3 Technologies Farmers are Using to Protect the Environment

In April, General Mills Chairman and CEO Ken Powell joined Walmart President and CEO Doug McMillon to announce a commitment to accelerate innovation in sustainable agriculture and reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions through an initiative called Field to Market (FTM).

The announcement was made in Bentonville, Arkansas, at Walmart’s first-ever Sustainable Product Expo.

General Mills and Walmart pledged to more than double the reach of Field to Market, a nonprofit organization dedicated to working across the agriculture supply chain to address the food demands of the rapidly growing population, while conserving natural resources.

Success in this endeavor would mean that FTM would expand to 2.5 million acres by 2015.

Last week, Walmart and General Mills met with FTM and farmers in Idaho to talk about sustainable agriculture best practices and to kick off an innovation challenge aimed at reducing greenhouse gases (GHG) through nitrogen fertilizer optimization technologies.

The technologies selected through this challenge will help farmers make sure that every pound of nitrogen they apply is used by their crop as effectively as possible, bringing the greatest yield at the lowest cost and reducing the impact on the environment.

Sustainable agriculture

So, what are some of the current technologies being used to increase farmers’ productivity and protect the environment for future generations?

Here are three examples:

1. Fieldprint Calculator – This innovative calculator offered by FTM allows farmers to track information related to their specific farm. They are able to compare how they are doing against average results in their area.

The farmers can then identify opportunities to improve their results and increase their productivity in future years while having a positive impact on land use, conservation, soil carbon, irrigation water use, water quality, energy use and greenhouse gas emissions. “By visualizing what is happening, it changes the way we do things,” said one of the farmers in Idaho this week.

2. Fertigation – This technology allows the application of nitrogen at the same time irrigation water is applied.

This approach helps prevent the loss of nitrogen into the air that occurs when fertilizer is applied to the top of the soil by placing the nitrogen right at the roots of the plants, where it is needed.

3. Aerial imagery analysis – This technology is helping farmers target specific parts of their fields that require herbicide or fertilization treatment, avoiding the cost and potential environmental damage of spraying an entire field.

We’re excited to build on this toolkit of technologies this winter when we announce the results of our innovation challenge with Field to Market.

Accelerating innovation in sustainable agriculture will continue to be a priority for Walmart and General Mills given the promise it holds for farm communities and the long-term value it provides to society, the environment and business.



Gov. Deal on ‘The Silicon Valley of the South’

As Walmart opens a new e-commerce fulfillment center in Atlanta, we caught up with Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal for a quick chat about his home state – and its growing reputation as a tech incubator.

WMT: What is the most exciting thing about being governor of Georgia?

Deal: Our economy is seeing positive growth with thousands of new jobs added every month. We’re seeing the telltale signs of cranes and bulldozers humming on newly cleared land. We’re seeing home values recover and Georgia families rebuild their savings. In fact, since the start of my first term in 2011, we’ve helped create more than 400,000 private sector jobs. Companies representing a wide variety of industries continue to expand and relocate here. This growth strengthens local communities and our state as a whole.

WMT: What, if anything, can the public and private sectors teach each other about innovation?

Deal: Early in 2011, we put in place what we call the Competitiveness Initiative, a joint effort with leaders from government, universities and technical colleges and the private sector. The initiative examined six key factors identified by site selectors as the most important influencers in corporate location and expansion decisions:

  • Infrastructure
  • Innovation
  • Education and workforce development
  • Friendly business climate 
  • Global commerce
  • Government efficiency

Based on the recommendations from public and private stakeholders, we’ve been able to implement several positive policy changes and programs. This innovation and collaboration has served — and will continue to serve — Georgians well.  

WMT: What does the Walmart e-commerce fulfillment center opening mean for Atlanta’s identity as a burgeoning tech hub?

Deal: Georgia has experienced rapid growth in the tech sector in the past several years. In fact, Atlanta has been dubbed the “Silicon Valley of the South” due to our growing reputation as a technology hub. With the addition of Walmart’s fulfillment center, Georgia continues to cement its reputation as a tech incubator and innovator. These well-paying, high skills jobs are indeed the jobs of the future. We know that between now and the year 2020, STEM field occupations will introduce more than 79,000 new jobs to Georgia. In response, we’ve made significant investments and policy changes in order to prepare our students and workforce for these future jobs. I’m excited that Walmart has chosen to bring these cutting-edge jobs to Georgia, and I look forward to its continued growth in this industry. 

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The Makeup of Makeup and More: Improving Ingredient Transparency

Imagine you’re standing in a store aisle looking for a new brand of lotion that won’t irritate your baby’s skin. You find yourself surveying at least a dozen different lotion labels trying to understand and compare product ingredients. The process is frustrating, slow, and confusing – what are some of these things even used for?

You are not alone. A lack of product ingredient information is a very common problem. Fortunately, the situation is improving. In the past few years, more and more companies have taken action to make product information more transparent to consumers, including the sharing of ingredients online. Walmart is one of these companies.  

As outlined in its Sustainable Chemistry Policy, Walmart has started an effort to list the ingredients contained within its private label consumable products – personal care and household products that you use up, such as aftershave, baby lotions, cleaners, or pet shampoo – on Walmart’s policy also asks national brand suppliers, like Procter and Gamble, Revlon and Pro-Sense, to follow this lead and include product ingredient information on their own websites.

Sharing lists of ingredients on Walmart’s website is a positive development for customers. Greater online access to this information makes it easier to find out what’s in products and to compare ingredients across products so that customers can ultimately make more informed purchasing decisions. For an example, consider cleaning products.  If you’ve ever tried to figure out what’s inside a cleaning product while shopping, you know it can be difficult – for the most part, ingredients are not required to be disclosed on the packaging of cleaning products.

