Chris Fennig, right, and Jesse Denardo work at their computers at MyFarms, which in November unveiled a new approach to providing verifiable, meaningful data on sustainability issues to food producers. (The Commercial Review/Jack Ronald)
Chris Fennig, right, and Jesse Denardo work at their computers at MyFarms, which in November unveiled a new approach to providing verifiable, meaningful data on sustainability issues to food producers. (The Commercial Review/Jack Ronald)
The evolution continues at MyFarms.

The Jay County-based ag-tech software development firm made news in the world of sustainable agriculture in November with the announcement of a new web-based software as a service aimed at providing consumer brands with verifiable, meaningful information about the products they sell.

That, admittedly, is a mouthful.

But from its very launch in 2010, MyFarms, led by Chris Fennig, has taken on projects that sometimes had laymen scratching their heads trying to understand what it’s all about.

From the outset, the company has been involved in providing “variable rate technology” for seeding. In other words, it helps producers of row crops know how to seed their fields in the most efficient way. It does that by crunching some of the mountains of ag-related data that’s out there but which can often be tough to decipher.

“We started out with a focus on seed companies,” Fennig said in a recent interview. “We’re now extending that to help consumer brands communicate with a very curious public interested in the long-term future of the planet.”

Today’s consumers, he noted, aren’t yesterday’s consumers.

“Millenials will actually spend more for a product out of their concern for the planet,” said Fennig.

And it’s not just millenials. Consumers in the European Union are already pressing for more information on whether sustainable practices are being used in the production of the food they eat and the products they use.

Add to that the market pressure represented by Wal-Mart’s Gigaton Project, which asks suppliers to reduce greenhouse gases by one gigaton by 2030, and you have a very different marketplace all around.

It’s that new marketplace that has led to organizations like Field to Market and others putting a greater emphasis than ever before on sustainability.

“They have agreed on science-based ways of thinking about the impact of farming practices,” said Fennig.

And MyFarms wants to be a central part in making those “sustainability metrics” workable, understandable, and verifiable.

Last week the Sustainable Agriculture Summit in Kansas City, found “the whole world of ag sustainability together in one place,” said Fennig.

While Field to Market focuses on row crops like corn and soybeans, other similar organizations are focusing on beef production, dairy, poultry and pork production. In other words, the whole range of agriculture.

But the challenges are enormous.

Field to Market, for instance, has developed what it calls its Fieldpoint Calculator, a web-based software that gathers specific data from farmers about their crops. Trouble is, the calculator involves more than 100 questions and is not something that farmers are inclined to want to adopt. In other words, it can be a pain in the neck, asking “corn producers potato questions.”

That’s where MyFarms and its new web-based software as service comes in.

“We’re focused on integrating supply chains in a way that’s unique,” said Fennig. The MyFarms software moves beyond the current Fieldpoint Calculator, streamlining it and making it more useful to producers. In short, said Fennig, MyFarms produces “insight” for farmers so they can become more competitive.

The driving force behind all this, he noted, comes from consumers and retailers like Wal-Mart. If a big consumer brand company like Kraft or Unilever wants to be competitive in this new marketplace, they’ll put pressure on companies like grain processors to come up with verifiable metrics. Those companies will, it’s expected, turn to MyFarms to develop the data in a way that satisfies both the consumer brands and the farmers who raise the crops.

“It’s really the supply chain reaching back through,” said Fennig.

One grain processor, Ingredion, has already signed on and others are expected to follow.

If all goes well, MyFarms will find itself as a key link of data communication tying consumer brands, grain processors, and individual farmers.

That’s what last week’s announcement in Kansas City was intended to spark.

As for MyFarms, said Fennig, “We don’t presume anything. I think every start-up has a unique set of challenges and opportunities.”