Enabling farmers to incorporate new technologies into their businesses will be key if the sector is to achieve its climate change goals. Lauren Dean speaks to Luke Halsey, head of Farm491 to find out more.
The answer to climate change is not as simplistic as reducing consumption of red meat, nor is it a one-size-fits-all approach.
Luke Halsey, head of Farm491, said there was a ‘menu of options’ to mitigate climate change, or become climate resilient, while also increasing equity across the supply chain.
The starting point for farmers was through solutions using technology and innovation.
Speaking to Farmers Guardian shortly after taking up his role at the agritech specialist, based at the Royal Agricultural University in Cirencester, Mr Halsey said: “The reason why technology is very powerful at doing that is because it is a good lever at creating equitable solutions, while also solving scientific problems like climate change.
“Different types of farms will have different economics and different ambitions about what they want to be, and that leads to a slightly different context to solutions and different ways of working.”
Looking at the specifics, options could include mitigating emissions through diversifying, such as combining vertical farming into traditional farm practices, or converting waste to valuable resources.
For example, taking waste coming out of agricultural waste streams and purifying the waste ‘so that it becomes clean again’, and turning it into upcycled, valued products.
Mr Halsey said: “Whether that is taking out phosphates and re-selling those chemicals on, or using it as feed for insect farming.
“One of the big solutions is about circular economy, and the way technologies help create that into other novel food streams.”
And talks around methane should not necessarily be about reduction, but rather methane capture and turning it into other valuable products, such as graphene.
Such solutions are ‘moving out of research and development’ and will soon hit farming, Mr Halsey said.
“That will be led by people who can take the risk and want to do it, for reasons other than just reducing cost, but because they think it is of strategic importance,” he added.
“What we are trying to do at Farm491 is to shorten that distance to farmers and enable them to use the technology faster, in a way that works for them and helps them.
“The point is, there are lots of different solutions out there in changing emissions which are more valuable than reducing them, and it will come down to what the aspirations for farmers are.
“It is about giving them the sweeter tools to help them meet what needs they want to achieve for the context.”