Carbon Neutral Farming, is it Such a Big Deal?

Under the 2015 Paris Agreement, 196 countries pledged to reduce their emissions, with the goal of net-zero emissions by 2050. Of these, 119 nations committed to specifically cut , 61 specifically mentioned livestock emissions. AU and NZ is among these.

Greenhouse gas emissions:

  • AU agriculture contributed 11% of all goods and services exports in 2018–19 yet contributed 14% of national greenhouse gas emissions.
  • In NZ farming creates around 50% of the country’s total greenhouse gas emissions
    Note: NZ Beef & Lamb’s recent independent research puts sheep and beef farming at zero emissions currently and if that’s so, expect the above figure to change.

NZ and AU export a similar amount of agri products with NZ looking to double it by 2030 to around $90bn, and AU targeting $100bn so we better have a good story to tell which means we’ll have to continue to evolve in our farm management practices.

Ultimately it’s the will of our trading partners and their consumers that will prevail so yes, you could say carbon neutral farming, which encompasses a great deal… sustainability, nitrate leaching, food safety, animal welfare, regenerative farming, traceability, water quality and usage, are important and becoming more-so. Our continued drive into this space, and how we communicate it, becomes increasingly critical.

Where will this end?

It won’t. What consumers put into their collective mouths is becoming as strong an identifier of their personal brand as the clothes they wear. I look over my shoulder in a restaurant and there’s somebody photographing their food for goodness sake (I’m just old), but soon it’ll be standard to provide the story of the lamb, the wine, the fruit and the farmer’s philosophy, use of fertiliser, diesel emissions, chemical and antibiotic usage. There’ll be a cost to this but they’ll pay for it, no problem, as they search for authenticity and identity.

In the future this means farmers will need to consider their own triple bottom line, not collectively but as individuals. In some areas we’re starting to see a trend where individual farmers are rewarded for their on-farm practices in meeting certain ‘ethical’ or environmental standards. An example of this could be a meat processor paying a premium for antibiotic free lambs. We’ll also see more farmers farming an individual animal rather than a mob or a herd. We’re down the track with this but it will intensify as you will see in the examples in the next article.

Coming back, if we want to double our exports, our story has to get better and better over time, which means we need to be arming the exporters with the validation, which means the farmer needs to be able to tell his story, which means we as marketers must play a big role in how we promote our inputs to the farmer, and how we, tell our story through the supply chain and at the point of sale.

Here’s a couple of examples of projects underway to demonstrate traceability and provenance:

  1. Horticulture produce headed to China – Ozzie is developing a traceability system to measure temperature, humidity and other information on any pack along the supply chain. It will also record event data such as arrival at a depot or change of transport mode as well as pre-harvest conditions, and chemical use, fruit variety, quality, location and time of packing. All this through an electronic device that targets the retailer and consumer to check its authenticity via cell phone to attest to product provenance at the point of purchase.
  2. Red Meat – Food Agility and MLA are investing $2.6million in a collaborative research proposal to address three major challenges facing the Australian red meat industry:
    1. Challenge 1: Real time animal identification and tracking
    2. Challenge 2: Residues in livestock production – on-farm risk mitigation and automatic detection
    3. Challenge 3: Using Genotyping for individual animal identification to support provenance claims.

Fact is, at a practical level none of this is really needed, nobody dies, the produce is premium, it’s good for you and the proof is in the taste. Point is, if it puts us ahead in the consumers stakes, it’s important.


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