Sound Science Funding for Farmers

Funding for Sound Science is Critical

By Jessica Theisman, Associate Editor

Increased funding to make farming easier is a priority, an expert told California Ag Today recently. LaKisha Odom is the science program director for the Foundation for Food and Agricultural Research based in Washington, DC. Funding sound science is a goal for the foundation.

“We are interested in increasing the amount of funding that is available to make farming and decision making easier,” Odom said.

This is all based on sound science. Their foundation base depends on the readily available funding.

“We match public-private dollars and increase that amount of funding available to fund sound science,” she explained.

The funding is for foundations and agencies that will assist farmers.

“The universities, industry partners, foundations and the research that’s funded by those entities can then inform those decision makers to assist those farmers who are making those decisions,” she said.

“We were provided $200 million dollars in the 2014 Farm Bill,” Odom added.

There are seven challenge areas that the foundation focuses on: water scarcity; urban agriculture; food waste; food loss; making my plate your plate, which focuses on nutrition; protein challenge, which focuses on animal sustainability; and innovation pathways.

Fresno State is one of the founding partners.

“I’m working with the irrigation innovation consortium, which is a consortium of university partners as well as industry partners, and Fresno State is one of our partners in that,” Odom said.

They are working with Dr. Davis at Fresno State for ways in which they can make innovations in irrigation and make water issues a little less challenging for farmers.

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Re-Nuble: Eliminating Food Waste By Converting it to Fertilizers

Wasted Food Can be Processed for Agriculture

By Jessica Theisman, Associate Editor

California Ag Today recently met with Tinia Pina, CEO of Re-Nuble. She told us about the company and what they stand for.

“We focus on sourcing food waste from wholesale food distributors,” she said.

Re-Nuble works on diverting food to food banks instead of landfills.

Re-Nuble primarily sources in urban areas due to compliance and regularity drivers to divert the food from landfills. New York City has a 2020 goal of achieving zero waste.

“The waste that can not be diverted to food banks is processed in a more cheaply manner,” Pina said.

This waste is turned into a product that is sold directly to farms as well as through resellers as an organic liquid fertilizer and pelletized fertilizer.

“It is just raw green food waste. There is that much volume at the wholesale produce distribution level,” Pina explained.

Food that ends up as ‘waste’ is usually because it does not meet food safety compliance.

“It could be from temperatures varying, the food fell on the floor,  broken pallets, and anything that would subject it to the risk of contamination; that is at the point that we collect it,” Pina said.

Re-Nuble is essentially networking, collecting, and turning food around as another renewable resource.

“We work with a hauler  to source it from our one wholesale food distributor and we take it on a daily basis and we basically, within 24 hours, turn it into either a liquid fertilizer that is sold as a fertilizer for controlled environment agriculture or as a pelletized fertilizer, which is great for soil environments,” Pina explained.

The fertilizer is either resold through some of Re-Nuble’s distribution partners or directly to the farms. Re-Nuble is currently in New York; however, they are working on extending out to California.

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Anna Gomes on Consumer Outreach

Tips on How to Speak to Consumers

By Patrick Cavanaugh, Editor

Anna Gomes is a senior at UC Davis studying Agricultural and Environmental Education, with a focus on plant and soil science. She spoke recently to California Ag Today about consumer outreach to the next generation regarding agriculture at the recent Bayer Crop Science Agvocate Forum. She also explained the plan to open up an Ugly Food Market in Sacramento.

Gomes said her background in agricultural education prepared her for consumer outreach.

“I had a really unique journey through my undergrad career. So as an Ag Education major, not only have I been focusing on communication, but a lot of it’s been focused on, “How do we take this hard science and actually convert it into something that’s understandable from a consumer’s point of view and their perspective?’ ” she said.

Gomes said agvocacy is something that she is working on.

“I’m really interested in the science and research behind moving agriculture forward, and I think there’s huge potential there, but how do we educate consumers about this research and about what’s going on to really make it impactful and make it actually practical in the ag industry?

