This week, we’re taking the opportunity to celebrate two years since the launch of Land O’Lakes SUSTAIN, a landmark effort to forge new “farm to fork” partnerships on sustainability in agriculture. It’s been an exciting two years for our Land O’Lakes SUSTAIN team because sustainability in food production is more important than ever before. From consumers and families, to companies of all sizes, to regulatory agencies at all levels, the ability to demonstrate constant improvement in safeguarding the air, land and water is critical.
Leveraging our unique role in the agriculture industry and our authentic agricultural perspective, Land O’Lakes SUSTAIN was formed on a legacy of farmer-driven stewardship and a commitment to lead into the future by equipping farmers with tools to proactively and sustainably grow their business.
Two years later, we’re proud of our progress and looking forward to what lies ahead.
We launched Land O’Lakes SUSTAIN around the idea that even more opportunity existed to connect sustainability along the journey that our food takes -- and because investing in sustainability makes smart business sense. As a result, our team is focused on creating and implementing new ideas designed to strengthen farmers’ businesses through sustainability.
Here are just a few examples of our achievements during the first two years of Land O’Lakes SUSTAIN:
Delivering new, on-the-ground tools for farmers to design conservation practices and benchmark sustainability. Last year, we launched Agren BufferBuilder, a precision conservation planning tool that enables custom-design of crop field buffers for maximum impact. The tool uses site-specific soil information, decades of daily climate data and more to help farmers maximize conservation benefits. BufferBuilder complements our Conservation Dairy and Conservation Agronomy platforms, foundational elements of Land O’Lakes SUSTAIN that enable us to meet farmers where they’re at on their sustainability journey and help further improve their conservation efforts.
Enabling new conservation financing for farmers. Last year we announced Land O’Lakes SUSTAIN Innovation Financing, providing farmers a unique opportunity to leverage their equity in the cooperative to make major on-farm conservation investments. Often, securing financing for conservation projects is a major barrier for many farmers. This unique financing model may help boost adoption rates for conservation projects, helping more farmers do more work on conservation stewardship.
Partnering with some of the biggest names in agriculture, spanning business, government and the nonprofit community. We’ve forged new partnerships with companies like Walmart on its Gigaton Challenge, Microsoft on remote sensing technology and Campbell’s on wheat sourcing; government entities such as the Minnesota Department of Agriculture and others in an effort to focus on water quality in Southern Minnesota; and leading nonprofit organizations such as the Environmental Defense Fund.
“Working together with partners and experts spanning every sector and every level of the value chain, we can amplify the good work being done by farmers, ranchers and ag retailers nationwide,” said Michele Whyle, senior director of client engagement. “New partnerships equip Land O’Lakes SUSTAIN to magnify the acre-by-acre concept of our conservation platforms across millions of acres of farmland and achieve even greater stewardship results.”
Creating new end-to-end sustainability infrastructure in California to make “barn-to-biogas” a reality. Last month, Land O’Lakes and CalBio announced a landmark collaboration to deploy methane digesters and generate renewable compressed natural gas in California, unlocking revenue streams for dairy farmers while cutting manure-related emissions.
“As a farmer-owned cooperative, we’re uniquely positioned to tap into the potential power of California dairy farmers to create clean, renewable energy,” said Tina May, senior director of sustainability. “The key was forging new collaboration. Our work alongside CalBio in California showcases how farmers can make a big difference, while generating new income and strengthening their business.”
The results so far are just the beginning -- and this summer, we’re looking forward to some big steps forward.
We know progress on sustainability needs to be measured in a clear way. Quantifying the impact of conservation stewardship is critical for anyone in agriculture -- and Land O’Lakes SUSTAIN will provide the vehicle for farmers to benchmark the results of their good work.
Right now, we are beta testing our latest on-farm tool, an “Insights Engine” that will mark a big step forward in meeting the challenge. Using the Insights Engine, farmers will be able to gather data on the impact of their management and conservation practices -- and with that data, they’ll get a new look at what’s working on their farm and what can be improved.
Land O’Lakes SUSTAIN senior director Jason Weller, who has worked closely with the development team, said it’s a “win-win-win” spanning the value chain.
“The Insights Engine provides benefits across the board -- encouraging continuous improvement in sustainability, enabling Land O’Lakes to demonstrate our cooperative’s stewardship to customers, and equipping farmers with information to understand the bottom line benefits of key practices,” he said. “It’s a big step forward: giving farmers the credit they deserve for their current stewardship while also providing options for advancing their natural resource management and productivity.”
Agriculture is changing fast, and as we develop new technical tools for farmers, we’re also putting some of the smartest minds in agriculture to work tackling the “big picture” challenges ahead. We’re focused on exploring unseen potential for our member-owners, finding new value in sustainable agriculture and creating new markets for conservation.
By building a team of big thinkers that’s dedicated to creative problem solving and innovative solutions, we aren’t just implementing sustainable solutions, we are creating them from scratch. Looking through the lens of our farmer-owners, we’re employing new thinking to apply field-scale conservation in a sustainable way, from both an economic and environmental perspective.
We’ve started to see the results of this strategy already. From the CalBio collaboration that will unlock new revenue for dairy farmers, to the expanded sustainability offerings for agricultural retailers we’re rolling out this summer, innovation at Land O’Lakes SUSTAIN is unlocking big ideas that also create new value for farmers and rural communities. Every step of the way, we’re doing this work right alongside the farmer, the retailer and the consumer.
With two years of progress under our belt, we are excited for the future of Land O’Lakes SUSTAIN. Working together, we are well positioned to make even more progress in the months and years to come.