Tyson Foods – the largest meat producer in the United States and exporter of food to more than 100 nations – is stepping up in a new area: cloud-based insights that can benefit the environment, farm finances and Tyson’s sustainability goals.
Companies and investors take note: This is the next frontier for implementing more rigorous sustainability initiatives by improving businesses’ ability to make, measure and monitor progress.
The Arkansas-based food company recently decided to accelerate land stewardship practices on 2 million acres of corn by 2020, an area roughly the size of 2 million football fields. To be successful, Tyson needs to collaborate with vast networks of farmers on solutions, and it needs them to report progress.
Enter MyFarms, a supply chain platform that streamlines agricultural data management, analytics and reporting automation in an innovative way. Such technology can reform the food system’s tendency to burden grain suppliers with time-intensive, complex and duplicative sustainability reporting requirements that return no value to them.
Data insights may generate financial benefits
Tyson is joining forces with the Indiana-based software company through a pilot aiming to improve practices across an initial 250,000 acres of corn in the U.S. Using MyFarms’ agile tools and services, the collaboration will generate highly structured insights up and down Tyson’s value chain.
It is one of the pilots Tyson launched to build capacity to meet its sustainability goal, by engaging the expertise of farmers and their trusted crop advisers to drive change on the ground.
With access to the geospatial, analytical and reporting capabilities of MyFarms, these experts can more easily investigate which production practices are best suited – and most likely to work – in farmers’ unique yield environment.
Delivering pragmatic business insights to growers through a digital conduit such as MyFarms may create shared value between the company and its grain suppliers, a critical component for an initiative like this to take root and grow.
Understanding and acting on these management insights can generate financial value for farmers and their business partners.
Tyson, of course, benefits, too. By upholding a commitment to rigorous big data management and analysis, the company is better able to capture business value from reducing the impact of food production – while protecting the natural resources on which its business depends.
Metrics help Tyson track progress against goals
Tyson’s science-based, data-driven approach will ultimately help the company credibly measure, track and publicly report progress against its sustainability goals.
The MyFarms platform readily integrates platforms farmers already use to manage their fields. It allows them to leverage already-existing cloud data applicable to their operations, and to consistently report for sustainability purposes from several platforms at one time.
Among other things, these platforms help farmers more efficiently manage applied nitrogen fertilizer, an essential nutrient for plants and livestock to grow.
Such data are essential for quantifying the impact that fertilizer has on our water and climate. Tyson wants to understand how to reduce losses to the environment.
Use of accessible data that are meaningful to farmers also helps the farming community lead evidence-based discussions about how to best optimize sustainable food production with policymakers, food companies and the public.
While implementation of this technology is in the early stages, Tyson’s action to reduce its environmental footprint helps raise the bar for innovation in the food and beverage sector.
The company is establishing the groundwork for continued improvement in sustainability performance and transparency – this at a time when corporate leaders everywhere are trying to align business objectives and environmental goals.