Sustainability

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.

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U.S. Manufacturing

The Backyard Invention That Held on Through it All

When I was a kid, I saw a museum exhibit on Thomas Edison’s workshop. For some reason, I felt an immediate connection to this American inventor.

I’m a mechanical engineer by trade, but I also spend most of my free time tinkering and designing in my garage. Ever since that day at the museum, I’ve been inspired to recreate what I saw there – imagination, innovation and ingenuity – in my own work.

Most of my best ideas come to me when I run into a problem and can’t stop thinking about it until I create a solution. One-Ties are a reusable rubber zip-tie I invented after I was doing some painting on the house and my power painter cord came unplugged so many times I must have gone up and down the ladder every five minutes to plug it back in. I thought to myself, “there’s got to be a solution for this.” It turns out there was – and it was a solution for a bazillion other things, too.

When my business partners Erik Chmelar, Jason DeYoung and I decided to get serious about selling One-Ties to the public, I was adamant from the very beginning about manufacturing our product in the U.S. Anything else was a deal breaker. I’m what you might call a patriotic person. I believe the greatness of our country lies in the potential of the great people who live here. If we were going to be creating jobs in making this idea come to life, I wanted to share that opportunity with other Americans. That’s why today, One-Ties are manufactured in Elroy, Wisconsin.

If I could give one piece of advice to other entrepreneurs, I would share the famous words of Winston Churchill: “Never, never, never give up.” I first invented One-Ties to use around my own house. I never imagined they would be sold at the world’s biggest retailer.

I feel truly blessed, and to have my invention recognized at Walmart’s Open Call this past June was an amazing reward I never expected. Prior to Open Call, we began thinking about licensing our concept to Tailor Made Products, the company we charged with manufacturing it from the beginning. After Open Call, we did just that. They’re a company that has been making products for sale at Walmart for 20 years, so giving them this opportunity was a move that made sense for all of us.

Creating something other people love to use is the best part of being an innovator, and I’ll never stop.

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Sustainability

One Company is Helping Keep Walmart and Our Communities in the ‘Green’

Glenn H. Garrett set a standard for protecting community waterways long before “going green” became a common refrain.

In 1996, after witnessing the damage left behind by hurricanes earlier that year, the disabled Marine Corps veteran launched his own business, Retention Pond Services, in his hometown of Wilmington, N.C.

The storms had destroyed the basins that hold stormwater and they were overflowing. Glenn decided to do something about it. Luckily, four years in the Marine Corps – from 1980 to 1984 – prepared him for the hard work ahead.

“It’s not glamorous, not high tech. It’s done with good, old-fashioned manpower,” he said of his business.

Glenn developed a relationship with Walmart in 2002 when a store in Wilmington had a runoff issue in the parking lot. Walmart’s construction division called the state’s stormwater regulators and asked for a recommendation on whom to hire for help. Retention Pond Services was their answer.

When the same issue happened again, this time at another store, Walmart decided to expand the maintenance procedures developed with Glenn’s company. From there, it went nationwide.

Retention Pond Services now repairs, maintains and services stormwater systems for 1,200 Walmart stores and Sam’s Clubs across the U.S. The goal is to help Walmart meet rules and regulations set by the Environmental Protection Agency and reduce the risk of water pollution.

“I remember my first meeting with Walmart [representatives], and they started talking about being ‘green’. I had never heard anyone talk about green – being environmentally conscious,” he said, adding that the retailer encourages suppliers to be responsible by leading by example.

He didn’t realize it at the time, but Glenn and his company would play a major role in bringing that to fruition. He said Walmart has become a standard bearer of stormwater maintenance for big-box retailers throughout the U.S.

Retention Pond Services began with 16 employees. Fast-forward 20 years and it now employs as many as 250 workers each year, including Glenn and three other senior leaders, with clients ranging from retailers to municipalities. The number fluctuates with the seasons, but one thing remains constant – there are always military veterans like Glenn on staff. Several veterans started in junior positions and moved up through the ranks.

The business was hiring veterans before Walmart introduced its Veterans Welcome Home Commitment in 2013, but Glenn said the initiative is a great encouragement for suppliers and veterans alike. “It goes back to [Walmart] recognizing our service and appreciating what we’ve done,” he said. As a veteran himself, Glenn knows that the skills and can-do attitude learned in the military easily transfer over to civilian jobs. Glenn takes pride in his team – “I’m only as good as my worst employee” – and in protecting the environment. Much of that pride stems from his childhood in Chesapeake Bay, Maryland.

