Great Green Gadgets

What better way to celebrate Earth Day than with some new gadgets?

Got an email this morning from an industrious PR person touting a book called “Fool’s Return” by Lynda Chervil, “a thought leader and green technology advocate.”

Chervil, who studies the science behind green technology, says environmental awareness has ramped up production of affordable goods that can shrink individuals’ carbon footprints. She shares four devices she says would make a nice gift for Mother Earth on her day.

water-clockAmong her suggestions is the Bedol Water Alarm Clock. “Imagine a water-powered alarm clock that’s loud enough to scare you out of bed! Bedol’s water clocks run strictly on tap water – no batteries, no nothing else.”

There’s also the HybridLight Solar Flashlight that never needs batteries, can be charged from any light source, and they always work. And the Pama Eco Navigator Satellite Navigation system that helps save gasoline by providing you with the most energy-efficient routes to your destinations, and feedback on your car’s performance.

Last but not least, the iGo Green Power Smart Wall that helps “cut the suck” of the power “vampires” that use electricity whether we’re using them or not – everything from coffee pots to laptops.

Go on – give your Mother Earth a hug today and get a green gadget!

“Down to Earth” Examines Sustainable Farming

Indiana’s “Down to Earth” documentary examines the world of sustainable farming. Small-farm issues in a big-farm world are the central theme of a new documentary created by students at Ball State University in Muncie, Ind. The film is focused on promoting a more sustainable and locally based food system for our country.

Fourteen students spent the fall creating “Down to Earth” as part of a semester-long immersive learning experience at the university’s Virginia B. Ball Center for Creative Inquiry. The 35-minute film spotlights an east central Indiana farmer, Kyle Becker, and his passion to implement sustainable farming methods to help heal his land in Mooreland, Ind., while providing healthy food to people throughout the region. Included in the film are dozens of interviews the students conducted with prominent players in the national sustainability movement, including Will Allen, CEO of Growing Power, Juli Obudzinski of the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition and Joel Saltain, whose Polyface Farms was featured in both Michael Pollan’s best-selling book “Omnivore’s Dilemma” and the 2008 documentary “Food Inc.”

Down to Earth: Small Farm Issues In a Big Farm World from Down to Earth on Vimeo.

2014 Bayer Sustainability Award

bayer-aif14-awardDuring the ninth annual Ag Issues Forum last week, Bryan Boll of Minnesota was the recipient of the 2014 Bayer Young Farmer Sustainability Award. Bryan believes the key to sustainability is to look at your operation individually and see areas in which you can improve.

I interviewed Bryan about the award and what sustainability means to him. Interview with Bryan Boll, Bayer 2014 sustainability award winner

Bryan is the fourth recipient of this award. Pictured with him here are 2013 winner Jeremy Jack of Mississippi on the left, and the CEO and president of Bayer CropScience LP, Jim Blome.

Jeremy also participated on a panel during the Ag Issues Forum on how today’s farmer CEO are re-shaping modern agriculture. He believes “sustainability has got to be the action plan” for every farmer in the future. Interview with Jeremy Jack, Bayer 2013 sustainability award winner

Below is a video that introduces Bryan and what he does on his operation.

bayer-issues-button2014 Bayer CropScience Ag Issues Forum Photos

SAI Platform Checklist Launched at IFAMA

sai-platformThe International Food and Agribusiness Management Association (IFAMA) World Forum last week featured the global launch of the Sustainable Agriculture Initiative (SAI) Checklist, the “world’s first practitioner’s guide” to the sustainable outsourcing of agricultural raw materials.

ifama-13-ernestoSAI president and Coca Cola Senior Manager of Sustainability Ernesto Brovelli said the purpose of the checklist is based on the fact that the job of farmers is to farm, not to fill out forms. “We want to make their life easy,” he said. “We want these tools, these assessments to be simple, to be educational because sustainability is a new area. Allowing them to self-assess themselves they develop self-awareness of what are important sustainability aspects.”

Recognizing that sustainability can be defined in different ways, Brovelli also participated in a session at IFAMA on establishing a common language and benchmarking standards for agricultural sustainability “and this is what the checklist does.”

