When it comes to sustainability, agriculture has “the opportunity to bring solutions to the table like nobody else because of working directly with the earth.”
That is according to Brandy Wilson, Sustainability Director of food and agribusiness firm J.R. Simplot.
Speaking to leading U.S. farm journal Ag Pro, Brandy says that she sees a great deal of untapped potential for sustainability in agriculture. Farmers often tell her that sustainability is something they have always done – whether that is passing on the land to the next generation or producing food for the world. However, as fundamental as these practices are, she believes that farmers can bring something new to the sustainability conversation by taking advantage of the opportunities they have to sequester carbon, restore and conserve watersheds, and create a more resilient future for the communities they work in.
“I think agriculture really is just on the cusp of articulating and explaining and acting on how it can be part of the solution [to sustainability].”
Brandy explains how Simplot is meeting its mission of “bringing earth’s resources to life” by making connections between the different parts of its business, from fertilizer mine to fork, so that everything is re-used and nothing goes to waste.
In the retail space, Simplot’s Grower Solutions business, which helps customers make the most of their land, is addressing the important issue of water conservation. For example, by using a smart farm system combining sensors and mapping that looks at all aspects of water usage on farm, customers have been able to achieve a reduction of 2 to 3 inches of water application per season coupled with yield increases of between 3 and 5%.
Simplot’s work on water extends to its own operations and its production of fertilizer.
In the field, Simplot works with the Potato Sustainability Initiative of which it is a co-founder. Over the past year, the group has been reviewing and refining the metrics it has been tracking for the past eight years and considering whether those are relevant in light of the issues that matter to customers today such as climate change, carbon sequestration and soil health.
In the coming months, Simplot plans to announce further ambitious targets to evaluate its progress in the “big 4” areas of energy, carbon, water and waste.