Transparency, Sustainability and Certification: The Future of our Food Production and Distribution Systems

Three Part Series: Part 1

Melissa Baer and Jemma Penelope present a three-part series about the role of transparency, sustainability and certification in the future of our food production and distribution systems.

Summary

Consumers and producers know that the food we grow and the agriculture we rely upon is no-longer simply about dollars and commodity foods. Our food and our agriculture is an opportunity for us to acknowledge that future prosperity both on and off farm depends on integrated, informed and increasingly data-driven systems.

We no-longer have the luxury of returning to our previously deeply siloed thinking and linear solutions. Today’s challenges are too complex and multifaceted. And ahead of us lies a proposed future ‘singularity’ representing a coming age of abundance where all products, solutions, food preferences and production methods must co-exist. Solutions to such sustainable agricultural and food production challenges require us to bring together economics and markets, nature and ecology, society and social science. These make up the pillars of sustainability. Manual systems of third-party Certification were the previous generation’s first response to the sustainability challenge.

For current and future generations, the solutions lie in transparency and nuanced data storytelling. In this three part series, we explain why.

In Part One — The Transparency Key — we explore what transparency really means in sustainable food production and explain why transparency is so fundamental to the future of sustainability in human systems, agriculture and commerce.

In Part Two — Markets Built by Transparency — we describe how to use transparency to build new, sustainable markets, industries and economies and pin-point the key Transparency Takeaways for New Zealand Agriculture

Finally, in Part Three — Certification is Dead Data — we take a look at the future of transparency and why certification as we currently know it has had it’s time. We explain that modern transparency solutions are all about data and meaningful connections between producers and consumers. It is these connections that will keep markets thriving, stop monopolies in their tracks and create an evolution from corporatism to competitive market places.

The Transparency Key

Food Production and Commerce in the Future

Across the many domains that inform how humans understand their world — economics and markets, nature and ecology, society and social science — we increasingly see that the future of managing and organising ourselves relies on these silos interacting and combining. It is often referred to as “the age of the generalist”. Increasingly we need people who can combine information and relate knowledge across silos. Economics and market systems now consider biophysical and social resources essential components. What once were silos are now the pillars of sustainability: the economy, the environment, and society.

We are moving from a mechanistic, linear understanding of our world to an interconnected systems approach. Data, technology and the Internet have paved the way, but what does this shift mean for how we produce food and sustain livelihoods in market economies? What is the future of agriculture and food production commerce? The thread that connects this evolution is transparency. In our agriculture and our food production markets, transparency is key to moving into this future of interconnected human systems [1][2].

But transparency as we know it, is a tool as yet only half-way built.

Transparency sits at the convergence of three important trends. First is the effect of digitisation and technology on agriculture. Secondly, increasingly informed and conscientious consumers’ are wanting more sophisticated health and environmental outcomes from their food and fibre production systems [3]. This consumer trend is sometimes referred to as the “Pro-cumer”, where their behaviour more reflects that of a professional procurement process rather than a consumer. Thirdly, increasingly globalised supply chains are driving a move away from dependency on local markets and climates, to be replaced by delivery of anything, from anywhere, at any time. From different directions these three trends are pushing towards transparency as a fundamental part of food production and commerce in the future.

In this first of three papers, we’re asking here: what do we mean by the term transparency? And then, why is transparency so fundamental to the future of sustainability in human systems, agriculture and commerce?

Our conclusion is that the role of transparency in our future food markets cannot be overstated. It will be the key that unlocks the types of regulations required to create liquid, scalable, diverse marketplaces. It will be the driver that underpins the consumer confidence and freedom of choice necessary so that our modern production systems are capable of delivering the robust health and wellbeing outcomes modern society demands [4].

What do we mean by the term transparency?

Transparency is essentially about access and provision of information about what products are and how they are made. Often this term is used alongside traceability. Transparency and traceability both allow us to recognise the inherent value of unique lands, land uses, and production methods (often referred to as terroir) and translate that to consumer value propositions in food products our agricultural systems produce. But there is an important distinction. Traceability is one aspect of transparency but does not in and of itself cover the depth and breadth of information that is required at each stage, only the ability to connect information at one stage of the product life to the next.