You can download the checklist on the SAI website and find out more in this interview with Ernesto. SAI president Ernesto Brovelli at IFAMA World Forum

IFAMA 23rd World Forum Photo Album

Dairy Leaders Celebrate Sustainability Award

Milk AdWinners of the dairy industry’s prestigious Sustainability Awards join the ranks of celebrities, athletes and influencers – from country music singer Miranda Lambert to movie star Salma Hayek to actor and father Taye Diggs – by donning the famed Milk Mustache for their own ad. The dairy industry leaders were recognized yesterday for their efforts to advance sustainability at the U.S. Dairy Sustainability Awards in Washington, D.C.

This marks the second year MilkPEP, most known for the National Milk Mustache “got milk?” Campaign – a multi-faceted campaign designed to educate consumers about the health benefits of milk – has sponsored the Sustainability Award Milk Mustache ad.

Bringing Sexy Back to Agriculture

The take home theme of the Bayer CropScience Ag Issues Forum this year came to be “bringing sexy back to agriculture.” Which begs the question – when was agriculture sexy before?

bayer-issues-13-youngIf sexy means sustainable, here are a couple of pretty sexy farmers. On the left is the Bayer CropScience 2013 Young Farmer Sustainability Award winner Jeremy Jack of Mississippi and next to him is the 2012 winner John Shepherd of Virginia.

John was on a panel at the recent Bayer Ag Issues Forum to talk about how he does things differently on his corn, wheat and soybean operation where taking care of the soil is most important to him. “My goal is to get it in better shape for future generations,” he said. “So I sow aerial cover crops – plant cover crops in plants already standing. I’ll fly rye on in soybeans that are standing so there’s already a cover crop growing when I cut the beans.”

Listen to some of John’s comments on the panel here: Virginia farmer John Shepherd

Jeremy is a partner in an 8500 acre operation growing cotton, corn, soybeans, rice and wheat. He currently serves as President of the Mississippi Soybean Association, and formally worked in Washington, D.C., under U.S. Sen. Thad Cochran during 2008 Farm Bill negotiations. After college, he returned to the family’s farm rather than pursuing a career in agricultural policy.

Jeremy said talking about sustainability is less important than doing something about it. “Our method of sustainability is sustainability in action,” Jeremy said. “With outreach and education we can make sustainability interesting.” And sexy too.

Listen to Jeremy’s comments here: Mississippi farmer Jeremy Jack

Bayer Ag Issues Forum Sustainability Discussion

Rob Kaplan and Rick TolmanSustainability. What does it mean to you? There is no real good definition. I like what Frank Sesno, moderator for the Bayer CropScience Ag Issues Forum (pictured on left), said during his introduction of a session on day one, “I think if I had my druthers I’d ban it altogether because it’s such a catch all.” That it is!

The session is titled, “Connecting the Dots: The Business Case for Safe, Affordable and Sustainable Supply Chains.” Panel participants included Rob Kaplan, Senior Manager of Sustainability, Walmart Stores (center) and Rick Tolman, CEO, National Corn Growers Association.

This was a great conversation with a lot of interesting thoughts and ideas presented. I liked one exchange started by Rick Tolman who made a point that what’s important to him is what people use the term “not to mean,” He says, “In general society it tends to be an exclusionary term.” Then Rob Kaplan said, “Sustainability is really a journey not a destination.”

There’s a lot more to enjoy so you can listen to or download the conversation here: Bayer Ag Issues Forum Sustainability Session

2013 Bayer CropScience Ag issues Forum Photo Album

Novus’ Commitment to Sustainability

ippe-13-10-editedThe vision at Novus International is to feed the world affordable, wholesome food. They have adopted a three pillar stance of solution, service and sustainability all tied in to thinking globally, but acting locally.

Sustainability is the cornerstone of their vision to improve the quality of life for people around the world. During the recent International Production and Processing Expo, I talked with Alex Pierroutsakos, who works in quality assurance in sustainability and environmental safety, about how Novus brings sustainability into their everyday lives.

