Organic Broadcaster



Stonyfield works with partners on open-source platform for soil health

By Britt Lundgren, Stonyfield

At Stonyfield, we have a long-held commitment to reducing our impact on climate change. We were pioneers in conducting lifecycle analysis to understand where all of our emissions come from, so we figured out pretty early on that over half of our emissions come from agriculture. This means that if we’re serious about reducing our impact on climate change, we need to work with the farms we source from to help them reduce their emissions, too.

This is why we have teamed up with Wolfe’s Neck Center for Agriculture and the Environment, the Foundation for Food and Agriculture Research, and LandPKS to launch OpenTEAM. OpenTEAM is an innovative new software platform that offers farmers fast, easy access to more accurate recommendations on the specific things they can do to improve soil health on their farm. The platform offers field-level carbon measurement, digital recordkeeping, remote sensing, predictive analytics, and input and economic management decision support. The list of OpenTEAM partners is on the website; it continues to grow.

We know that organic is a fundamental starting point when it comes to ensuring that farms are using practices that build soil health and store carbon in the soil long term.1 But even with organic certification, we know that most farms have the opportunity to further improve soil health and reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, and this is where it can get tricky. Every farm has a unique combination of soil types, weather, and production practices, so there’s no one-size-fits-all solution to reducing emissions and improving soil health. The good news, though, is that we know there is tremendous potential for farms to pull CO2 out of the atmosphere and store it in the soil by improving soil health.

Farmers currently have access to a range of tools that assist with improving soil health, but it can be time-consuming and cumbersome for farmers and companies like Stonyfield to move between multiple measurement tools and models to access the information they need. OpenTEAM solves these challenges by creating interoperability between many of these existing tools, making what was once a complicated process more accessible and user-friendly.

With OpenTEAM, farmers enter data once into one of several recordkeeping tools that are part of the platform. OpenTEAM also enables farmers or researchers to pull in data from soil tests, satellite imagery, weather data sets, and other farm management software. All of this data can then be easily moved through models that can assess total farm GHG emissions and carbon sequestration, and into decision support tools that can provide site-specific recommendations about how farms can improve soil health, increase soil carbon sequestration, and reduce other sources of GHG emissions from the farm. Some of the tools in the OpenTEAM platform include:

FarmOS – a web-based application for farm management, planning and recordkeeping
LandPKS – aka Land Potential Knowledge System, supports producers in determining land potential to identify the best land-use practices
Quick Carbon – low-cost reflectometry to generate reliable soil carbon data for ecological understanding, decision making, and markets
OpTIS – an automated system to map tillage, residue cover, winter cover, and soil health practices using remote sensing data
COMET- Farm – a whole farm and ranch carbon and greenhouse gas accounting system
Cool Farm Tool – an online greenhouse gas, water, and biodiversity calculator for farmers
DNDC – process-based model that simulates the soil biogeochemical processes occurring in agricultural systems

OpenTEAM is an open-source platform designed to be usable by farms and ranches of any type or scale, anywhere in the world. Recordkeeping tools like USDA’s LandPKS will likely be a good entry point for very small farms that have little information about their soils, while more robust recordkeeping tools like FarmOS are capable of tracking all of the recordkeeping needs of an operation of any size. Farmers can access these recordkeeping tools from a mobile device as well as on a computer.

Wolfe’s Neck Center (WNC), a nonprofit research and demonstration farm and organic dairy located on 600 acres of preserved coastal landscape in Freeport, Maine, is the headquarters for OpenTEAM. WNC uses its setting to connect people of all ages to the food they eat and where it comes from, using regenerative agriculture, innovative soil health research, and visitor education. Stonyfield first began working with Wolfe’s Neck when we teamed up in 2014 to launch their organic dairy training program.

In 2020, OpenTEAM is building a network of 10-15 hubs, which are farms or farming organizations selected as the primary locations for field testing OpenTEAM. Once the platform is ready for wider release, the hubs will serve as ambassadors to help build the on-farm user network. Farms that are interested in participating in OpenTEAM but don’t have the research capacity to sign on as a hub can instead sign up as an OpenTEAM network farm.

More information about how to participate in OpenTEAM is available on the website.

Launched in the summer of 2019, the first year of OpenTEAM’s work has been focused primarily on creating interoperability between the tools that are a part of the OpenTEAM platform. A small number of hubs associated with researchers involved in OpenTEAM are beginning to trial the platform, and the group plans an open application period to create more hubs in the fall of 2020.

Over time, OpenTEAM’s goal is to build a wide and diverse network of farms that are using the platform to track soil health and emissions from their farm, identify adaptive management strategies to improve soil health and reduce emissions, and build soil carbon.

Stonyfield has started working with a small group of organic dairies in the Northeast to trial OpenTEAM and use the platform to drive improvements in soil health and soil carbon sequestration in pastures. The farms are starting out using FarmOS to track all grazing activities, soil testing results, and other data relevant to assessing farm GHG emissions. Stonyfield hopes to use the OpenTEAM platform to engage all of the dairies that provide milk to them in improving soil health and tracking the benefits for climate. If every dairy that sends milk to Stonyfield were to achieve an annual increase in soil carbon of about 1 ton per acre, this would reduce Stonyfield’s net GHG emissions by 90,000 tons annually—the equivalent of about 1/3 of the company’s entire annual GHG footprint.

Beyond supporting farmers in assessing soil health and measuring GHG emissions, OpenTEAM has the potential to be a powerful tool for streamlining farm recordkeeping, enabling farmers to track a piece of information once and use it across multiple applications. One area that we are particularly interested in exploring at Stonyfield is the ability to use FarmOS and the OpenTEAM platform to support the recordkeeping needed for organic certification. Some farms already use FarmOS to track their records for organic certification, and we’re exploring ways to create easier pathways for more farmers to do this and streamline their recordkeeping needs.

Agriculture is the source of about 20% of global greenhouse gas emissions, but we have the opportunity to flip that around and turn agriculture into a potent tool for fighting climate change through storing more carbon in the soil. OpenTEAM will give farmers access to the tools they need to become a part of this solution. We’re excited to start using these tools with the farms we work with at Stonyfield, and hope you will join us in the growing OpenTEAM network.

About Stonyfield
As a leading organic yogurt maker, Stonyfield takes care with everything it puts into its products and everything it keeps out. By saying no to toxic persistent pesticides, artificial hormones, antibiotics and GMOs, Stonyfield has been saying yes to healthy food, healthy people, and a healthy planet for 35 years. Stonyfield, a Certified B-Corp, is also helping to protect and preserve the next generation of farmers and families through programs like its Direct Milk Supply and Wolfe’s Neck Organic Training Program as well as StonyFIELDS, a nationwide, multi-year initiative to help keep families free from pesticides in parks and playing fields across the country. Learn more about the company.

Britt Lundgren is Stonyfield’s Director of Organic and Sustainable Agriculture.

From the March| April 2020 Issue


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