Traceability is about being able to connect components and attributes of a product along stages of the products’ life including previous stages and forms [5].

Therefore, the deeper issue is one of transparency: the depth of information that can be traced at each stage of a product’s life. Let us create a context for our discussion here. Figure 1, below, presents the nomenclature to work from. It draws a picture of the various concepts and components of the nature of commerce, markets and agricultural products and food concerned in this discussion space.

Figure 1: The Transparency Triangle

Transparency, Information & Data Volume

If transparency is about data, then increasing transparency means there is an exponential increase in the volume of information in the marketplace.

We have moved away from local markets where transparency and trust data was limited to that available from close geographical interactions and short production chains from producer to consumer. Globalisation, urbanisation, and the processing and manufacturing of food is replacing this touch-and-feel, direct experience and increasing both geographical and cognitive distance between consumers and the producers of their foods.

Data is needed to bridge these widening gaps and keep markets connected to their consumers to deliver the social, economic and environmental outcomes that local high trust (but non-scalable) supply chains can deliver.

Such data and information becomes relevant as the explosion of information access through the Internet compounds this issue [6]. The Internet itself is decades old, but its reach in terms of volume of information contained and the number of consumers accessing it continues to expand, especially in developing countries where literacy and Internet penetration continue to accelerate.

Data and information encompass terms such as certification and assurance, at the one end covering processes and systems (how was the product made), and at the other covering product integrity (what is in the final product) [3][6]. Information can be physical or biological (such as ingredients or contaminants), but also social (such as labour conditions) and political (issues of legality or nation-state of origin) [7]. These terms and concepts begin to illustrate the sheer volume of information that becomes relevant when we move from discussion of traceability into discussions of transparency. This is amplified by the Internet’s reach, it expands in terms of the volume of information contained and the number of consumers accessing it, especially in developing countries where literacy and Internet penetration continue to accelerate.

Market Type

Markets can be divided into different types based on the nature of the value the market products hold. Figure 1 shows these different types of markets as:

● Commodity
● Value added
● Niche
● Hyper Niche

Commodity

Commodities are considered products that are mass-produced and unspecialised, and where the product’s wide availability leads to smaller profit margins as other factors of production (such as brand identity) become smaller components of their price (sale price is almost entirely determined by the cost of production only). Commodities are tied into global production — products are produced, bought and sold across locations globally [8].

Being able to produce products en-mass with wide availability has brought notable benefits to human societies in the past. Wartime technology post WWI and WWII allowed industrialised nations to move faster, and become good at manufacturing and chemical technologies. But applying such developments to the agriculture sector resulted in a homogenised, volume-based approach to ‘feeding the world’. As human knowledge has advanced, we now come to see that volume-based, commodity approaches to human nutritional health and natural ecosystems take more away from us than they contribute [9]. In commodity markets, transparency is limited only so far as is required to assure that products are able to be considered equivalent and products produced in different areas can be traded for the same costs.

The fallacy is that we describe the challenge for our modern agricultural systems as “How will we feed the world”. Yet this is a very colonial outlook when applied on a global scale — someone else, somewhere else must provide food. We see it reflected in ineffective aid packages from developed nations to undeveloped nations, based on caloric intake targets instead of nutrition and satiation outcomes [9]. In the rare instance where nutrition is considered, it is often as modified or added ingredient in isolation, not considered in context of the nutritional needs of the people. It’s a commodity-based assumption that our low-nutrition high-calorie production methods are the way forward. The ability of the world’s agricultural countries to increase their yields indefinitely has been disproved and we are seeing declines in the growth rate of yields.

We have reached the limit of being able to produce increasing volumes of food from fixed parcels of land [8].

To move on from this limiting perspective, instead we must turn to asking “How can the world feed itself?”.

