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AgTech Company News

Local ag tech firm launches digital platform to transform U.S. cotton industry

At first glance, the goal of the U.S. Cotton Trust Protocol seems daunting — to reduce the environmental footprint of the industry and make cotton farming more sustainable across the nation.

But, the digital platform usage is surprisingly simple. And it’s laid out, in a way, like TurboTax.

“It’s self-guided, and guides you through, step by step, with progression,” said Mark Pryor, CEO of The Seam. “When you’re keying in your information to do your taxes … they [TurboTax] make it simple. We’re doing that for farmers.”

The Seam — a Memphis-based software company that works with agribusinesses — announced the general release of the U.S. Cotton Trust Protocol on March 10. A digital platform, it provides farmers with a way to measure, improve, and showcase their environmental footprint, free of charge.

“We’re telling the story of sustainability, on behalf of a farmer,” Pryor said. “We’re providing the platform to capture the practices the farmer uses for his production of cotton, and his journey toward continuous improvement in that sustainability mission.”

Read more, via Memphis Business Journal.

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AgTech Company News

The Seam delivers U.S. Cotton Trust Protocol to digitize sustainability story for cotton farmers

MEMPHIS, Tenn., March 10, 2020 – The Seam, a leading provider of commodities trading and agriculture software solutions, today announced the general release of the U.S. Cotton Trust Protocol, an integrated technology platform that allows U.S. cotton farmers to assess and verify production practices, environmental footprint and measurement of progress toward long-term sustainability goals.

The Trust Protocol was initiated by the National Cotton Council, which represents all U.S. cotton industry segments, including producers, ginners, warehousing, merchants, cooperatives, manufacturers and cottonseed. The Seam was named technology partner of the initiative in November 2018 by the National Cotton Council and the COTTON USA Sustainability Task Force. Mark Pryor, Chief Executive Officer at The Seam, was also named to the inaugural Board of Directors of the Trust Protocol in December 2019 as an advisor.

“We are honored to play a role in the development of technology that fuels the overall mission and message of U.S. agriculture sustainability,” said Pryor. “Working with the National Cotton Council, our goal was to provide a farmer-friendly platform for the cotton industry that promotes economic and environmental stewardship through quantifiable metrics and insights. We look forward to expanding our platform to other agricultural crops, including peanuts and soybeans, in the near future.”

Approximately 300 U.S. cotton producers have enrolled in the platform pilot that began in June 2019. The general release, which launches in April for the 2020 crop, will include a new bale registration and verification process that links actual cotton production to the sustainability profile of the grower. As a qualified data management partner with Field to Market, The Seam has also developed a new integration module for the Fieldprint® Platform, which allows science-based metrics and outcomes within a unified experience.

Through robust data metrics, analysis and insights, the Trust Protocol adds confidence and transparency throughout the supply chain – ensuring U.S. cotton remains the responsible choice for textile manufacturers, brands and retailers.

“The Seam has played a key role on the technology side of developing the U.S. Cotton Trust Protocol, a program designed to confirm and increase awareness of the fact that U.S. cotton producers are farming responsibly and striving for continuous improvement,” said Ken Burton, the Trust Protocol’s executive director. “The Seam helped immensely in the development of the Trust Protocol, and the company continues to refine the way data is utilized within this industry-leading initiative.”

About the U.S. Cotton Trust Protocol
The Trust Protocol, a collaborative effort of the U.S. cotton industry, is a new standard developed to foster a further awareness and reduction of U.S. cotton’s environmental footprint by enabling producers to assess their performance against specific sustainability goals. The Trust Protocol is governed by a multi-stakeholder board comprised of producers, ginners, merchandisers, cooperatives, textile manufacturers, retailers, conservation and civil society organizations, technical and agronomic scientists. For more information, including how to enroll, visit TrustUSCotton.org.

About The Seam
Based in Memphis, Tennessee, The Seam was founded by leading global agribusiness companies and specializes in commodity trading and agriculture software solutions. In December 2000, it began operating the world’s first online exchange for cotton trading. Since that time, the company has leveraged its trading and agriculture technology expertise to expand software services into other crops, including peanuts, soybeans, grains and dairy. As a proven leader in agtech, The Seam has cleared or processed more than $9 billion through its platforms. For more information, visit www.theseam.com.

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AgTech Company News

The Seam Sponsors GiveCamp Memphis

GiveCamp Memphis/Design for Good is a weekend-long event where professionals from designers, developers and database administrators to marketers and web strategists donate their time to provide solutions for nonprofit organizations. Since its inception in 2007, the national GiveCamp program has provided benefits to hundreds of nonprofits, worth millions of dollars of developer and designer time in services.