“I think you can really start from their perspectives. What makes them interested in agriculture, and how are they connecting to it? Is it merely that they consumed food every single day?” Gomes said. “OK, start with that. What do you eat? Where does it come from? What do you know about it? It’s good to start with them and get to know them, instead of starting with you and getting to know them.”

The Ugly Food Market is something that Gome started at UC Davis, which aims to reduce food waste and eliminate food insecurity,

“It’s a startup through the UC Davis Graduate School of Management. We’ve been participating in entrepreneurial competition. We’ve pitched for seed funds, so wish us luck,” noted Gomes. “We want to start a physical marketplace in Sacramento, focused around food waste and food insecurity. We’re using shrinks from grocery stores, cull fruit from the farm, wholesalers and distributors, all in between the food chain.”

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“Grow On” To Help Growers

Bayer Crop Science’s Grow On Campaign Has Six Focus Areas

By Patrick Cavanaugh, Farm News Director
Nevada Smith

Grow On is a tool developed by Bayer Crop Science that farmers can use to identify, apply, and communicate sustainable farm practices. Grow On is made up of six different ag sustainability focus areas. This includes water, biodiversity, soil health, greenhouse gasses, labor, and food waste, all of which are important factors in sustainability.

California Ag Today spoke with Nevada Smith, Western Region Marketing Manager for Bayer Crop Science, about the six focus areas.

“One is water. And water is an especially important topic to Californians.”

Biodiversity. Think about the things you’re doing in the environment, from fertility, chemistry compounds.”

Food waste. How do you approach food waste? This is a big topic from a global aspect. Massive amounts of produce goes to waste. How can this food waste be utilized? I spoke to a grocer recently. They said they’re losing 30% of their food to food waste,” Smith explained.

“We think that soil health platform is the next wave of science for the ag industry. What’s going on in that microflora market in the soil? What are you doing to really adjust, get the air right, add right water, the right nutrients? Greenhouse gasses. How do you handle CO2 emissions?”

“Greenhouse gas is a buzzword among consumers. And what component of your farming practices are you doing to mitigate that from a practical standpoint?”

Labor is affecting everybody in California.

“And new labor laws are making business hard for small farmers. The minimal wage standard is a challenging issue, but how do growers become more efficient? How do they understand what the platforms are doing from a grower perspective? Smith said.

For more information on, visit: cropscience.bayer.us.

 

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Food Tank’s Farm Tank Summit in Sacramento Reveals Knowledge Gap

Food Tank’s 1st Annual Farm Tank Summit in Sacramento Reveals Gap in Agricultural Knowledge

Good Starting Point for Constructive Conversation

By Patrick Cavanaugh, Farm News Director

 

Several hundred food activists attended the First Annual Farm Tank Summit in Sacramento last week, hosted by Food Tank, in partnership with the Visit SacramentoCalifornia Farm-to-Fork Program, and University of California, DavisDanielle Nierenberg, co-founder and president of Food Tank noted having the event in Sacramento enabled West Coast agricultural experts to contribute to the discussion.

“We were really excited to feature California agriculture, because it’s such a huge part of the American economy,” said Nierenberg. “Californians are feeding the world, and we need to really highlight what these amazing producers are doing. When the Farm to Fork program of the Visitors Bureau reached out to us, we were thrilled to partner with such an amazing group of people, as well as UC Davis folks and the Center for Land-Based Learning,” she said.

Food Tank, an abbreviation of Food Think Tank, is a 501(c)3 non profit organization focused on building a global community for safe, healthy, nourished eaters that values education, inspiration and change.

According to their website:

Food Tank is for the 7 billion people who have to eat every day. We will offer solutions and environmentally sustainable ways of alleviating hunger, obesity, and poverty by creating a network of connections and information for all of us to consume and share. Food Tank is for farmers and producers, policy makers and government leaders, researchers and scientists, academics and journalists, and the funding and donor communities to collaborate on providing sustainable solutions for our most pressing environmental and social problems.

The organization begins with the premise, “Our food system is broken. Some people don’t have enough food, while others are eating too much. There’s only one way to fix this problem—and it starts with you and me.”