“Novus has done a really good job at looking into what sustainability is all about and focusing on that is part of our mission statement. How are we going to feed a growing population over the next 40 years? Once you transcend that back to what we can do to help that process and help to make our own customers more sustainable. [We ask] how do we provide product on time, how do we help make sure the supply chain and distribution is there for us to support them. These are the things we are looking at.”

Novus believes being sustainable starts at home. There 90,000-square foot headquarters is platinum LEED-certified. This is the highest energy and environmental design available in the United States. It is one of four in Missouri and one of 150 in the entire United States.

Check out my complete interview with Alex: Interview with Alex Pierroutsakos

You can find photos from the event here:International Production & Processing Expo Photo Album

Sponsored by Novus International Inc

BASF Survey Reveals Sustainability Attitudes

BASF Crop Protection had great news to talk about with farm broadcasters at the NAFB meeting in Kansas City this week.

According to a new BASF survey, a majority of consumers and growers agree that modern agriculture can achieve two critical goals simultaneously: Feed the world’s growing population while demonstrating responsible stewardship.

More than 80 percent of the growers and nearly 70 percent of the consumers who participated in the survey were confident that growers will be able to strike a balance between producing enough food for the planet and preserving it for future generations. “Technology and knowledge advancements” were cited by both groups as the primary reasons for their confidence.

“Technology is and will continue to be the number one driver behind our ability to meet the demands of a growing population in a way that stewards resources,” said Paul Rea, Vice President, U.S. Crop Operations, BASF. “We know there is no room for failure—we have to make it happen. This is what drives our commitment to invest $2 million a day in research and development on innovations that will help growers preserve the land and maximize yields.”

Listen to or download my interview with Paul at NAFB here: BASF VP Paul Rea

I also got a comment from Paul on the recent announcement that BASF will be acquiring the assets of seed treatment company Becker Underwood. “We expect to close on that transaction here in the next few weeks and we’re very excited to bring their technology to our very extensive BASF crop protection technology,” said Paul. “We already have some very well established seed treatment technologies and there will be nice synergy between those products and what the Becker Underwood team has.”

Listen to or download Paul’s comments on Becker Underwood here: BASF-Becker Underwood

2012 NAFB Convention Photo Album

Flavor Infused Cottonseed Oil From Alcala Farms

Pure cottonseed oil from Alcala Farms. It’s what I’ll be cooking with. Here’s why: “Silky-clear, lightweight body and flavor-neutral palate. Pure Cottonseed Oil is the perfect base for salad oils, marinades, sauces, frying, stir-frying, searing and sauteing.” It’s the original vegetable oil. Bet you didn’t know that CRISCO stands for Crystallized Cottonseed Oil. I didn’t either until I got to sample some Alcala Farms products at World Dairy Expo. Or did you know that the original Wesson Oil was made from cottonseed oil? Interesting eh? I’ve got a bottle of the Cilantro to try and looking forward to it.

This new cottonseed oil product comes out of a cotton sustainability project that was implemented by New Mexico State University with funding from Cotton Incorporated. Also involved was the Oregon State University Food Inno-vation Center.

BASF Stresses Doing More With Less

Sustainability is an overused term, according to Nevin McDougall, Senior VP for BASF Crop Protection, North America.

“Getting more productivity, more efficiency, with less impact on our resources and our environment – that’s what it’s all about,” Nevin told me at the conclusion of the 2012 BASF Agricultural Solutions Media Summit in Chicago last week.

Nevin was very pleased with the discussion at the summit focused on innovation. “We delved into key topics and had first hand experience from people involved in the value chain that have a true perspective on what it means to move agriculture to a different point in its evolution,” he said.

Listen to my interview with Nevin here. BASF's Nevin McDougall

I talked to Nevin during the summit “high point,” so to speak, at the top of Willis Tower. I just got the photos yesterday that were taken on the Skydeck Ledge of the tower, which was really so fun.

This picture is me with members of the fabulous BASF communications team – Pat, Nadine, Daniel and Kristen – towering over the city of Chicago at night. Thanks to all of you for a very informational and fun event.

