Farming the way out to Carbon Neutrality

Agriculture sector has a dual role in the decarbonizing economy with agriculture being both a source and a sink for GHGs. Carbon Neutral agriculture refers to the net-zero balance of emissions and sinks of all the greenhouse gases on the farms in terms of their CO2 equivalents that result in climate neutral systems. Carbon farming is a whole farm approach to optimize carbon capture.
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Decarbonization, Net-Zero, Carbon Neutral are some of the jargons being splashed around. Many brands want to be carbon neutral. What do these brands need to know to make their commitments achievable? 

Climate change is a growing problem and to combat this, everyone is trying to commit to achieving net-zero emissions. Carbon neutrality has become the norm and is an achievable short-term goal for any business.

Carbon Neutrality is the first step in a company’s journey to net-zero emissions. Businesses need to reduce or avoid emissions before they are created, reducing the need for carbon offsets. 

What does it mean for a business to be carbon neutral? 

Carbon neutrality is when a company or individual emits and absorbs the same amount of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. According to the European Parliament, carbon neutrality is reached when the same amount of carbon dioxide is released into the atmosphere as is removed by various means, leaving a zero balance. This is also referred to as the zero-carbon footprint. Carbon footprint is nothing, but the total greenhouse gas emissions caused by an individual, organization, service or product. In other words, a company isn’t contributing to carbon footprint as they ensure to offset all their emissions. 

How is this possible? 

This is possible when a company incorporates a carbon capture and storage system and practices carbon sequestration where carbon is captured and stored in the soil to prevent further environmental damage. Reducing carbon emissions through carbon neutrality is the pathway to achieve climate neutrality and reduce environmental risks. It is indeed an immense effort to counterbalance the GHG emissions that are provoking climate change.

To achieve carbon neutrality, company is offsetting the equivalent amount of carbon emissions that they are producing through carbon offsetting projects. There are a number of ways to achieve this balance and the healthiest way is to not emit more CO2 than absorbed naturally by world’s forests. These act as carbon sinks through the process of photosynthesis, thereby helping to reduce emissions. 

The IPCC experts claim that it is possible to reach carbon neutrality by 2050 and limit the global warming to 1.5˚C but this  would require both social and political changes.

An Opportunity for Climate change with Carbon Neutral Agriculture 

Agriculture sector has a dual role in the decarbonizing economy with agriculture being both a source and a sink for GHGs. Agrifood system emissions account for an estimated 21 to 37 % of total anthropogenic GHG emissions. The climate changes affect all the stakeholders from the farmers, manufacturers and the  end consumers in different ways. The rising temperatures, rainfall patterns, supply chain disruptions impact food production threatening the hunger crisis.

Climate friendly and Carbon farming are the two commonly used methods to reduce net agriculture emissions. Climate friendly practices reduce GHGs or increase carbon sequestration when compared to conventional methods but they are not optimal. Carbon farming is a suite of practices designed in optimally to realize a environmental, societal and climate outcome. 

There has been an increasing focus on low carbon and carbon-neutral agriculture in alignment with national and international policy efforts. Various players in the agrifood systems and government have pledged to go carbon neutral. Countries are including agriculture in their NDCs and governments are pushing through legislation to achieve the reduction targets. 

What is Carbon Neutral Agriculture? 

Carbon Neutral agriculture refers to the net-zero balance of emissions and sinks of all the greenhouse gases on the farms in terms of their CO2 equivalents that result in climate neutral systems. Climate neutrality is a priority of the European commission and the transition to carbon neutral agriculture can take place by 

  • Practices that keep and increase the carbon in soils. 
  • Crop and livestock production that minimizes GHGs 
  • Farming systems like mixed farming, agro-forestry and organic farming that reduces emissions and enhances biodiversity 
  • Efficient resource utilization of fertilizers, energy sources and other farm inputs. 
  • Methods and tools to assess emissions and carbon sequestration at farm level 

The lifecycle perspective of the carbon balance in a farming system includes the direct emissions that occur in the farm and indirect emissions that originate from the inputs used on the farm. In order to reach carbon neutrality, it is necessary to adopt an integrated approach to avoid emissions, reduce emissions and increase sinks.

Companies globally are pledging to achieve “net-zero” or become “carbon-neutral” | Read more

Carbon Neutral Farming- Make agriculture fit for 2030 

Carbon farming is a set of agriculture practices that results in increased storage of atmospheric carbon in soil. These practices are common in organic farming, regenerative agriculture, and other approaches to food production. Plants remove carbon dioxide from atmosphere and store them during photosynthesis. The carbon is released back into the atmosphere or stored in soils when they die. While the conventional practices result in release of CO2, the carbon farming practices sequester carbon in the soil.

Carbon farming is a whole farm approach to optimize carbon capture by implementing practices that removes carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and stores it in the plant or the soil organic matter 

The practices normally adopted to sequester carbon and improve soil health are 

  • No till farming or mulch farming 
  • Cover crops grown during off season 
  • Biomass is returned to soil rather than burning it 
  • Crop rotation practices 
  • Drip irrigation 
  • Nutrient management with minimal use of chemical fertilizers 
  • Integrated croplands with trees and livestock 
  • Integrated pest management  

These practices can be used in combination or applied one at a time.

