Agriculture in the UK is undergoing a dramatic sea change in a drive to become more sustainable and help combat climate change, as demonstrated by the NFU’s aspiration of achieving net zero carbon emissions by 2040 – a decade before the national target.
Farming businesses are now expected to not only reduce their carbon footprint but provide evidence of doing so – a pressure that comes from regulatory bodies and supply chain partners.
Can farmers take positive steps towards carbon neutrality and, in doing so, actually improve efficiency and profitability in their business? According to James Royce, Rural Consultant at Carbon Metrics, it’s certainly possible. It just requires a change in perspective.
Farming your data
“Farmers don’t just manage their crops or livestock,” says James. “They also farm data. As basic payments are decreased, it pays to be savvier in how you use that data. A carbon audit will help you identify those areas on your farm that are less efficient and where growth is possible.”
As James explains, the first step is to enter a farm’s data – which the farmer will likely already possess, especially if they use a digital farm management tool – into a carbon calculator and produce a report. The farmer is then presented with a report containing their farm business carbon footprint and viable mitigation measures. These suggested changes are rarely radical; the focus is finding ways to make marginal gains and improve efficiencies across the farm.
More and more farmers are embracing the benefits that digital farm management tools can bring. Users of Gatekeeper, the UK’s most popular cropping software from Farmplan, allows users to immediately leverage their stored data with Carbon Metrics for example, instantly retrieving figures for crop areas, yields, fertiliser and pesticide usage.
“Using a tool like Gatekeeper means having all your data at hand,” says Scott Millar, Enterprise Account Manager at Farmplan. “However, data is only valuable when it’s being utilised. Making your data accessible lets you leverage it in a way that benefits your business, both in the short-term and for the years ahead.”
The benefits of carbon auditing
While reducing your carbon footprint might seem like an arduous (if necessary) ordeal, it presents a chance to determine where on the farm is inefficient, and where gains can be made.
“Where we find excessive carbon emissions tends to be in the poorest performing parts of the farm,” says James. “A carbon audit helps you identify those areas and allow you to come up with mitigation measures and increase efficiency. For example, if a beef enterprise has disproportionate methane emissions, they could reconsider the animals’ diet and possibly decrease feed consumption. That would not only result in quicker finishing times but also achieve cost savings through a reduction in overfeeding”.
“Consider carbon auditing as an opportunity, a step forward. If you’re already thinking about carbon now, you’re probably ahead of the curve of much of the supply chain.”
Whether your carbon audit reveals minimal or multiple efficiency issues, your farm can benefit – not just immediately, but using that data as a foundation going forward.
Find out more about how Carbon Metrics can help you on your carbon journey.