PRIMARY producers must consider the opportunity cost of not installing on-farm renewables, according to a pioneer in the field.
New South Wales cotton and wheat farmer, Karin Stark, two years ago installed a 500-kilowatt solar diesel hybrid irrigation pump on her property, which she estimates is saving the family business about $180,000 annually and will pay itself off within five years.
Ms Stark said the high capital cost of installing on-farm renewables and a reluctance to take on debt could be barriers to farmers investing in solar for their properties.
“There is a lack of understanding in both the agricultural and financial sectors of just how strong the business case for on-farm renewables really is,” she said.
“Farmers have very specific energy needs and we need to ensure that renewables suppliers understand that they operate very differently to other businesses.
“But solar panels are so much cheaper than they once were, so I want to encourage farmers to consider the opportunity cost of not investing now and securing much cheaper energy for themselves in the long term.”
Ms Stark spoke at a free, online summit held by the Farmers for Climate Action on Friday.
The summit is the second of three events that will examine the risks and opportunities that underpin Farmers for Climate Action’s Regional Horizons economic stimulus program.
The first considered climate change risk, Friday’s event explored on-farm opportunities and a third event will consider strategies for community and farm resilience.
Meat and Livestock Australia’s manager of sustainability innovation Doug McNicholl, who addressed Friday’s summit, said the CSIRO had shown that the red meat industry could achieve carbon neutrality by 2030 without reducing herd numbers.
He discussed the technologies and practices primary producers are adopting now, as well as what is on the horizon for producers to reduce emissions and remain profitable. He also offered practical tips on how to get started.
“Reducing net emissions in the Australian red meat industry must go hand-in-hand with improving on-farm productivity and reaching new markets,” he said.
“It also helps cement the Australian red meat industry’s long-standing reputation as a provider of clean, safe and responsibly-produced protein.
“For those reasons, achieving carbon neutrality offers real opportunities for the 80,000 businesses in Australia’s world-leading red meat industry.
“It all starts with the producers, the people making the decisions on the ground.
“I’m looking forward to talking with producers about the steps they can take towards a profitable, carbon neutral future, as well as the support industry needs for the Carbon Neutral 2030 Initiative to be a success.”
Source: Farmers for Climate Action
Find out more about the Regional Horizons summits at https://farmersforclimateaction.org.au/portfolio/regional-horizons/