Industry Collaboration Results in Greater Transparency

Industry leaders collaborate on conservation and enhancing crop value for all stakeholders.
Industry Collaboration Results in Greater Transparency
Early morning sunlight shines across this Saginaw, Michigan, wheat field.
Saginaw Bay is an annex of Lake Huron, nestled right between the thumb and fingers of the Michigan “mitt.” For many growers in the region surrounding the bay, sustainable farming is nothing new—rather a tradition, handed down by families in hopes of a more prosperous operation for the next generation. So in 2015, when Syngenta led a collaborative effort to track and highlight those practices while providing transparency to consumers, wheat growers like Rita Herford were excited to jump on board.

“Everybody wants to know their farmer and put a face to their food providers, but a lot of people can’t,” says Herford, who works her family farm in Minden City, Michigan. “I think it’s great that we have companies wanting to help us tell that story.”

Collaboration between @SyngentaUS and @KelloggCompany helps growers make sustainable choices with #agdata.

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Steered by Syngenta, Kellogg Company and The Nature Conservancy, the program recently received the 2017 Collaboration of the Year Award from Field to Market®: The Alliance for Sustainable Agriculture. As part of that program, Syngenta offered Land.db®, the recordkeeping software included in the AgriEdge Excelsior® whole-farm management program, to growers who sell wheat to Kellogg’s supply chain partner, Star of the West Milling Company. The software, which incorporates the Field to Market Fieldprint® Platform, helps farmers document and demonstrate how their conservation practices enhance natural resource management.

Kellogg passes along that positive message directly to its customers. “Consumers care about where their food comes from—how it’s made, where it’s made and who’s growing it,” says Mary Tate, manager of North America responsible sourcing for Kellogg. “We need to provide that transparency so they can feel confident about the food they’re buying.”

Grower Justin Krick expects the trend of consumer-driven transparency to eventually become mandatory. When offered the chance to not only get a jump-start on that trend, but also upgrade the recordkeeping on his family farm in Frankenmuth, Michigan, he says the choice was simple.

Courtney Hampton and Sonna Hoke work together to help their farm in Clinton, Illinois, prosper
“We kind of took it upon ourselves to say, ‘This is a start on the transparency front. Why not get ahead of the curve?’” says Krick. “Eventually my goal is to use Land.db as my main source for recordkeeping, assessing profitability, developing break-even analyses and measuring the value of other farm activities.”

In addition to helping improve water quality in the Saginaw Bay watershed, the project has helped Syngenta introduce new growers to the benefits of the AgriEdge Excelsior platform. AgriEdge and Land.db make improvements possible by translating data into insights, so growers can make more informed decisions.

“The primary goal of the project is to help growers demonstrate sustainable practices through metrics and see the environmental impact of their operations,” says Syngenta Sustainable Solutions Account Manager Liz Hunt. “But it’s also about evaluating the economic returns of sustainable agricultural practices.”

While the program hasn’t been in place for a full crop-rotation yet, growers like Krick and Herford are excited to explore practices to increase their returns on investment as trends become more apparent. In Herford’s eyes, the program by its nature is already increasing the value of her operation.

“Consumers care about where their food comes from: how it’s made, where it’s made and who’s growing it. We need to provide that transparency so they can feel confident about the food they’re buying.”

Mary Tate

“We may not see immediate impacts, but it’s one of those things that trickles down to us,” Herford says. “We were already making a lot of sustainable choices, but being able to prove that to a consumer makes Kellogg more valuable, which makes our crops more valuable, all the way down the chain.”

Syngenta and Kellogg are expanding their collaborations to other crops and regions, so more growers can share and build on their commitment to modern agriculture. After all, continuous improvement for everyone involved is what sustainability is all about.