Award sponsored by Fertilizer Canada: Adrian Van Dyk (left) from AGRIS Co-operative accepts the 4R Nutrient Stewardship Agri-Retailer award from Cassandra Cotton of Fertilizer Canada at the CAAR’s Choice Awards Banquet.

AGRIS Co-operative Ltd.

Nutrient Stewardship is such a fundamental part of the business practices of AGRIS Co-operative Ltd. that AGRIS’s board of directors crafted and adopted a four-point stewardship pledge to strengthen the company’s commitment to using sustainable nutrient practices.

A key part of fulfilling that pledge is the adoption of 4R Nutrient Stewardship, with two of the pledge’s four points directly referencing 4R. Those points include ensuring their management, sales team and operators are trained in 4R, providing their customers with information on 4R principles and encouraging their farmer customers to participate in research focused on minimizing the environmental impact of farm inputs.

AGRIS began implementing 4R in 2016, after the Ontario Agri Business Association (OABA) called on retailers to voluntarily implement nutrient stewardship into their operations. AGRIS, based in Chatham-Kent with 16 locations throughout southeastern Ontario, was one of the first to step up and answer the call. They have since become a trailblazer in nutrient management in Ontario and on a national level.

“Our goal is to give our customers the best rate of return per acre,” says Adrian Van Dyk, operations manager at AGRIS. “The 4R program meshes nicely with that goal because you’re not over applying or under applying.”

It takes a great deal of staff training and technology to ensure that the principles of nutrient stewardship are being executed properly, and AGRIS has made significant investments in both of these areas.

Fourteen of AGRIS’s 22 certified crop advisors are trained in 4R and 10 staff members have completed the online 4R course from Fertilizer Canada. AGRIS also gave a 4R overview to over 90 of their staff members in January.

Staying on top of technology is just as important for effective nutrient stewardship as a well-trained staff. AGRIS takes pride in the investments they have made in their technology, and they will continue to make further investments where they see benefits for their customers.

“All of our equipment is now variable-rate capable, and we’ve installed wireless communication so we can get a rapid turnaround on yield data or application maps and upload it into our software,” says Van Dyk.

“We work hand in hand with our customers to ensure we have the proper technology and proper staff to assist them with setting up equipment or setting up prescription maps,” he adds. “We’re currently looking at new application equipment and whether that will be beneficial.”

AGRIS also works with their customers to educate them about how nutrient management practices will benefit their operations.

“During our winter meetings with growers, 4R Nutrient Stewardship is on every agenda,” says Jim Campbell, AGRIS’s general manager.

Part of the reason OABA called on retailers to implement 4R was to protect the health of the Great Lakes, something AGRIS strongly supports.

“Virtually all of our drainage ends up in the Great Lakes system. Whatever we can do as a company to ensure we’re not adding more nutrients into the system is beneficial not only to us, but to our community and to the country as a whole,” says Van Dyk.

Even before they began implementing 4R, AGRIS had a long history of using sustainable practices and striving to deliver the best possible service to customers. With those values already sewn into the fabric of the company, adopting 4R Nutrient Stewardship was a natural decision.

With their high level of commitment to benefitting their customers and the environment through 4R, it’s clear why AGRIS was presented with the 4R Nutrient Stewardship Agri-Retailer award at the 10th annual CAAR’s Choice Awards Banquet.

“We’ve put a lot of effort into adopting the program, and we are fully engaged at all levels of the company in implementing 4R,” says Van Dyk.

Van Dyk accepted the award graciously on behalf of the company, but he isn’t one for fanfare – he just wants to keep doing the work that needs to be done.

“I’m a man of action more than words,” he says. “It’s a lot of hard work. But a lot of it is work we’re already doing, and it’s quite doable.”

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