“After you and The Seam hosted our first-ever community outreach event in November, this was the biggest GiveCamp Memphis we’ve ever had, by far,” said GiveCamp Memphis organizer Lance Hilliard. “We’re on track to continue our growth toward our 2021 event! Additionally, Tammy’s talent for delivering details-aware results with a reliably kind and constructive disposition is nothing short of amazing. Her round-the-clock contributions this weekend enabled countless stakeholders to perform at their absolute best.”

The Seam was honored to sponsor such an incredible event for our city. And huge thanks to our own Tammy Sullivan, who spent the entire weekend serving and helping to make a difference in the lives of others!

GiveCamp Memphis | The Seam
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AgTech Cotton

More Than 1 Million Bales of Cotton Traded

With much of the trading season ahead of us, the “million-bale” milestone was reached today on The Seam‘s marketplace for U.S. cotton.

Technology continues to play a critical role in facilitating trade between buyers and sellers during fast-moving markets.

One Million Bales of Cotton Traded on The Seam
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AgTech Company News Cotton Sustainability

U.S. Cotton Trust Protocol Names Directors and Advisors

The inaugural Board of Directors and Advisors have been named for the U.S. Cotton Trust Protocol (Trust Protocol), a new standard developed to help the U.S. cotton production sector further reduce its footprint by enabling producers to assess their performance against specific sustainability goals. Through robust data inputs, the Trust Protocol will add confidence throughout the supply chain – positioning U.S. cotton as the responsible choice for mills and retailers.

Directors representing the raw cotton industry include:

  • Producers – Matt Coley (Georgia); Ted Schneider (Louisiana); Shawn Holladay (Texas); and Aaron Barcellos (California); 
  • Ginner – David Blakemore (Missouri); 
  • Marketing Cooperative – Hank Reichle (Mississippi);
  • Merchant – Steve Dyer (Tennessee);
  • Cottonseed – Fred Serven (Tennessee);
  • Manufacturer – Jim Martin (North Carolina); 
  • Brands/Retailers are Liza Schillo, Levi Strauss & Co., and Joe Little, Tesco;
  • Suzy Friedman, Environmental Defense Fund; Melissa Ho, the World Wildlife Fund; Marty Matlock, the University of Arkansas; and Garry Bell, formerly with Gildan. 

Trust Protocol advisors include:  Jesse Daystar, Cotton Incorporated; Andy Jordan, Jordan Consulting; Marc Lewkowitz, Supima; Mark Pryor, The Seam; and Mike Quinn, Frontier Spinning Mills.

For more information, visit: http://www.cotton.org/news/releases/2019/trusbd.cfm

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AgTech Sustainability

From Dirt to Shirt & Seed to Shelf: The Importance of Sustainability in Every Part of the Supply Chain

By: Mark Pryor, Chairman and CEO at The Seam

From dirt to shirt and seed to shelf, The Seam acknowledges that traceability and transparency in agriculture production is essential to each step in the value chain.

With innovations in agtech and the implementation and adoption of data standards throughout the supply chain, consumers are now able to trace the source of the agricultural products they purchase providing assurance through digital accountability. Technology has become more accessible, capable and affordable, which lowers the barrier to entry for farming operations to embrace digitization that will ultimately convey their story of continuous improvement in sustainable farming.

WHAT IS SUSTAINABLE AGRICULTURE?

Essentially, it is the ability to produce enough agricultural products to meet present needs without endangering the environment, public health or economic profitability. If food and ag products are not produced with care, future generations of farming will be at risk. The big idea behind sustainable farming is to minimize one’s environmental footprint and enforce good stewardship of the land and natural resources.

To accomplish such a lofty goal, leaders in agriculture continue to develop more ecological solutions in production and trade. Unlike industrialized farming, sustainable farms utilize methods such as crop rotation, pasture-raised livestock, conservative tilling and precision agriculture to assure that the environment is protected, and the process is as natural as possible.

If one part of the production process is not performed using sustainable practices, the entire supply chain is at risk. From planting to harvesting and ginning to classing – or shelling to warehousing – each component of agriculture production must follow specific practices for the end result to be considered more sustainable.

THE IMPORTANCE OF SUSTAINABLE PRACTICES

There are many innovative solutions in agtech that work in concert to enhance sustainable farming. From evaluating soil health to managing water infrastructure, technology provides the tools that help maintain healthy yields with more precision and efficiency. Drones and other equipment are now able to conduct data analyses, and GPS-enabled tractors help plant crops more precisely and efficiently. Technology allows farmers to streamline their processes and care for the environment during production.

The importance of upholding sustainable agricultural practices comes down to simply caring for the environment. No matter what crop you’re farming, sustainable practices facilitate economic profitability and create social and communal equity. Small decisions lead to large improvements in farming practices, and technology forges the undiscovered path that leads to worldwide solutions. While the journey is still in its adolescence, developments in agritech are already cultivating better crops and building a more sustainable future.

