A new guide by not-for-profit NGO, the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF), aims to help U.S. poultry companies improve their sustainability. While the industry has made significant progress, reducing its climate change impacts by 36% per 1000 kg of poultry meat produced between 1965 and 2010, it is responsible for 30 million metric tons of carbon emissions per year. That is the equivalent of driving 6 million cars!
Many of the practices outlined in the guide are highlighted through the U.S. Poultry & Egg Association’s awards for family farmers engaged in poultry and egg production. The guide is a tool that supports the U.S. Roundtable for Sustainable Poultry & Eggs whose mission is to support and communicate continuous improvement in sustainability.
The Poultry Sustainability Guide focuses on how companies can improve the sustainability of their own operations, and engage producers and supply chain partners in their sustainability journey.
Key recommendations outlined in the report include:
At the plant, improving energy use, refrigeration, waste management and water use are where to concentrate efforts – and where financial savings exist. While chicken is one of the least water-demanding proteins to produce, there are still opportunities to increase water efficiency at the plant. Companies should consider using hydrometers to understand and track the water use for various pieces of equipment to determine if flow is consistent and efficient.
On the farm, focusing on four major areas can lead to significant greenhouse gas reductions and water quality improvements: effective and efficient feed production, waste and litter management, on-farm equipment and water use can reduce environmental impacts and save money. Assessing feed grain impacts is crucial because growing and processing feed ingredients for poultry contributes up to 82% of greenhouse gas emissions within the U.S. poultry supply chain.
Poultry companies should encourage independent poultry growers and grain farmers to adopt industry best practice, especially in the areas of tillage practices, nutrient management, updating and maintaining farm equipment, and adopting renewable energy practices. Engaging farmers directly or through support of regional grain co-ops is an ideal place to start.
The Poultry Sustainability Guide is a collaboration between EDF and the food and agriculture consulting firm, K-Coe Isom. It is based on research and industry interviews with a range of experts including academics, farmers and leaders in the U.S. poultry industry including U.S. Poultry & Egg Association and The U.S. Roundtable for Sustainable Poultry & Eggs.
U.S. food and agricultural innovators were among those honored by The World Economic Forum in its Technology Pioneers of the Year, which showcases technology start-ups from around the world that are using novel technologies to “transform their industries.” More than half of the 56 companies recognized hail from North America, with U.S. innovators enjoying particular success in the area of Food Security and Agriculture with:
Full Harvest: the first B2B marketplace for imperfect and surplus produce
ImpactVision: hyperspectral imaging software for detecting food quality and reducing waste
Inari Agriculture: a seed pioneer using CRISPR gene-editing technology to produce healthier crops more sustainably
Other sustainability-focused agtech pioneers include Hong Kong’s Alesca Life, a specialist in indoor vertical farming and crop management solutions that allow hotels, restaurants and even private homes to produce their own food using up to 25 times less water and land than traditional farming methods.
Fulvia Montresor, Head of Technology Pioneers at the Forum, said, “Our new tech pioneers are at the cutting edge of many industries, using their innovations to address serious issues around the world. This year’s pioneers know that technology is about more than innovation – it is also about application. This is why we believe they’ll shape the future.”
As well as being recognized for their work, the Technology Pioneers are invited to participate in a two-year program with the Forum, when they have the opportunity to collaborate with their emerging tech peers, engage with industry leaders and work with public and private experts around the world.
Learn more about this year’s agricultural innovators.
An insect repellent made from coconut oil and a solar-powered system for recycling contaminated water into fertilizer are just two of hundreds of innovations featured in the latest U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Technology Transfer report.
The report, which showcases the work being done by USDA scientists and researchers to solve problems for farmers, foresters, rangers and producers, includes a total 320 inventions, 48% more than last year, as well as 471 licenses, 120 patent applications and 67 patents received.
Secretary Perdue underlined how technological innovation can make a difference both on and off the farm. “Studies show that every dollar invested in agricultural research returns $20 to our economy,” said U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Mr. Sonny Perdue, speaking at the report’s launch at the Forbes AgTech Summit in California.
“Innovations produced by USDA scientists and through public-private partnerships add value to American agriculture and the U.S. economy, create jobs, and help American producers compete in the global marketplace.”
