science and practice are incorporated.

                        • Contributing to a more sustainable food system

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                          Research topic

                          In Europe, almost 90 million tons of food end up as waste every year. Each of us throws away an average of 180 kilograms of meat, fruit, vegetables or dairy products every year. But that is not the only problem in our food system. Both industrial factory farming and industrial agriculture are at the expense of our environment. They lead to increased air pollution, loss of biodiversity and pollution of the soil, rivers and lakes. It is clear that we need to make a change and make our food system more sustainable in the long term. We want to do our part: for example, Migros Industry has worked with ETH professors at the ETH Zurich World Food System Center on several projects to promote sustainability, including in the areas of agriculture, meat production and food preservation. Our goal is to develop and implement new solutions for a sustainable food value-added chain.   

                          • Working conditions of our employees

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                            Research topic

                            Since Migros was founded, the quality of life of our employees has been our focus. Their satisfaction and health are very important to us. We want to create the best possible working conditions at all levels.

                            That is why we are involved in the executive committee of the Institute for the Study of Work and Employment (FAA-HSG). The institute is dedicated to the complex issues of the world of work from an interdisciplinary perspective. It is a point of contact for questions relating to work, labour law, personnel management and the organisation of work. It sees itself as a research partner and provides training and further education on the basis of this research. It is also involved in the social debate on this topic.

                            • Better income for small coffee farmers

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                              Important raw materials such as cocoa and coffee are grown by small farmers in global supply chains. These key players face challenges such as climate change, low prices or a lack of access to technology and knowledge, and often do not earn enough to ensure a decent standard of living for themselves and their families.

                              Together with Delica, our supplier ECOM Agroindustrial Corp. Ltd. and the IDH Foundation, Migros is researching possible approaches and measures to support small farmers in achieving a living income. The “Bridging Living Income in Colombia” project is being implemented with coffee farmers in Huila, Colombia. The package of measures includes various training courses and investments to increase productivity, gain access to premium markets, optimise production costs and diversify income. The project will investigate the effects of these measures on the household income of the families and the extent to which these measures can increase the income of smallholder families.

                              Experiencing research

                              Together with our partners, we conduct research at all stages of the value-added chain. Get exciting insights into our research projects in our stories!

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