Farmer cooperative Land ‘O Lakes has launched a new digital tool to help its farmer members implement sustainable management practices and increase their profitability. The data analyzed by the tool will also be available to food companies to measure and monitor the sustainability credentials of their supply chains.
The Truterra Insights Engine, launched under Land O’ Lakes SUSTAIN, uses data from a variety of sources to quantify the economic and environmental benefits of certain practices and strategies to enable farmers to identify and select farm management options.
“We want to help farmers grow food more profitability and increase the long-term productive capacity of their farms,” Jason Weller, senior director of sustainability at Land O’ Lakes SUSTAIN told AgFunderNews. Weller previously worked in agriculture policy leading the USDA’s National Resources Conservation Service for over seven year.
“We also want to recouple the supply chain: reconnect consumers, food retailers, food manufacturers etc all the way upstream back to the farm. And we want to do it in a way that works for agriculture, instead of in conflict; is meaningful and can scale beyond one-off projects.”
The Truterra Insights Engine uses soil, weather, economic, and farm management data to create customized reports showcasing the potential impacts of various stewardship practices on a field-by-field level basis, showing farmers the economic performance of those practices as well as the conservation impact.
The tool will measure farmers’ stewardship progress over time and make these data available to food companies to help them achieve their sustainability goals.
“We’ve seen that the most effective way to encourage on-farm sustainability is to make data more available to farmers when making management decisions,” said Dan Sonke, director of Sustainable Agriculture, Campbell Soup Company. “Truterra is built on this same philosophy, and we are glad to be piloting this platform as we work with agricultural advisors The Mill, Land O’Lakes SUSTAIN, and Environmental Defense Fund on sustainable agriculture in our Chesapeake Bay wheat sourcing region.”
The tool has a few key reports that allow farmers to measure the impact of their farm management practices in real-time based a variety of metrics that take conservation from a conceptual process, to one with tangible data and benefits, according to Weller.
The “Insights Score” is effectively a credit rating for a field measuring from 1-100 the overall stewardship of that field and giving it a basic, moderate, high or advanced “level of sustainability.” The Stewardship report card scores fields on management stewardship — including nutrient management and pest management, soil & nutrient loss management— including nutrient leaching and soil runoff, and conservation adoption— including soil quality and water resources. The Insights Score also gives more in-depth data points including net greenhouse gas emissions, soil quality according to the soil conditioning index, and nitrogen use efficiency. The platform can also identify which part of a field measures the worst or best for each indicator.
The Profit Insights report enables farmers to compare different management scenarios and how they impact the bottom line of the farm. For example, if a farmer has part of his field that provides a low ROI on fertilizer costs — this could be due to the quality of the soil or drainage — he can compare the difference in profitability of maintaining that piece of the field under crop or moving it into a conservation reserve program — letting it go fallow. Other scenarios it can test include strip tillage, post-harvest winter crop, and improved residue cover. This screen not only compares side-by-side the dollar profitability of certain practices but also the stewardship performance of their farm according to their Insights Score and other metrics including emissions. This screen also presents potential revenue opportunities, such as the available incentives from NRCS for cover cropping.
The Fieldprint Calculator Score provides comparisons with state and national benchmarks on land use, soil carbon, emissions, energy use, water quality, biodiversity, and soil conservation.
For retailers and food companies, summary screens aggregating the data across the acres they work with offer percentages on how many acres use what practices etc.
Land O’ Lakes will start offering the product to SUSTAIN’s North American network of 30 retailers, who pay a membership fee for access to all SUSTAIN’s services.
The Insights Engine is the core tool under the new Truterra brand, which Land O’ Lakes says aims “to advance the agricultural industry’s ability to enable conservation at scale across a variety of crops, commodities, and commitments.”