The “Value” in the Sustainability Trend (PCN Fall 2014) SEP 25 2014 | Consumers and Producers | Pulse Crop News
This article appeared in the Fall 2014 issue of Pulse Crop News.
Denis Tremorin, Director of Sustainability, Pulse Canada
Value is in Participation: Volunteers Needed!
Consumers have an increasing interest in the food they eat. They want to know if a food is healthy, and whether it was produced in a sustainable manner. Food companies and retailers have been responding to this interest.
There are now a number of different programs and pilot projects designed to answer three questions: Where was this food produced? How sustainably was this food produced? What was the impact on the environment? These questions have provided – and will continue to provide – opportunities for the agriculture industry to collaborate with others along the food supply chain.
Significant effort has been made to assess the sustainability impacts of agriculture. Assessments can be conducted in a qualitative way where questionnaires and checklists verify whether a farmer has adopted best management practices. Assessments can also be done in a quantitative way where the focus is on measuring impacts, regardless of what practice a farmer employs on the farm.
For the past four years, a group of agricultural associations have been focusing efforts on developing quantitative sustainability metrics. This effort has produced two outcomes. In 2011, a report was released demonstrating how the sustainability of Western Canadian agriculture has improved over 20 years (www.pulsecanada.com/fieldtomarket), and the development of the farmer-facing Canadian Field Print Calculator. Both tools provide an opportunity to market the sustainability of Canadian agriculture, and the Canadian Field Print Calculator allows farmers to tell the story of their farm using their own data.
A group of organizations and companies have developed an informal organization, the Canadian Field Print Initiative, to support the development of the Canadian Field Print Calculator. The Canadian Field Print Initiative members include Pulse Canada, the Canadian Canola Growers Association, Manitoba Pulse Growers Association, Prairie Oat Growers Association, Grain Farmers of Ontario, CropLife Canada, Ducks Unlimited Canada, Canadian Fertilizer Institute, Canadian Association of Agri-Retailers, General Mills Inc., Cargill Ltd., Farmers Edge and AgriTrend.
Initially, the development of the Canadian Field Print Calculator had been focused on meeting market demand for information. For example, General Mills has a key interest in the sustainability of Canadian oats.
After piloting the Canadian Field Print Calculator with a few farmers during the winter of 2012-13, a key question caused a shift in the focus of the Initiative. General Mills has an interest in understanding the drivers behind improved efficiency in crop production, and incentivizing innovation on the farm. Given the goals of increased efficiency by the food industry, can the agriculture industry participate in a way that maximizes value for the farmer?
Help answer the question!
The Canadian Field Print Initiative believes the answer to this question will be in providing a tool that allows producers to anonymously compare their efficiency to their neighbours. As part of a pilot project for the Calculator, the Canadian Field Print Initiative has collected data from 35 growers in Western Canada.
These growers have provided data from over 100 fields which have helped to refine the Calculator. In addition, participation from AgriTrend and Farmers Edge has quickly increased the amount of grower data going into the Calculator. CFPI is also working with AgriTrend and Farmers Edge to integrate the Calculator into their software. The immediate goal for this winter is to create regional pilots of 20-30 growers who would like to see how they compare with their neighbours in areas of fertilizer use efficiency and fuel use efficiency, while providing sustainability information to the market related to greenhouse gas emissions, soil erosion, and land use efficiency.
Would you like to participate in this innovative project? The Canadian Field Print Calculator and background information can be found at: www.serecon.ca/calculator. You can also contact Denis Tremorin, Director of Sustainability at Pulse Canada (firstname.lastname@example.org) for more information.