In our data-driven landscape where consumers can compare products and make informed decisions about their food and clothing purchases, we can expect to see an explosive growth in technologies that advance traceability, transparency and agriculture sustainability.

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Company News

Kristi Lofton: Back to her Roots

Kristi Lofton works in agricultural technologies. A graduate of Tech901’s Code 1.0 course, Kristi works as a software engineer for The Seam, a locally based software company focused on agricultural commodities trading and sustainability efforts. I’ll get back to the concept of “agricultural technologies” a little later on (it’s a big deal, I promise).

Until her current job at The Seam, Kristi’s issue wasn’t that she didn’t enjoy her job. She just felt like she could be doing more: “Everyone has to figure out their life,” she told me. “I was always interested in a lot of things- but not interested enough.”

You see, Kristi had mastered the pivot long before she made the shift from Vet Tech to IT. Kristi Lofton grew up in Hughes Arkansas, just 40 minutes outside of Memphis. She worked for her father during farming season, helping with the soy beans and wheat their family grew.  Her father and mother still own the farm to this day. 

I drove a tractor on my father’s farm growing up, and I always told myself that’s not what I want.

After graduating high school, Kristi left the farm for New York. She attended Colombia University, and majored in neuroscience. You know, no big deal. She followed her studies with a brief stint as an EMT, and by the time she had made her way back to Memphis, she had narrowed down her career choices to just two: vet school or pharmacy school.

That’s when her brother-in-law (a programmer) decided to throw her a curveball. “He was like, ‘listen- I know you’ve been getting ready for this pharmacy thing for a while, but I want you to try something new. I think you be good at it’.” He told her about the growing need for coders, and the local schools geared towards training them. Schools like Tech901.

I asked Kristi why she chose Tech901, and she was frank with me: “with Tech901, I could keep my job.” The clinic supported Kristi, moving her to the night shift so she could attend morning classes. Code 1.0 wasn’t easy- as Kristi puts it, “Code is 100% what you put in.” But Kristi likes a challenge.

The Seam met Kristi through a mock interview coordinated by Tech901’s career services, and they liked her right away. When the job offer came shortly after, Kristi found herself making another big decision: “Do I want to keep going down the path to grad school, or do I want to pursue this new path- this career in coding?” 

If you don’t feel complete, like you’re struggling or you’re not meeting your potential… try something else.

Kristi decided to take the tech leap.

When we met up recently, Kristi told me she hasn’t once questioned her decision. She’s flourished during her time with The Seam, thanks to her drive and the support of her coworkers. “When it comes to my team, I can’t overstate how helpful and approachable every member is. Having coworkers you can lean on if you’re having trouble is priceless.”

But what exactly does Kristi do?  What is Agricultural Tech (See? I told you we’d get back to it)? If you’re interested in web programming or code, you’ll want to pay attention to this next part.  

The Next Tech Frontier

Let me get right to it: agriculture is the next technological frontier: for Kristi, for Memphis, and for the global market.

Those fields of peanuts, cotton, and soybeans, along with the generations of farmers who cultivate them, have long been subject to traditional methods when it comes to production and exchange. 

Local relationships are important. Trust a handshake. Honesty matters.

But these traditions also include file drawers full of paper receipts and physical records, which means it’s sometimes difficult to follow a product from its origins to its end-user.

Cue Agricultural Technology, often shortened by in-field players to “AgTech”. AgTech is a growing field focused on addressing issues at every stage of the agricultural process using modern technologies. From seed and plant health to issues of transparency and sustainability: the goal of AgTech is to make agriculture more efficient, more sustainable, and more transparent.

Agricultural transparency issues in particular have historied roots (Egyptian cotton of dubious origins, suspect spices) and modern implications (the great romaine recall of 2018).

That’s where software engineers like Kristi have a part to play: in the records, trading, and sustainability efforts of modern agriculture. Famers are able to grow more efficient and sustainable crops using monitoring technologies. The advent of blockchain means we can track cotton from the field to the store you’ll eventually purchase that sassy t-shirt from. 

The AgTech Market is indeed booming- and more importantly, it’s making its home right here in Memphis, Tennessee. 

Memphis AgTech

Memphis in particular has been on top of the AgTech boom for the last few years. Uniquely situated in both farming and city spheres, Memphis is at an advantage when it comes to those businesses developing around global agriculture markets.

As businesses like The Seam continue to invest in Memphis, the demand for locals with tech training will continue to rise. They’ll need more coders, and more developers, willing to learn on the job. You know, people like Kristi. 

Kristi Lofton is particularly well suited to the local AgTech boom. Growing up, there was a lot of talk about inheriting the family farm- but Kristi knew that wasn’t what she wanted to do. But while Kristi left the farm, she hasn’t left agriculture entirely- in fact, she’s returned to it with her work at the Seam.

