How ag businesses deliver on their commitments to sustainability

Agriculture is a nature-based solution for climate challenges.

At the World Agri-Tech Innovation Summit, leaders from Land O’Lakes, The Nature Conservancy, Cargill, and General Mills discuss how their business models and partnerships drive sustainability forward.

One resounding message is the need for “radical collaboration” across the industry, to move the needle forward for the farmer and environment.

The panelists include:

  • Moderator A.G. Kawamura, former secretary of the California Dept. of Food and Ag
  • Teddy Bekele, chief technology officer at Land O’Lakes
  • Jennifer Morris, chief executive officer of The Nature Conservancy
  • Ruth Kimmelshue, head of business operations supply chain and chief sustainability officer at Cargill
  • John Church, chief supply chain officer at General Mills

“The farmer is the original environmentalist,” says Bekele. “Farmers want to do right by the land from one generation to the next, but at the same time, by augmenting their profit and loss, there is further incentive to put soil health practices into place.”

Bekele cites Land O’Lakes’ network of ag retailers who work closely with farmers on conservation practices and the company’s recent alliance with Microsoft to sequester carbon as two ways they are working to solve climate variability.

The past year in the food and ag industries also proved the value of collaboration.

“During the pandemic, all of our supply chains moved on a dime,” says Church. “As we look back, it’s proven that because of partnerships, we can collaborate up and down the supply chain.”

Church says that a similar response is necessary to address climate change challenges and it starts by finding common ground.

The Nature Conservancy (TNC) also leverages partnerships across the industry to create new markets. For example, TNC, McDonald’s, Cargill, and Target together launched a five-year $8.5 million project in August 2020 to support Nebraska farmers in implementing soil health practices with technical and financial assistance. The project has the potential to sequester 150,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide.

“In the United States, American ranchers and farmers are stewarding over 800 million acres,” Morris says. “With that kind of scale, agriculture can be one of our greatest levers for restoring the health of the planet.”

READ MORE: The Nature Conservancy invests in five ag tech companies

While partnerships are essential for a sustainable future, so is technology.

“It will take investments and incentives now to show what can be done in terms of regenerative agriculture,” Morris says. “I’m particularly hopeful that tech innovations will help us accelerate progress in ways we’ve never been able to before and to get those on farms.”

“Tech is embedded into the way we do work,” Bekele says. “It is part of selecting the right seed for the soil, choosing and implementing the right practices to apply to that seed, and the way farmers perform work every day.”

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