Cool Farm Institute to improve farming and retail carbon footprint
May 9, 2012
A new institute to help farmers produce more efficiently and an updated software ‘tool’ that enables farming and food industries to calculate their carbon footprint are launched this week.
The Cool Farm Tool (CFT) was created by the University of Aberdeen in partnership with Unilever and the Sustainable Food Lab to guide farmers over their greenhouse gas emissions and to provide tips on how they might lessen their environmental impacts.
The computer-based tool - also aimed at processors and retailers with sustainability schemes - has already been successfully used by a number of market leaders including PepsiCo, Marks and Spencer and Costco.
CFT has also been widely piloted by farmers who have helped guide refinements and improvements of the updated version of CFT being launched this week.
The Cool Farm Institute is a new virtual organisation with the mission of helping farmers and those businesses they supply make informed on-farm decision to reduce their environmental impact.
Although in the first phase it will primarily serve as a vehicle to distribute and support the use of CFT, it will also collate data and case studies to provide advice on best environmental practice for farmers.
CFT was developed by Dr Jon Hillier and Professor Pete Smith of the Environmental Modelling Group at the University of Aberdeen. The group has a global reputation and influence, with Professor Smith being the convening lead author for the mitigation chapter of several Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Assessment Reports and Science Director of Scotland's ClimateXChange.
Dr Hillier said: “The Cool Farm Tool is really easy to use and has been tested on real farms and within real companies.
“The open-source tool can be downloaded from the website of the new Cool Farm Tool Institute for free. The farmer or grower then enters their own data on how they are managing their crops or livestock such as;the kind and quantities of fertiliser they are using, livestock feed, and energy used in field machinery operation, animal housing, and on-site storage or processing.
http://www.bettercotton.org/) in which they participate, and demonstrated a clear difference in greenhouse gas (GHG) impacts between farms inside and outside the initiative.
Costco have assessed GHG emissions from organic egg production in the US, leading to an understanding of how both geography and management practices affect emissions. This led to identification of practical mitigation options, which their farmers are now in the process of evaluating. Costco also organised a live GHG assessment meeting with the farmers representing the country’s entire supply of organic eggs to Costco stores. These growers were able to see how their practices measured up against other farmer’s practices and share tips and ideas for GHG emissions reductions. A Netherlands based consultancy which operates mainly in developing countries have, by using the tool, been able to demonstrate to cooperatives of small scale Kenyan tea producers, how optimal strategies for residue management lead to high and more stable yields allied with a 30% reduction in GHG emissions from the harvested leaves. The British Potato Council organised a “live” farmer footprinting session as part of a major industry showcase event. Farmers, consultants, and fertiliser companies were present to assess their own practices, see how emissions varied between farms, and how recent improvements in fertiliser efficiency can lead to substantially lower carbon footprints per tonne of crop produced.