The Sustainability Consortium and Walmart Foundation to tackle complexity in farm-level data
November 13, 2017
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — The Sustainability Consortium announced their collaboration today with the Walmart Foundation to tackle challenges to help farmers report information more easily to manufacturers and retailers. The need to improve agricultural systems to be not only efficient but also sustainable in the long-term is paramount to meeting the global demand for food into the future, while also minimizing adverse impacts on the environment and society. One of TSC's main challenges is addressing why so many producers on farms and manufacturers of food products answer questions about farm sustainability with "we are unable to determine at this time".
In 2016, TSC's tools were used by leading retailers to collect nearly 70,000 supplier responses to key performance indicators (KPIs) across all sectors. Around 15 percent of those responses addressed agricultural impacts. Over 50 percent of all responses to agriculture KPIs were "we are unable to determine at this time," Although TSC's past efforts have spurred food companies to improve data collection, many companies still need help establishing the communication systems in place to answer many of the survey questions.
"By improving communication flow between farms and manufacturing and ultimately, retail, this project will increase the demand signal for sustainable farming practices and improve data flow for easier and more accurate reporting of farm metrics," said Christy Slay, TSC director of research and lead on the project. "By connecting data systems and creating easier and faster ways for producers to report their results, more of their time and effort can be spent on improving sustainability at the farm level." Slay received her Ph.D. in biological sciences from the University of Arkansas in 2010 and has been with The Sustainability Consortium, jointly administered by the Walton College of Business, since 2009.
TSC aims to improve the quality of agricultural sustainability data and the ease of reporting of that data by farmers by improving systems and technologies to better understand the data collected on farms, the systems in place, and how to better communicate to suppliers about sustainability programs that require farm data. TSC will lead the efforts with members and partners to create a better flow of sustainability data to inform business decision-making in the agricultural sector, thereby driving positive environmental, social, and economic impacts as well as benefitting farmers in their reporting efforts.
TSC will produce three outputs over one year. They will include an agricultural datasystems landscape map, a data compatibility pilot to address gaps in data connectivity, and a farm data tool for use by farmers to create consistency and ease in reporting. This project is generously funded by a $375,000 grant from the Walmart Foundation.