(1) Environmental Crisis: For a long time, the abuse of chemical fertilizers and pesticides in agriculture has led to land degradation, pollution, and health deterioration for the farmers;
(2) Trust Crisis in the Market: A long value chain consisting of wholesalers and distributor compromised the connection between farmers and consumers. In pursuit of short-term profit, the overuse of chemical fertilizers and pesticides results in a fact that consumers find it extremely hard to buy reliable food. This creates a trust crisis in the market, which further impedes a healthy development of agriculture production and farmers’ income.
(3) Obstacles in the Revolution of Agriculture Production: Farmers eager to revolutionize the production methods and march towards organic agriculture have to undertake the risk of low yields, high cost and low acceptance to the market, trapped into another vicious circle.
Safer and more reliable food and a better life are in the best intereset of consumers and farmers. Based on mutual trust, we should give the farmers enough support, so they could break the vicious circle of pesticides and fertilizer abuse and march towards a bright future of organic agriculture.
Based on more than a decade’s field research in rural China, we developed a model to generate more income to farmers and bring safe food to consumer’s dinning table. It is the “Eco-Trust agriculture” model. This model respects and recognizes farmers’ every effort “to incrementally reduce the use of chemical fertilizer and pesticides”. Using digital technologies, it records and presents the production process to consumers in a truthful and transparent manner, win consumer’s trust and boost sales. Specifically, it documents all of a farmer’s activities during production, including sowing and fertilizing, etc. By restructuring value chain to cut intermediate links and costs, we increase farmers’ income and empower them to finally adopt organic farming free of any pesticide and chemical fertilizer. Ultimately, we hope to gradually lead the farmers to march towards organic agriculture with enough capacity and confidence.
In 2009, Leping, in collaboration with Daichi Co., Ltd. ( a renown Japanese Eco-Trust company, also known as the Society to Protect Land), founded Fuping Chuangyuan Ecological Agriculture Technology Development Co., Ltd. Its mission is to help farmers adhere to the principles of Eco-Trust agriculture and create transparency so consumers are confident that the food was grown safely.
“Trustable Farms” Digital Platform:
Reliable Food Comes from Transparency in Production
The Eco-Trust agriculture concept is unique in that it does not stipulate how every aspect of farming should be conducted. Instead, it respects local conditions by allowing the farmers themselves to determine the ideal methods for producing the safest food while increasing profits. From the consumers’ point of view, trust comes by way of transparency, which means the entire production process must be well documented so they are able to make informed decisions. This is the innovative highlight of this model.
Specifically, we use the digital platform “Trustable Farms” to trace and record every detail in production process. We also use Cultivation Commitment, Production Record, Field Inspection and Product Inspection to ensure the truthfulness and accuracy of these recordings.
(1) Trustable Farms: A Digital Management Platform
完In 2016, Leping created Trustable Farms, an online management and information-sharing platform that serves both farmers and consumers. Farmers use the platform to record all relevant details of the growing process. It not only serves as a tool for data collection and analysis, it also provides access to expert consultation, peer networking and marketing insight. For consumers, it provides a window into the whole production process in an open and transparent manner, as an effort to improve the mutual trust between producers and consumers.
(2) Ensuring Authenticity of Production Records & Compliance in the Production Process
➢ Cultivation Commitment: Before the production process begins, farmers and Fuping Chuangyuan should sign a contract, which stipulates that farmers follow the Standards and Regulations of Fuping-Daichi Eco-trust Agriculture. To ensure the benefit of farmers, it gives farmers full bargaining power over price and quantity: Farmers have the legal right to negotiate with us to set the amount of purchase and a more competitive and reasonable price for the product.
➢ Production Records: As stipulated in the Farming Commitment, farmers are to post detailed, regularly updated records of the production process—including fertilizer and pesticide use—on the Trustable Farms platform.
➢ Field Inspection: At specific points in the growth cycle, inspectors will verify Production Records through personal observation, testing and interviews with farmers.
