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New Data Analytics Tool Helps Advance Wheat Farmers’ Sustainability Efforts

Wheat field

In 2015, we set a goal to enroll 70,000 acres of wheat in a fertilizer optimization plan by 2020. In 2018, we expanded our commitment by setting a target to sustainably source 50 percent of our wheat by 2025.

To accomplish these goals, we collaborated with Land O’Lakes SUSTAIN™ and the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) as they developed a data analytics tool called the Truterra™ Insights Engine. This data platform helps farmers advance their environmental stewardship acre-by-acre and see the financial return on their sustainability investments. It also creates a framework for continuous improvement while benchmarking against yield and profitability to ensure specific and scalable on-farm solutions that benefit both natural resources and the farmer.

Additionally, the SUSTAIN™ partnership leverages the nationwide network of Land O’Lakes’ agricultural retailers. As trusted advisors to farmers, these retailers are ideally positioned to deploy the Truterra™ Insights Engine, deliver expert advice on each field, and facilitate flows of information between farmers and other partners in the wheat value chain.

In 2017, we launched the first phase of our wheat sustainability program in the Chesapeake Bay watershed area of Maryland and Pennsylvania. Here, SUSTAIN™ began working with local agricultural retailer, The Mill, to advance stewardship efforts with farmers across 10,000 acres of wheat. Activities included direct farmer engagement; conservation trainings for both The Mill and their farmers; and deployment of the Truterra™ Insights Engine to collect an array of data, generate a baseline of results for each field, and identify areas of improvement for each farmer.

Farmer with stalks of wheat

From this baseline assessment, we learned that many farmers in Maryland and Pennsylvania have already adopted several growing practices that mitigate nutrient loss and runoff while building healthy soil. Early baseline results included that, among the acres assessed:

  • 55 percent have cover crops,
  • 89 percent benefit from a nitrogen management plan; and
  • 75 percent receive split application of fertilizer.

Once we had an in-depth snapshot of the farmland acre-by-acre, we began working to build on this progress to further enhance farm stewardship, productivity and resiliency. The ultimate goal: to equip wheat farmers with new tools to help protect the air, land and water – and the economic health of their farm – while supporting sustainability across the supply chain.

In 2019, we began collaborating with Heritage Cooperative to launch a similar effort in Ohio, another important wheat sourcing region for Campbell. By the end of FY2019, Heritage had engaged about 20,000 acres of wheat in the SUSTAIN™ program and was moving quickly toward our 2020 target.

Rows of tomato plants in a field

When it comes to Tomatoes, We’re Family

The most notable strengths of our tomato supply chain relate to our partnership with our tomato farmers. Two key aspects are the proximity of the family-owned farms we work with – many within just five miles of our processing plants – and the close and long-term relationships we enjoy with our tomato farmers, some of them working with us since the 1940s.

Working closely with these farmers and seed companies each year, we select tomato varieties that have higher initial “tomato solids” content (sugars, minerals, proteins, etc.). This helps to reduce the amount of energy required to evaporate the water out of them to create tomato paste. In the fields, farmers increasingly adopt drip irrigation, which helps save water, and regularly test soil samples to optimize fertilizer use. For years, we have worked with growers individually to embed sustainability into field management, while using data to inform best practices.

Sustainability doesn’t just stop at the edge of the tomato field. It is also embedded throughout our plant operations. Over 90 percent of the tomatoes that go into Campbell products come from our two tomato processing plants in California at Dixon and Stockton. Acquired in 1976, these two plants serve as an important step in our tomatoes’ journey as they ultimately make their way into over 60 million households across the United States every year. And there is not a single part of the tomato that is wasted in the process. The tomato ingredients are crafted via Campbell’s proprietary methods specifically for use in our high-quality product recipes.

The people at our plants have their own personal stories, rich with appreciation for Campbell, their work and the familial bonds they have established over decades. The average length of employment at our tomato plants is 20 years, but some workers have been working at the plants for over 40 years. Three Dixon, California, plant employees – Rosalio, Eugenia and Sara – have been there since 1975, when the plant opened. Our operations manager started at the plant when he was 18 years old as a mechanic, and one of our top mechanics began his career years ago as a sorter on the line. And it goes on. These are the stories that make us proud – and help us live up to our Real Food Philosophy, one tomato at a time.

