Industry, researchers and agriculture leaders have joined forces to combat greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and help Australian farmers become more resilient in the face of climate change.
Initially piloted by Mars Petcare in 2017, the Cool Soil Initiative is now welcoming major Australian manufacturers, Kellogg’s and Manildra Group, as well as leading researchers at Charles Sturt University to form a collaborative Food Agility Cooperative Research Centre (CRC) project with a $2million+ commitment to help grow the program over the next three years.
The Cool Soil Initiative will see key players along the grain supply chain invest in reducing GHG emissions by supporting 200 farmers across Australia to test and investigate new management practices that deliver a win-win for productivity and sustainability.
Speaking about the collaboration, Charles Sturt Professor of Food Sustainability, Niall Blair, said;
“Climate change is one of the biggest challenges facing Australian farmers today and improving soil health is one of the top three management priorities on the agenda of growers in the region. Over the next three years, if we can achieve a 0.1 per cent increase in soil carbon across 700,000 hectares of land, the impact could be close to removing 1.2 million cars from the road.
“We’re excited to collaborate in this paddock to product partnership, working with industry and grain growers in regional farming systems groups, to improve our understanding of how crop management practices can mitigate GHG emissions on-farm.”
While Mars and Kellogg's continue to work on reducing their factory GHG emissions, they have identified that over 50 per cent of their emissions happen upstream from their manufacturing sites, from production and processing – including growing, and milling – as well as transport of materials used in their products.
“This farmer-first initiative is a prime example of how industry-wide collaboration can offer valuable support to the farming sector as they strive to mitigate GHG emissions and improve soil health, without compromising farm productivity and profitability. The Cool Soil Initiative also provides a framework for the food industry to support farmers as part of their mission to reduce GHG emissions,” Blair concluded.
“We can only see benefits for our business in being involved in this project. Climate change is a major risk to farming businesses all over the world, this project aims to quantify our greenhouse emissions and identify ways to reduce them so we can do our part in slowing down the pace of climate change. The soil tests performed as part of the project are measuring the carbon in our soils but also measuring other soil factors which may limit crop production so we can identify and ameliorate the problems and hopefully boost production. This is a long-term project so we will have the opportunity to track our soils over time and identify changes in response to different farming practices we might try. Soil is a complex living ecosystem and the more we can learn about it the better off we will be,” Craig and Fiona Marshall, farmers, Rennie, NSW.
Founded in 2017 by Mars and the Sustainable Food Lab, the Cool Soil Initiative provides agronomic support to wheat farmers in Australia, with the goal of minimising supply chain GHG emissions.
The program engages with farmers to identify opportunities to reduce inputs (costs) and increase productivity, while also ensuring the long-term health of their most valuable asset – soil. The project is gathering data using online greenhouse gas calculator the Cool Farm Tool to quantify on-farm emissions and to measure and track changes over time.
This true paddock to product partnership has the potential for positive impact – improving soil health, productivity and profitability, while also simultaneously improving supply chain security in Australia.
To learn more about the Cool Soil Initiative, please visit www.foodagility.com/projects/cool-soil-initiative
Barry O’Sullivan, General Manager, Mars Pet Nutrition
“As a business that has manufactured in regional Australia for over 50 years, we are extremely proud of working with farmers and regional farming groups to develop the Cool Soil Initiative since 2017.”
“When we incorporate sustainable practices into the way we purchase our raw ingredients, it provides us with another avenue to help reduce GHG emissions from our operations. We are thrilled to welcome our industry partners on board to help take this initiative to the next level and look forward to seeing the reductions over the next three years.”
Professor David Lamb, Chief Scientist, Food Agility CRC
" Food Agility is proud to be the innovation partner in this paddock to plate project that brings together digital, data and robust science to support farmers in boosting soil health. We look forward to being able to support farmers with data-driven tools to do the job including an emissions calculator validated for Australian conditions, digital products to assist in gathering and validating soil testing data and a digital farm atlas."
Murray Newman, National Sales Manager Manildra Group
“As one of Australia’s largest purchasers of wheat and a major manufacturer, we’re passionate about supporting our wheat farmers and doing what we can to integrate sustainable practices in the supply chain. Growers recognise the value in sustainable farming which could lead to increased yields, be it through efficient nutrient management, increased soil organic matter or enhanced water-use efficiency.”
Esme Borgelt, Managing Director Australia & New Zealand, Kellogg
“We have been working with and sourcing from Australian grain growers for over 90 years, and they are a vital part of our business and the Australian agribusiness landscape. Over the last few years we’ve seen our local farmers and farming communities experiencing some extremely hard times – from droughts to bushfires.
Investing in a project like the Cool Soil Initiative that will help Aussie farmers to improve soil health and build greater resilience to climate change, while also reducing on farm GHG emissions, goes to the heart of our desire to help the local community and deliver on our sustainability commitments to conserve natural resources and responsibly source our ingredients.”