➢ Product Inspection: Before product is sent to the market, a third-party certification group will test for pesticide residue to ensure that it meets Eco-Trust standards.
These 4 interconnected links unscramble activities in farming: the commitment builds the basis of farming, field inspection ensures the truthfulness of records being updated and test report is a verification that ensures quality outcome.
Tailoring Solutions to Local Conditions，Giving Farmers the Negotiation Power
There is no single solution to the problems associated with growing safe food, so Fuping Chuangyuan strives to respect the actual situation and individual differences. It avoids the use of one-size-fits-all standards, but by accompanying farmers during the whole production process and negotiating with them to take the necessary, most scientific, safe and low-risk measures to produce reliable food. This right negotiation can help farmers to avoid their income falling sharply in certain occasions.
For example, a farmer discovers his wheat is infested with aphids and worries that it could destroy his crop. Conventional organic-farming standards dictate that he uses only biological agents. Unfortunately, these act over time, which could mean a great loss in yield and profit. Working with Fuping Chuangyuan, he can choose to consult the experts from Fuping and use certain chemical agents that more effectively treat the problem without compromising food safety. We will record all the process and make the document public to consumers. Ultimately, through this method we could avoid a sudden decrease in farmers’ profits, but also ensure the consumers to have all the information and to make informed decisions.
Optimize the Value Chain and Ensure a Competitive Income
Eco-Trust agriculture supports the farmers’ right to negotiate, which helps ensure their income and promotes food safety. Yet, this does not translate to higher costs for consumers. Eco-Trust agriculture restructures the value chain, shortening the distance from producer to consumer. With Fuping Chuangyuan serving as the link between farmers and their customers, the need for wholesalers and distributors is eliminated. This simplifies logistics and removes the middleman markup, ensuring that farmers earn a competitive income and that consumers have access to safe, affordable food.
Improve the Market Environment and Encourage More Farmers to Go Organic
Improve the Market Environment and Encourage More Farmers to Go Organic
Moving forward, we want to build a benign market environment that has reasonable quality of products and pricing; on the other hand, we will continue to support farmers who identify with Eco-Trust agriculture, and lead more small-scale farms to transform from regular to organic farming. Eventually, we believe this will bring farmers more income, protect our environment, better solve food safety issues and improve the credibility system of the agriculture products market.
(1) Ensure A Positive Correlation between Product Quality and Pricing
Ideally, there should be a positive correlation between the price of agricultural products and their relative safety—based on chemical fertilizer use and pesticide residue. A market with this trait is qualified to be a healthy market that Eco-Trust agriculture strives to build. In the current Chinese market, however, this is not the case. After conducting market research in Beijing in 2016, Fuping Chuangyuan found that the amount of pesticide residue on apples had no correlation to the price. Thus, we will work to educate consumers on the value of organically grown food—to them, their families and the environment.
(2) Encourage More Farmers to Go Organic
Many farmers are resistant to organic farming as they fear it will result in higher costs and smaller yields, drastically lowering their profits. In fact, the opposite is true. Eco-Trust agriculture encourages farmers to adopt low-risk, scientifically sound growing techniques appropriate for their region, but it allows the farmers themselves to determine the ideal methods for producing the safest food while increasing profits. This process should be carried out step by step, instead of sticking to one right or wrong choice.
Fuping Chuangyuan works with some 50 suppliers in 13 provinces, including Beijing, Shandong, Inner Mongolia Tianjin and Hebei. In a single year, our farmers produced 200 tons of vegetables, 200,000 eggs, 20 tons of grain and 20 tons of rice—enough for 5,000 families. All samples tested by the third-party certification board showed that any pesticide residue was within Eco-Trust safety standards. So you see, it’s working. And we sincerely hope that more of you will work with us—farmers, consumers, social innovators and entrepreneurs—as we perpetuate a benign ecological system that nourishes both people and the planet.
Copyright 2017 Leping Social Entrepreneur Foundation
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