We are what we eat. Awareness of the food quality, origin and traceability have never been so high. Consumers are interested to know where the food they eat was grown, how it was produced and who is the farmer who grew it. More and more consumers want to go to a farm, see how a farmer is producing food and even buy directly at farmer gates. The era of food traceability and transparency is here.
Farmer cooperatives play a huge role in US economy and are the enabler of the agricultural industry whose role is to protect farmer interests in acquiring inputs at lower prices, providing agronomy advice to farmers and helping farmers to market their products and sell them at better prices. All in all, the key role of farmer co-ops is to help farmers improve their farm profitability and ensure long-term sustainability.
In 2016, there were 1,953 agricultural co-ops in USA with 1,9 million farmer memberships (source: USDA). Even 1,040 of all cooperatives in the USA are Marketing Co-Ops, which means that their key focus is on crop marketing and selling their member commodities.
Bringing Farmer Stories to Consumers
Marketing Co-Ops do the crop marketing, buy commodities from farmers, package them and often deliver to end consumers under the joint brand. This is the base point when we speak about traceability and food origin when it comes to farmer co-ops. Let's see the customer journey and experience when buying and consuming the products.
Consumers meet the co-op joint brand when buying the product. This is the reason why co-op needs to provide traceability information about the produce, as well as why it is extremely important to provide consumers with a simple way of leaving feedback about the product quality, tasting, and general impressions.
However, the moment of providing traceability information to a consumer is a very precious moment. At that point, we have all attention of a consumer-focused on this information and making a great impression by showcasing the real farmer story, what was the effort to grow those apples or pears, from which field do the apples come from, how do farming activities look like (photo gallery), which inputs were used for production and much more.
How to Secure Traceability?
It might seem that ensuring data like that is complex, but the solution to this is quite straightforward. I will immediately exclude all manual and analog options that include physical paper reporting on traceability or old-school approaches and focus on digital options and scenarios:
- Spreadsheet approach— Farmers submit their traceability reports (spraying, fertilizing, harvesting, irrigation, etc.) to a cooperative via e-mail. Cooperative aggregates all the reports, but there is no platform for showcasing the traceability of those farmers to end consumers. This makes the spreadsheet approach not so appealing.
- Multi-platform approach— Farmers use various farm management solutions. They can export traceability data to a spreadsheet and send it as a report to a cooperative, but in this case, cooperative will get reports in dozens of formats (every farm management software has different report formats). Expecting that farmers will convert their reports to a format requested by the cooperative is a false expectation, we see that approach failing. Also, expecting that cooperative will reformat all the reports into a single format to be able to aggregate the data doesn't work—it is too much work and generates too many errors. There is another possibility, that a cooperative has a central solution with API and then all farm management systems used by farmers within a co-op integrate with the central platform to automate traceability data collection. The question here is who will bear the cost of such integrations (farmers or co-ops?) and how to include traceability for farmers that don't use any platform.
- Central-platform approach— Cooperative selects the farm management platform like Agrivi that supports management of a farmer cooperative. Each farmer gets his farm management account on the platform where all farming data can be tracked. Cooperative gets a top-level advisory account where there is a farmer registry, farmer contract management, messaging with farmers and reporting module. As farmers are entering the data, co-op gets real-time traceability reports in an automated and structured way. Also, after harvesting, farmers can create a public traceability report that is accessible to consumers via a QR code that can be placed on the product
How to Tell a Farmer's Story
Farmers are the heroes of mankind today—without farmers, there is no food. Without food, there is no mankind.
Showcasing how the food was grown, where does it come from and who are the farmers behind the food means giving credit to farmers and saying thank you for feeding us.
If a co-op uses a central farm management software platform like Agrivi to collaborate with their farmers, then giving credit to farmers is easy. Take a look at the video here:
With the possibility to design a public traceability report with your co-op branding and data that you would like to show, Agrivi farm management software provides you endless possibilities to deliver your farmer stories right to the hands of consumers.
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