Top 5 Features Of A Good Sustainability Program

In a recent study, 60% of Iowa farmers agreed that their fertilizer dealers should do more to help them address nutrient loss. However, those same farmers reported they were least likely to receive information about the Nutrient Reduction Strategy from their local agricultural retailers, seed company salespeople, and independent/private crop advisers. To me, that’s a disconnect.

If, as an ag retailer, you want to maintain your status as a farmers’ “most trusted advisor,” then you will want to provide meaningful assistance to help farmers address one of their top pain points: soil and water conservation. And assuming you want to help your farmers with soil and water conservation, you will want to provide your retail agronomists with a sustainability program that works for them. But what should you look for?

The following is my Top 5 list of things to look for in a sustainability program:

1. The sustainability program should integrate into an ag retailer’s precision ag package. In my mind, this is a must. It is inconceivable to me that any ag retailer would adopt a sustainability platform that does not have a possibility of integrating into their existing precision ag platform. Ag retailers tell me that it is hard enough to maintain one system, their precision ag platform. If that is true, why would an ag retailer ever adopt a sustainability platform that has no hope of integrating into their precision ag platform?

2. The sustainability program must be able to “grow-into” a full offering. Any sustainability offering needs to be able grow and expand as farmers’ demand increases for soil and water conservation services. Because offering sustainability solutions is so new, both retail agronomists and farmers will need to increase their comfort levels with the subject matter. Initially, a sustainability solution should give retail agronomists the information that allows them to start a discussion with farmers. As this relationship grows, the ag retailer needs to be equipped to expand their offering by providing meaningful solutions. Any package that starts the discussion and falls short of offering any real meaningful solutions is worthless to a farmer. Farmers get it – they know they must get to actionable items.

3. The sustainability program must be robust and provide real-world solutions to farmers. Farmers need information that is relevant. They require a menu of options to fit their unique circumstances. They need practical solutions that make a difference in their operation. If a farmer is in an area that has been targeted for a reduction in soil erosion and sediment runoff, they need relevant information on reducing soil erosion. Likewise, if they are in an area that is being targeted for high nitrates in surface water, they need solutions to reduce nitrogen leaching. And frankly, most farmers need to address both.

4. The sustainability program must be based on proven standards and reliable models. There is a lot of information in the popular press about practices and products that reduce nutrient runoff. It can be very confusing. The last thing an ag retailer wants to do is make incorrect recommendations to their growers. Ag retailers need to be confident that the recommendations they are providing farmers actually achieve their intended goals. Ag retailers need to know that the recommendations they are giving are based on sound science. Imagine recommending a conservation practice to a farmer that ends up having no real effect on achieving their sustainability plan. It won’t take long for customers to lose faith in your recommendations.

5. Any sustainability program must be backed up with a team of qualified professionals. Last, but by no means least, ag retailers need to have confidence that their sustainability program is backed by conservation professionals who can answer the tough questions. Like any other system an ag retailer works with, they will want a topnotch team of professionals that can support their efforts. Ag retailers will need someone that can answer questions like “when should a farmer install a sediment basin instead of a grassed waterway” or provide guidance that a cover crop will reduce nitrogen leaching more than side dressing nitrogen.

Currently the leadership of most ag retailers have stated they want to provide sustainability services to their growers. As a result, we will all soon see software companies rebrand their packages to make it seem like they can provide a meaningful solution. Before ag retailers invest in a sustainability solution, I certainly hope they review the basic features and determine if it is exactly what they need to truly help their customers.

For more articles from Tom Buman, visit the Precision Conservation Blog.


