Sustainability by the Numbers

Metrics from the AgriEdge Excelsior program help farmers market crops to companies trying to minimize their environmental footprint.
Sustainability by the Numbers
"Sustainability is an integral part of farmers' businesses," says Jennifer Shaw, Ph.D., head of sustainable sourcing solutions at Syngenta. "Their livelihoods and the long-term productivity of their land, which they hope to pass on to the next generation, depend on stewardship of water, soil and air."

Syngenta shares this commitment and is tapping into its AgriEdge Excelsior® program to make on-farm sustainability efforts measurable. The program uses the Land.db software platform to serve as the foundation for several sustainable sourcing initiatives. Partnering with Field to Market®: The Alliance for Sustainable Agriculture, Syngenta is helping growers map out ways to measure and improve a farm's overall environmental footprint.

Piloting a Better Approach

In the sustainable sourcing initiatives, Syngenta uses critical measures, such as land use, water, soil and greenhouse-gas emissions, to establish baseline environmental footprints. This process builds a foundation for changes in practices associated with tillage, irrigation, harvesting and crop inputs that can lessen that footprint over time. "The greatest challenge that growers and the people who purchase their crops face today is collecting, securing and analyzing the farm data needed to benchmark current performance and identify strategies for significant improvement," says Shaw.

Jason Cook of Rupert, Idaho, participated in a sustainable sourcing initiative and says it opened his eyes to a better way of fulfilling his duties as farm agronomist for Moss Farms. "From a sustainability standpoint, the AgriEdge Excelsior program has really changed the picture for us on Moss Farms," he says. "It helps us identify our strengths and weaknesses on an energy consumption basis and recognize our more profitable areas. On the reporting side of sustainability, I believe there will be major benefits from being able to show customers that we are working toward a more efficient, sustainable type of operation."

Meeting Market Demands

AgriEdge Excelsior helps farmers grow more with fewer resources, which helps the planet. But it also helps growers better market their crops to companies like General Mills, Pepsi and McDonald's, which are under increasing pressure to minimize their environmental impact. "Growers are able to secure access to important markets," says Shaw. "Through AgriEdge Excelsior and the Land.db farm-management software, growers can provide their downstream buyers with what they need to meet the demand for sustainability from the broader marketplace."

"I believe there will be major benefits from being able to show customers that we are working toward a more efficient, sustainable type of operation."

Jason Cook
AgriEdge Manager Reagan DeSpain is already seeing increased pressure on growers to provide evidence that the food they are bringing to the table is produced sustainably. "Companies are demanding the sustainability benchmark, so they're going to put more pressure on growers to show that they're sustainable and compliant," he says. "People are going to question where the food is coming from and where it was processed. It's going to get stricter in the vegetable markets particularly. That's where we're seeing it now."

Growers are becoming more aware of this reality. "The end user wants to see that we produced a healthy crop," says Brad Macauley, who operates Merrimac Farms in Groveland, New York. "The closer we are to the end user, the better we can maintain those relationships, and AgriEdge helps us to do that."

Scott Smith agrees. He has been using the AgriEdge Excelsior program and Land.db software at Triple S Smith Farms in Windfall, Indiana, for the past several years, and it helps him keep a strong relationship with his buyers. "It starts with the farmer," he says. "We're going to be held more accountable down the road. I'm already held accountable by my buyers. One of these days, we'll wake up, and this will be required, so I want to already be there."