Land O'Lakes introduces Truterra Smart Sustainable Software for Agricultural Community
More Americans than ever say they want sustainable food. According to a 2018 survey conducted by the International Food Information Council, 59% of American consumers said they care about whether their food is grown sustainably. But much like “GMO” or “natural,” sustainability can be a murky term with no clear definition. Now, two stalwarts of the ‘Big Food’ landscape are working to clear up that murkiness with a “Turbo-Tax style” software platform aimed at getting farmers to grow their crops more sustainably.
Jason Weller, a senior director of SUSTAIN, the division of Land O’Lakes that developed the Truterra platform, says Land O’Lakes brought in a wide range of “outside experts, [including] agricultural economists, conservation experts and farmers” to work on the program. Truterra launched in September of 2018, and Land O’Lakes is now partnering with Campbell’s to offer the software platform to their growers, which includes a number of farmers located in the Chesapeake Bay region. Many of these farmers grow the wheat that goes into Campbell’s Pepperidge Farms brand crackers and Goldfish.
Sara Kroopf, a supply chain manager for the Environmental Defense Fund, an environmental group partnering with Campbell’s and Land O’Lakes on this effort, explains “the Chesapeake Bay...is important to us as an environmental organization because it’s an area that has historical issues with nutrient overloading.” Snapshot of Truterra Insights Engine pilot program assessing 11,000 acres in the Chesapeake Bay RegionLAND O'LAKES SUSTAIN While Kroopf says EDF is select about its partners, the environmental group is known for its willingness to engage with corporations.
One of its first efforts was working with McDonalds in 1990, in fact, to change packaging from polystyrene clamshells to paper wrappers. EDF began to take a closer look at the food system about a decade ago, says Kroopf, analyzing the food supply chain to find good partners. “We really saw the need to engage with ‘Big Agriculture’ and ‘Big Food’ in a different way,” she explains, looking to pinpoint who could maximize the impact of their environmental efforts. The answer, says Kroopf, turned out to be large agricultural retailers, but that partnership also eventually led to the working relationship with Land O’Lakes and Campbell’s. Kroopf says the partnership is incredibly important in this moment because “we’re moving into a future where there’s more technology...more options...and then there’s also increasing pressure for farmers to make better decisions that impact the environment.”
Snapshot of Truterra Insights Engine pilot program assessing 11,000 acres in the Chesapeake Bay RegionLAND O'LAKES SUSTAIN
Truterra works by pulling in data from a number of public sources to create what Weller calls “the mother of all environmental databases.” From there, the program asks the farmer a number of questions, digging into the nitty gritty of the farm’s agricultural practices, everything from nutrient application to water irrigation to cover cropping. Once the analysis is complete, the program provides the farmer with a number of recommendations designed to increase the farm’s sustainability. But making shifts to a farm’s growing practices takes time, cautions Weller.
The platform’s recommendations are designed to begin “a conversation with the grower,” rather than dictate a set of directives. Environmental progress isn’t something that can happen overnight, agrees Kroopf. “It’s going to take time and it’s going to take a broader understanding to support the farmers to get to those decisions that can be sustainable.” Land O’Lakes treats sustainability as both an environmental and economic endeavor, which Weller argues is crucial to the platform’s success. Kroopf agrees, adding that the economic incentives are a critical component. “It’s really about understanding the motivation with the farmers and the ag retailers so that it’s in their best interest to do the right thing.” The platform was designed to be flexible and adaptable, says Weller, so that new technologies like nitrogen-fixing microbes can be added as they become available, so long as those technologies are supported by data and peer review.
Recommendations have to be grounded in both science and economics, agrees Kroopf, “it allows us to provide those more accurate prescriptions for farmers to to make the biggest difference.” Weller is proud of what the platform offers. “We’ve seen incredible interest from farmers, ag retailers and food companies in the months since the launch of the platform. There is a real hunger for meaningful, metric-based insights...and a common language for conservation that is meaningful for farmers and their core customers—food companies and end consumers.”
Source: Land O'Lakes Launches Truterra Software Platform To Help Farmers Boost Sustainability Author:Jenny Spitler https://www.forbes.com/sites/jennysplitter/2019/01/31/land-olakes-sustainability-platform/#1099bf02793b