Food Tank, Farm Tank SummitWith the goal of feeding the hungry world of nine billion people in a few years, “Food Tank highlights hope and success in agriculture. We feature innovative ideas that are already working on the ground, in cities, in kitchens, in fields and in laboratories. These innovations need more attention, more research, and ultimately more funding to be replicated and scaled-up. And that is where we need you. We all need to work together to find solutions that nourish ourselves and protect the planet.”

Nierenberg clarified, “I don’t necessarily think we need to scale up food production; I think we need to scale out different innovations that are working. We’re wasting about 1.3 billion tons of food annually. That’s enough to feed everyone who’s hungry today, so we don’t necessarily need to ramp up production. We need to have better distribution, and processing practices that can help get food to people who need it the most,” she said.

“We need the political will behind those things,” she continued, “to build the infrastructure necessary for farmers to have better processing facilities, to have better storage facilities, to have better roads—if we’re talking about the developing world. I don’t necessarily think that we need to invest in producing more calories; we need better calories. We need more nutrient-dense food, and we need less starchy staple crops,” she noted.


Editor’s Note: Activists overtook the stage during the event, and the conversation was notably challenging for panelists. In an effort to Cultivate Common Ground to link consumers with the farmers who grow their nutritious food—and vice versa—California Ag Today has chosen to share some interesting statements from presenters and attendees to illustrate, perhaps, where the discussion could begin:

Regarding farms and processing facilities, big is bad, and small is good.

Regarding food quality, organic produce is healthy and safe, while conventional produce is unsafe and full of pesticides.

One of many moderators from the Bay Area, Twilight Greenaway, managing editor of Civil Eats mistakenly introduced Oscar Villegas, Yolo County Supervisor, District 1, as being from Sacramento County. When Villegas corrected her, Greenaway said, “I’m showing my Central Valley and Bay Area eliteness.”

Eric Holt-Giménez, executive director of Food First, noted that farmworkers are invisible in California agriculture. “There is racism in the fields. We need more worker unions and we need farmworkers to be paid much more than they are now and the farmworkers should be getting pensions from the farmer.”

Michael Dimock, president, Roots of Change, said to the audience, “You guys are doing a great job. Keep doing it. Keep working with your NGOs. They know policy. In turn, they can work with the legislators.”

“You need to be in the capital, pursuading the legislatures to support their bills. They want to be reelected, and if they don’t do what we ask them to do, they are scared.”

“In the meantime, we have to be nice to farmers because farmers are scared. We are putting a lot of pressure on them; They are in a vice. Our movement has supported bills AB 1066 – the overtime bill, minimum wage increases, organic farming legislation,  and workers’ rights.”

Kerryn Gerety, founder and CEO, Lazoka, referred to John Purcell, vegetables global R&D Lead, Hawaii business lead, vice president and distinguished fellow, Monsanto Company, and said, “There is an elephant in the room, the Monsanto rep. Monsanto has all the technology patents. We all want transparency and we need you to be more transparent.”

Continuing, “Why doesn’t Monsanto open-source some of your patents and release the intellectual property so others can take advantage of your teçhnology?”

Purcell answered, “We are an Ag company. Why would our company invest a million dollars on technology and let everyone have it? It is our investment and we need to have the opportunity for a return on that investment.

During a panel discussion of food companies including Blue Apron, Almond Board of California, and Bayer CropScience, that covered organics, Jennifer Maloney, food chain sustainability manager, Bayer CropScience, said, “We do support  the organic industry, because we have biological products that work in organic as well as conventional [farming].”

Maloney also talked about agricultural Integrated Pest Management (IPM) technology such as smart sprayers that spray only targeted areas.

Matt Wadiak, founder & COO, Blue Apron, responded, “It’s not about smart sprayers; it’s about biological systems in the field and trying to lean on them instead of spraying.”

Maloney replied, “Yes, that is exactly what IPM is.”

Keith Knopf, COO, Raley’s Family of Fine Stores, commented on the organic question, “the way we see organic versus inorganic—that is not the discussion for us. What’s more important to us is, is it the candy bar or the apple?”


