Baseline data could lead to output, profit lifts: GrainGrowers

Emma Alsop June 26, 2024

GrainGrowers have recently hosted a series of Carbon Curious dinners for growers to provide them with information and resources on carbon farming and policy. Photo: GrainGrowers

GROWERS could increase their productivity and profitability from insights gained through gathering data on carbon emissions, according to GrainGrowers acting general manager major projects Sarah Hyland.

Ms Hyland said growers have reported that there is clear “alignment” between improved financial outcomes and data gathered from carbon baselining.

To further the case, Ms Hyland told Grain Central that leading bulk handlers CBH Group, GrainCorp and Viterra may also request this information from growers as part of Federal Government legislation currently being debated in the House of Representatives.

As part of her work for GrainGrowers, Ms Hyland took part in the inaugural Sustainable Ag Summit held last month, and is spearheading work to reinvigorate the Australian Grains Sustainability Framework.

“The economics and greenhouse gas stuff aligns pretty well, generally speaking,” Ms Hyland said.

“If you want to reduce cost, it usually ends up reducing greenhouse gas emissions.”

Optimisation to drive emissions reduction

Ms Hyland said while Australian growers were some of the lowest carbon emitters in the world, more could be done in both improving the levels and reporting the data.

“There is work to be done around optimisation,” Ms Hyland said.

Sarah Hyland was a part of a panel discussion held during the Sustainable Ag Summit in Toowoomba last month.

“We are a pretty low emitters anyway, and it will vary, but what is very important for grains is improving productivity and that gets you reduced emissions intensity usually.

“We know that we make enough food to feed three Australias and the future is telling us we probably need to make enough food to feed four or five Australias.”

Ms Hyland said the key to optimising an operation was to gather baseline data and compare that to new data if a grower chooses to make changes to their practices.

“Understanding more about your business is always a good thing.

“There could be things that you don’t realise.

“You could be a great and experienced grower…but this is a new language that has never been used in farming before.”

Ms Hyland said she spoke to one grower who was confident most of the farm’s emissions came from diesel use, but a baseline process revealed a lot of emissions came from crop residue decomposing.

She said the outcomes could drive changes, such as altering fertiliser usage or purchasing more efficient farm equipment which could in turn improve profitability.

“Our emissions intensity is the focus.

“Any ways we can use technology or best practice or innovation to increase our productivity is going to be the main key to that.

“CSIRO says that it actual might mean that we need to use a little bit more fertiliser, that is assuming you are optimising it.”

Reporting part of future-proofing

Currently the Federal Government is debating legislation that would mandate all businesses above a certain size to submit a sustainability report which would include Scope 1, 2 and 3 carbon emissions.

Reporting will be required if a business meets at least two of the following criteria: consolidated revenue of at least $50 million; value of assets at more than $25M, and employing 100 or more staff.

Ms Hyland said, while most farming operations did not fit into this category, the reporting includes Scope 3 emissions, defined as all indirect emissions, which would incorporate those made during grain production.

Although it is unclear whether companies will need actual or estimated Scope 3 data, Ms Hyland said reporting emissions will most likely be a part of all farming businesses in the future.

“I can guarantee that you will need to do that in the future and that’s kind of going to be how you are going to do business.

“It is the way things are going; the people who are going to be buying your product and who are going to reward you financially for selling it to them will be looking for all of the transparency and proof of your best practice.”

Sustainability framework in sights

Ms Hyland said GrainGrowers and industry generally were keen to assist growers to measure their baseline and benchmark it against other similar operations.

GrainGrowers has just completed a series of Carbon Curious Grower Dinners held across the country aimed at educating growers on the latest developments in the carbon space.

She said GrainGrowers was also in the process of reinvigorating the Grains Sustainability Framework, initially released in 2019, which has to “define sustainable Australian grain in an Australian context” as one of its aims.

“We will be saying as an industry, this is how we define sustainable grain.

“When we start tracking out data and seeing how we are going, then growers can say: how am I comparing to the rest of Australia for my particular operation?”.

Ms Hyland said GrainGrowers has recently completed a new materiality study, and was in the process of appointing a steering group.

“They will work on the framework proper and translate the materiality results into a draft framework that will then move on to consultation with the rest of the industry.”

She said the aim was to have a steering group finalised in the next six months, consultation on a draft plan early next year, and a final framework released by June 2025.


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