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January 15, 2010

Sustainable Benchmark

Peter Mitham
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The Sustainability Management Information System provides growers with data to measure their own operation's performance.
Sustainable benchmark
Pinning a value on practices.
By Peter Mitham
SureHarvest, Inc., with its new Sustainability Management Information System, is now turning its attention to benchmarking and improving sustainable practices.

The tool allows growers to assess their sustainability practices relative to a set of core data.

The California Sustainable Winegrowing Program, an initiative of the California Association of Winegrape Growers and Wine Institute, uses the system to allow grape growers to benchmark themselves against regional and statewide averages, for example. The system is also licensed to Protected Harvest, a not-for-profit certification service that loads the system with its own sustainability criteria to provide a baseline for growers' own performance.

The initiatives point to SureHarvest founder Dr. Jeff Dlott's long-term vision that aims at benchmarks for sustainable growing. By establishing standards for a given area, and how a grower measures up relative to other growers, the benchmarks can help pin a value on farming practices. This could help support prices of organic products, for example, by establishing a basis for product claims.

"The benefit will flow upstream where someone will say at the retail or foodservice side, 'We require water conservation practices, so spend more for our product,'" Dlott said. "Unless we have real data, the grower will never get paid for that."