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.

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.



A Soldier’s Home Away From Home

Serving my country was embedded in my DNA from an early age. My family has fought for the U.S. military since the American Revolution. I grew up hearing stories and seeing pictures on the dining room mantel of my grandfather and great grandfather in uniform. Learning about their experience in the military was extremely impactful, I knew I would serve my country someday. At age 17, I joined the Army.

At age 26, my life changed. On Nov.15, 2004, I was serving in Operation Iraqi Freedom when a roadside bomb flipped my Humvee and I lost both of my legs.

Initially, I was sent to Landstuhl in Germany to be stabilized before going to Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, D.C., for long-term rehabilitation. My wife, Belinda, soon joined me with our two boys, Dustin and Lucas, who were two years old and six months old at the time. They stayed at a hotel and made trips to the hospital every day.

About a week into my recovery, Belinda moved into a Fisher House on the medical center’s campus. This was the first I heard about Fisher House Foundation, but I soon became very familiar with our new “home away from home” that would allow my family to be close by during my recovery.

We had a safe place to live as a family at no cost because of the support from Fisher House as I recovered, my kids were able to play with other children going through the same thing and Belinda was able to talk with other military spouses. Ten years later, these families are still some of our closest friends. Without Fisher House Foundation, I don’t know how my family and I would have worked through this hard time.

Since its inception, Fisher House has saved military and veterans’ families millions in out-of-pocket costs for lodging and transportation by providing a network of homes across the country for families whose loved ones are in a nearby military or veteran hospital. I believe it’s a cause worth supporting, and that’s why it’s great to hear that Walmart is working with Fisher House Foundation this holiday season to help more families like mine be together during times of recovery. You can learn how to get involved by visiting

Today, Belinda and I live in North Carolina with our boys who are now 13 and 11, and a baby girl, Sophia, and appreciate every day for what it is. I have the great privilege of serving disabled veterans through my own nonprofit called Purple Heart Homes. I’ll remain forever grateful for what Fisher House did for me and my family. They provided me with good medicine that had nothing to do with a prescription or doctor – it provided me with a place to re-integrate myself and my family back into the community.

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The Farm That Grows Clean Energy

Working for Pattern Energy, I have a front row seat in the global push to renewable energy.

My rush comes when I see a new wind farm being erected on the horizon, because I know that translates into improved air quality, reduced greenhouse gas emissions, preservation of natural resources – even affordable long-term energy pricing.

But projects with that kind of impact don't happen without significant investment, and oftentimes, that requires big players stepping to the table. That’s why Logan’s Gap, a newly constructed, 87-turbine wind farm in Comanche County, Texas, has my adrenaline pumping. Logan’s Gap represents a major commitment that probably wouldn't be here without Walmart’s financial backing. Because Walmart set such a bold aspirational goal – to be powered 100% by renewable energy – and has stable credit, financing for such a project was made possible. And the benefits are huge.

Walmart signed a 10-year power purchase agreement to acquire 58% of the expected output from the Logan’s Gap wind project. That investment alone will supply more than 25% of Walmart’s electricity needs in deregulated areas of Texas, serving more than 380 Walmart stores, Sam’s Clubs and distribution centers. It also represents nearly 18% of the U.S. portion of the retailer’s goal to produce or procure 7 billion kilowatt hours of renewable energy by 2020.

In the end, it’s smart business. Walmart and other organizations that invest in wind, solar and other renewable energy resources lock in affordable energy costs for multiple years. But, in doing so, they’re also decarbonizing themselves. They're being great environmental stewards, and every one of us reap the benefits.

A big part of my job is contemplating where we’ll be four to five years from now in terms of energy. What will the energy mix be – from wind to solar to a combination of the two? What will the price structure look like?

We’re relentless in our commitment to forecasting wind activity, because that’s what helps determine return on investment. At Pattern Energy, we have six full-time meteorologists on staff, crunching enormous amounts atmospheric data around the world. They’ve helped us pinpoint the best locations – Logan’s Gap included – to construct wind farms in the U.S., Puerto Rico, Canada and Chile.

As far as the science of forecasting has come in recent years, so has the technology associated with the wind turbines themselves. I remember the days when a wind turbine height of 40 meters was huge. Today, 100 meters is pretty much standard. For every meter we’re able to go higher and wider, we create the opportunity to capture more clean energy.

But it’s not always as easy as pinpointing an optimal location and putting technology to work. A lot of areas around the world are highly regulated. In Texas, for example, there’s a lot of open land, so there are typically fewer hurdles. In more densely populated areas of the East Coast, however, you have to take into account how details such as noise level and views will be impacted. It's critical to find the right balance.

Despite these and other hurdles that sometimes exist, we’re starting to see an increase in interest from global players, like Walmart. They're demonstrating that it's possible to run a very successful business while also being good environmental citizens. They're investing in the infrastructure necessary to harness renewable energy because it's the right thing to do for the future. And that’s a fantastic message to send to the rest of the world.    

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As Customers Change, So Has Cyber Monday

Last weekend, my son innocently asked me, “What was it like before Wi-Fi?” The question gave me serious pause – I remember when I was young asking my own parents what it was like before television.  How quickly things have changed. 

It may be hard to remember now, but there was a time when Wi-Fi wasn’t so widespread. We didn’t have high-speed Internet access at home. And when it came to continuing holiday shopping after Black Friday, many of us waited until Monday to take advantage of the dependable, faster connection at work. And as millions of customers did just that, Cyber Monday was born.

Over the years, it’s become huge. The biggest online shopping day of the year for us. And yes, millions of customers still shop on Monday morning, opting for clicks and carts versus email and spreadsheets. But as faster Internet speeds have become ubiquitous, and as mobile has swept across the landscape, connecting even more Americans to the Internet whenever they wanted, so many of them have felt compelled to stay awake past midnight to access the best specials the moment they were posted.

But it’s 2015 now, and as we’re increasingly able to access the Internet anytime, anywhere, there’s less of a reason to have to stay up late or fit our shopping into the workday. We can do it when and how we like.

At Walmart, our research shows this interesting find:

That’s why this year, we’re starting our Cyber Monday hours earlier on Sunday evening, making it easier for customers to get ahead on saving money during the busiest online shopping day of the year. Historically, when Walmart released select Cyber Monday deals on Sunday evening, our website traffic increased significantly. Customers have changed, but until now, Cyber Monday hasn’t really changed with them. We’re making shopping faster and easier, all season long.

Maybe at some point in the future, the next generation may ask with wide-eyed disbelief, “Did you really stay up past midnight to shop online?”

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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.

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.