This points towards a decentralised approach that is also better able to accommodate what we now know about human microbiome, cultural and natural ecosystem diversity. It may also turn attention to improving the quality of food production, where volume of production was once the aim of commodity markets. This commodity approach has an impact on land use and environmental outcomes as well, as it does not consider the best use of land, but rather considers how the land can be used to produce as much volume as possible, at whatever cost. Those costs have been economic, social and environmental, and have thus far existed as externalities in a commodity approach that rarely factors in the full ‘true costs’ of food.

In commodity markets there have been improvements in transparency in terms of so-called market-access factors: standards of hygiene, chemical residue or contamination requirements that producers, processors and manufacturers need to meet in order to sell into a market. This is a form of transparency that limits itself to simply assuring that a product can be considered equivalent so products produced in different areas can be traded for the same costs.

Because these systems have evolved in commodity markets, this approach to transparency doesn’t offer any product differentiation or value addition. Applied in product batches with low granularity, the approach relies on trust that data available accurately reflects the attributes of each individual unit. It’s a reactive approach that incurs the costs of auditing and compliance without offering opportunities for proactive quality improvement. Hence, commodity prices prevail.

Value-added

When a commodity product has an additional element of value added to it that increases its price relative to a similar product without that element — this is value-add. Value-add might be as simple as a recognisable brand name attracting a higher price or, an additional ingredient or farming input or process identified in the final marketed product. Adding a point of value is a step towards diversifying and segregating a market. A value-added product may be produced in a particular region or country (such as French Champagne), or be certified to a certain standard (Organically Certified). Value-added products typically sell for a higher price point than commodities, with higher profit margins, and more specific target customers. In agriculture, being able to join a value-added market means suppliers are able to attract a price premium that supports improved production inputs or farming systems (for example, Organic produce) [5][10][11][12]. In value-added markets transparency is greater, so that the value that is added is clearly communicated. For example, where value-added is a particular brand identity, transparency relates to the ability to identify the brand and information behind it.

Niche

Entering a Niche market is to enter into the world of Psychographics. Alongside considering consumer demographics, psychographics are segmenting the market into personality traits, values, attitudes, interests, and lifestyles of consumers. These factors signaled a move from traditional mass marketing (where consumers were considered to have the same psychographic features) to niche marketing. In marketing terms, a Niche is a way to break down a market and specialise a product offering even further than value-add targeting a more specific portion of consumers [12].

In agriculture, niches are a way for producers to further differentiate themselves from other producers, and tailor their production to the specifics of the social and ecological environment context in a more sustainable way [12].

A Niche approach allows producers to gain a loyal following of consumers, thereby ensuring they are not at the whim of market prices for their product, which is the challenge of a pure commodity approach.

Niche, by the meaning of the word, is also synonymous with ‘small’ suggesting that a niche product is attractive to a smaller subset, or minority, of consumers. This can present issues and challenges within itself, but also presents opportunities for agriculture to service multiple niche markets from one plot of land, with smaller differentiated land uses able to tailor themselves to various consumer niche markets.

In Niche Markets, Transparency is important [17]. Producing for a Niche Market requires enough transparency to distinguish products from being a more simple value-add [12]. A product needs transparency to carry the information required to meet the psychographic attributes and requirements of the market Niche.

Niche Market production also introduces new challenges in the costs of production. As production moves away from volume and towards “small”, costs of production change. Volume-based processes have efficiencies that are not always possible when moving to a Niche Market product play. Business models need to adapt and technological trends will be crucial in ensuring this transition is possible and accessible. Having information available and using existing infrastructure efficiently has a huge role in ensuring this is possible.

Hyper-Niche

Hyper-niching further opens up the never ending combinations of psychographics: health requirements, environmental priorities, functional food attributes, producer stories, culture, ideals, and human and animal welfare. To compare, a niche market is one that caters to a particular consumer subset with preferences identifiably distinct from the consumer base at large: a minority of consumers. This means niche markets are not defined by how much is sold per say, but the ‘niche in the market’ it is sold to.

A hyper-niche differs as a market defined by specific geographic or social production factors. Only a few people, perhaps in a certain location, can produce the product. For example, the term “terroir” used in relation to wine, whiskey or cocoa [8].