Leave a Reply

Business Management Stories
Alabama bottomland
Business ManagementGreenPoint AG: Dealing in Ag Tech Down on the Delta
June 5, 2017
Precision-farming veteran Ben Carlisle is the Agricultural Technology Manager for GreenPoint AG, LLC, a retailer with locations in Arkansas, Louisiana, Read More
GPS, Guidance
Business ManagementPromoting Precision Agricultural Innovation in a Risk Averse Marketplace
April 24, 2017
As precision agriculture consultants we constantly are being asked our opinions on where to invest, and how to strategically invest Read More
Business ManagementBionic Leaves: Future Source of Endless Fertilizer?
April 21, 2017
*Article Notes: This monthly column takes some crazy sounding ideas and applies them to the field of Ag Tech. The Read More
Ag Retailer and Grower WinField United
Business ManagementMirror Mirror on the Wall, Who is the Most Trusted Ag Advisor of Them All?
April 4, 2017
Who is the most trusted ag advisor of them all? It’s a question I think we’ve all heard before, mind you Read More
Trending Articles
PrecisionAg Vision Conference
EventsPrecisionAg® Vision Conference: Focused on the Future
June 13, 2017
PrecisionAg® is pleased to announce the return of its PrecisionAg Vision Conference, October 10-12, 2017. Based on overwhelmingly positive response Read More
Gavin Newsom Forbes AgTech-Summit
ProfessionalsAgTech Summit Aiming High for Modern Farming Solutions
June 12, 2017
THRIVE AgTech, in partnership with SVG Partners and Forbes, is hosting the third annual Forbes AgTech Summit June 28-29 in Read More
Quantix Drone Farmer
DronesTop 10 Most Intriguing Technologies in Agriculture
June 3, 2017
This may be a bit of stating the obvious here, but we’ll throw it out there anyways: as much as Read More
Farming iPad
Data ManagementOpinion: ROI or Die in Precision Agriculture
May 12, 2017
The thought of $3.50 corn for the foreseeable future seems pretty disheartening. However, if you look at the precision ag Read More
BASF Maglis grower retailer tablet
Data ManagementQ&A: What BASF’s Latest Foray into Precision Ag Means For Growers
May 11, 2017
In late April, BASF agreed to acquire U.S. precision ag player ZedX, a leader in the development of agronomic weather, Read More
Mung beans Australia
InternationalPrecision Ag in a Tough Season in Australia
May 8, 2017
This year’s summer crop season has been a tough one for most growers in Australia. Prolonged periods of high temperatures Read More
Latest News
Data ManagementCDMS Announces SeedIQ Acquisition
June 26, 2017
Crop Data Management Systems, Inc., (CDMS) announces the acquisition of SeedIQ as part of its growth plan to provide complete Read More
Cotton closeup
Imagery/SensingCotton Growth Management with Precision Agriculture
June 20, 2017
A cotton crop presents some important differences to other commodities that are widely produced in Brazil, such as soybean and Read More
Corn Field
Industry NewsCNBC: Inside Amazon’s Whole Foods Takeover
June 20, 2017
Amazon’s takeover of Whole Foods sent the stock of competing grocery chains plummeting. To understand why, you need to know Read More
DronesNavigating a New World: Drone Technology in Agriculture…
June 20, 2017
My first exposure to unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) was as a master’s student at Kansas State University. I was researching Read More
Precision Ag Innovation Series
EventsInnovation Series Agenda Zeroes In On Maximizing Key Se…
June 14, 2017
In a recent survey of service providers conducted by PrecisionAg® Professional magazine, more than seven in 10 indicated that variable Read More
Soil Scientists
Data ManagementAccessing USDA Soil Data for Precision Farming
June 13, 2017
Many precision farming websites have integrated the USDA NRCS soil survey database using the USDA Soil Data Access web portal. Read More
GEOSYS In-Season Imagery
Decision Support SoftwareGeosys Announces Imagery and Weather Data Offering
June 13, 2017
Geosys, a provider of agronomic decision support tools, today launched Geosys Labs, a new program that will make its global Read More
PrecisionAg Vision Conference
EventsPrecisionAg® Vision Conference: Focused on the Future
June 13, 2017
PrecisionAg® is pleased to announce the return of its PrecisionAg Vision Conference, October 10-12, 2017. Based on overwhelmingly positive response Read More
Decision Support SoftwareMyriad Mobile Raises $1.5 Million to Launch New Ag-Tech…
June 12, 2017
Myriad Mobile, a software technology company focused on mobile and web applications, has raised $1.5 million in a Pre-Series A Read More
Variable Rate ApplicationVariable-Rate Fertigation Can Be Simple
June 12, 2017
A rule is a rule is a rule, right? Well, not always. Sometimes, rules are meant to be changed. Most Read More
Gavin Newsom Forbes AgTech-Summit
ProfessionalsAgTech Summit Aiming High for Modern Farming Solutions
June 12, 2017
THRIVE AgTech, in partnership with SVG Partners and Forbes, is hosting the third annual Forbes AgTech Summit June 28-29 in Read More
Sensors/IoTLeveraging IoT to Improve Data Collection for Agricultu…
June 12, 2017
Between population growth and climate change, farms of all sizes are being challenged to increase yields. Internet of Things (IoT) Read More
DronesAg Drone Update: The Hunt for 1,000 (OPINION)
June 10, 2017
Having obtained my FAA Part 107 Commercial Drone Operators license back in September of last year, I’ve spent the past Read More
Industry NewsMergers & Acquisitions: Land O’Lakes Tosses E…
June 9, 2017
Land O’Lakes has made a minority equity investment in EFC Systems, an ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning) and precision solution provider Read More
Decision Support SoftwareHandy Software, Hardware for the Field
June 7, 2017
More than two decades ago, Iowa grower Doug Applegate wished for a “little portable chemical blending system” that could easily Read More
Decision Support SoftwareHarnessing A Team To Build Your Own Software
June 7, 2017
What’s a powerhouse retail network to do when it can’t find a software system to meet incredibly diverse needs? Build Read More
Tim Ferrell Marshall County Co-op
Decision Support SoftwareWhen It’s Time To Switch Software
June 7, 2017
No one in their right mind wants to change software. That’s the opinion of Tim Ferrell, manager of Marshall County Read More
PA Special Report Enterprise
Decision Support SoftwareSpecial Report: Enterprise Management Systems
June 7, 2017
A functional and stable software system can allow a retail operation to run at maximum efficiency, build customer loyalty and Read More