Check out photos from the summit here – Photos from BASF Ag Media Summit

Novus Commitment to Sustainability

During the Animal Ag Sustainability Summit 2012 held in conjunction with International Poultry Expo, Scott Hine, Vice President – Product Management and Operations, Novus, spoke about the company commitment to sustainability.

Scott says the Summit was an opportunity for Novus and his message was that “if you want to be engaged in sustainability, which Novus believes is core to the future, that you really need to set up a way forward to engage your people and then set your goals and then achieve those goals and report on it.” He says they’ve developed their platform around SEE (Social, Economic and Environmental) which helps employees visualize what they’re doing. Those are linked to their goals. It’s obvious that it is critical to have employees understand and buy in to the company sustainability plan.

Listen to my interview with Scott to learn more about how Novus is working toward sustainability here: Interview with Scott Hine

2012 International Poultry Expo Photo Album

Coverage of the 2012 International Poultry Expo is sponsored by Novus International

The Novus IPE Week Program

The Global Poultry Market Manager for Novus International is Scott Carter (on right). I got an overview from him of all the activities Novus is involved in during IPE Week.

To start with Scott says they participated in the International Poultry Scientific Forum with a sponsored lunch featuring David Armano who spoke about social media. David was my interview in this week’s ZimmCast. Scott says he learned a few key things from that presentation, including the fact that academics are the most trusted source of information. Another learning point was that “everybody is empowered, everybody has a voice.” That’s social media.

Another way Novus was involved was with the Animal Ag Sustainability Summit where Scott Hine, Novus Product Management and Operations, spoke about Novus’s commitment to sustainability. I’ll have more on that topic in my interview with Scott coming up soon. Besides these programs Novus is catching up with “old” friends and customers in the trade show.

Listen to my interview with Scott here: Interview with Scott Carter

2012 International Poultry Expo Photo Album

Coverage of the 2012 International Poultry Expo is sponsored by Novus International

Novus Launches New Sustainability Website

Novus International has launched a new interactive sustainability website to promote the company’s global sustainability initiatives.

The website includes the 2010 Novus Sustainability Report which documents and measures the company’s comprehensive social, environmental and economic sustainability program at a global level following the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) framework, the most widely used guidelines for sustainability reporting standards.

“This website outlines the goals and progress of our integrated sustainability initiatives worldwide,” said Joyce Cacho, Ph.D., Chief Sustainability Officer at Novus. “This allows us to engage with a diverse group of stakeholders: our customer base, the agricultural industry and the public.”

Novus’s sustainability program forges strong links between performance, food safety, the environment and animal well-being – market drivers shared by urban and rural communities worldwide. In achieving GRI Level B-Check, Novus reports sustainability performance in the areas of economic, environmental, human rights, labor, society and product responsibility.

The website can be found at

His Royal Highness, Prince of Sustainability

In addition to meeting with President Obama, His Royal Highness The Prince of Wales gave the keynote address at “The Future of Food” conference at Georgetown University, sponsored by the Washington Post.

Since the prince has “tried to farm as sustainably as possible for some twenty-six years” he was about the closest to an actual farmer that the conference had on the agenda (see Chuck’s previous post). On the Royal Website, there is a page about the Prince’s farm which is “a completely organic system” he developed “to demonstrate the environmental and commercial benefits.” Among the farm’s produce is organic mutton. “The Prince is enthusiastic about restoring mutton (meat from a two-year-old sheep), to the dinner tables of the nation after speaking to struggling sheep farmers who found they could no longer get a decent price for older ewes. To this end, The Prince launched the Mutton Renaissance campaign.” I am not making that up.

So, HRH believes that we can feed nine billion people on this planet with a food system that is “not dependent upon the use of chemical pesticides, fungicides and insecticides; nor, for that matter, upon artificial fertilizers and growth-promoters or G.M.” and he provided His Royal Vision of a “sustainable food production” system during his address in Georgetown.