The constraints of a hyper-niche come from the geographical or physical ‘niche’ that produces it, rather than the size of the group of consumers it is attractive to. A hyper-niche recognises an even more specifically defined value-add and unique use for a product. It allows the micro ecosystems of specific farms or regions to capitalise on their unique attributes while ensuring they are producing the most appropriate product for that specific land. For example, flat sandy land will be used for vegetable growth instead of being used for sheep, beef and dairy. At its best, a hyper-niche market opens up financial return that reflects the producer tailoring production to the naturally occurring, geographically specific factors of production and interconnecting the economic health of the enterprise with the environmental health of the land.

In a Hyper-Niche market, transparency is essential. Without Transparency, Hyper-Niching is next to impossible. There must be transparency to make information about the specific geographic or social production factors sufficiently clear that a Hyper-Niche can be defined and established. In Hyper-Niche markets the cost to the consumer is not directly linked to the cost of production. It inherently has a scarcity aspect and therefore will always have a greater demand than there is supply.

Yet today’s hyper-niche can be tomorrow’s standard-bearer: the driver of much wider and deeper change.

When combined with technological trends, the costs of artisan or hyper-niche production can decrease per unit over time. Alongside this is the exponential nature to changes in consumer preferences and requirements. Early doubling trends provide increasingly accurate predictions of how the future will be shaped. Early adopters and products that begin initially in the “luxury” category can go on to set the pace of expectations of mainstream markets. Early-adopting, affluent leaders set the direction for what the rest of the population will have access to — a phenomenon referred to as The Tipping Point [22]. Organic food is a prime example — organically certified food started as a niche and an exclusive product category, and has become much more widely accessible over time.

Production Scale

This nomenclature of Markets covers production across four scales that map onto the Market types

● Global — the scale of commodities
● Regional and National — the scale of value-added
● Local — the scale of Niche
● Geographically-Specific — the scale of hyper-Niche

Production at the Global scale is based on exporting across continents. This puts distance between the land and the consumer and export supply chains have not had the ability to carry any data about the production land through the supply chain. Without this capacity to carry such transparency, there has not been that much data to carry through the supply chain. Any transparency solutions available today typically go “around” the existing supply chain, or augment aspects of it. Global Commodity supply chains do not typically carry or support transparency. This is largely due to the time in which these supply chains were established, technology at that time was not available to support circular nonlinear flows of information, of which is now required to provide the level of transparency desired.

The lower scales of production map to different market types. A product made in a specific Region or Nation may establish this feature as a value-added attribute and create a Value-Added market for their products. This can continue at the Local and even more Geographically-Specific scales, creating Niches and Hyper-Niches.

Data type

Transparency is a subject concerning data and information, and so transparency concerns many different types of data and information. These include (but are not limited to):

● Legal, Regulatory Compliance
● Health and Safety, Labour Laws
● Country of Origin
● Certification
● Farming inputs
● Manufacturing or Processing information
● Genetics (Heirloom, G.E. and G.M.)
● Energy, Carbon Inputs
● Ecological Data, Environmental Impact/Indicator Data
● Farmer personal anecdotes and stories

Comparing current Commodity Markets, to Value-added, to Niche and Hyper-Niche Markets we can track some trends. Commodities are often limited to containing transparency around legal compliance such as health, safety and labour laws. Value-add is often achieved through information around Country of Origin or Certification compliance. Niche Markets have been observed segmenting based on Farming Inputs or particular genetic varieties. Ultimately imagining Hyper-Niches introduces markets based on transparent energy and carbon balances, and detailed ecological and environmental data.

Much of this transparency and data is missing in current agricultural markets. Without a clear use for data, it’s rarely collected. Conversely, without the transparency and data being ready to use, it is difficult to develop markets that use high levels of data and transparency. On the ground, this makes people question if consumers will pay for high transparency, data-informed food, and this dampens efforts at on-farm data generation and sharing.

Why is transparency so fundamental to the future of sustainability in human systems, agriculture and commerce?

The different components described in Figure 1 are part of describing why transparency is so fundamental to making transition to sustainability in terms of the economy, the environment and society. This transition is something our commerce and agricultural systems need to remain viable and thriving as we enter exponential times of rapid change. Failure to feed, let alone nourish a growing global population while observing increasingly degraded natural and production landscapes, points to the need to make fundamental changes to our agricultural and food production system [9][13][14].