This two-day event featured more than 35 speakers from the food and agriculture field, interactive panels moderated by top food journalists, networking, and delicious food, followed by a day of hands-on activities and opportunities for attendees. This was the second in a series of three 2016 Summits, following the Washington, D.C. Food Tank Summit that completely sold out and drew in more than 30,100 livestream viewers. The third Summit will be held in Chicago on November 16, 2016.

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Postharvest Short Course Focused on Taste and Quality

UC Davis Postharvest Course Covers Food Loss, Produce Handling

By Lauren Dutra, Associate Editor

The 38th annual Postharvest Technology of Horticultural Crops Short Course concluded TODAY, June 24 at UC Davis. Presented by Beth Mitcham, director of the Postharvest Technology Center, the course focused on postharvest produce quality and safety.

Beth Mitcham, Director of the Postharvest Technology Center at UC Davis.
Beth Mitcham, Director of the Postharvest Technology Center at UC Davis.

“This class provided a really broad overview of all the topics that are relevant for postharvest handling of produce, including fruits, vegetables, nuts, and also ornamentals,” said Mitcham. “We cover the crops that are grown in California, but because our audience includes a lot of people from around the world who want to learn the basics about postharvest handling, we also cover a few crops that aren’t grown in California for commercial purposes. Furthermore,”she noted, “we also address some of the latest technologies that are available for maintaining excellent quality,”

Maintaining a good cold chain throughout the entire shipping line is critical, according to Mitcham. “We talk a lot about temperature,” she elaborated. “In fact, we tell students the three most important things about postharvest biology and technology are: temperature, temperature and temperature. We discussed many other technologies during the week, but they are secondary to good temperature management,” she noted.

Mitcham also mentioned food waste and how to control it. “So much effort goes into growing the crop, which includes harvesting at the prime of ripeness and getting it in the pre-cooler, on the trucks and to the market. But, people buy it, put it in their refrigerator and then don’t eat it. It goes bad and they waste it. It does happen,” said Mitcham. “Our goal is to try to make the product as hearty as possible while retaining really good flavor so it can last in your refrigerator as long as possible but also so people want to eat it, so hopefully it doesn’t sit in there and degrade.”
UCD Postharvest Technology Center

In reducing postharvest losses, Mitcham commented on the dissonance between addressing postharvest flavor and consumer satisfaction, “In some ways they are two opposite ends of the spectrum; some of the things we do to reduce losses are counter to delivering good flavor to consumers,” she said. “We really need to do both, and that was a big part of our message this week.”

Also at the event, the California Leafy Green Marketing Agreement (LGMA) discussed food safety principles, and Trevor Suslow, a UC Davis Plant Pathologist with the Postharvest Technology Center, discussed good agricultural practices (GAP) for food safety.

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Food Waste Solutions Include the American Farmer (Part 2)

Biotechnology is Part of the Food Waste Solution

by Patrick Cavanaugh, Farm Director

Last week, California Ag Today published an article about the food waste in America discussion held at the 2016 Maximum Residue Level (MRL) Workshop in San Francisco. Jay Vroom, CEO of CropLife America, felt the farmer’s voice was largely absent from the topic of food waste. In the second part of this series, Vroom advocates for the use of bioscience to help eliminate food waste.

According to Vroom, the most vital occurrence of food waste is in production. Consumer food waste is very high, but Vroom believes bioscience is key to keeping the statistics low in all areas of production. “The opportunities for crop protection and biotechnology span a visual that would certainly overcome food waste yield potential with biotechnology,” he said.

In addition, Vroom stated that other genetic enhancements, crop protection tools, seed bed preparation, soil health, moisture management, modern plant nutrient, fertility programs and equipment advances all underscore why farmers need to be included in the food waste discussion. “Most especially,” Vroom said agriculture community can contribute, “the miracles of precision agriculture that are out there in the hands of farmers in almost every corner of the United States today and in almost every farming system.”