Benefits of Carbon Neutral Farming 

  • Enhances crop production 
  • Minimizes soil erosion 
  • Increases soil biodiversity 
  • Aids in offsetting emissions 
  • Less Polluted food production 
  • Decrease in environmental pollution and enhanced food security 
  • Sustainable economic growth 

Carbon farming refers to farm management practices that involves management of both land and livestock, the pools of carbon in soils, vegetation  and fluxes of carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide. It also refers to the business model that upscales climate mitigation by incentivizing farmers to implement climate friendly farm management. 

Carbon farming delivers benefits to both farmers and society and also enhances soil health, biodiversity and animal welfare. It improves farmer resilience with increase in productivity at reduced costs. The major challenges to scale up carbon farming exists in accurate monitoring, reporting and verification and Impermanence. The carbon sequestered can be intentionally or unintentionally released back into the atmosphere that undo’s the benefits of carbon farming 

How to make agriculture carbon neutral? 

  • The world needs to produce more food on less land 

With the global increase in demand for food farmers need to produce 45% more food without clearing forests and other habitats. To be land area- carbon neutral, farms should  strive to increase output per hectare. 

  • Increase in production of meat and milk and reducing consumption. 

The production of meat and milk has to increase for the rising global demand otherwise, the other countries will produce that meat probably less sustainably with more emissions. They need to produce with reduced GHG emissions and higher feed efficiency. 

  • The need for research and technology 

Investment in wind and solar power brings down costs and improves efficiency. Using microbes to help crops fix nitrogen and include feed additives that reduce methane in cattle 

  • Increase in food production with reduced emissions and reforestation 

Rewetting peatlands and restoring thousands of hectares of forests would stop losses of carbon from peatlands and remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. It will also improve habitats and also reduce nitrogen pollution that affects the marine ecosystem. 

Transforming food systems for the better requires commitment to innovation and we must build trust through transparency with traceability technologies that will drive a carbon- zero future for agriculture. 

Leveraging technology for Carbon Neutral agriculture 

The power of digitalisation can beat the climate crisis and mitigate its impact. 

Digital technology can deliver one-fifth of the emission cuts that we need to hit net-zero by 2050. 

The Fourth Industrial Revolution with blockchain enabled innovations creates a potential use case to solve the climate crisis. Blockchain provides data sharing and transaction management aligned with climate markets. Blockchain is an implementation of DLT, distributed ledger, public/private key encryption and a decentralized infrastructure. The immutable ledger with blocks of information is a collection of transactions that is added with consensus and ensures data integrity and  security while distributed nature promotes transparency. 

The immutable distributed ledger provides peer to peer trading of resources and supply chain transparency and management. Recording transactional data on the blockchain and establishing provenance offers end to end traceability of products from farm to fork. This transparency creates an opportunity to optimize supply demand management, enables sustainable production and builds resilience. 

Blockchain platforms can collect distributed data on resources and an interoperable decentralized system could enable the sharing of information, ensuring trust among the stakeholders in the system. It also enables automated transactions via smart contracts. Blockchain has the potential to transform sustainability reporting helping companies to demonstrate their performance, enabling consumers to make better informed decisions. This brings in accountability. 

Blockchain applications can improve data accuracy and transparency and  address the issue of double counting of credits. It helps to grow the nascent carbon removal markets and drives pricing of carbon credits by enabling them to be purchased. Blockchain can improve governance and sustainability with collective action aimed at tackling climate change. The transactions are recorded transparently and permanently fostering trust and traceability. 

Benefits 

  • Enhances Carbon emission trading 
  • Renewable energy trading 
  • Enhance climate finance 
  • Measuring, tracking and reporting of emissions 
  • Protect integrity of vcm 
  • Collaborate with market players to scale climate action. 

TraceX blockchain traceability solutions provides an ideal solution to address the farm level and postproduction emissions in the food value chain. Capturing of real-time data, tracking and monitoring of this data on a shared platform together with verification and validation of its credibility helps to build climate resilient carbon management solutions. 

Conclusion 

Shifting to carbon smart farming helps to meet food demands and counter climate change. The amount of carbon sequestered in soils can be increased by adopting right management practices. Soil carbon also ensures food security as it makes farmlands more productive. The negative impact of climate change is  addressed across the  entire  ecosystem.  

Soil is the brain of the farm and technology has to tap this resource to develop better insights to help feed our planet while sequestering carbon 

Carbon farming can significantly reduce the mankind’s carbon footprint and investment in this ensures health of generations to come. 

The great food transformation for climatic resilience | Read here

carbon farming, carbon sequestration, carbon traceability, carbon supply chain, food traceability, food supply chain

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Manu Bhardwaj – VP of Growth and Strategy of TraceX Technologies. An engineer turned entrepreneur and a Traceability expert.

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