Highlights from the report include:
The discovery of naturally derived fatty acids from coconut oil as a repellent with long-lasting effectiveness against multiple blood-sucking insects
The development of an energy saving technology based on sequential infrared heat and hot air to simultaneously dry and decontaminate wet whole almonds, protecting crops and human health
The discovery of a new, safer class of insecticide for use on the fruit fly, using methyl benzoate, which exists naturally as a floral fragrance in many plants
Farmers Guardian, a leading UK farming publication, spoke to USA Rice farmer Jennifer James to find out what life is really like growing rice, corn and soy beans in Arkansas. The interview provides a unique insight into farming throughout the year, from the hustle, bustle and excitement of harvest time to the transformation of the rice fields into a home for migrating waterfowl in the winter. Jennifer’s deep-rooted commitment to sustainability comes across loud and clear. She is the fourth generation in her family to farm and, one day, she hopes to pass on the land to her son.
Farmer Q&A: ‘British and US farmers take great pride in looking after the land for future generations’
Jennifer James runs an arable farm in Newport, Arkansas and after graduating with a degree in Agricultural Business, she went home and is now in charge of H&J Land Co.
How big is your farm?
We farm 6200 acres. About half is owned by family in some way – by aunts, uncles, my father, my brother, myself and my husband. I am the fourth generation to farm in my family. Some of the land we own has been in our family for over 100 years and has been recognized as an Arkansas Century Farm.
Please could you describe the farm?
The land is flat with many sloughs, creeks and rivers to provide good drainage and water for our crops. Fields of rice and soybeans dominate the landscape. The green winding levees that hold the water on the rice show the contour of the Earth for all that pass by. Farm homes and grain bins dot the highways as you travel through the Arkansas Delta. To the west from my office you can see the foothills of the Ozark Mountains. Agriculture is the largest sector in our area as the land is highly productive for crops. The area produces long and medium grain rice, soybeans, corn, grain sorghum, winter wheat, peanuts, cotton and various specialty crops such as tomatoes, watermelons and strawberries.
What do you grow and what ground conditions do you need?
Our corn, rice and soybeans are planted in dry soil. Our area of Arkansas has diverse soil types from sandy to silt loam to clay, each type more conducive to a crop. For instance, rice needs a flooded environment, so the clay soils are better suited to hold water. Corn likes a well-drained soil and the sandier areas produce the best corn. Therefore, we rotate our crops based on soil types in many instances.
How much to do you produce and where does it go?
We produce above state average yields on all the crops we raise. Our farm specializes in identity preservation and specialty crops. Much of our production is under contract with buyers for a specific product. We raise non-GMO corn that is sold to a non-GMO poultry producer for feed.
We also have a very small seeded non-GMO soybean that goes to Japan to make natto. We grow several types of rice as well, all non-GMO. Any excess of each crop we sell to local buyers for the best market price.
Our operation utilizes the commodity market to hedge our crops as well. We make a marketing plan in the winter months along with our crop budgets. This helps us to be better able to choose price levels that correspond with our costs and hopefully achieve a profit.
When do you harvest?
Our harvest typically begins in mid-August with corn, quickly followed by rice. We operate two harvesting crews, one for corn and the other for rice, and this is a very busy time. Once the corn harvest is complete, we all focus on rice harvest.
Usually by early to mid-October rice is complete and we move onto our soybeans to finish up. The past several years we have been finished with everything by the first week in November. However, our 2018 harvest proved to be a huge challenge because of the weather conditions. All farmers were behind schedule due to a rainy fall season.
What does your day consist of?
Each day brings its own unique challenges, whatever the time of year. I rise early to spend quiet time with a devotional and plan my day. I usually exercise and then get my family off to work and school.
Our 17-year-old son is a Senior in high school, so he is almost self-sufficient but still needs mum on occasion. During the planting season it is all hands-on deck to prepare the fields for seeding. It is a busy but exciting time of year as we get to start with another crop.
The next few months are about caring for the crop and doing all we can to produce a safe, high quality product for the consumer.
As harvest begins, the excitement returns to see the fruits of our labor. The combines roll in the fields and semi-trucks deliver the grain to our grain bin facility for drying.
Once the grain is dry, we deliver to the buyer and the process to bring the food to the consumer continues. Wintertime is spent analysing the prior crop and preparing for the next. Much care and time is given to planning for the best varieties and field placement as well as budgeting and marketing.