As of November 5th, Kristi will have been working at the Seam for one year. Kristi beams with engagement talking about her day to day work.

She loves her office, and her team.

She loves her job.

At The Seam, Kristi is responsible for maintaining web applications for cotton trading and peanut shelling. She also builds/ maintains the web applications for The Seam’s growing sustainability initiatives (a passion project of hers). “A day in my life consists of getting to my desk in the morning, looking at issues that have been assigned to me through our work portal, and working on solutions.” Some of these issues take her 30 minutes- some take weeks. For the tech nerds out there, she work mostly with SQL, .NET (C#), and Angular (Javascript/HTML/CSS).

She’s just coming off of peanut-shelling season (or for Kristi, troubleshooting season), which means she’s getting started on the next big project: cotton sustainability efforts in collaboration with the U.S. Cotton Trust Protocol.

AgTech is a whole new frontier for Kristi- one she finds challenging, but also familiar. She’s had to learn a totally new way of thinking and problem solving. “I think my neuroscience background helped with that,” she laughs. “I mean, I majored in problem solving.”

But Kristi is also a Mid-Southerner. She grew up on the farm. She knows how farmers get work done. Now she can help them do more.

This post was adapted from an article in Tech901.

Categories
Company News

Mark Pryor named to Technology Advisory Committee of the Commodities Futures Trading Commission

Mark Pryor, Chairman and CEO at The Seam, was recently appointed to the Technology Advisory Committee of the Commodities Futures Trading Commission. This role positions The Seam as a peer to high-level industry leaders and furthers the company’s mission to advance global innovation across all commodities.

See coverage in the Memphis Business Journal.

Categories
AgTech

What is National Teach Ag Day?

National Teach Ag Day takes place each year on September 19. This day is designed to encourage others to teach school-based agriculture and recognize the important role that ag teachers play in our schools and communities. Every year, the National Teach Ag Campaign hosts a live webcast event somewhere in the country in conjunction with the day. National Teach Ag Day is a part of the National Teach Ag Campaign, an initiative of the National Council for Agricultural Education, led by the National Association of Agricultural Educators.

Who is it for?

National Teach Ag Day is for anyone who wants to celebrate school-based agricultural education, share the story of ag education’s importance and effectiveness in the United States, and encourage students to consider careers as agricultural educators. Anyone who wants to participate can find a variety of resources to help them talk about ag education at www.naae.org/teachag.

What happens on National Teach Ag Day?

Agricultural educators and education advocates will engage in a variety of activities to celebrate and promote the career of ag education. These activities may include capitol rallies, special lessons, community activities and more. The Teach Ag website is a clearinghouse of resources to help teachers and advocates, and free resources include a video, suggested teaching activities, games and giveaway items.

Ag education and The Seam

At The Seam, we believe that ag education is crucial to the future of our industry. We are dedicated to advancing ag education, focusing on how technology can and should provide trusted data to prove sustainability practices are being followed, ensure food safety and enhance traceability for global trade. The future of our farms rests in the hands of the men and women who will lead after us. And it’s our job to provide the resources and tools now to equip these individuals for the future.

Our CEO and Chairman, Mark Pryor, is involved in the ACSA International Cotton Institute, has presented at numerous conferences, serves on the board at Agricenter International and has formed partnerships with the National Cotton Council, American Peanut Council, Greater Memphis IT Council and more, to promote the importance of ag education. It’s our job as agricultural professionals to share knowledge and teach students a wide variety of skills, including science, math, communications, leadership, management and technology, to help them find their niche in the ag industry.

To offer more insight into the ag industry, we are launching a new AgEd blog series. Through this series, we will create an open dialogue for conversation and offer insight into new industry developments, share what we’re currently learning and more. Look out for this new series in the weeks to come!

Information in this post was adapted from the National Association of Agricultural Educators.

Categories
AgTech Sustainability

From ‘dirt to shirt’ — local tech tracks cotton’s origins to where it ends up

As consumers want to know more about the origin of products, a Memphis organization is using cutting-edge technology to uncover details about one of the Mid-South’s foundational crops: cotton.

In June of this year, The Seam, a provider of trading and technology services to agribusinesses, teamed up with the National Cotton Council — also Memphis based — to roll out a blockchain-based technology that will allow cotton to be traced back to the land where it was grown.

And, the technology can even give details on how the crop was produced.

“There’s an increased need for traceability and transparency in the supply chain,” said Mark Pryor, The Seam’s chairman and CEO. “And in cotton, the brands and the retailers — the Levis and the Brooks Brothers of the world — are demanding more traceable, transparent information throughout the supply chain.”

Read more via the Memphis Business Journal