Campbell tomatoes are processed within eight hours of being harvested, helping lock in nutrients and ensuring the tomatoes are preserved at peak ripeness.

Tomatoes are mechanically harvested when fully ripe

Harvesters shake the tomatoes off cut vines

They are sorted and loaded into trucks

Within eight hours or less of being picked, they are at our facilities being turned into paste or diced tomato

The paste or diced tomato is stored until it is time for our plants to make soups, sauces, salsas and juices

Sustaining our priority ingredients: Building relationships, investing in the long term

Our plant-based priority ingredients are tomatoes, wheat, potatoes, soy and jalapeños. Here’s a snapshot of how we continued to work toward our sustainable agriculture goals in FY2019:

Tomatoes

Given how critical tomatoes are as the largest ingredient category for our Meals & Beverages division, we continue to prioritize working with farmers on embedding sustainable agricultural practices. In FY2019, drip irrigation adoption increased to cover 78 percent of tomato acres. Because of this, water used to irrigate Campbell tomatoes has been reduced by 25 percent per pound of tomato since 2012. CO2 emissions from fertilizer use also dropped 26 percent in the same period, helping farmers become more resource efficient while also increasing yields.

Over the years, we have worked with farmers in other ways as well, helping them write grant proposals for state funds to incorporate sustainability efforts that meet the state of California’s requirements for GHG reductions from business and agriculture. And, on an individual basis throughout the year, we provide them with know-how and best practices on things such as irrigation scheduling technologies. Finally, we’ve started working more closely with our brand teams to spotlight our family farmers and partners in the field through ongoing social media engagement, including advertorials, a #TomatoTuesday Twitter series (held during the harvesting season to connect consumers to the origins of their beloved tomato products through sustainability messages), as well as a YouTube video partnership with Prego Farmers Market featuring one of our family farmers.

Wheat

In 2019 we began to work with Heritage Cooperative in Ohio to launch a SUSTAIN™ partnership with wheat growers in our Ohio sourcing region. The cooperative is owned by farmers and also provides agriculture inputs and farm management advice. We have a goal of enrolling 60,000 acres of wheat into this sustainable management program in Ohio by the end of 2020. And by the end of FY2019, our new partner had already enrolled 20,000 acres and was moving quickly toward achieving the full goal.

Potatoes

In 2018, Campbell greatly increased its sourcing of potatoes with the acquisition of Kettle Brand, Cape Cod, Jays and Tom’s chip brands. We have been laying the groundwork to launch a 2020 potato sustainability program, by baselining how our farmers have been managing environmental and social issues to identify opportunities for improvement. Kettle Brand’s longstanding commitment to sustainability and its tradition of transparently telling farmer stories already gives us a fantastic foundation to build on!

Soy

Soybeans are legumes that use little fertilizer, while adding organic matter to the soil, making it a good crop for rotating with grains and other row crops. We source all of our soy domestically in the United States and in 2019, began building relationships with the soybean industry to learn about sustainability efforts in our supply chain. The United Soybean Board invited our then Manager of Sustainable Agriculture to be featured in a video on soybean sustainability efforts which furthered these relationships.

Jalapeños

In 2019, we initiated Sustainability and Responsible Sourcing self-assessments with some of the suppliers of the jalapeños used in our Pace salsas. We anticipate using the baseline data for expanded assessments in FY2020.

Rows of tomato plants in a field Group of UC Davis researchers in a corn field

Celebrating 12 years
of research with UC Davis

In 2007, we established the Campbell Soup Company Fund for Research in Sustainable Agriculture in Vegetables at the University of California, Davis (UC Davis) College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences to support education and public outreach about sustainable agriculture and research. The endowment has helped fund over a decade of critical research in natural pest management, soil health, crop rotation, cover crops, nitrogen uptake, and water and drought management. The research has helped uncover new sustainable practices and opportunities for us, including work in 2011 on the reduction of CO2 emissions through drip irrigation, which has been a cornerstone of our tomato sustainability program. And in 2017, UC Davis students worked in the field and labs to better understand the long-term impact on soil health from improved farm management practices over a 20-year period.