Bio-Based, Slow-Release Fertilizer Technology Steps Up Sustainability and Profitability

These days carbon is a hot topic in agriculture in more ways than one. On one hand, large corporations, consumer demand, and regulatory changes are driving sustainability in the food supply chain and encouraging farmers to adopt management practices that keep carbon in place. On the other hand companies such as Truterra, Bayer and BASF, to name a few, are offering farmers compensation for the carbon they sequester in the soil. When it comes to carbon, farmers have a lot to figure out.

Organizations such as the Ecosystem Services Market Consortium (ESMC) are working to create a validation process and market to enable farmers and ranchers to improve soil health systems and capitalize on carbon credits offered by buyers seeking to reduce their environmental and supply chain impacts. The ESMC is a collaboration of members from across the agricultural supply and value chains that work to ensure the carbon credits program can scale up successfully.  

Major food companies are also stepping up to help farmers with their challenge to grow crops and livestock sustainably and profitably.

 In 2013, Smithfield Foods established goals to ensure sustainably sourced ingredients for its food brands. The company set a goal to have 75% of its directly sourced grain supply, which encompasses 450,000 acres, engaged in conservation practices aimed at reducing nitrogen loss. The company exceeded the goal by using the grain to feed farmer-contracted hogs and promoting practices that were both more sustainable and reduced production costs for grain farmers.  

To further reduce its carbon footprint, Smithfield will be working with Anuvia Plant Nutrients by providing hog manure to be used as a feedstock in the manufacture of its biobased SymTRX® fertilizer. 

For many farmers, and especially livestock producers, re-use of organic waste such as livestock manures is perceived as a win-win for all. “It solves the challenge of producing sustainably sourced ingredients to feed a growing population, and impacts the entire food chain,” explains Paul Duncan, Anuvia’s director of sustainability. “It’s a perfect example of how we can reduce the carbon footprint during the life cycle of a product moving from field to market to consumer.”

A Farmer’s Perspective on Consumer Motivations

Jay Coker, Farmer from Stuttgart, Ark.

“If the consumer knows that the food they’re purchasing was produced with more environmentally friendly inputs, that’s going to make that product more appealing to the consumer,” says Jay Coker, corn and rice farmer, Stuttgart, Ark.

“We’re getting pushed to use more sustainable products but there is a balance, and it probably becomes more difficult as our margins shrink and our world changes,” Coker continues. “We have to balance between our inputs and the environment. And that’s a big deal. But I think of things long-term. And long-term, it’s the right thing to do.

“SymTRX falls right into the overall focus that we try to bring forward as far as being more sustainable on the farm,” Coker adds.

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