The business cards have been printed. Our mission and vision defined. I’m sitting here navigating through our newly launched website and I realize, “It has all come together.” There’s a deep sense of appreciation with each click of the mouse as I think about where we are now and where (consciously or unconsciously) it all began.
The rollout of Sprout Solutions and our two proprietary software products has been 10 years in the making, and for me, even before then. Growing up in southeastern Missouri, I’ve been in the agriculture business much longer than my professional resume would have you believe. I was raised a country girl in a farm community, and I have the chops to prove it.
Did you know corn is in the grass family and the U.S. is the leading corn producer? Or that 98 percent of soybean and livestock farms in the country are still family farms?
I know that contrary to a popular belief, bread (or any wheat product for that matter) should never be stored in the refrigerator. When it comes to cotton, every single part of the plant is used, leaving no room for waste.
And I know that 40 percent of today’s global population works in agriculture, making it the single largest employer in the world.
(Okay, enough showing off.)
So, it struck me at a very young age the monumental role agriculture played in our world, and its reliance on all participants in the system – farmers, laborers, policymakers, researches, traders and consumers – each having their own unique strengths and contributions that sustain the collective whole.
The idea of expanding on efficiencies, minimizing waste and maximizing production in the ag industry isn’t new. Sustainable agriculture seeks to integrate three main objectives: a healthy environment, economic profitability, and social and economic equity. And most important, it takes understanding the agriculture collective, including growers, food processors, distributors, retailers and consumers to achieve sustainable results. In the “Principles of a Systems Approach to Agriculture,” the authors share:
“Managing the whole requires an understanding of how the various parts of the farm ‘system’ can operate together in the context of local climate, soil, available technology, economic opportunities and constraints, family and community expectations and government policies. This ‘workable whole’ may be termed a ‘sustainable system’ if it operates at the required level of productivity and profitability and continues to do so over extended time.”
Understanding the whole is where Sprout Solutions began.
Where does Sprout Solutions fit in?
Over the past decade, my partner, Jim, and I have watched the industry take hit after hit from significant challenges – including mad cow disease and the melamine crisis – that often occur as a result of a contaminated ingredient compromising feed rations. Foodborne illnesses cost the U.S. economy more than $55 billion every year, leading to the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) that ensures preventive controls for safe feed and safe food (government policy). We recognized the need for a unique, customizable software solution for both feed mills and commodity traders.
And what we’ve learned over the years is that like technology, the agriculture industry is continually evolving. Any improvement in data sharing, safety monitoring or tracking becomes quite significant. Startup journalist Tas Bindi shares of the progress technology has made in the agriculture industry with ZDNet:
“This is where technology is playing an increasingly important role. The sophistication of today’s sensors, Internet-enabled devices, software applications and cloud data storage facilities are allowing vast amounts and types of data to be captured, stored, manipulated and fed into decision-support tools to guide business decisions.”
We carefully studied the impact of these challenges as well as the possibility to maximize sustainability and to advance the agriculture industry through technology. We’re motivated to help our customers become more agile, more efficient and more profitable in the agriculture industry through our CommodiTrade and Milling Station software products.
We all have an obligation to the collective, and our contribution is Sprout Solutions.
Gretchen Henry is the co-founder and CEO at Sprout Solutions, a full-service software platform that provides mills and merchandisers in the agricultural industry with accurate, Web-based tools and systems to ensure the food they produce is not only safe, but traceable. Connect with Sprout Solutions on our Facebook and Twitter pages.