This transition is about moving away from the current economics of our food system, currently treated as a linear process of taking human and natural inputs and delivering food and economic return [3], based on the thinking that humans and natural systems are homogenous. What we now know about our environment and our economy from the bigger picture of systems thinking is that these things are not homogenous. Humans are diverse in what they want and need and how they make decisions in the economy. The natural landscapes our agricultural systems are built upon can actually produce great diversity from soils, water, geography and topography and many other features [8]. Our expanding body of knowledge is making it clear that human, ecosystem and economic health all require a model based on diversity and niches of different human needs and diverse production landscapes.

Our commodities approach needs to transition to a system based on market diversity, production niches and products that directly link landscape and ecosystem diversity, to value for consumers, to value returned to producers [2][17]

This transition requires more transparency for consumers, and creates opportunities for more producers to do well in agriculture (protecting the economic benefits agriculture provides) [13][14][7]. Thinking in terms of Commodity, Value-added, Niche and Hyper-Niche described above, Figure 2 puts these market types into a matrix of market size, number of participants and level of product diversity and differentiation. Moving from one market type to another is a process of increasing transparency (In the figure below, the thickness of the arrow indicates the change in level of transparency from one market to another, in the direction of the arrow).

Figure 2: Market Size Maxtrix

The ultimate destination as we move down the triangle is increased transparency that enables niches and hyper-niches to develop. But what is the benefit in this? Niches and hyper-niches capitalise on the inherently diverse nature of primary production systems. Agriculture creates this diversity because it brings together many factors of production that can vary in a great number of ways — geography, topography, meteorology, hydrology, plant and animal physiology, chemical inputs and many more [8].

Hyper-niching enables a more sustainable approach — tailoring production to the naturally occurring, geographically specific factors of production, instead of unsustainably manipulating the environment to tailor production inputs into homogenous production outcomes.

With this hyper-niche approach the environment benefits by protecting it from the intensive manipulation that’s required when large amounts of producers are trying to make the same product in vastly different locations and environmental conditions. Even seemingly homogenous land can have very different micro systems from one hectare to another. The ability to tailor production to diversity and unique attributes frees up agriculturalists and primary producers to pursue innovation in the products they produce, from the production inputs they choose.

As these changes occur, there are important implications for Competition, and for Market Diversity, which are elements of moving down the triangle.

Market Diversity

If diverse landscapes and diverse agriculture sectors are needed to address negative social and environmental outcomes of market and consumer systems that have gone before, diversity in land use and food production are key solutions. Our new knowledge in economics, environment and social outcomes points to diversity as the key to long-term sustainability. And transparency is required to ‘see’, incentivise and reward that diversity.

Number of value attributes

Production landscapes and agricultural businesses producing a greater diversity of products require diversity of consumption, too. Consumers need to be able to make more choices and for this they will need more information to navigate the increased availability of products [5][11]. Put simply, transparency is required for consumers to actually see, and therefore achieve consumer diversity in the marketplace. This is what’s meant by the term ‘Number of value attributes’. Transparency is needed in the ways in which products differ from one another, and how the different values of each product are made up of different features or attributes. As we transition from a low-diversity to a high-diversity marketplace, transparency is the enabler.

There is strong evidence that the number of people behaving in this informed pro-cumer way are following ‘early doubling trends’ where the number of early adopters are rapidly doubling. At the same time, the volume and type of data produced on-farm or in production is also increasing. The value of this data has thus far been primarily used to achieve efficiencies behind the gate. Yet the market has little systemic ability to utilise this data in a meaningful way to reward the producers. One early example of this is Synlait Milk’s Lead with Pride program that recognises and financially rewards farmers for various aspects of on-farm assurance and represents a move from high volume commodity to a more quality or value-added approach [15].

When the market can reward farmers for data produced, and the value of adopting technology behind the gate is not limited to (somewhat invisible) efficiency outcomes, we will see a real explosion in the consumption of and demand for data-informed products.