During the winter, the harvested rice fields become the perfect playground for migrating waterfowl too. The fields are full of ducks and geese. The food from the rice is the perfect attraction to refuel the birds for their migration. Many farmers catch rainfall to flood the rice fields in the winter and to help create a habitat for the ducks and geese.
What are the biggest problems facing your industry?
Weather is always our largest risk but, we do not have any control over that problem. We do all we can to produce the most bushels and must have faith that the weather will not destroy our efforts.
Farmers are price takers and not price makers. We must take the price we are given, even if it is below the cost of production. Because of the length of the growing season, we can plant a crop with a positive market signal but that may change drastically before harvest, as we saw with soybeans last year.
What is the biggest difference between British farming and farming in the USA and your area?
As countries, our disparity in size and geography makes differences inevitable. One aspect that is close to my heart though, and that I am sure I share with my British counterparts, is sustainability. British farmers and USA farmers take great pride in looking after the land for future generations, doing all we can to produce food for a growing population while conserving resources and protecting our environment.
But we have different ways to get there. In the UK, certification schemes are mainly used to demonstrate sustainability, whereas in the USA we focus on continuous improvement by employing voluntary schemes that are independently verified or benchmarked. Neither approach is right or wrong – just different.
“That is the reason why 20 organisations including The USA Rice Federation came together to form the U.S. Sustainability Alliance, to promote a better understanding of the USA’s approach to sustainability.”
What about exports?
Rice farmers rely heavily on exports and practical, fair trade for our production. The current trade war between the USA and China has dramatically affected the soy market and our soybean prices are down to unprofitable margins. These challenges have spilled over into other markets as well.
Are there any traditions in Arkansas?
We love American football in the South – Friday nights in the fall are spent cheering for our local high school team, and Saturday’s are for college games.
What does the future look like?
I always try to be optimistic, but with the current farm economy it is difficult. There isn’t much profit, if any, in the crops we are producing. I know that my area will always produce food for the world and we will make it work some way, somehow.
Our son has dreams of obtaining a college degree and returning to the farm and that is our succession plan at this time.
I dream of watching him till the same soil just like generations before him, and one day maybe there will be grandchildren to teach about the importance of protecting our natural resources and providing food for families all over the world.
This Q&A was originally published online by UK publication Farmers Guardian.
U.S. agriculture is increasingly more sustainable by doing more with less. That is one of the findings of a USDA Economic Research Service report on how natural resources (land and water) and commercial inputs (such as energy, nutrients, and pesticides) are being used in U.S. agriculture.
According to Agricultural Resources and Environmental Indicators, from 1948 to 2015, agricultural output grew 1.48 percent per year, while aggregate input use increased by only 0.1 percent. This is due in part to the adoption of precision technologies, leading to more efficient resource use.
For example, by 2016, 15-40 percent of U.S. farms used variable-rate application equipment, which adjusts input application rates depending on field conditions. This allows for extremely localized crop production management, enabling U.S. farmers to be better stewards of the land.
Advances in technology impacting sustainable agriculture have also improved water-use efficiency, and continued investment in water conservation across farms is expected to bring further gains. In the 17 Western States, use of more efficient pressurized sprinkler systems to apply irrigation water increased between 1984 and 2013 from 28 to 59 percent of total applied water, with a corresponding decrease in use of less efficient gravity systems during the same period.
U.S. farmers are also taking better care of the resources they already have. One example is a growing adoption of soil health and soil conservation practices, resulting in less soil erosion. Between 1982 and 2012, erosion on cultivated cropland due to water and wind declined by 45 percent.
A new report from The Rice Foundation charts U.S. rice’s longstanding commitment to sustainability over the past 36 years.
The U.S. Rice Industry Sustainability Report outlines how the rice industry has made great strides, socially, economically and environmentally – a result of measures including sophisticated land conservation techniques and technology innovations. Its greatest achievement, however, is increasing crop yields while reducing its impact on the environment.
Other environmental accomplishments include:
39 percent increase in land use efficiency
52 percent reduction in water use
41 percent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions per cwt rice produced
$3.4 billion worth of winter habitat provided by flooded rice fields to over 50 percent of North America’s ducks and waterfowl
Dr Steve Linscombe, director of The Rice Foundation, says that the rice industry is invested in using sustainable practices because it is “personal”, as rice farmers often live on the land they work.
He continues, “Our stewardship is deliberate, ensuring a healthy, safe food supply, while improving the environment, and contributing to the local economy.”
