Active farmer engagement is the key to sustainable agriculture success – and why the FSA helps

28th March 2019

How to use the Farm Sustainability Assessment (FSA) tool to promote sustainable agriculture and create value for business were just some of the key take away points from the FSA Community of Practice Summit 2019.

Over sixty members from SAI Platform’s FSA Community of Practice gathered on 11-13 March in Warsaw, Poland for what was a successful 3-day event of first-hand learning and sharing. The expert knowledge of FSA practitioners at the Summit also provided valuable input into the design of the next iteration of the FSA, version 3.0.

Kick starting the FSA Summit was a field visit to Waldemar Nowakowski, taking attendees to a FSA-verified apple farmer supplying to SAI Platform member Austria Juice, who are part of AGRANA.

“For Austria Juice the usage of the FSA is not a question of bronze, silver or gold, but rather progress, transparency and common sense in the cooperation with our farmers and customers. We organised this field visit with a view to make the FSA more tangible to participants by showing that farmers are open minded and sustainably acting.”

Jörg Schultz,  R&D Process and Technology manager from Austria Juice

Over the course of the FSA Summit, participants learned from other practitioners using the FSA in their operations. Presentations from SAI Platform members Diana Food, innocent drinks, Döhler, Farm Frites and Nordzucker, among others, made it clear that there is no one-size-fits-all solution to using the FSA. The single common message was that active farmer engagement is the key to success. Dariusz Rutkowski of the Polish Sustainable Farming Association presented how the food industry engages farmers in Poland –  the country with the highest number of FSA verifications. James Ede of Cargill showed how his company created  a comprehensive approach to sustainable farming, with the FSA in a critical role.

SAI Platform also took the opportunity to update FSA users on new developments. Participants got a sneak preview of the upcoming FSA Topic Guides and FSA Training Toolkit. These practical guidance materials will be launched in mid-April to help translate the FSA into practical action on the ground. There will be an instruction webinar on the new materials on 16 April (4-5 pm CET) and SAI Platform members can register for it here.

The Summit was an important moment for users and SAI Platform members to provide input into the design of FSA 3.0. The new version of the FSA is set to be launched at the next FSA Community of Practice Summit in mid-2020. Practitioners participated in break-out sessions and posted their input on the ‘Wall of Ideas’. Many took the effort to fill in the FSA Consultation Survey that was developed by consultants Proforest prior to the event. The survey is still active and open for FSA users to give input.

“The event was very useful for us. It confirmed that users appreciate the basic design of the FSA and the input we received provides a solid basis for raising the FSA’s functionality and ease-of-use going forward.”

Iver Drabæk of Nordzucker, chairman of the FSA 3.0 Guidance Committee.

SAI Platform continues seeking input from members and stakeholders into FSA 3.0 and is planning a consultation session in connection with the SAI Platform Annual Event, which will take place in Chicago, IL in June 2019.