How to bring carbon-efficient farming to life

Dirk Voeste

Supporting farmers towards more climate-friendly and resilient agriculture will shape our future food value chain –CO2 transparency is one essential cornerstone. 

As for many of you, December is a very special month to me: Privately, to relax, recharge my batteries and enjoy the holiday season with loved ones (this year again in a pandemic-responsible way, of course). Professionally, to look back on the year behind. Therefore, for my most likely last LinkedIn article of 2021, I will reflect on the year from a special perspective: Carbon Farming & CO2-Transparency.

 

 

 

“From cradle to gate” – The product perspective 

Let’s start with the climate impact of manufacturing crop protection products needed to grow our food. We are working on calculating Product Carbon Footprints for our products. Our cradle-to-gate method considers all processes from resource extraction to the making of the final product itself up to the point where it leaves the factory gate. BASF has been working with Product Carbon Footprints for individual products since 2007 and our method is in conformity with the ISO norms. With the help of Product Carbon Footprints, our customers could receive data on the extent to which our products contribute to the carbon footprint of their business activities and to their own final outputs. But now, let’s put ourselves in the shoes of a farmer. 

Support farmers in climate-friendly techniques – The field perspective 

Agriculture is roughly responsible for 20% of global CO2 emissions – a stunning figure. Thus, the largest lever towards more climate-friendly food production is on the field with the farmers who master the biggest job on earth every day. I am inspired by farmers like Kasey Bamberger, a third-generation farmer and managing partner of Bryant Agricultural Enterprises in the US: 

 “We continue to challenge ourselves to produce crops in a safe and sustainable manner, while making sure the decisions we’re making are operationally profitable and environmentally friendly. We know as the world population increases, it’s more important than ever to continue to take care of our soils and environment while producing high-yielding crops.”  

-Kasey Bamberger

How to bring carbon-efficient farming to life

How to bring carbon-efficient farming to life

If you have time and interest, I recommend reading a comprehensive story with her about climate & soil-friendly farming here.

But what concrete actions can we take to support farmers on their way towards a more carbon-efficient agriculture? 

“Double benefits instead of double burdens” – one path forward 

In simple terms, farmers need to grow more with less while we as consumers expect them to reduce emissions and safe resources. At the same time, farmers need to make a living and run their farms profitable. Since farmers cannot manage this balancing act alone, therefore we worked hard this year to launch the first phases of a Global Carbon Farming Program in 2022. Our aim: Helping farmers worldwide to work as climate-friendly as possible, aiming for CO2-neutrality. Certainly, supporting the United Nations’ Paris agreement to fight climate change. 

In this program, we’ll promote concrete sustainable agricultural practices and foster the best use of seeds, traits, innovative chemical and biological crop protection, digital farming and more solutions from our innovation pipeline. It will help farmers to reduce on-farm emissions and sequester more carbon into the soil. As part of the initiative, we will enable farmers to be rewarded for their carbon efficiency savings and the positive environmental services they bring to society: We are up for setting a global framework so farmers can generate certified carbon credits that will lead to additional revenue streams from their carbon reduction efforts. It is very clear that farmers’ efforts to combat climate change have to be supported by the best technologies as well as an incentivization system, so they can make a living and provide us with better food.  

Now, let’s change the perspective from the field to our dinner tables – what does all of this mean for each of us? 

“Transparency on supermarket shelves” – Will we as consumers change? 

While Product Carbon Footprints and Carbon Credits seem to be far away from us as consumers, there are already some real-life implications: When you buy your food (for example for your daily meal or even in the a few days from now for the Holiday Season) in the supermarket. To make conscious consumption decisions, we should be able to see how food and its growth/processing affects the climate, environment or resources used without having to spend a lot of time researching. There is currently a lot of movement in the food value chain: Various labels are under development or already exist, like the Eco-Score, which originated in France and is currently being tested in Germany. The Eco-Score is a rating from A to E that summarizes 15 environmental impacts. It is represented by a colored leaf logo with a letter from A (very low impact) to E (very high impact). Meanwhile, consumer brands FRoSTA, mymuesli, Nestlé and Oatly have started the initiative "Together for Carbon Labelling", in which they have committed to developing uniform standards for CO2 equivalent labeling of food products. Companies like CarbonCloud support food brands in calculating their climate footprint. So, besides nutrition and health scores, we are likely to see more climate scores on food products soon. Tools that will help us to make educated decisions for better food and at the same time will help to incentivize farmers to produce better yield. 

One of the cornerstones for agriculture on its way to becoming climate neutral is therefore the combination of climate-friendly methods along the entire value chain – and making the environmental impact of these methods transparent. With this transparency, better decisions on which technologies to use or agricultural practice to apply can be made. Supporting our way forward. 

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