Tuesday, March 5, 2024

Agritech key to a low-emissions future 

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Agritech was front-and-centre at Fieldays 2022.
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Fieldays has long been a celebration of agritech and innovation success, and 2022’s event was no different. There was, however, a noticeable focus on technology which can assist farmers in meeting GHG emission targets.

Lincoln Agritech, one of the industry’s leading R&D providers, who were on display in the main pavilion, have risen to the challenge, and CEO Peter Barrowclough believes although there is work to do, technology is a clear solution to these problems in the industry.

“We’ve been maximising production for years, and there has been some cost to the environment, but technology is going to be the solution, he said.

“When we’re developing technologies in New Zealand, they’re going to be applicable around the world, and so we can actually be a world leader in developing these technologies to mitigate climate change.

“A, it will be good for the environment, and B, we will have quality technology to export. So, this is absolutely the key to New Zealand’s farming future.”

Barrowclough says as most other research suppliers focus on the biological side of GHG mitigation technology, their point of difference is that they take a complementary engineering approach.

“So, because we’re taking a complementary approach, we’re destroying the methane after it’s left the animal,” he said.

“A lot of the current technology aims to try and prevent methane production, but we’ll try and capture it afterwards and destroy it so it’s not a greenhouse gas anymore and potentially turn it into a useful product.

He says due to demand, in the past 12 months Lincoln Agritech has formed the GreenTech team, which focuses solely on GHG mitigation technology and is led by GreenTech senior scientist and team leader David Rankin.

“GreenTech is a smaller group within Lincoln Agritech at the moment. It’s relatively new and has been going for just over a year, and we have three staff and we’re recruiting two more,” he said.

“With Dave and his group, he’s got a whole lot of new ideas, so our aim now is to put more resources into the GreenTech team, recruiting more people and seeking research funding to take two or three more ideas of his to development.”

Barrowclough says as people are beginning to understand the severity of the climate crisis, demand for these technologies are growing rapidly – something which has been evident to him during the 2022 Fieldays.

“We saw the European Union yesterday, and they have got around $170 billion on research funding, and 30% of it must be on climate change.

“So now there is also a huge focus from the NZ government, they’ve got about a $300 million dollar fund to help researchers research new technologies that are already partly developed into the market and get them commercialised.

“We’ve got to get it out there and used by farmers and growers to actually make a difference. There’s no point in just sitting in a lab.

Looking to the future, he and his team are optimistic about the industry and the part technology will play in ensuring its sustainability.

“We are very confident about the future of New Zealand agriculture with these technologies out there. It’s not just going to be Lincoln Agritech, it’s going to be a whole range of different providers.

“I’m very confident that whether it’s technology that we develop here, or it’s technologies that we import, New Zealand will be able to meet its climate change obligations and New Zealand farmers will still be able to continue to make a living.”