New Tools Linked Together
Farms are incredibly complex ecosystems that exist within equally complicated and dynamic human communities and creations, ranging from laws and regulations, to access to markets and the resources needed to sustain an operation. Change in any dimension of a farming system or food business almost inevitably leads to many other changes, some anticipated and others a surprise. Tradeoffs abound, as does the discipline imposed by highly competitive agriculture markets.
Think of the M2M program as a set of calculators linked together that can help people understand how farming systems and technology simultaneously impact a variety of performance attributes – from the safety and nutritional quality of food, to a farming operation’s environmental footprint. The common unit will be a food ingredient or a multi-ingredient food product.
Our long-term goal is to offer access to a tool that quantifies a given food’s contribution to meeting a person’s nutritional needs, while another tool estimates the likely pesticide residues and risks (if any) associated with the food. Other tools will help quantify environmental footprint of agricultural operations and food industry value chains (e.g., on soil quality and greenhouse gas emissions).
By linking together tools capable of quantifying a range of performance attributes, the M2M program will help people understand the factors shaping food and farming systems, as well as possible interventions to alter the trajectory and/or direction of change via the private sector or changes in government policy.
Our hope is to provide new tools and information to people interesting in exploring more deeply:
- How agriculture and food systems are changing,
- The factors driving change, as well as holding back other types of change,
- Whether where, and why are farms and food businesses becoming more or less sustainable,
- The impacts of policy decisions and government programs (local, state, federal, international) on farming and food industries, and
- The economic consequences of how we grow, handle, process, and consume food in the U.S. and around the world.
M2M analytical systems will support a wide range of assessments, at several levels of aggregation and detail. In some cases, farmers, food companies, and individuals can access information customized to reflect specific circumstances, like the ingredients in a given food product, the foods consumed in a day by an individual, the cropping rotation on a specific field, or whether and how pesticides were used on a given crop.
M2M calculators will be designed to work together to the full extent possible via common units, foods, and food forms. Initial versions of calculators will be limited in scope, for example covering only a set of major fruits and vegetables instead of all possible ones.
Over time and subject to available resources, M2M tools will be improved in four ways:
- Additional foods and food forms, crops, inputs, and technology will be covered.
- The metrics already in the system will be continuously improved by adding more sophisticated calculations that take more factors into account.
- New metrics and analytical options will be incorporated into the system, allowing assessment of additional aspects of food and farming system performance.
- To the extent possible, temporal data will be posted allowing assessment of changes over time.
The M2M website will strive to serve the needs of both non-scientists and technical experts.
When a new tool or research report is released, consumer-friendly explanations and support will be provided. Terms and essential scientific concepts will be fully explained. We will offer guidance on choices that must be made in carrying out a given analysis, and help in interpreting the results produced by an M2M analytical system.
For other scientists and experts interested in the design or applications of M2M tools, we will provide the technical details behind each system and series of calculations, noting important technical limits, data gaps, and caveats. Links to published papers on system components or the results of other M2M applications will be provided.
Future M2M website enhancements will include offering users a password protected space where past analyses can be stored, modified, and used in subsequent work.
Some WSU Extension websites provide links to external sites for the convenience of users. These external sites are not managed by WSU Extension. Furthermore, WSU Extension does not review, control or take responsibility for the content of these sites, nor do these sites implicitly or explicitly represent official positions and policies of WSU Extension.