“For me, it has to be a form of agriculture that does not exceed the carrying capacity of its local ecosystem and which recognizes that the soil is the planet’s most vital renewable resource,” he said, adding that “genuinely sustainable farming maintains the resilience of the entire ecosystem by encouraging a rich level of biodiversity in the soil, in its water supply and in the wildlife – the birds, insects and bees that maintain the health of the whole system. Sustainable farming also recognizes the importance to the soil of planting trees; of protecting and enhancing water-catchment systems; of mitigating, rather than adding to, climate change. To do this it must be a mixed approach. One where animal waste is recycled and organic waste is composted to build the soil’s fertility. One where antibiotics are only used on animals to treat illnesses, not deployed in prophylactic doses to prevent them; and where those animals are fed on grass-based regimes as Nature intended.”

Read the whole speech here.

FFA Leaders Join Novus Science Day

Two National FFA officers and a regional director for the National FFA Foundation were among those who participated in the third annual “Science in Action: A Foundation for Dynamic Careers” Day sponsored by Novus International.

NovusChristopher Bell with the FFA Foundation said it was a good opportunity for the officers to visit an agricultural company that is making a difference in the world. “Novus has put a lot of emphasis on sustainability in agriculture and that’s becoming one of our big initiatives in the FFA is making sure that our 523,000 students are practicing sustainable agriculture,” he said.

“I’m very passionate about agriculture and it’s great to come here today and visit with people from Novus and see the passion that they have for making a difference in the agriculture industry,” said National FFA Secretary Landan Schaffert of Colorado, pictured on the right next to Christopher listening to Novus’ Jim Richards on the laboratory portion of the tour.

NovusShannon Norris of New Mexico, who serves as Western Region Vice President for FFA, is pursuing a career in agricultural communications and possibly a doctorate in ruminant nutrition so she was very interested in getting to know the people at Novus. “It’s interesting to see how the mission of the company is intertwined with the values of each individual employee,” she said.

You can listen to my interview with Christopher, Landan and Shannon here: Interview with FFA representatives on Novus Science Day

Novus Science in Action Day 2011 Photos

Apply for Green Mountain College’s Summer Farm & Food Program

For those interested in becoming involved in exploring traditional techniques and cutting edge research in sustainable agriculture should consider applying for Green Mountain College’s summer program. In its third year, the 12-credit summer intensive program Farm Life Ecology: A Field and Table Intensive, runs for 13 weeks from May 23-August 19. For the first time the College is also offering half-sessions for 6 credits from May 23-July 2 and July 7-August 19.

“Modern agriculture is heavily reliant on fossil energy sources, and we’ll need to find ways as a society to incorporate more energy-efficient solutions to growing food,” said farm manager and program director Dr. Kenneth Mulder. “Students in this program get a chance to manage our campus farm while gaining a rigorous foundation in sustainable agriculture.”

Over the past three years, the college’s Farm & Food Program has received nearly $250,000 in grant funding to further develop their fossil-free agriculture initiatives.

“The Farm and Food Intensive combines a rigorous classroom experience with individual research projects and hands-on farm work,” Mulder continued. “Students also get a chance to participate in some pretty exciting research that will teach them to run farms that are productive, profitable, and environmentally sustainable.”

While in the program, students will manage all aspects of Green Mountain College’s 22-acre Cerridwen Farm while receiving a curricular focus in three core areas: the fundamentals of organic crop and animal management; efficient integration and management of diverse farm systems; and development and utilization of appropriate technologies in agriculture. In addition, their home base will be the Solar Harvest Center where the students prepare communal meals from produce they grow and harvest from the farm.

Phillip Ackerman-Leist, Director of the College’s Farm & Food Project and Associate Professor of environmental studies added, “Cerridwen Farm has become an agricultural lab of sorts, and our students contribute to that research. Like traditional ag programs students will learn a lot about agricultural practices and systems. They’ll also learn how to be part of the current food revolution that is transforming farming and how we view food.”

Using Alge to Improve Ag Sustainability

Agriculture often gets a bad wrap on the sustainability scale but growers know that they aren’t going to jeopardize their livehoods and they are great stewards of the land. But for those growers who are still looking for some unique ways to be a little “greener” with their operations, they should consider algae.

