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environment

Every farm to get a unique biological emissions profile

  • July 31, 2019
  • 3 min read

Someone once said, “Most of the world will make decisions by either guessing or using their gut. They will be either lucky or wrong.”

When it comes to making change on farm, it takes time, effort and money. Our farmers are committed to reducing their on-farm emissions but to do so in a meaningful, significant and sustainable way, their decisions must be supported by clear data and science-based evidence. 

The fact is, our farmers have a low understanding of the sources of greenhouse gas emissions on their farms, and what type of things they can do to reduce their emissions. The data speaks for itself. 

In December 2018, the Biological Emissions Reference Group (BERG) found that 98% of farmers do not know their emissions and more than 40% did not know how to reduce emissions on their farm.

Fonterra recently introduced The Co-operative Difference to make it easier for farmers to know what is expected, and recognise those who are taking steps to produce high quality milk in a more sustainable way.

The Co-operative Difference outlines what great looks like as a marker of where we need to be and one of our aspirational goals is to have greenhouse gases emissions quantified and reduced. 

To learn how we could quantify on-farm biological emissions, Fonterra undertook a recording pilot involving 113 farms – of all sizes and geographies.

This project has given confidence that the accurate estimation of biological greenhouse gas emissions can be done at scale.

We used the information provided by farmers annually in their Farm Dairy Records to complete a robust estimation of on-farm biological greenhouse gas emissions and produced reports for the pilot farms in the 2016/2017 and 2017/2018 seasons.

 

Feedback from the farmers within the pilot was exceedingly positive, with over 90% of participants saying that the reports improved their understanding of biological greenhouse gases on farm.

Our Sustainable Dairying and on-farm R&D team, with technical support from AgResearch, will use the modelling methods developed during this pilot to estimate greenhouse gas emissions for all farms. A New Zealand first!

Charlotte Rutherford, Director for On-Farm Excellence, says a key part of achieving emissions reductions is having a clear understanding of where we stand today. 

Charlotte Rutherford, Director of On-Farm Excellence

New Zealand farmers are already some of the most carbon efficient in the world. This has come about through significant research and investment, and a willingness and ability to adapt over time.

Charlotte Rutherford, Fonterra Director of On-Farm Excellence

“We still have work to do so getting a clear baseline for each farm will be central to moving forward.” 

Tracy Brown, Matamata farmer and Chair of the DairyNZ Dairy Environment Leaders Forum, says that when it comes to reducing on-farm emissions, no one farm is going to have the same solutions as the other 

A significant New Zealand reduction will only come once all farms have done what they can, according to their individual production system, to reduce their emissions. 

Tracy Brown, Matamata farmer & Chair of DairyNZ Dairy Environment Leaders Forum

Tracy and Wynn Brown, winners of the 2018 Responsible Dairying Award

“These emission profiles are a necessary first step to doing just that – giving each farm a clear picture of where they stand and how much they might need to do.”

Our Co-op will start providing these unique farm reports in Spring 2020.

Similar to the nitrogen reports that we have been providing our farmers for six seasons, the emission profile will be provided at no additional cost, and won’t require our farmers to provide any more information than they already do or have a farm audit. 

On-farm reporting will help our Co-op demonstrate leadership and progress against external targets, such as Dairy Tomorrow, Carbon Disclosure Project, and Science Based Target Initiatives.

Environment

Learn more about Fonterra's efforts in combatting climate change.