Level of product innovation

In order to create products with diverse product attributes, innovation will be required. Fortunately, markets and economies love innovation. A great example of innovation in agriculture that supports diversity is in robotics [13][16]. With more diverse agricultural options available to producers, smaller units of land might be in a given production use. To cover all these different types of production over smaller land parcels, robotics can help where human labour cannot. Innovation in robotics and smart insights from sensory and data collection technology is making it possible to use mechanisation and precision in a way that supports the economic viability of smaller scale production [3] [i].

To make all this possible, markets will have to be strong enough to continue to supply these products at scale, even in this complex and diverse space. This introduces the role of Market Competition. Another area of innovation will be in the processing of raw materials or agriculture products. The access to smaller-scale production facilities, decentralised in nature and cost effective in small batches, will produce the diversity and transparency required.

Competition Level

A monopolistic market is one where only one producer is in play, and consumers have no other producer to choose from. A competitive market is one where many producers are able to produce products and consumers are free to choose between them. A truly competitive market is one where a company can enter or leave the market without changing the cost of the product or access to a product by consumers [20]. The next level of distinction is between a ‘capitalist’ competitive market, from the other variant of the ‘corporatist’ market which has come to dominate in many parts of the world in recent years [18].

In capitalistic markets consumer choice interacts directly with markets’ entrepreneurs and small businesses coming together on a playing-field level for everyone. This definition of capitalism is credited with a level of competition that drives dynamism, innovation, reduced inequality and better economics outcomes for more people. Conceptually, if consumers instead have choice, this puts pressure on companies to improve their products and services so as to continue to attract consumers. That drives innovation and that’s the edge that a capitalist market has over today’s corporatism [19]. Alternatively, when a market is a monopoly, this pressure from consumers isn’t there and innovation stagnates. In contrast, corporatism exists when, as a result of monopoly power, consumer and worker choice is controlled by corporate entities together with banks and governments [18][19]. Corporatism is today’s manifestation of monopolistic power.

Transparency opens up markets to greater competition — moving from corporatism to capitalism — because it supports consumers’ ability to choose between different products and different consumers.

Greater transparency of market information also enables producers to compete in the marketplace [1]. When there is the option of making products that carry different features and attributes that consumers can transparently see, it’s possible for many producers — not only one — to participate in the market.

Having a diverse market of products is directly tied to the move from a monopolistic to a competitive market. When products are sold as a commodity, there isn’t any diversity from one product to the next and monopolies quickly develop. A movement away from commodities, towards diversity, is conceptually also a move away from monopolies to a competitive market with greater room for more producers and more consumer choice [1].

In Conclusion

The role of transparency in our future food markets cannot be overstated. It will be the key that unlocks the types of regulations required to create liquid, scalable, diverse marketplaces. It will be the driver that underpins the consumer confidence and freedom of choice necessary so that our modern production systems are capable of delivering the robust health and wellbeing outcomes modern society demands [4].

Consumers have already moved down the triangle of transparency. They are asking for more data, they want geographically-specific products, they seek product innovation and greater choice, and they are quicker to challenge monopolies more actively than ever [13][14] [17]. The creation of the concepts of ‘functional foods’ and ‘DNA epigenetics’ are examples of this. Consumer expectations are changing in ways that demand greater market competition and much greater market transparency [1][4][5][11][12].

The journey down the transparency triangle has only just started, wherein lies a world of future products that represent our opportunity to achieve ecological sustainability while addressing human health, society and economic sustainability concerns.

To see the exponential ability of humans to create products, trace the growth of Stock Keeping Unit (SKU’s) throughout history [21]. This trajectory tells us that the opportunity to create new food, fibre and agricultural products is exponential. Humans seek out the novel and innovative economics offerings and at a certain point — ‘the tipping point’ — these new and different offerings are adopted by the majority and become established norms. This is relevant because these ‘tipping points’ occur faster and faster in line with the way consumer technology has developed [22].

