Sustainable Agriculture Data and Digital Monitoring (D-MRV)

The world is undergoing a paradigm shift with sustainability issues becoming increasingly important, along with greater and greater use of sustainable agriculture data. More than ever, there’s a pressing need for sustainable practices, especially in sectors that significantly impact our environment such as the food supply chain. 

By harnessing the power of technology and big data analytics —a cornerstone of data science for sustainable agriculture —  farmers and growers can optimize their practices and farming systems. This approach enables them to reduce their consumption of finite resources such as inorganic fertilizer, and minimize their environmental footprint. 

Digital monitoring and verification ensure that sustainability efforts are implemented and adhered to, promoting transparency and accountability in the agricultural sector. In addition, monitoring and verification can allow farmers to tap into additional revenue streams through carbon credit markets.

This article looks at why sustainability is so important to agriculture and the food supply chain, and how big data and digital monitoring can help farmers and agronomists achieve sustainability goals. 

Why Sustainability Is Essential: The Underlying Need

Sustainability, increasingly influenced by the use of data science for sustainable agriculture, is the central concern of modern society and is significantly affected by the goal of agriculture in seeking to guarantee food security for the ever-increasing population with limited natural resources. The need for sustainability in agriculture is impacting all parts of the food supply chain. Agriculture is responsible for approximately 18% of global GHG emissions and more than 75% of global N₂O emissions

Synthetic fertilizers, transportation, and field applications are major contributing factors to direct GHG emissions from agricultural activities. More effective farming operations, reduced uncertainties and risk, and improved real-time decision-support could revolutionize agriculture and reduce its environmental impact. 

The Food and Beverage (F&B) industry is a pivotal player in this transition and is evolving rapidly to meet these demands. But what’s powering this transformation? The answer lies in sustainable agriculture data and the increasing role of data science in sustainable agriculture.

Food and Beverage Companies

The Food and Beverage (F&B) sector, amidst the throes of global environmental challenges, finds itself in a unique position. With increasing awareness and the need for accountability, companies are moving towards a more transparent, sustainable approach.

According to Deloitte Scope 3 (indirect) emissions are particularly significant for F&B  companies. They can comprise up to 95% of their total carbon emissions, with the bulk of emissions arising from agricultural production and from land use change within their supply chains. Measuring, monitoring, and managing Scope 3 emissions is critical for F&B companies to comply with their carbon reduction commitments.

F&B companies are moving towards more efficiently tracking their sustainability initiatives. Such actions not only foster trust among stakeholders but also provide these firms with a competitive advantage, as consumers become increasingly aware and influenced by sustainability issues. 

Consumers 

Modern consumers, equipped with information and choices, prioritize sustainability like never before. They crave transparency and traceability, wishing to know where their food comes from and how it’s produced. 

Digital technologies also have the potential to offer consumers greater transparency as to how their food is produced. They offer opportunities to renew business models in value chains by connecting producers and consumers in innovative ways.

By tracking sustainable agriculture data, F&B companies can effectively report on their growers’ field-level efforts to reduce Scope 3 emissions. This allows consumers to gain a clearer understanding of the environmental impact of their food choices, leading to more informed decisions and growing demand for sustainably produced products. Such advancements not only cater to consumer preferences but also contribute to a more environmentally conscious and responsible food industry.

Farmers and Growers

For farmers and growers, the stakes have never been higher. With climate change altering landscapes and weather patterns, there’s an urgent need to optimize resources and employ sustainable farming. With climate change altering landscapes and weather patterns, there’s an urgent need to optimize resources and employ sustainable farming to increase their field’s soil health and resiliency to weather extremes. Agricultural monitoring systems empower growers with more accurate and actionable data, offering insights into sustainable practices, and ensuring long-term viability.

What is MRV in agriculture?

Measurement, Reporting, and Verification (MRV) in agriculture refers to the multi-step process to measure the amount of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions reduced by a specific mitigation activity.. For example, implementing improved farming practices can lead to a significant reduction in GHG emissions over a defined period. The effectiveness of such practices is then reported and verified, ensuring credibility and transparency. Transparent MRV processes are critical for making tangible progress in reducing GHG emissions. Recognizing its importance, the UN has developed a comprehensive handbook on MRV, specially tailored for developing countries. This handbook serves as a vital resource, guiding these countries in effectively implementing and benefiting from MRV strategies.

The Carbon Credit System: A Double-Edged Sword

The current carbon credit system, designed to incentivize businesses to reduce emissions, has its set of advantages and is growing rapidly. In 2021, the voluntary carbon market reached $2 billion—four times its value in 2020—and the pace of purchases was still accelerating in 2022. By 2030, the market is expected to reach between $10 billion and $40 billion.