“My grandfather used to tell me how great fishing was – about catching massive fish. When I was growing up, there were no fish. The bay was essentially dead, killed by pollution and runoff.”

In the 1970s, Maryland got involved in a save-the-bay campaign, and the federal government’s Water Quality Act followed in 1987. Those actions helped return fishing in the bay to its former glory.

Caring for the environment comes at a cost, whether it be time or money, but the results are well worth it. As U.S. businesses continue to grow, Glenn and his team are ready to step in and protect our communities.

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Innovation

Your Delivery Has Arrived…With All Your Walmart Goodies

Your daily grind starts at 6 a.m. with a mad dash around the house as you ready the family for work and school.

Showers are taken, cereal is poured, and three different lunches, each one accounting for allergies and pickiness, are lovingly prepared and packed.

Meeting after meeting followed by countless conference calls dominate the day. When it’s all over, it’s time to arrange rides for the kids – sports, band practice and drama club are tonight. Anxiety sets in…what in the world are we going to have for dinner? Are there even groceries in the house?

As you prepare for another chaotic day tomorrow, I hope you’ll feel confident knowing that we’re all about finding new ways for you to check “grocery shopping” off your list a little faster – including making home delivery an option.

Last year, we began testing grocery delivery through crowd-sourced services like Uber. Here’s what we’ve learned: customers like you love the convenience of a delivery option.

So, we’re expanding our grocery delivery pilot to two more markets – Orlando and Dallas.

Here’s how it works:

  • To order, customers shop online or through a mobile browser at Walmart.com/grocery to build an online basket and place an order, selecting the most convenient time for the order to be delivered.
  • That’s when our personal shoppers get to work. Based on the delivery time, they’ll begin picking items, scanning them as they go to ensure an accurate and complete order.
  • Then, our team will request an Uber delivery partner to come to the store, pick up the customer’s order, and take it directly to the customer’s location.

We’ve been testing delivery in a number of ways for a while now in key markets across the country. In some areas, we’re trying general merchandise deliveries led by associates. In others, we’re testing grocery delivery using Walmart trucks and drivers. We’re working hard to find a way to get you fresh, quality groceries all while keeping a little more time on your calendar.

Tomorrow is going to look a lot like today - lots to do and not enough time to get it done. But hopefully, this expanded offering, and more like it, will speed up the shopping experience and give you back something just as precious as money – time.

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Business

Why Smarter Inventory Means Better Customer Service

When you’re getting ready to head to Walmart, you expect everything on your list will be ready and waiting on our shelves.

With millions of items for sale, ensuring that happens – for everything, every time – is quite a complex process behind the scenes.

Managing back room inventory – products that are stored in back rooms for days, sometimes weeks, before they reach shelves – can be a challenge. It requires constant monitoring, and can sometimes take associates away from the sales floor where they would otherwise be helping customers. So recently we’ve been experimenting with new and better ways to improve the process for everyone.

Top Stock is one of these new systems that we’re testing in stores. With it, we’ve moved a great deal of our back stock inventory to somewhere else very simple: the top shelves on our sales floor. By keeping additional merchandise closer to where it’s sold, we can maintain fuller shelves while keeping a better in-the-moment read on inventory.

I spent the first 12 years of my three decades with Walmart in replenishment and supply chain roles, so I understand the significance firsthand of how this makes storage and stocking so much easier. But there’s also quite a bit more that directly benefits customers:

  • All the extra space we’re opening up in our back rooms is making it easier for us to integrate services like online grocery pickup. While the demand for grocery pickup is obvious, finding adequate space within our existing stores had sometimes been a challenge.
  • Need something you don’t immediately see on the shelf? Waiting for an associate to check our back room during peak holiday shopping periods could soon be a thing of the past. By improving our inventory management processes, we’re bringing the products and services that customers need one step closer. In fact, the implementation of Top Stock has helped reduce our rental of temporary inventory trailers to a small fraction of what it was just a few years ago.
  • Our improvements in inventory management are getting more associates out of the back room and onto the sales floor, where they can help and interact with customers.
  • Perhaps best of all, our associates can use open back room space for career-building education. When one store in Morrisville, North Carolina, implemented Top Stock inventory management, they reduced back room inventory by 75% in two months, allowing enough new space to open an Academy for associate training.

What’s worked for our business in the past isn’t always what’s best for today’s shopper. When we commit to coming up with unexpected ways to do the small things better, we not only become smarter and more efficient, but create a big win for our customers at the same time.

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