Today, you can find on a list of ingredients for most private label products covered by the policy.  See for example, “ingredients” listed under “about this item” for a bottle of Equate body wash. According to Walmart’s implementation guide, product ingredients are to be listed in descending order of concentration using a standard naming convention called INCI (International Nomenclature of Cosmetic Ingredients). This standard is already in use by many product manufacturers and helps create consistency that is designed to allow for easier identification and comparison of ingredients across products. Walmart’s policy is being implemented in steps, so not all of Walmart’s product listings disclose ingredients as outlined in the policy and implementation guide.  Walmart continues to build and improve upon this important first step.  

We’re encouraged to see that product ingredient transparency is becoming more standard practice in the marketplace. We’re especially pleased with companies like Clorox and Seventh Generation that have taken leadership steps on ingredient disclosure by providing ingredient information in multiple languages and identifying an ingredient’s function, or purpose, in a product. This is good news for the growing number of consumers interested in making informed decisions about the products we buy and use every day.

But the benefits of ingredient disclosure may well extend far beyond our everyday shopping trips. Businesses that commit to consumers on ingredient disclosure provide valuable information that can ultimately help drive safer chemicals into the marketplace.

Jennifer McPartland, Ph.D., is a senior scientist, and Alissa Sasso is a research consultant. Both contributors work for the Environmental Defense Fund.    

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Why This Tiny Chip Has Huge Security Benefits

If you’ve received any new credit cards in the last year or so, take a close look: There may be a microchip right above the card number. While that tiny chip can be easy to miss, soon it won’t be – starting this week, many retailers are using it to make a small change in your checkout process.

Because this tiny chip offers much greater security benefits versus traditional signature-based, magnetic stripe technology, on Oct. 1 many retailers, including Walmart, will begin prompting customers not to swipe, but to “dip” – aka insert and briefly leave the card in the payment terminal. 

Here’s how it works:

A GIF of a Credit Card being swiped in a credit card machine at cash wrap

Using a chip card to pay means the chip assigns a dynamic code that changes each time consumers use the card. Even if the code were obtained, it could not be used to make an additional purchase.  So when considering the risk of counterfeit, a chip is much more difficult to duplicate. 

So why the significance of Oct. 1? That’s the date set by Visa, MasterCard, American Express and Discover for the liability of credit card fraud to shift from credit card issuers to retailers. Merchants that haven’t changed their terminals to read chips could be responsible for fraud.

Walmart has long been pushing toward payments that give our customers more security than the traditional signature-based, magnetic stripe technology. In fact, here’s something else you may not know:  We began installing hardware that had the capability of accepting microchip cards more than nine years ago, and we activated the functionality on Nov. 1, 2014. Additionally, in 2014, both Walmart and Sam’s Club issued chip-enabled MasterCard cards to our branded cardholders. 

While the cards are changing, you will still have the quick, simple checkout experience you're accustomed to at Walmart and Sam’s Club. If you don’t have a microchip card, you can continue using your magnetic stripe card at Walmart and Sam’s Club just the same. In fact, when it comes to debit cards, many banks have not issued chip-enabled cards anyway: Only 25% of debit cards will be transferred to the new system by the end of 2015, according to a recent study by Pulse, a PIN debit network.

Walmart was among the first retailers to implement chip technology to better secure payments for credit card holders, and now, we’re finally starting to see this shift take place.

For additional resources regarding chip-enabled payments, visit the news section of our website.

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2 Dreams, 2 Degrees, and 1 Unconventional Path

Like most moms, Lisa Moore has always bent over backward to put her son Joseph “Joey” Moore in a position to make his dreams come true. But there was one such dream that weighed especially heavy on her.

“I’ll never forget the day Joey came to me and said, ‘Mom, I’m going to go to the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill,’” Lisa said. “He was only 11 years old when he told me, but his mind was made up. I wanted to help make it happen but, as a single mother, I honestly didn't know where the money was going to come from.”

When Joey neared the end of high school, Lisa’s manager at the Walmart store in Mooresville, N.C. where she worked turned her onto the Associate and Dependent Scholarship Programs offered by the Walmart Foundation. Not only could associates like Lisa apply for scholarship assistance, but so could their high school senior dependents.

That was 2007.  Joey applied for and received a scholarship, and graduated from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.  And he’s used his chemistry degree to springboard into a successful career with Henkel Corporation.

Associate Lisa Moore with coworker inside store

But that isn't where the story ends with the Moore family.

“It wasn’t long before Joey started telling me I could do the same thing – that it's never too late to go to college,” said Lisa, 52. “A light came on inside me.”

Already a pastor at Scott’s Chapel United Methodist Church in Statesville, N.C., Lisa recently decided to apply to the Associate Scholarship Program to help finance her enrollment at Hood Theological Seminary School. She, like her son, was awarded a scholarship and is on track to graduate in 2018 with her Masters of Divinity degree. At that point, she plans to focus her efforts full time on the church, pursuing her dream of becoming an elder and possibly even a chaplain.

And she has quite the cheering section behind her.

“There are so many people lifting me up and cheering me on,” Lisa said. That’s why I’ve been with Walmart for 16 years. My job at Walmart has helped put a roof over my head and raise my son, and now it has [helped to support] both of our college educations.

“When I enrolled in seminary, Walmart allowed me to cut back some of my hours to concentrate on school,” she said. “Walmart has always been flexible with my schedule, no matter what was happening in my life and I’m so thankful for that. I’m the biggest cheerleader for this company, not just because of the scholarship program, but because of how it has looked out for me and my family.”

For more than three decades, the Walmart Foundation has made resources available to help U.S. associates and their high school senior dependents fulfill their educational goals through scholarships. More information is available here.