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Pilot Testing

While hundreds of SISC stakeholders have participated in developing metrics, there is no substitute for first-hand, on-the-ground experience. SISC learned a tremendous amount from on-farm pilots in 2010 and 2012, which resulted in practical changes to the draft metrics. By forging consensus among leading growers, buyers, and public interest organizations, SISC aims to promote a common industry approach and reduce the potential for proliferation of similar-but-different sustainability reporting systems.

Current Pilots

2017

Working with Sustainable Conservation, NRCS, and local RCD's from Santa Cruz and Monterey Counties, SISC has been engaged in two years of piloting our draft Simple Irrigation Efficiency metric (ET).  The group is currently incorporating pilot feedback into the draft ET metric.  The metric will then go through another review by the SISC Technical Advisory Committee before a final review from the SISC Coordinating Council.  This pilot is in its final stages.  SISC aims to finalize this metric and release it for public use during 2017.

Past Pilots

2014-2016

Supported by a CA State Conservation Innovation Grant from USDA's Natural Resources Conservation Service, SISC spearheaded a project in the leafy green sector of Central California during the 2015 and 2016 crops seasons to review and design supply chains so that they are better able to share the value of on-farm stewardship.

Many growers are currently working to improve the stewardship of the natural resources on, and around, their farms.  With this project, we aimed to build a new model for supply chains – one which helps capture market forces to reward this continually improved natural resource stewardship.  This project was focused on creating a clear and safe way for growers, and the supply chains of which they are a part, to understand, use, and share this important information.  In the end, our goal was to create a system that helps with both on-farm management and with communicating the value of that improved management throughout the supply chain.  Participating growers collected data on fertilizer use and water use efficacy using related SISC metrics.

Representative members of each sector of a leafy green supply chain (specifically head lettuce) participated in this project and together created, tested, and finalized this model.  At the end of the project, we created a practical, useable supply chain model to illustrate best practices for sharing on-farm data from performance metrics across each node of the supply chain.

Project participants included:

  • Church Brothers Produce
  • Taylor Farms
  • Western Growers Association
  • ProAct
  • Compass Group
  • NRCS and local RCD’s
  • Sustainable Conservation
  • NRCD
  • The Sustainability Consortium

Pre 2015 Pilots

Supported by a Conservation Innovation Grant from USDA's Natural Resources Conservation Service, SureHarvest conducted a small number of focused pilots for the 2013 crop season.

Using the SISC Calculator with one or more SISC Version 1.0 Working Metrics, the pilot participants explored how on-farm metric data can help them address clearly defined market opportunities, demands, and/or regulatory pressures. In doing so, these growers were helping to validate and refine metrics, while driving consistency in approach and methodology.

Highlights include:

  • In California's Central Valley, where there are growing concerns about water availability and quality, a group of tomato processors and affiliated grower-suppliers are looking at nitrogen and water usage. The pilot represents a potential starting point for the creation of industry-wide baselines and a peer-learning program.
  • Colorado potato shipper Farm Fresh Direct is continuing a variety trial with growers across five states, with a goal of validating the enhanced sustainability performance demonstrated by a new variety during a 2012 pilot. One of its large retail customers is sharing in the outcomes. 
  • A group of New Jersey vegetable growers is working with a local input supplier to introduce performance metrics in their operations. They are seeking to document sustainability as part of a larger effort to raise awareness with buyers in a "buy local" campaign. 
  • University of California, Davis is looking at ten years of crop production data from its research farm to assess what can be learned from longer-term metric results. Multiple years of data from one location will provide UC Davis and SISC with a snapshot of how metrics can be used for trending and also provide insights into the impact of various management practices on metric outcomes. 
  • In California, a group of Salinas Valley romaine lettuce growers are looking at nitrogen and water usage in an effort to address concerns about water availability and quality.