Carbon training for group technical sales executives - a major initiative
During March and April 2022, the cooperative has rolled out an extensive programme to train all our technical sales executives in carbon- and soil-related issues so that we can progressively scale up pilot initiatives in these areas to become generalised strategies.
“A cooperative like Axereal has a wealth of knowledge about soil health and carbon, but it is not all together in one place. The challenge for us is to harmonise this information and share it. Our agronomy teams run trials that validate or reject certain crop management techniques, in particular in connection with low-carbon practices. Our technical sales executives have a granular knowledge of the issues faced by farmers, and our trading teams are progressively identifying the most promising channels. To optimise the advice we give to farmers, it is vital for us to share this knowledge, and that’s why we’ve put together this ground-breaking initiative in record time,” said Pierre du Peyroux, Axereal’s carbon manager.
The focus has been on making the training practical. It is run jointly by an agronomist and a manager who is a fertilisation lead in each region. The agenda includes: sharing knowledge and challenges around soil health and fertility, an objective look at the initiatives currently underway and their preliminary results, and discussions on ways to support farmers to put in place tailored carbon strategies.
“Carbon remains quite a broad issue, and the impact of cropping systems varies widely from one farm to another. Consequently, our aim in putting together this training was to ensure it was not divisive. There is a plethora of methods for calculating carbon, but they all have certain points in common, such as the need to manage carbon cycles and nitrogen, and to combine solutions to see progress. This training course was the first time we had hosted all our sales teams on our experimental farm at Chaumoy, and it will stand as a milestone in our work to transform the agricultural model. Thanks to this training, we’re all on the same page, ready to give farmers the benefit of our knowledge. We offer them guidance to deal with the issues, together with robust solutions that will help them generate the returns they expect to see on this change in methods,” said Thomas Monville, who heads up the cooperative’s agronomy strategy.
The links between the topics were the key to the discussion. When you talk about carbon, you’re also talking about reducing chemical inputs, about biodiversity and about the value society places on the soil.
Involving farmers in these new practices is not something we can undertake lightly. The fundamental role of technical sales executives is to give farmers the means to access profitable markets while limiting the risks and ensuring they have a solid cropping system. When technical sales executives are questioned about carbon and soil health by farmers, they need to have enough concrete knowledge and feedback from the initial trials to recommend a coherent, sustainable strategy. This training course and those that will inevitably follow are essential to equip them to do that.