40-80 percent of fertilizer is lost to the environment, representing a huge resource lost for farmers and colossal environmental harm.
Runoff fertilizer is toxic, causing eutrophication and destroying ecosystems by depriving inhabitants of oxygen, as occurred in the 2014 Lake Erie algae bloom. The most common groundwater contaminant is nitrate, the primary component in fertilizer.
Beyond nitrate, other components of fertilizer are toxic such as Urea, a common nitrogen source in fertilizer that breaks down into ammonia which can lead to harmful algal blooms in waterways and enters the atmosphere as potent greenhouse gases.
The result is that many of our waters are incredibly polluted, with over 95% of British rivers and 85% of all waters in the UK would not pass even liberal standards of ecological quality. This can have adverse effects on a farmer's whole business as these waterways are used to grow agriculture.
Additionally, fertilizer waste, if not controlled, can be a regulatory nightmare for producers.
The driving factor behind the proliferation of lost product in fertilizer is lack of traceability.
- Manual and lagging tracking systems for fertilizer product - dearth of oversight
- Limited or siloed data - little ability to track fertilizer product from origin through distribution to application
It's near impossible to know exactly how much fertilizer is applied and where, and by extension know how much waste is created. This creates a situation whereby product is easy to lose, and in the case that it is lost, a measure of the issue is not readily available, in turn leading to inadequate responses to lost product.