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Ag sustainability technology makes connections

Willie Vogt Corn field in bright sunlight
RECOGNIZING VALUE: Creating greater insight into how a crop was raised will have more value to buyers in the future. How you go from field to market is changing, and companies like Truterra are turning data into knowledge for the process.
Truterra has new collaborations that bring enhanced insight to different parts of agriculture.

There’s a growing interest among consumers and others in the food chain to have enhanced sustainability insight on the crops they raise. And this goes beyond the specialty crops, stretching deeper into row crop country. But how does a corn and soybean grower in the Midwest document sustainability?

A system started in 2016 is coming into fruition in 2020, with new partnerships that offer ways to link what you do on the farm with information that future buyers need. Truterra LLC, started by Land O’Lakes, has brought together a vast database of public data and proprietary algorithms to create the Truterra Insights Engine, which can provide sustainability scores for farmland. This score, combined with information from your ag retailer or other services, can help communicate your sustainability activities to buyers.

“Truterra Insights Engine offers a lot of different things, including the Truterra Insights Score and the key performance indicators on a specific field,” says Amanda Neely, senior manager of technology and innovation, Truterra.

A recent partnership announcement shows how the system can be deployed. Truterra and Ag Growth International are collaborating to offer that Truterra Insights Score through AGI’s SureTrack platform. With this collaboration, the user can see that score alongside agronomy, bin monitor and grain market information within the AGI SureTrack dashboard.

“SureTrack is monitoring and watching the movement of grain, and managing those bins and that portfolio for growers,” Neely says. “Alongside that grain quality and metrics, you can capture a sustainability score showing how that grain was produced.”

This added information, using Truterra data on every field, provides information that a buyer may need. As more buyers want to know the history of how a product was raised from seed to bin, this type of score has added value.

Transition to sustainability reporting

Neely looks at the AGI-Truterra collaboration as a starting point. “This is an entry point to talk sustainability and stewardship, and open the dialogue,” she says. “Consider if you were to train for a marathon — you’d likely start with a 5K so you get familiar with the requirements of the race. Introducing sustainablity and stewardship concepts can be approached the same way; we need to first start to learn the language, so when we dive in fully we are already familiar with the rhythm.”

The language of that change may involve measuring erosion risk and looking at nitrogen-use efficiency, and you want to have a conversation to implement the practice and change. That also involves exploring the costs involved, and the long -term impact on soil health and yield. “You want that to be a comfortable conversation,” Neely says.

Starting with that sustainability score for a field can help you get an idea of where you are and where you need to go.

Truterra also has a collaboration with EFC, which provides the digital backbone for a wide range of crop protection and fertilizer dealers, including those working with WinField United. In the same way, that Truterra information is available — only for dealers to better understand the practices in use.

The retailer would have a new tool to better position grower-customers they work with to meet changing demands of the market. As more food, fuel and fiber companies seek information about stewardship practices in use, this tool can help.

Adds Neely: “The vision here is to leverage those sustainability and stewardship scores, and have a discussion with buyers around a potential premium for that grain.”

The score can also document continuous improvement on your farm over time. “I think the industry is coming together, and it’s not just about what you do in-season, but it’s impacting your farm season over season and seeing improvement,” Neely says.

She explains that this documentation gets beyond simple marketing and narrative claims, allowing a grower to represent that production agriculture and attention to stewardship and soil health is a real thing. “This is about a shift in philosophy and rethinking conventional practices. The future of ag should incorporate stewardship and a profitable return for a grower,” she says.

Other opportunities

Another collaboration using the Truterra Insights Score is Nori, which has created a carbon removal marketplace. In a pilot program, Truterra is syncing the Insights Engine with Nori’s carbon marketplace.

Growers can use information they’ve entered into the Truterra Insights Engine and other sources of farm data to submit to Nori, to see the potential value of carbon credits they could generate based on soil health-building practices on their farm. Nori is paying $15 per ton of carbon sequestered in the soil on its marketplace.

“We want Truterra to be seen as an industry standard. Bottom-line, we want our farmers to be profitable as they protect natural resources,” Neely says. “With the data aggregation component, we want to be able to capitalize on grain premiums, carbon markets, ecosystem credits, water quality credits and cotton protocols. All that data that’s required, and measured, Truterra is positioned to participate in those marketplace opportunities.”

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