How carbon capture can boost farm finances

CHAP Technical Liaison Officer at Cranfield University, Laura Cumplido-Marin, attended the virtual field event ‘Carbon: your footprint, your finances and your farm image’, run by LEAF on 29th March.

Alice Midmer, Demonstration and Innovation Manager and Rebecca Davis, Technical Assistant, both at LEAF, introduced the Agri Capture project. Agri Capture is an Horizon 2020 project that aims to develop a carbon credits system by combining satellite data and ground data from real farms to get a more accurate picture, developing a methodology and verifying carbon units.

Nick Down, Farm Manager at the Yattendon Estate in Berkshire, which is taking part in LEAF’s Resilient & Ready Programme, showed how they use the Farm Carbon Calculator to monitor greenhouse gas emissions and carbon sequestration. They also use the Cool Farm Tool to study the annual emissions associated with each crop. By knowing where their emission originate they are able to implement changes in order to decrease those emissions.

Also part the of the Resilient & Ready Programme, Duncan Farrington of Farrington Oils in Northamptonshire  explained their efforts to improve the carbon footprint of the farm, using a range of tools such as afforestation, cover crops, solar panels on the roof of barns, and being open to experimenting and trying new approaches such as sowing clover under cereals. He emphasized the importance of taking into account the sourcing of farm products in the overall farm carbon accounting. He welcomed the Agri Capture project’s aim to provide a certified protocol for agricultural carbon credits for carbon stored in the farm soil. Regarding the calculation of soil organic matter, he recommended “taking regular measurements to start building a trend, because the results vary between years and are conditioned by time of the year and environmental conditions”. He said carbon auditing was an opportunity for farmers to show their products are more sustainable, improving the farm’s image and making their products more attractive to buy.

Andy Guy, a LEAF approved sustainable food and farming consultant, explained how increasing the sustainability of a farm will reduce CO2 emissions and contribute to make it more environmentally, socially and financially sustainable. Reducing greenhouse gas emissions not only benefits the environment and society but will also ultimately – and positively – affect your finances through optimising the use of energy and fertilisers. In order to know where improvements need to be made, farmers need to increase the measurements they take.

Also part of the Resilient & Ready Programme, Claire Grant from CJ Grant farm in Aberdeenshire, spoke of their tractor trial test which compares the diesel use of tractors using super singles/flotation tyres in different operations. By observing the variation in fuel consumption with different tyres for different operations, they can adjust their use and optimise their performance, reducing greenhouse gas emissions in the process.

The farm is also using the Eggbase service platform for egg producers to monitor their carbon footprint tool and find the best feed regimes. To increase the farm’s sustainability, they are also looking at alternative sources of protein to avoid importing soya from South America. Claire said: “All farmers are going to have to report their carbon footprint, so we might as well get ahead and start now so we are prepared for the change.”

The final message of the webinar was encouraging all farmers to become carbon neutral as soon as they can. Once the farm is carbon neutral, farmers can start thinking what to do with the excess carbon sequestration if they have any or how to become carbon negative, point from where they can start considering carbon trading in the future.

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