Land O’Lakes SUSTAIN Takes Sustainability Transparency to Next Level
One of the biggest challenges in food system sustainability is the lack of comprehensive tools that can actually quantify the system-wide impact food companies have committed to and the practices farmers have put into place. A new tool from Land O’Lakes SUSTAIN is changing that.
The Truterra Insights Engine, along with other services and tools under the new Truterra suite of offerings, will help farmers advance their stewardship goals and return-on-investment acre by acre in real time. It will also help food companies measure sustainability progress.
“Truterra holds tremendous potential to harness stewardship to drive value by providing data-driven insights from farm to fork,” says Matt Carstens, senior vice president of Land O’Lakes SUSTAIN. “Using the Truterra Insights Engine, farmers and food companies will have the ability to establish and report clear metrics, create customized stewardship strategies that meet farmers where they are in their sustainability journey, and use a common language for on-farm stewardship that holds meaning and value. It’s a major step forward in supporting food system sustainability that starts on the farm.”
The interactive, on-farm digital platform leverages agronomic expertise and technical capabilities from a variety of contributors to enhance the value of stewardship across the supply chain. Collaborators include NRCS and integration of the sustainability metrics of Field to Market’s Fieldprint platform.
“The Truterra Insights Engine even ties into major private sector commitments like Walmart's Project Gigaton, which challenges its suppliers to reduce emissions from the company’s value chain by a gigaton, or 1 billion metric tons, by 2030. This platform can help with those reporting challenges,” says Jason Weller, who is the senior director of sustainability, Land O’Lakes SUSTAIN.
For farmers and ag retailers, the engine will utilize soil, weather, economic, and farm management data to create customized reports. These reports will highlight the potential impacts of myriad stewardship practices that provide field-by-field insights – tracking against both economic performance and conservation practices.
“We have identified five key stewardship indicators that we think farmers care about, and we’ll give them that immediate feedback about the relative value and impact from a natural resource and farm management standpoint,” says Weller.
“At the end of the day, it’s about advancing a farmer’s success and providing solutions on the ground that, overall, provide the long-term capacity for his farm to be successful, both economically and from a natural resource management perspective,” explains Weller. “You have to start with the farmer,” adding that it’s also what differentiates this platform from other data tools on the market.
“While there are some really good tools out there from a downstream perspective, they weren’t necessarily farmer facing, and they didn’t really have the ability to scale,” he says. “What we’ve built has both.”
It also helps farmers clearly see the return on investment that a practice can have in an operation. “When talking to farmers about conservation, we have not done a great job of really talking about the dollars-and-cents value of conservation stewardship,” says Weller.
For example, the Insight Score tool, which is like a credit rating for your field, will give you quantitative feedback on your overall level of stewardship for that individual field, which allows a farmer to then benchmark the field, the crops, and the operation, and start comparing farm to farm in a county and a state and a watershed.
In addition to helping farmers make the right choices for their business, these expanded metrics will help food companies achieve their sustainability goals – leading the industry toward a more sustainable food system.
“At Land O’Lakes, we are very excited about the growing interest from consumers around how their food is grown, and their growing interest in supporting stewardship. This platform is a way for farmers to individually and collectively share their story around stewardship. But it’s also a story of how farmers, through their cooperative, are investing in capabilities. We cannot just talk about and demonstrate stewardship. We have to advance it and take on-farm stewardship to the next level,” says Weller.
Supporting Farmer-Driven Stewardship
This move by Land O’Lakes SUSTAIN highlights the importance of industry-wide collaboration in support of farmer-driven stewardship to increase sustainability throughout the industry.
“Every farmer, farm, and business is different both in how they operate and where they are in their sustainability journey,” says Precision Ag territory lead Ashley Schmeling of Minnesota-based agricultural retailer Central Farm Service. “Our seed and agronomy professionals work beside our farmers through every step of the production process to capture opportunities and support precision agriculture. It is our hope that the Truterra Insights Engine will help us do this more effectively and provide a more customized approach to each of our farmers.”
“Companies like Land O’Lakes that are providing advice and services to farmers are critical as we create a sustainable agriculture system,” says Larry Clemens, director of The Nature Conservancy’s North America Program. “In order to achieve our conservation goals of soil health and nutrient management across America’s farmland, it’s vital that companies across the supply chain work with the farmers and advisers to both promote and evaluate sustainable practices. Land O’Lakes is setting a great example to support farmers on a journey to a sustainable future.”
“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,” says 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 advisers The Mill, Land O’Lakes SUSTAIN, and Environmental Defense Fund on sustainable agriculture in our Chesapeake Bay wheat sourcing region.”
“Data-driven on-farm conservation protects our most valuable natural resources and puts money back in farmers’ pockets so they can continue growing food season-after-season,” says Sara Kroopf, supply chain manager at the Environmental Defense Fund. “We are excited that Land O’Lakes is working hard to tackle the data and tracking challenge by developing a user-friendly program to collect and analyze data. This will allow agricultural retailers and other trusted advisers to write customized stewardship prescriptions for each farmer – and provide essential data to measure environmental progress in the Chesapeake Bay.”
For more information on the Truterra Insights Engine, visit TruterraInsights.com.