Kent Bioenergy has its roots in aquaculture. The company was a pioneer in fish farms and needed a way to clean the water. Enter algae. Over time, the company has discovered how to harvest the algae and the co-products can be used for a variety of things depending on where the nutrients came from to grow the algae.

For example, Barry Toyonaga, Ph.D. who is the Chief Business Officer for the company, explained that they have been working with growers and livestock, dairy and hog producers to use algae as a way to reduce normal agricultural run-off.

Most of the waste is unused fertilizer coming straight off farm land and so if our algae is just recapturing the used fertilizer, and we’re harvesting that algae, its really a renewable resource for fertilizer,” explained Toyonaga.

What is especially interesting about using algae to capture run-off is that the agriculture industry is being criticized for causing “Dead Zones” in the ocean, areas where marine life cannot be supported due to depleted oxygen levels. Integrating algae can reduce this run-off, and help to remove the criticism that agriculture is causing this problem. It’s also beneficial for the grower because once the algae is harvested, it can be “reused” on the farm as an organic fertilizer, reducing costs and reducing another common criticism launched against agriculture – using fossil-fuel based inputs.

Toyonaga truly believes that his company is on to something and they are trying to interest both the agricultural community and the USDA in the technology. So if you’re a grower who is open to trying something new, considering reaching out to Kent Bioenergy.

To learn more about how integrating algae into your farm or livestock operations, listen to my interview with Barry here. Barry Toyonaga interview

You can also view photos from my San Diego Algae Tour here.

Pennsylvania Farm Show Goes Green

The Pennsylvania Farm Show kicked off a little greener this year. The Pennsylvania Farm Show Complex and Expo Center has some new “eco” features including a 124 kW rooftop photovoltaic solar array that were part of an energy savings project complements of the Pennsylvania Guaranteed Energy Savings Act. The new energy efficient, eco-features were celebrated during an opening day celebration coined “Switch to Solar”.  The construction was actually completed in October of last year.

The ceremony highlighted recent efforts by the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture and the Farm Show Complex to make the facility more eco-friendly, energy efficient and energy wise through an energy savings performance contract implemented by Pepco Energy.

Some of the “eco” improvements included a comprehensive recycling program and the Susquehanna River Basin Commission’s installation of a demonstration storm water garden and a 20,000-gallon water storage tank, which will reduce run-off into Paxton Creek and reduce the Farm Show Complex’s water costs.

The $3.6 million project also included a 124 kW rooftop photovoltaic solar array and a variety of energy efficiency and solar hot water implementation measures. The project is estimated to save the complex more than $300,000 annually in operating utility costs and should decrease carbon dioxide emissions by 1,650 metric tons each year.

“The completion of the GESA project represents the Farm Show Complex’s dedicated investment to environmental stewardship,” said David Weiss, Chief Operating Officer of Pepco Energy. “Pepco Energy is pleased to offer its expertise and ongoing commitment to providing the energy solutions for this project to reduce costs, consumption and emissions.”

Time For An International AgChat Foundation?

The emcee for the Global Farmer to Farmer Roundtable conducted by Truth About Trade & Technology was Bob Thomson once again. He says the participating farmers were looking at what it’s going to take to thrive in the next several years. High on their list is modern technology. He says they realize that to feed the projected population equivalent of two more countries the size of China in the next forty years it will take very high productivity agriculture. The alternative will be massive destruction of forests and that will lead to a lot of undesirable results.

A real concern and frustration expressed, especially by European participants, was the extent that some activist organizations have dominated the debate and how little their governments are doing to help them. It’s hard to be competitive when you’re overburdened by regulations. Participants from countries like India said that biotechnology products will be critical for them. They weren’t so much interested in subsidies as being on a level playing field. A need to communicate their stories was also expressed. Of course, I hope they’ll look to social media and networking to help that. Maybe it’s time for an International AgChat Foundation!

You can listen to my interview with Bob here: Bob Thompson Interview

Thanks again to the National Corn Growers Association for making my participation possible.

TATT Global Farmer To Farmer Roundtable Photo Album