Accurately determining how carbon is being used – and lost as carbon dioxide – across the farm can provide insights that enable better management, and ultimately support climate neutrality.
There are a lot of unknowns, a major one being how to measure the baseline – but for landowners it offers the promise of alternative revenue streams, and for producers, healthier soils and a reduction of inputs.
To help identify where there are information gaps and to hear from farmers themselves about what they need to know before they take the plunge into carbon management, Agri-TechE, with the support of Savills, held a ‘Carbon Conversation’ – a roundtable event – ahead of the REAP 2021 conference. A discussion document capturing outputs from the event is now available.Carbon Conversation white paper – Agri-TechE
Creating a dialogue around carbon management
Recent research has shown that soils rich in carbon to feed the microbes are more efficient in making nutrients more available to crops, thus reducing the fertiliser requirements and increasing water retention. Dyson Farming has been reporting on its carbon for three years, and technical agronomist Ed Ford talked about this in the Sofa Session at REAP 2021.
The ‘Carbon Conversation’, sponsored by Savills, provided an opportunity to hear from a number of people working in this area including farmers who have started to measure carbon usage on their farms and beginning to make interventions.
Emily Norton, Head of Rural Research at Savills says: “Farmers urgently need a better understanding of how their operations will be expected to decarbonise by supply chains and banks, what carbon assets may be available to sell as an alternative source of revenue, and how their farms will be impacted by these changing market dynamics.
“It is critical to ensure that farmers lead this conversation, both to take ownership of the problems and to engage with the market opportunities.
Belinda Clarke agrees: “It is vital to have a proper dialogue and hear not just the upside but also the uncertainties and frustrations of farmers.”
The round-table discussion covered the:
- current status around carbon management and how changing agricultural policy and business trends could support and enable new opportunities around carbon.
- technology, innovation and knowledge involved in measuring soil carbon, understanding how farming practices alter soil carbon stocks, and verifying carbon sequestration from the atmosphere.
- business models currently operating, as well as the risks and hazards associated with these and what to look out for when you’re considering diversifying into carbon.
There were also real case studies from farm businesses that are already making the transition to carbon sensitive farming – and the lessons they’ve learnt along the way.
The outputs and action points have been captured in a white paper to present a farmer-centric action plan.
Niall Mottram, Head of Industrial & Energy at Cambridge Consultants, leaders in breakthrough innovation. Niall has been working on improving carbon capture in the field.
Hugh Martineau, Head of Sustainability at Map of Ag. Hugh has been working with Government departments and private sector clients to review, analyse and develop strategies to address environmental impacts in farming systems.
Nick Duncan, Business Development Lead at Bayer Crop Science. Nick is responsible for identifying and developing new business opportunities to complement the existing crop protection and seeds portfolio.
Antony Yousefian, Co-founder of Bx, a Climate-AgTech company that is seeking to redefine how fruit is produced and sold globally. It is focused on improving carbon capture to reduce climate change whilst increasing fruit yield and nutritional quality.
Jon Dearsley, Director at Savills Rural, who kindly sponsored the Carbon Conversation.
Many of the technologies discussed within the REAP 2021 conference were relevant to the Carbon Conversation. Niall Mottram comments:
“Agriculture is the only industry in the world with the potential to be carbon negative and offers a tantalising possibility of new revenue for farmers. But to realise the full potential, we need traceability regarding regenerative agriculture practices, as well as combining modern techniques and data science in an economically viable way.
“REAP created an opportunity to hear more about this topic and how UK farmers can help society move down the road to net zero.”
REAP 2021: Changing Time(s) for Agriculture – 10th November 2021
Imagine a world where agriculture is not constrained by time. The ability to manage and manipulate time is increasing and REAP 2021 explored the advances in technology and breakthroughs in science that is making this possible. Read the report here REAP 2021 – ‘Changing Time(s) For Agriculture’
REAP brings together people from across the agri-tech ecosystem who believe that innovation is the engine for change. The conference bridges the gap between producer needs and technology solutions and showcases exciting agri-tech start-ups. REAP 2022 is on the 8th November 2022.