In the dynamic landscape of agriculture, innovative solutions are imperative to address climate change. Agriculture, contributing over 10% of Europe’s greenhouse gas emissions, stands at the crossroads of climate impact and mitigation. Carbon Capture Usage & Storage (CCUS) solutions have gained prominence, with commitments made during the UN climate change conference COP28, elevating CO2 management on the climate agenda.
Carbon Farming for Decarbonisation
After the oceans and fossil fuels, soil represents one of the largest carbon reservoirs. It’s a reservoir that holds not just the growth potential, but the key to a sustainable and regenerative future, especially when matched with innovative and data-driven agri-tech practices. Through carbon farming, a practice that involves maximisation of carbon capture techniques proven to enhance the removal of CO2 from the atmosphere, agriculture and farming can finally reach decarbonisation while still satisfying the needs of society. Carbon farming practices aim to store carbon in plant material and soil organic matter. Central to the carbon farming concept is the acknowledgement that carbon serves as the carrier of energy within the agricultural system, enabling a regenerative upward spiral in soil fertility and farm productivity. Recognising carbon as the energy currency of living systems, carbon farming focuses on enhancing the farm system’s capacity to receive, store, and release that energy.
Challenges in Carbon Farming
As the CEO of Abaco Group, a leading Agri-Tech company in Europe, I have on-the-ground experience allowing me to understand both the challenges and potential of CO2 management in agriculture. The scalability of carbon farming faces significant challenges, primarily revolving around two key issues. First is the challenge of impermanence, where the carbon stored in soils may be intentionally or inadvertently released back into the atmosphere, nullifying the positive climate impact of carbon farming. However, an even more critical hurdle lies in the Monitoring, Reporting, and Verification (MRV) of data within such practices. The accuracy of MRV and the availability of solid data are pivotal in ensuring that carbon farming genuinely contributes to climate mitigation. Looking for solutions to these challenges, I found that agri-tech can provide many answers to similar questions and can play a crucial role in improving CO2 mitigation and measurement in agriculture through various technological advancements. For instance, remote sensing technologies such as satellite imagery can provide a broader perspective, helping farmers identify soil areas with high carbon emissions or low carbon sequestration. Similarly, smart farming practices utilising big data analytics allow the identification of patterns and optimisation of farming practices for reduced carbon emissions.
Agri-Tech Solutions to Carbon Management Challenges
My responsibility as the CEO is to empower farmers to make informed and data-driven decisions to contribute to a more sustainable future by providing actionable data and fast-tracking sustainable practices. At Abaco, an agri-tech software platform has been developed to enable farmers to manage and monitor the environmental impact of their agricultural activities, with a specific focus on carbon emissions and carbon storage. Technology and AI facilitates the calculation of CO2 emissions based on key factors such as seeds, electricity, pesticides, and fertilisers. These factors are categorised according to different scopes, including on-field activities (scope 1), electricity consumption (scope 2), and production and transport of technical means (scope 3). The agri-tech software, including the proprietary tool Abaco Farmer, facilitates the creation of CO2 mapping tools. These tools visually represent emissions across different plots, indicating the intensity of emissions based on different farming practices and breaking down emissions by scopes 1, 2, and 3. The platform offers users the capability to gather and distribute data and key performance indicators (KPIs) concerning sustainability. It addresses various aspects such as soil health, CO2 emissions, carbon stock, water footprint, agrivoltaic system management, and profitability maps. Features such as Carbon Stock measurement and Water Footprint calculation contribute to a tech-savvy understanding of agricultural operations environmental impact.
Agri-Tech for Environmental Footprint Reduction
Agriculture can reduce its environmental footprint and offer decarbonisation solutions for the broader economy. Understanding what a problem consists of starts with real and reliable data. Being supported by agri-tech in the management and monitoring of quality data is imperative in fostering sustainability in agriculture. Traditional methods fall short in delivering accurate data essential for informed decision-making and data-driven policymaking. CO2 management represent another frontier where agri-tech can lead the way. Agri-tech practices enable farmers not only to reduce carbon emissions but also to promote soil health and productivity. In response to the need to maintain or increase food production, especially in light of the pressing concerns related to meeting the UK’s food demands and fostering national self-sufficiency, the integration of agri-tech becomes instrumental for farmers to achieve sustainability objectives and meet production requirements.
Shifting Dynamics: Farmers Embrace Agri-Tech
A consensus is forming within the farming community, recognising the need for traditional farming practices to evolve in response to modern technological challenges. A recent survey underscores this sentiment, revealing that 76% of farmers are actively exploring advanced technologies and renewable energy solutions. The embrace of new agri-tech innovations extends beyond financial gains, encompassing improved efficiency and cost reduction, while also emphasising the fundamental aspects of sustainability and environmental benefits. This growing importance on sustainable agriculture signifies a positive shift towards practices that harmonise with both environmental considerations and economic viability.