As part of a multi-company effort to accelerate a commitment to sustainable agriculture and recycling, Walmart representatives on Tuesday assembled the CEOs of Monsanto, Unilever, PepsiCo, General Mills, Cargill and others at the Sustainable Product Expo in Rogers, Ark., for a discussion on advancing green innovation.
According to Walmart, several companies at the roundtable made commitments to "drive more collaboration and efficiency across the current food system," focusing on reducing greenhouse gas production and improving agricultural efficiency.
Monsanto took the opportunity to unveil two company-wide sustainability efforts centered on nutrient efficiency and water efficiency.
First, nutrient efficiency is expected to improve through advanced uses of seed technology and more precision management tools, accompanied by additional research and soil health partnerships with the National Corn Growers Association and the Walton Family Foundation.
Leon Corzine, a farmer from Assumption, Ill., said the plan excites him about future opportunities in precision ag that will leave his land better than when he started.
"That really is what sustainability is all about," he said during a Tuesday press call. "We are able to [take care of the soil] better than we ever have before because of technology."
Corzine said technology continues to allow farmers to increase productivity, lower environmental footprint, and produce a higher-quality product.
"We're working with folks on building prescriptions for our fields, which really leads to utilization of fertility," he said. "That all leads to efficiency."
The second goal, Monsanto said, would be to increase water-use efficiency in irrigation across its own global seed production operations by 25% before 2020, providing annual stakeholder progress reports via its existing sustainability updates.
The company plans to achieve the goal by expanding implementation of drip irrigation systems, already used at company facilities in Hawaii, India and Mexico.
"We have a tremendous opportunity to increase efficiency with modern irrigation technology and precision farming best practices," said Bob Reiter, Monsanto's vice president of global supply chain. "We have been working to test and promote implementation of water-efficient technologies for years, and these efforts will be accelerated with our new irrigated water-use efficiency commitment."
Several other companies and organizations joined Monsanto in representing food and agriculture, including the Dairy Farmers of America and Cargill.
Working with Walmart, Cargill plans to develop a small-scale pilot focused on improving beef supply chain visibility by adding traceability advancements. Walmart said the plan is part of the company's goal to source 15% of its beef supply with environmental criteria by 2023.
As part of its commitment made Tuesday, Dairy Farmers of America CEO Rick Smith said his group would continue to enroll farmers in the Gold Standard Dairy program, an on-farm audit that ensures animal care and wellness, employee training and milk safety and quality.
Catch a replay of a portion of the Sustainable Product Expo on Walmart's website.