Technology is unlocking access to information that meets — and then extends — consumers’ expectations, as well as insights to their own consumer preferences [3]. At the same time, technology is also converging to make the small, niche production economically viable enough to create the hyper-niche market places these new informed, connected consumers are looking for. The Internet of Things (IOT) offers the capability to measure things on-site, in real time and in a decentralised format. Blockchain, as a decentralised technology for data transferring and sharing, can verify the truth and accuracy through consensus algorithms [17]. These trends work to amplify the interaction of robotics and agriculture referred to above [6]. Where robotics previously meant mechanisation in factories and for large-scale production, it is now being applied to technology focused at small scales, measuring, and producing.

The convergence of these technological trends are ready and waiting for us to start building markets based on transparency. Just how we do this is the subject of Part 2 of this series — Markets Built by Transparency. Once we see transparency as the key to future the future of our agricultural markets, we must now use transparency to build new, sustainable markets, industries and economies and pin-point the key Transparency Takeaways for New Zealand Agriculture

About the Authors

About the Authors

Jemma Penelope

MSc Forestry Science, Environmental Markets and Biodiversity Offsets

Jemma Penelope is an economics and accounting researcher, currently undertaking her second Masters in Commerce and Management. Combining her earlier academic career in biology, conservation and environmental markets with her subsequent commercial experience in accounting and business management today she specialises sustainability via impact business and social entrepreneurship — where the commerce tools of business, economics and accounting are used to address solve this generations’ complex and challenging social and environmental issues. She compliments this through her role in political party management, speaking to her interest in the macro-level changes required on national and international levels to bring political and economic solutions to issues of sustainability in business and industry.

Business and the Environment have always been her homes: from specialising in biodiversity & environmental offsetting, then in accounting and business consulting, to her current role as a research & business freelancer. She’s focused on how to make economies more sustainable & prepare the businesses driving them to thrive in the future.

Jemma’s skills & experience span industries, disciplines, professions & countries. She passionately subscribes to solutions that span disciplines such as environmental science, economic policy, & business consulting because the future needs a new combination of knowledge, skills and abilities.

Melissa Baer

Entrepreneur, Farmer, Transparency and Sustainability Specialist

Melissa is the Co-Founder of Webtools Agri-tech, which is focused on delivering Transparency Technology products to enable the processors and aggregators (first point of collection of primary industry products) to build their transparency capability, identify opportunities, move with agility into the uncertain future.

The businesses primary focus currently is software products that enable these companies to tell food and provenance stories through data. We add value to the data created and collected behind the gate and enable that data to be pushed through the supply chain easily to the end consumer.

We also have research projects on going into the circular and transparent supply chain, the role of the consumer in a circular sustainable supply chain and solutions for the consumer to participate in a data driven supply chain.

Melissa has farmed herself, been raised on a Certified Organic farm since 1987 (Organic being the Transparency attempt 1.0). She’s built businesses in distribution of farm products, and agriculture tourism. Melissa lectures on the Importance of Smart Agriculture and The Challenges of Innovation in Agriculture

Melissa Baer — melissa@webtools.co.nz

Jemma Penelope — Jemma@webtools.co.nz

References

[1] Improving market transparency in the agricultural and food supply chain (2019) European Commission Memo. Brussels, 29 November 2019 https://ec.europa.eu/info/sites/info/files/food-farming-fisheries/key_policies/documents/market-transparency-faqs_en.pdf

[2] Getting value from artificial intelligence in agriculture (2019) Matthew J. Smith. Animal Production Science 60(1) 46–54

[3] Artificial Intelligence for Agriculture in New Zealand (2019) AI Forum of New Zealand Research Report, available from https://aiforum.org.nz/our-work/publications/

[4] A Dangerous Disconnect: New Research IDs Food and Ag Trust Gaps. The Center for Food Integrity, 2018.https://www.foodintegrity.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/01/Consumer-Trust-Research-News-Release-Jan-9-FINAL1.pdf

[5] Digital data in the agri-food supply chain. Andrew Cooke, Renzare Systems, November 4, 2019. https://www.rezare.co.nz/digital-data-in-the-agri-food-supply-chain/

[6] Big Data in Smart Farming — A review. Wolfert, Ge, Verdouw & Bogaardt, 2017. Agricultural Systems 153 (2017) 69–80.

