Money & Business

FieldRise: Farmers Grow Information Sharing

By / May 14, 2015 (iStock/Thinkstock)

The new FieldRise program, gaining the backing of a number of food industry trade groups in the Midwest and beyond, is designed to support sustainable agriculture, as well as offer food manufacturers proof of their sustainability efforts.

When farmers share, tough situations have the potential to improve significantly. We saw this recently with a new Airbnb-style water-sharing platform in the works in California. And now a new data-sharing effort could help farmers “solve food sustainability challenges.”

FieldRise, a program backed by a dozen regional and national associations, measures sustainability efforts and successes on farms and supports sustainability programs throughout the food chain. The effort, which grew out of a prior National Sustainable Soybean Initiative, counts the American Soybean Association as its largest member.

FieldRise uses a voluntary questionnaire that asks farmers about sustainability practices. The questions, which are supplied by the sponsoring associations, can be customized, and the end results can anonymously be shared with other farmers, food manufacturers, the media, or even consumers.

In other words, if Chipotle wants to claim that it only serves non-GMO ingredients, this could be a way for it to easily confirm that assertion.

“The resulting FieldRise program gives us closer relationships with growers, and yields information ranging from simple measures to advanced statistical analyses that help document our supply chain sustainability,”  Del Monte Research Fellow Brian Flood said in a news release.

The program is supported by the industry—and, as a result, individual farmers pay nothing for access to the information gathered.

“We’re seeing increasing need for farmers to know where they stand and to get new ideas to continue improvements,” Illinois Soybean Association Director Ron Moore said on the FieldRise website. “We offered the program to Illinois soybean producers and about 300 questionnaires were completed. That proves farmers are open to the FieldRise approach and supports our association’s Freedom to Operate goals.”

While the group started with soybeans—with more than 274,000 acres of soybean crops covered by FieldRise surveys, according to the Wisconsin Soybean Marketing Board—it’s quickly expanded its efforts to include the cranberry, pork, dairy, and vegetable industries throughout the Midwest.

“I want to see how I’m doing and make sure my information stays private,” Wisconsin soybean and corn farmer Andy Wallendal said on the FieldRise website. “FieldRise’s questionnaire was very easy to complete. They suggested how to make more money by adjusting practices to improve my sustainability results.”

Ernie Smith

Ernie Smith is the social media journalist for Associations Now, a former newspaper guy, and a man who is dangerous when armed with a good pun. More »

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