Asahi Europe & International and Plzensky Prazdroj have joined forces with Microsoft, Agritecture Consulting, and the Hop Growers Union of the Czech Republic to make hop growing in the Saaz region sustainable.
Hops are critical for us from a business sustainability perspective. As brewers, we know that hops are essential for beer. Hops give beer its distinctive bitterness. They also impart floral, fruity, or citrus flavours and aromas. Each beer recipe uses a specific hop variety, which becomes a part of its unique brand identity.
Hops are also known as the "green gold", being an expensive and valuable ingredient and as beer wouldn't exist without hops, hops don't exist without water. Hops grow in moist temperate climates, with much of the world's production occurring near the 48th parallel north. Hops depend more on the water than other crops. With sufficient moisture, the hops plants grow up to seven meters in two months, with a rich and high-quality harvest. If the humidity is low, the plants suffer.
The Czech Republic is one of the global producers of hops, renowned for the Saaz hops variety grown in the Zatec (Saaz) region. All suppliers of valued Czech hop varieties are from this region, and the Saaz variety provides a unique flavour to Pilsner Urquell.
Climate change, especially the drought of recent years, is increasingly damaging to hops. That is why we are coming together with other companies to help Czech hop growers efficiently irrigate their crops by using the most modern technologies.
For efficient irrigation, hop growers need the most accurate data possible on the soil and climatic conditions of a specific hop garden. And they need to understand how and why plants respond to a given climate situation.
To this end, sensors will be placed in the soil, on hop gardens and hop plants and will provide unique information about the needs of the crops. Using state-of-the-art technology, Microsoft and Agritecture will develop software that can process and evaluate the collected data. They will use artificial intelligence, satellite images, and analysis of historical climate data in micro-regions.
The data will help to understand when plants need moisture. Hop growers will then be able to handle water, which is often scarce, more efficiently, thus ensuring the sustainable cultivation of the "green gold" in the future.
It is inspiring to see our Better Future strategy becoming a reality through projects such as For Hops. We are determined to source 100% of our raw materials sustainably. We are making progress by partnering with our suppliers, supply chain, and other companies and organizations to keep our promises for a better Planet.