At the MRL Workshop, Vroom told the audience, “The farmer’s role and the farmer’s voice in all this is largely absent. We’re looking to help lead—with many of you and others who are willing to participate in a broad coalition—in getting the farmer’s voice in there.”

Jay Vroom, CEO, CropLife America
Jay Vroom, CEO of CropLife America

The farmer’s voice, equipment and biotechnology are imperative because, “modern genetic seed advancements and breeding also generate plant material that is healthier and results in longer storability,” said Vroom. If food were to have longer storability, it wouldn’t be as much of a consumer issue.”

Vroom’s affiliates, who have surveyed the food waste landscape and uncovered results that encourage farmers to speak up, concluded, “The farmer’s voice in the food waste conversation is an opportunity that we see as wide open.”

“I think a place for us to start would be to get the facts together,” Vroom stated, “such as, ‘How much more food would be wasted if the technologies the farmers used to produce those crops today weren’t available and you would have a lot less storability, shelf life, etcetera?’”

“We know that insects, disease, weed control, regulators, fumigants, direct and indirect food waste data is out there,” Vroom said. “We need to gather that up, work together, and assemble it by crop to tell that story about the crops that are directly consumed by consumers.”

Vroom discussed food waste mostly with regard to produce; however, animals and dairy are equally important in the conversation. “Certainly  it gets a little more complicated with protein; but once again, better animal nutrition results in less food waste from meat, milk and eggs. Those are animal agriculture partnerships that we don’t often reach out to, yet another opportunity for us to be able to tell that indirect story as well,” he said.

Vroom contended there are many ways for farmers in every aspect of agriculture to “join forces, connect to the food waste and food safety debate, and to eliminate these critical issues, which certainly time to time is also front of mind for consumers and voters. And we’ve got a great story to tell,” he concluded.

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Food Waste Solutions Include the American Farmer

American Farmers are Part of the Food Waste Solution

By Patrick Cavanaugh, Farm News Director

At the Maximum Residue Level (MRL) Harmonization Workshop in San Francisco earlier this month, California Ag Today spoke to Jay Vroom, CEO, CropLife America about food waste. This is part one in a two-part series; part two will be published on June 21, 2016.

Jay Vroom, president and CEO of CropLife America (CLA) launched the MRL workshop with a discussion of food waste in America and the strong message that we can all do better. We can all reduce food waste in our homes and restaurants; farmers readily reduce food waste in their growing practices. Vroom said famers have the opportunity to spread the word on how they are a big part of the solution in reducing food waste.

Jay Vroom, president and CEO, CropLife America
Jay Vroom, CEO, CropLife America

“Readily-available facts about food waste on social media are often sensitive and misunderstood,” said Vroom, particularly the comparison between the large amounts of wasted food every year and poverty levels. Vroom said circulating speculation includes the claim, “Roughly 80 billion pounds of food is wasted annually and supposedly accounts for an estimated 20% of landfill volume.

The majority of food waste comes from the consumer level, Vroom noted, and includes school cafeterias, restaurants and institutional facilities. “Yet, growers are just as important because the product they are producing suffers an avoidable fate in early production,” Vroom said.

The grower’s voice deserves to be recognized at the start of the food waste conversation—where it begins—in production losses. “Farmers do not get credit where food waste has already been reduced,” Vroom stated. “We need to highlight the fact that food loss is already prevented because of modern agricultural technologies.”

“When we do landscape surveillance on the internet and elsewhere,” he said, “there’s virtually no voice of the American farmer in this conversation about food waste.” The farmer’s voice is crucial to determine the time their goods get to the consumer and the time they are thrown out, Vroom emphasized. “A consumer may have produce that goes bad within three days of purchase. If biotechnology could increase that time by a day or even two, the amount of food waste could be reduced,” Vroom said.

Part two of the series, to be published on June 20, will cover the ways Vroom recommends ensuring farmers have their voices heard and how bioscience could eliminate food waste.

Washington, D.C.-based CLA, the largest trade association that represents pesticide manufacturers, distributors and formulators in America,  supports farmers and growers with environmental policies based on scientific facts.

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