However, a focus on carbon emissions is a simplification of the multifaceted issue of sustainability which includes both economic and social concerns as well as other environmental issues such as biodiversity. While it generates additional income for producers, the system often does not address broader environmental concerns, such as biodiversity, and a more holistic approach is often required. 

In addition, estimating and verifying carbon sequestration requires monitoring and collecting large amounts of farm-level data, which industry leaders can use to build market power potentially to the detriment of the market position of farmers. 

Carbon credit systems are not perfect and more robust and equitable systems are needed, but they are a tool to help the transition to more sustainable food systems.

The Path Ahead: Embracing a Comprehensive Sustainability Approach

Moving beyond the narrow lens of carbon emissions, there’s a growing realization of the importance of a holistic approach. By integrating big data, F&B companies can delve deeper into multiple sustainability metrics such as water usage, waste management, and biodiversity. 

This shift towards a broader perspective, powered by D-MRV, addresses the limitations of the carbon credit system, presenting a more rounded view of sustainability. In this context, big data becomes a cornerstone, reshaping the carbon credit landscape and sustainability reporting.

Digital technologies can help reduce the environmental impact of food production as well as improve production quantity and quality while reducing labor requirements. However, these technologies can only succeed if agronomic data companies have access to the data required to identify trends, correlations, and causation. 

Having access isn’t enough – agronomic data companies must be able to ingest and use the data to provide actionable insights which require it to be in a singular, standard format

Agmatix’s Role in the Sustainable Agriculture Data Revolution

Agmatix, with its unwavering commitment to sustainability, is redefining the norms and can help Ag Input suppliers build stronger relationships with their growers. 

The company’s Digital Crop Advisor stands out, leveraging data to monitor crucial sustainability KPIs (Key Performance Indicators). This digital agronomist tool enables them to work directly with growers in the field. 

The digital Crop Advisor solution gives field agronomists instant access to all their product listings so they can create the best crop nutrition management plans for their growers’ fields. This helps to optimize their customer’s yield and quality through scientific-backed recommendations as their trusted partners.

But what truly distinguishes Agmatix is its comprehensive sustainability framework. Agmatix’s approach provides more than simple carbon metrics, offering a 360-degree view of sustainability. 

Agmatix’s crop nutrition optimization solution provides sustainable nutrient recommendations based on a unique carbon footprint analysis. This allows you to quantify and compare sustainability KPIs (carbon footprint, nitrogen leaching) for customers with other plans developed in the past, or other fields using our technology.

Harnessing the Power of Sustainable Agriculture Data: From Efforts to Outcomes

One of the groundbreaking advantages of using sustainable agriculture data is the capability to link farmers’ endeavors to tangible outcomes. This connection opens doors to ‘what-if’ scenarios, a strategic tool that can be a momentous change. 

For instance, through Agritech analytics, F&B companies can simulate the impact of changing irrigation methods or adopting a new crop variety, providing actionable insights for both growers and companies.

Validation Efforts: Insights from India and Brazil

In a bid to enhance its sustainability initiatives, Agmatix has undertaken validation studies in the diverse agricultural terrains of India and Brazil. These efforts have yielded crucial findings, enriching the company’s repository of sustainable practices and insights. 

Agmatix has partnered with NASA Harvest – NASA’s global Food Security and Agriculture Consortium – to support crop production sustainably at the field level and mitigate the impact of climate change. The collaboration will promote resilient agriculture beginning with smallholder farms in different parts of the World. 

A combination of ground sampling and remote sensing data will be used to support these farmers in their transition toward sustainable agriculture. The methodology developed within this partnership will track farmer efforts to improve conservation management and guide them to improve their sustainability levels.

In India, Agmatix has also started working in collaboration with local agronomists on data from 45 commercial vineyards. This is helping agronomists recommend, and optimize nutritional requirements for crops and reduce fertilizer use, as well as improving economic performance. Additionally, expansions in the Brazilian soybean market are underway, marking a significant step for Agmatix in extending its sustainable agriculture efforts into another key global agricultural sector.

Concluding Thoughts

In the face of mounting environmental challenges, the power of big data and tools like D-MRV can’t be overstated. The F&B sector, bridging the gap between consumers, growers, and producers, finds itself at the center of this change. 

By integrating sustainable agriculture data, not only can we ensure a brighter future for the planet but also create a sustainable, transparent, and resilient agricultural ecosystem for generations to come.

Agmatix empowers agronomists and agriculture professionals with the most accurate, science-based crop benefits and agronomic decisions to not only drive sales and optimize crop yield and nutrition but also enhance sustainability. To find out more about how Agmatix can enhance the sustainability of your business through the plant nutrition carbon footprint optimizer click here.