An Agritech New Zealand delegation to Ireland has seen how the Emerald Isle’s efforts around carbon emissions could eclipse NZ’s in a few short years as farmers there respond to processor and retailer demands.
AgriTechNZ CEO Brendan O’Connell headed up the 20-plus delegation in early October as it visited Ireland to compare and contrast agritech advances, and build relationships with its Irish counterparts.
“When it comes to agritech itself, the two countries are pretty much even Stevens in terms of where they are at, although Ireland has the advantage of being much closer to large markets,” O’Connell told Farmers Weekly.
“There is, however, more understanding in Ireland about the need to reduce emissions and respond to sustainability demands from processors. No one is really questioning that at all in Ireland. We were told by the Irish dairy industry head the marketplace was going to move faster than the government was.”
The entire agri sector is working through the implications of Scope 3 emissions with the target being a 30% reduction across all emissions by 2030.
Irish farmers’ target is a 25% reduction in emissions by 2030, a sharp contrast to NZ’s 10% – whose pathway is still being debated in the primary sector.
“There is a danger there that we could fall behind on this,” O’Connell said.
He said Tesco, Waitrose, Nestlé and Danone are the big four influencers around carbon reduction demands.
“They are all making very clear statements about their trajectories. The marketplace will be moving faster than any government.”
He was impressed with efforts by the Irish primary sector research and extension body Teagasc, which developed the marginal abatement cost curve (MACC). MACC is a model for identifying the most cost-effective pathway for different farming systems to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
It is now in its third iteration, with the first published a decade ago.
The latest version has identified three scenarios the agricultural sector could pursue and offers different pathways to fulfil them, with varying adoption rates.
“This can give a realistic outline of possible reductions, plans to achieve them and timelines. We came away impressed that there was a very strong focus on what was being developed with a scientific perspective being taken by Teagasc.
“The department of agriculture then uses such tools to develop their policies.”
He noted NZ’s approach via He Waka Eke Noa appeared to have become more political.
“But the Irish were impressed by our AgriZero initiative, although they noted it was probably something we should have started five years ago.”
AgriZero is a pan-industry investment body aiming to accelerate the development of tools that will be effective in pasture-based farming for reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Key players include Rabobank, Ravensdown, Synlait, ANZCO, Fonterra and Silver Fern Farms, all working with the Ministry for Primary Industries.
O’Connell was confident the visit will spark greater research collaboration between the two countries and open more funding to NZ research bodies through the Horizon Europe R&D funding programme aiming at tackling climate change.
“Everyone is moving very fast in the direction of greater sustainability and we do risk falling behind.”