[7] Answering society’s call: A new leadership imperative. How do transparency, empathy, and meaning work in practice? (2018) McKinsey Quarterly https://www.mckinsey.com/~/media/McKinsey/Business%20Functions/Organization/Our%20Insights/Answering%20societys%20call%20A%20new%20leadership%20imperative/Answering-societys-call-A-new-leadership-imperative.ashx

[8] Agriculture in the Global Economy (2014) Julian M. Alston and Philip G. Pardey. Journal of Economic Perspectives — Volume 28, Number 1. P. 121–146

[9] Global agriculture towards 2050 (2019) United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization. Available from http://www.fao.org/fileadmin/templates/wsfs/docs/Issues_papers/HLEF2050_Global_Agriculture.pdf

[11] Are you making authentic supply chain promises? Andrew Cooke, Rezare Systems, February 26, 2017. https://www.rezare.co.nz/are-you-making-authentic-supply-chain-promises/

[12] Enhancing Value for New Zealand Farmers by Improving the Value Chain. Saunders, McDonald & Driver, (2011). Research Report №324, Lincoln University, Canterbury. Published: 2011, Motu Economic and Policy Research https://motu.nz/our-work/environment-and-resources/agricultural-economics/agricultural-greenhouse-gas-emissions/enhancing-value-for-new-zealand-farmers-by-improving-the-value-chain/

[13] “How Data helps farmers to tell their stewardship story to agribusiness.” Jason Tatge (2019) Farmobile, https://blog.farmobile.com/how-data-helps-farmers-to-tell-their-stewardship-story-to-agribusiness/

[14] “Trust is the new currency in Agriculture” Jason Tatge (2020) Farmobile, https://blog.farmobile.com/trust-is-the-new-currency-in-agriculture/

[15] Guy Trafford questions Synlait’s decision to further expand in the North Island. Guy Trafford (2018) 1st March 2018 Interst.co.nz https://www.interest.co.nz/opinion/92405/guy-trafford-questions-synlaits-decision-further-expand-north-island

[16] How big data will revolutionize the global food chain. Clarisse Magni (2016) McKinsey&Company https://www.mckinsey.com/~/media/McKinsey/Business%20Functions/McKinsey%20Digital/Our%20Insights/How%20big%20data%20will%20revolutionize%20the%20global%20food%20chain/How%20big%20data%20will%20revolutionize%20the%20global%20food%20chain.ashx

[17] Rabobank’s Wes Lefroy explains how blockchain technology can enhance trade, provenance and transparency, and eliminate payment risk, in agricultural markets. Wesley Lefroy (2017) 14th December 2017 Interest.co.nz https://www.interest.co.nz/rural-news/91393/rabobanks-wes-lefroy-explains-how-blockchain-technology-can-enhance-trade

[18] “Don’t Confuse Capitalism with Corporatism”. Matt Rogers. International Policy Digest — Business /15 September, 2017. https://intpolicydigest.org/2017/09/15/don-t-confuse-capitalism-with-corporatism/#:~:text=Capitalism%2C%20however%2C%20is%20not%20the,and%20customers%20as%20lacking%20options.&text=SB%2FE%20Capitalism%20is%20a,system%20or%20outside%20of%20it.

[19] ‘Capitalism Vs. Corporatism’ Edmund Phelps (2009) Critical Review, 21: 4, 401–414 To link to this Article: DOI: 10.1080/08913810903441344

[20] “Sustainable Capitalism: A Matter of Common Sense” by John Ikerd. Kumarian Press (August 1, 2005)

[21] ‘The History of Money’. Jack Weatherford (1998) Published by Crown Business, March 10, 1998

[22] ‘The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference’ Malcolm Gladwell. Published by Little, Brown, 2000.

--

--

Regenerative AgTech & Sustainable Supply Chain specialist. Farm raised. Opinions my own. Opinions formed from 20+yrs in business www.linkedin.com/in/melissabaer

Love podcasts or audiobooks? Learn on the go with our new app.

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store