One lament farmers have when they talk about all these new data tools is that they don't seem to talk to each other. There's an active campaign to help end that, and a big announcement from Field to Market: The Alliance for Sustainable Agriculture shows what's possible.
Field to Market developed the Fieldprint Platform, which is a free program that allows farmers to enter key data and information about their farms to see how they compare to others on a range of practices. It's a super benchmark tool with sustainability in mind, but it's challenged by a key fact - entering all that data.
"The data entry burden was a problem," says Rod Snyder, president, Field to Market. "When you look at the data entry burdens and think about all the data farmers collect for a variety of other purposes, entering that information in our tool was redundant or a duplication." That was a problem for the organization, farmers like the idea of having the information, but to get there they have to pull their data together and push it into the Fieldprint Calculator.
Also Snyder notes that sustainability shouldn't be a standalone evaluation on the farm, it should be looked at in the context of productivity and profitability of the operation. Add in that Field to Market has a significant goal for its program, and it becomes evident that more action was needed.
The association aims to cover 50 million acres by 2020, and right now it covers about 2.5 million acres. "We want to grow that number by 20-fold," Snyder says. "It's ambitious."
Now comes the lever that makes that goal more reachable. The organization has announced it has entered into agreements with three data management partners - Ag Connections, LLC’s Land.db® system, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Syngenta; Agrible’s Morning Farm Report™; and Heartland Science and Technology Group’s Precision Conservation Management Portal, a collaborative effort with the Illinois Corn Growers Association.
Data and privacy
And it's also a shortcut to getting those FieldPrint maps that are helpful benchmarking tools. Through these agreements, farmers' information from those services can be passed through to FieldPrint and the final information return. Snyder notes, however, that farmer data is not touched by Field to Market and all remains private.
"Data privacy is preserved because we don't maintain any raw grower data," Snyder explains.
These new agreements mean information you put into one of those three services can 'ported' to FieldPrint for the math of measuring sustainability, but the final report comes through your data provider. This application program interface (or API) is a linkage that Field to Market is working to add to other software providers too. It saves time in entering data, which can sometimes bring mistakes and is more time consuming.
And for Field to Market it helps build on the acres covered by that system, which helps meet the organization's primary expansion goal. Snyder says there's plenty of interest in this kind of reporting from upstream buyers. "This is driven by interest in the supply chain that want to know about specific elements of sustainability like soil health, long-term planning and other elements of sustainability," Snyder says.
He explains that the supply chain wants a more transparent view of agriculture and tools like the FieldPrint platform make that possible. "I believe these new data partners see the value in having the Field to Market relationship," Snyder adds. "This is the most widely recognized sustainability standard measurement nationwide."
And Snyder explains the organization is already in talks with others to add more relationship linkages for this data system.
Snyder wanted to make one thing clear the FieldPrint Calculator that's been available as a free tool to farmers for some time is not going away. "This service will remain and farmers can use it to enter their own data and measure their farm's practices," Snyder says. "We are not creating a scenario where a grower has to purchase a software tool to use this system, we leave that up to the farmer. The FieldPrint Calculator will always be there and be free."
Want to know more, visit fieldtomarket.org.