Alyssa Cho, Sustainable Agronomy Field Team Lead at Bayer is our guest. Alyssa is building a team of Sustainable Systems Agronomists to provide support to farmers for a successful transition to regenerative practices as part of ForGround by Bayer.
Alyssa was the Agronomy Lead for a drone-based technology start-up, Aker Technologies prior to joining Bayer. She has been a professor of sustainable cropping systems, serving as a researcher, extension faculty, and instructor. Alyssa holds a Ph.D. in Agronomy, a M.S. in Horticultural Sciences, and a B.S. in Natural Resources and Environmental Management.
Welcome to Farm Food Facts, the webcast and podcast of the US Farmers and Ranchers in action. Today's episode is a very special one. Alyssa Cho, sustainability agronomy field team lead at Bayer is our guest. Alyssa is building a team of sustainable systems, agronomists to provide support to farmers for a successful transition to regenerative practices as part of, ForGround by Bayer. Alyssa was the agronomy lead for a drone based technologies startup Acre technologies. Prior to joining Bayer, she's been a professor of sustainable cropping systems, serving as a researcher, extension faculty and instructor. Alyssa holds a PhD in agronomy in ms, in horticulture sciences, and a BS in natural resources and environmental management. Alyssa, in your role, a top priority is advancing the adoption of sustainable systems and maturing the carbon market. What sparked your interest in agriculture in food and environmental sciences?Alyssa:
Thanks for having me. And yeah, that's a great question. I did not grow up on a farm, but I was first exposed to agriculture when I was an undergraduate student at the University of Hawaii at Manoa, and one of my many jobs that I had was as a research assistant for a faculty member who was a weed scientist. So not only did I really not know much about agriculture, I didn't know there was a whole field of weed science in itself. But what really inspired me to get involved in agriculture and environmental science was working for him. His name was Dr. James Leary. He had two main projects that I worked on. One was in organic weed management, so we're looking, really looking at alternatives to how to manage weeds in organic systems. And the other project that I worked on, hi with that I worked on with him, was in natural areas and controlling invasive weeds. And one of the really cool projects that he had was encapsulating herbicides and to paint balls to target specific invasive weeds in natural areas to minimize impact, but control invasive plants. So it's just really cool to see how innovative science can be and also make a really strong impact on the environment in agriculture.Phil:
Tell us about your work with farmers on the successful transition to regenerative practices as part of ForGround by Bayer.Alyssa:
ForGround by Bayer is Bayer's evolution of what used to be called our Bayer carbon program to make a more encompassing opportunity for growers. So what that is, is that foreground by Bayer is a farmer's first platform to provide educational support and also cost reduction strategies to growers as they make the transition to sustainable agricultural practices. It also allows'em to explore revenue opportunities that that exist in this space.Phil:
So if I hear you properly and understand it, basically, you know, you're putting your hand out to farmers and saying, come along this path. We're gonna make you more money, we're going to increase yields we're gonna make the planet a better place if we do this together. Can you give me some examples of what kind of things that specifically that you're offering to farmers?Alyssa:
Yeah, you just encapsulated the concept so clearly we really wanna make sure that growers understand what's happening in this space and can, and can make the decision on what they would like to do, what level of practice adoption and expansion they want to take. So some specifics would include, for example, my team. So I have a team of five sustainable systems, agronomists that are regionally placed with a strong background and expertise in this area, specifically around transitioning to no-till and adopting cover crops. And again, looking at it from a systems perspective, they're really there to help make recommendations to growers on how to transition to these practices. The second pillar of support that I'll talk about as our cost reduction strategies. So we really wanna help growers with reducing the costs that are associated with adopting these practices. Specifically, we have two discounts for strip till equipment providers, and we're also offering free field b plus subscription as part of this offer.Phil:
So what are the biggest challenges for farmers to meet a successful transition to regenerative practices as part of the ForGround by Bayer?Alyssa:
Who, that's a complex question. Each grower's gonna have their own set of challenges that they're trying to overcome and their own sets of goals and, and, and challenges and opportunities in their system. There's really not a one size fits all with sustainable agriculture and regenerative practices. So it really does take a kind of custom approach to the grower to decide what's gonna work best for them and the goals that they have for their operation. Ultimately, we're trying to drive improvements in soil health with foreground, and we're trying to connect growers to opportunities where they can benefit both financially and from an environmental standpoint.Phil:
I want you to put on your professor hat for a moment. Forget your role at Bayer. What's the critical role that farmers and ranchers play in climate Smart agriculture?Alyssa:
To me, there's no such thing as climate smart agriculture without farmers and ranchers. Ultimately, farmers and ranchers are the ones that are driving climate smart agriculture, and many of them are already doing these practices and doing things that would categorize under this topic of climate smart ag. What I think is incredibly important at this stage is for growers, farmers and ranchers to have a voice and to be expressive in how they want this definition to evolve. And I think it's really important for them to be involved and active in expressing what they want climate smart Ag to be defined as, and what practices and programs they believe would support them in reaching those goals.Phil:
So if you had to list for me the top three priorities that you've got in this role, a very important role that can really change the future for farmers and ranchers, our planet, our agriculture, you know, the, the consumers who buy our food, what are those top three things that are either keeping you up at night or that you really are focused on achieving?Alyssa:
My top priority is providing clarity and understanding of this rapidly evolving space. So first and foremost, I wanna be able to give information to growers to help them make a decision that's gonna work for them in their operation. That's a top priority for me in my role. I would say the second priority would be to get them to make that transition, to make the decision to actually adopt sustainable practices, either on a portion of their operation or larger scale. And I would say the third is to help growers have a voice in how these programs are defined and how this market evolves so that we can ensure that ultimately the grower is at the center of how we define Climate Smart Ag and the programs that we bring to market.Phil:
So I have to be devil's advocate. If I take a look at what you've described for ForGround by Bayer, there are other programs that are out there that are similar. What really sets you apart from, you know, these dozens of other programs that are out there?Alyssa:
I think what differentiates ForGround by Bayer is really that, first of all, it's a free program and it really allows growers to enter in with no risk and really learn about this space. So it gives them that opportunity to explore, see what the opportunities that are specific to them in their operation and learn more and make a decision at that point, whether they want to end you in an actual contract for a revenue generating program. So I think it differentiates us in that we're really lessening the load for growers to enroll. And just to learn more about the space.Phil:
So for those farmers and ranchers, you know, who have heard what you've had to say today, what's the next step? What can they do to learn more, to get involved? To have Alyssa hold their hand through this journey that we're gonna take over the next few years together,Alyssa:
I would encourage them to visit our website, bayerforground.com. We have a very quick enrollment process. It's about one minute or less to sign up and they can start receiving information right away, get access to those discounts and learn more and, and make a decision if they wanna continue the journey with Bayer.Phil:
I also know that one of the things you're doing is reaching out to farmers and you've created a carbon panel of farmers really taking their input. You know, what's been the results of that panel now two years later? Has they, you know, received a benefit? Has Bayer received a benefit? Has the planet received a benefit?Alyssa:
Yes, we are so lucky to have a great commitment from around 16 growers who have been serving on our carbon advisory panel now for a couple years. And they've really been key in being our sounding board for defining what our program looks like, and they've been a key driver in how we've evolved our program over the past two years. So we're very grateful for having their input and again, making sure that we have the grower at the center of how we define what our program looks like at Bayer is a key value for us.Phil:
Well, Alyssa, you know, tho if we can achieve all three of those things and it's not just, you know, Alyssa and it's not just Bayer, it's all of us together to do that, the world becomes a much better place. Thanks so much for joining us today on Farm Food Facts.Alyssa:
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