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‘Scotland in miniature’ could provide carbon-reduction blueprint

Friday, 08 May 2020 Scotland Food & Drink Industry news

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Farmers on the Isle of Arran are working together to try to reduce their carbon footprint using AgreCalc – an SAC Consulting tool to benchmark and measure methane, carbon dioxide and nitrous oxide emissions.

The Soil Association Scotland-led Rural Innovation Support Service (RISS) group of 15 farmers and affiliates is facilitated by Alexander Pirie of SAC Consulting, part of Scotland’s Rural College (SRUC).

Alexander and one of Net Zero Arran’s farmers, David Henderson, will be among the speakers in a free online RISS workshop – Futureproof your Farm – taking place on 20 May. The workshop is designed to help farmers develop business ideas in response to Covid-19 and climate change.

Sitting just off the coast of Ayrshire, Arran features a broad range of diverse farmland, including rolling hills, rugged moorland and quality in-bye for grassland and cereal production.

At 166 square miles, the island is also host to many facets of the broader Scottish agricultural industry, including beef and sheep farming, cropping, dairying, forestry and a collection of small-scale fruit and vegetable units.

Alexander Pirie said: “My hope is we can reduce the carbon footprint of the island if we can quantify it and that by identifying common areas for improvement, we can take a collaborative approach.
“By tackling issues around farm efficiency and best practice as well as the environment and climate change, with an emphasis on building strong local community engagement, Arran could contribute is some small way to the solution for Scotland as a whole".

“This is a broad project, building and expanding on data and processes from the Beef Efficiency Scheme (BES) and the Farming for a Better Climate Initiative and gives us scope to involve Taste of Arran or the local Eco Savvy, for example. We’re also looking at the link between farm businesses, processors and retailers. RISS has given me the scope to get everybody in the room.”

Although ‘the room’ is virtual for now, the farmers in the group are using SAC Consulting’s AgreCalc tool to audit their emissions, as well as the carbon they are sequestering into the farmed landscape.

Alexander will then help co-ordinate the actions the farmers can take to reduce their emissions. He said: “Common areas for improvement are things like fertiliser applications, increasing lambing percentages, fertility MOTs for breeding potential and increasing biodiversity on farms.”

David Henderson farms beef and sheep at Kilpatrick Farm on Arran. He said: “I have done our carbon audits and our emissions were good partly due to our stocking rates.  But I’m in the group to learn. We know that future farm programmes will be based around carbon footprints, whether we like it or not, so the question is, how do we adapt? Farmers need to work together more, and be more open about the good and the bad.”

As well as Net Zero Arran, the online workshop will hear from Scottish Apples’ Roger Howison, with facilitator Amanda Brown of the Scottish Agricultural Organisation Society (SAOS), and  Colleen McCulloch of RISS.

The Scottish Apples group is exploring how to bring a commercial apple-growing industry back to Scotland. Roger Howison, who is growing apples and arable crops together in a silvoarable system on Parkhill Farm in Fife, said: “Farmers need to be in touch with each other – if I’ve had an idea maybe others might have had it too. In the group I can share knowledge, hear about how other farmers are doing things. It’s exciting, it feels like together we have the drive to develop a market for Scottish apples.

“Now more than ever, with the Coronavirus, I do think people will be more interested in knowing where their food came from and how it was grown. It’s becoming clear that we must create and support accessible, sustainable routes to market for the food we grow in Scotland. Scottish crops for Scottish people."

Colleen McCulloch, RISS Programme Manager, said: “The current Covid-19 crisis, added to the fact that we must respond and adapt rapidly to climate change, is a real reminder that business as usual just won’t cut it any more. The Rural Innovation Support Service provides a way for farmers to get together with others along the supply chain, and trial and test local solutions to the global challenges we face. We would encourage as many farmers as possible to get involved.”

The online workshop, Futureproof your Farm: How to adapt your farm business to the Covid-19 and climate change crises, takes place on Wednesday 20 May from 9.30-11.30am. Register at https://bit.ly/FutureproofYourFarm

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