As for the future, the rice industry’s intention is to continue “leading the world in on-farm production efficiencies, environmental improvements, wildlife preservation, and food safety”.
Artificial Intelligence (AI) offers tremendous potential for the economy and for the planet, finds a new study by PwC, commissioned by Microsoft.
Marc (L) and Meagan Kaiser discuss latest field data with their crop advisor.
According to How AI Can Enable a Sustainable Future, if the global agriculture sector was to effectively adopt artificial intelligence (AI) systems, GDP would increase by up to 0.3 percent while GHG emissions would fall by up to 0.3 percent.
Economic gains are driven by applications that enable precise monitoring of environmental conditions, allowing farmers to use just the right amount of inputs such as water or chemicals, and by tools that automate manual tasks, creating efficiencies and saving on labor costs.
Automation – or agricultural robotics – can also deliver benefits for the environment, cutting GHG emissions by reducing the use of fossil fuel in agricultural activities. Using AI to monitor crop, soil and livestock health can also make a difference by minimizing the negative environmental impacts associated with the overuse of inputs such as water and pesticides.
Achieving these gains, however, requires “the right infrastructure and complementary technologies”. Access to data is crucial, concludes the study. So too is the infrastructure needed to transmit and process that data.
A global consortium will bring together experts from industry, academia and not-for-profit to address the growing issue of food loss and waste which, according to the FAO, costs around $940 billion per year.
More than 40 percent of fruit and vegetables in developing countries, many of which are exported to the United States, spoil before they are consumed. This has repercussions for farmers, who aren’t compensated for their products; for consumers, who miss out on these popular foods, and also for the environment as precious resources are used to produce foods that then go to waste.
Over the next three years, the Consortium will provide farmers with strategies and technologies to help them link their crop supply more closely with market demand. It will do so by adopting a model developed by The Rockefeller Foundation for the African market, which has reduced food loss by between 20 – 30 percent since 2016.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture has published the results of the 2017 Census of Agriculture, which shows some declines since the 2012 census but also notable progress in terms of workforce diversity and adoption of sustainable practices.
Total land devoted to agriculture has fallen. There are now 2.04 million farms and ranches (down 3.2 percent) on 900 million acres (down 1.6 percent). However, the size of farms is growing, to an average 441 acres (up 1.6 percent), with fewer, larger farms responsible for more production. The largest farms represent less than 1 percent of farms but 35 percent of all sales.
U.S. farming is clearly a family affair – 96 percent of farms and ranches are family owned – and women are playing an important role. Over a third (36 percent) of producers in the U.S. are female, while over half (56 percent) of all farms have at least one female decision maker.
And while the average age of farmers is rising, up 1.2 years to 57.5, younger talent is coming up through the ranks. 1 in 4 producers is a ‘beginning farmer’ with 10 or fewer years of experience and an average age of 46.3.
U.S. farmers’ growing commitment to land conservation and sustainable practices is also evident. Use of renewable energy has more than doubled since 2012. More farms are using no-till practices, while acres dedicated to cover crops increased by almost 50 percent.
The census is based on information collected by the USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service.
Listen to Secretary Perdue’s review of the data here and click here to access the full report.
The Sustainable Share Index, from the NYU Stern Center for Sustainable Business and Information Resources Incorporated (IRI), highlights the growing popularity of sustainable products.
Photo credit: NeONBRAND from Unsplash
The Index, which analyzed the purchase of Consumer-Packaged Goods (CPGs) across 36 product categories in the United States between 2013 and 2018, found that sustainability-marketed products grew 5.6 times faster than conventionally-marketed products, accounting for more than half of CPG growth since 2013.
Other key findings include:
In more than 90 percent of individual product categories, the growth of sustainability-marketed products outpaced total category growth
While sustainability-marketed products are responsible for over half (50.1 percent) of the growth in CPGs since 2013, they represent only 16.6 percent of the CPG market in dollar sales (up from 14.3 percent in 2013)
Categories that demand high functionality (such as detergent and toothpaste) do not have a large percentage of sustainable purchases, unlike categories with low functionality demands (e.g. fresh bread, milk and yogurt)
Robert I. Tomei, president, Market and Shopper Intelligence at IRI, said, “The results of this research show that sustainable products play a key role in consumer decision-making and we know this is particularly important to Millennials and Generation Z.”