Key Performance Indicators (KPIs)
Sustainability can be a complex and dynamic concept, difficult to both communicate and quantify. Performance indicators simplify the task by measuring and validating both current and future progress towards a more sustainable operation. MTI has identified the top twelve Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) that cover the most critical aspects of a sustainable agricultural operation. KPIs are both quantitative tools as well as communication tools to reach your sustainability goals and help tell your story.
Often taken for granted, clean air is a key part of what makes our communities healthy places to work and live. Practices that minimize dust, particles and other pollutants in the air are important to maintain the health and well-being of farm employees, nearby communities, and even the crops we grow. In many cases, practices that minimize local air quality impacts also help conserve soil or improve crop protectant use efficiency.
Crop Protection and Integrated Pest Management (IPM):
Integrated pest management is a fundamental part of controlling for weeds, pests, and plant diseases in any sustainable agricultural system. Practices such as crop rotation and using disease-resistant varieties are examples of IPM tools growers use to reduce the need for crop protection materials.
Investing in technologies, experimenting with new techniques, and overcoming unexpected difficulties are possible when an operation is economically viable. Maintaining and regularly reviewing business plans, risk management tools, and having a succession plan in place are examples of standard practices of sustainable operations.
Ecosystems & Biodiversity:
A successful sustainable growing operation considers the natural habitat, plants, animals, and organisms that surround it, while also adhering to food safety requirements. Biodiversity is a key component of environmental sustainability and agriculture can play a huge role in habitat protection and maintenance.
There is both an economic and an environmental cost to energy usage from farming to processing. While costly, energy use also has a direct link to greenhouse gas emissions. From fuel for operating machinery and transporting products to electricity for running processing equipment and keeping the lights on, tracking energy usage by source is important for reporting purposes and can help to reduce costs and emissions within your operation.
Being good stewards of the land includes using the right type and amount of fertilizer, in the right place, and at the right time to ensure crop needs are satisfied. Growers understand excess nutrients due to poor fertilizer management are not only costly but can be lost to the environment and impact ground water and the atmosphere.
Food Safety is about being committed to producing the safest food possible and maintaining a consistently safe operation from field to fork. Having an organized, well-documented, certified, and consistent food safety plan is critical to any operation’s sustainability success.
As the concentration of greenhouse gases (GHGs) increase in our atmosphere, growing, harvesting and processing operations can take a proactive approach to minimize their carbon footprint by incorporating more sustainable practices into their core business strategies. Emitting fewer direct and indirect GHGs not only benefits the planet but provides opportunities to cut operational costs by using fewer resources, such as energy, fuel, fertilizer, and water.
Any successful operation requires the hard work and dedication of their employees and the communities from where they live and work. Taking care of employees goes beyond the field and processing operations. Social accountability means being a good employer as well as a good neighbor.
Soil Management and Conservation:
Healthy soil is the foundation for healthy crops. Soils do much more than simply provide water and nutrients to crops. Healthy soils grow stronger, and more pest and disease resistant crops. Knowing your soil type and what is in your soil is the basis for all other crop management decisions.
Waste Reduction and Material Management:
Reduce Reuse and Recycle. The cost of waste isn’t limited to what is sent to the landfill. It also involves inefficient use of raw materials, unnecessary use of energy and water, and the disposal of organic materials. Proper resource management helps minimize your organization’s environmental impact and benefit the bottom line.
Water is an essential and limited resource especially here in California. Conserving water and maintaining the quality of water leaving fields and processing plants is vitally important to fresh produce operations today. As the competition for water increases, conservation and identifying alternatives uses for recycled water have become essential sustainability strategies.