Supporting Sustainability and Profitability in Canadian Agriculture

Posted December 13, 2023 | By: Nutrien Ag Solutions

In a recent report published by Scotiabank, growers shared perspectives on the challenges they face in adopting sustainable practices, including rising production demand, shifts in consumer trends, policies and regulations, and economic uncertainty. The report also explores the role financing can play in addressing these challenges, including providing support to growers who make investments to improve the sustainability of their operations.

"We recognize the impact that sustainability has on various aspects of producers’ businesses and that it comes with many challenges,” said Kim Brand, Global Head of Sustainability at Scotiabank. “In response, we’ve adopted a more comprehensive approach, addressing both the challenges and opportunities facing growers in what it means to embrace sustainable farming.”

Nutrien Financial works with Scotiabank to offer financing options for growers to purchase their crop inputs while also advocating for Canadian growers to further the agriculture industry. Nutrien Ag Solutions is an active proponent in the implementation of sustainable farming practices, which includes finding common threads among growers and members of the value chain. Scotiabank’s focus on how the banking industry can help drive positive change combined with Nutrien Ag Solutions work with growers to implement whole-acre solutions that achieve measurable sustainable changes at the field level will drive sustainable outcomes. Whether driven by changing policies, consumer demand, or a combination of the two, sustainability is key for Canadian growers, and those who make the transition earlier have a longer timeline to benefit from transitioning to sustainable farming.

“Through our collaboration with Nutrien, we consistently support growers in navigating the intricate landscape of government relations, consumer expectations and challenges arising from factors like weather fluctuations and interest rates,” said Janice Holzscherer, Managing Director and Head of Agriculture at Scotiabank. “We aim to support producers in a meaningful way as they manage these multifaceted demands, helping to ensure their success in a complex environment.”

Many of the biggest obstacles growers face when it comes to implementing a sustainability program are tied to critical economic considerations like the cost of entry, potential impacts to profitability, and the cost of maintaining practice changes. Both Nutrien Ag Solutions and Nutrien Financial are working to address these obstacles. A few key points from Scotiabank’s publication and the ways Nutrien is addressing these pain points include:

1. Financial stability is key.

Farmers recognize the importance of sustainable practices, yet they must account for the hurdles and costs that come with implementing them. They are also acutely aware that to innovate, their operation needs to be financially stable. According to Scotiabank’s report, “While there is significant variation across segments, on average Canadian producers incur about 83 cents in expenses for every dollar of revenue, impacting their ability to invest in technology and process innovations and hindering their ability to transition towards sustainable growth.”

With current market pressures, innovation has become more challenging, sometimes forcing growers to choose between growth or profitability. Utilizing specialized financing for certain parts of their operation is a method for growers to achieve financial stability and ensure there remains opportunity for sustainability improvements.

Nutrien Ag Solutions and Nutrien Financial  pair an economic lens with agronomic sensibility to help farmers protect their operating line and increase profitability. “This is a dollars and cents decision,” says Matt Marshall, Vice President of Sustainable Ag and Retail Strategy for Nutrien Ag Solutions. “Nutrien offers a sustainability program that is enticing for growers to participate in because it puts more dollars in their pockets.” Nutrien’s Sustainable Nitrogen Outcomes program has been in place for three years, and the program includes best management practices that are already on growers’ minds to improve nitrogen use efficiency.

Nutrien Ag Solutions offers financial incentives where growers can get paid for improving their nitrogen use efficiency. Specific incentives are based on the operation and the outcomes and the program enables growers to begin documenting their current practices and provides a plan for continuous improvement.

“For years, Nutrien Financial and Scotiabank have extended credit and offered financing programs to support growers with their crop input purchases,” says Andrew Gallagher, Senior Director of Business Development at Nutrien Financial. “There is clearly an opportunity for our roles to expand as we work to address the unique challenges faced by growers pursuing sustainability initiatives.”

2. Outdated infrastructure is a barrier to innovation.

Deficiencies in infrastructure create more obstacles for growers considering sustainability efforts. Digital technology adoption rates in Canada’s agriculture sector are among the lowest in any industry, but digital technology is precisely the type of innovation that provides rich opportunities for growers and can easily give them a head start on sustainability.

As a leader in the industry, Nutrien Ag Solutions uses precision agriculture tools including GPS and geospatial data processing analytics as part of its subscription based digital platform, Echelon. Precision ag allows growers to apply field level prescriptions for more precise seeding or fertilization. These prescriptions are developed by Nutrien Ag Solutions crop consultants on the ground using multiple years of crop season data and precision soil samples to optimize production across the measured variability of a field. By combining local knowledge with timely, actionable data, growers can gain confidence to make better decisions that improve profitability, efficiency, and sustainability.

3. Measurement is messy and benchmarks are inconsistent.

Many farmers are hesitant to move down the sustainability path because there is no standard, industry-wide metrics, and tracking tools to measure success are varied. Without a clear understanding of outcomes, it’s difficult for growers to justify the expense of transitioning to sustainable practices. We can’t manage what we don’t measure.

Both Nutrien and Scotiabank understand the importance of universally accepted, clear baselines, goals, and measurement tools. We are teaming up with industry leaders across the value chain to bring more consistency to the industry and to better advocate for growers.

Scotiabank’s report also highlighted another crucial point about growers: they trust their peers. With deep roots in the industry and employees who are in the field everyday - both their own operations and customers’ operations – Nutrien employees understand the intricacies of the industry and work diligently side-by-side with growers to create the best outcomes.

Nutrien’s alliance with Scotiabank is a natural fit, given their strong credibility in the industry and ability to relate personally to growers. “As a trusted partner for our clients, we support them in addressing these sustainability challenges, at the right pace, with the right products and solutions to achieve their goals,” said Janice Holzscherer. “Our work with Nutrien underpins our continued commitment to supporting the profitable and sustainable growth of Canada’s agriculture industry in the fast-changing decades ahead.”

Leveraging insights such as those from Scotiabank’s report, we recognize there is a lot more the industry can do, and Nutrien is committed to advocating for both growers and the industry as a whole. Collaboration across the sector is critical for our collective success. We know sustainability is important for our industry, and we know that with the right participants, we can enable Canadian growers to succeed for generations to come.

Read Scotiabank’s report “Cultivating Resilience: Supporting Canada’s Agriculture Industry to Achieve Sustainable Growth.


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