28 Apr 2021
Lake Hawea Station has been named as the first farm in New Zealand to have a carbon footprint certified by leading environmental certifications provider Toitū Envirocare, proving that farming can be a pathway to healing the planet.
Lake Hawea Station is owned by Geoff and Justine Ross and is pursuing a farming strategy that is both beneficial to the planet and the bottom line. Geoff Ross says "the process with Toitū highlights that farming need not be a problem in climate change. Rather farming can be a solution”.
The certification process Toitū has undertaken on Lake Hawea Station is planned to be the first of many New Zealand farms as New Zealand moves to lower its overall carbon footprint and consumers world-wide demand carbon positive food and fibre.
Becky Lloyd, Toitū Envirocare Chief Executive says Toitū carbonzero farm certification is important as it demonstrates to farmers, their customers, and regulators that pastoral farms can be carbon neutral and at the same time be commercially viable.
The Ross family had worked on its carbon profile over the last two years and recently Toitū has spent time on Lake Hawea Station to independently verify this and certify the Station’s position.
Justine Ross says "the biggest koha Lake Hawea Station can make to the world is to sequester more carbon than we emit. For us, we call this Carbon Clear and not only does it contribute to the world’s battle against climate change it provides us with a way to create more value for the wool and meat we market off-shore”.
Lake Hawea Station, a 6,500-hectare station on the eastern shores of Lake Hawea, runs close to 10,000 Merino sheep and 200 Angus cows. Geoff Ross says "a pleasing part of our process has been the ability to increase stock numbers whilst improving our carbon position. The popular myth is the only way to reduce your carbon profile is by reducing stock numbers. This hasn't been the case here. Instead, we have increased stock numbers and wool production whilst increasing our tree plantings and retiring of marginal land”.
Lake Hawea Station is selling its Merino wool offshore to brands such as All Birds and Sheep Inc. Recently All Birds who reveal the carbon footprint of every pair of shoes, wrote an open letter to all fashion brands offering to assist in calculating their carbon footprint.
UK fashion brand Sheep Inc offers its customers full transparency of its supply chain including the ability to scan a QR code on its sweaters which takes customers back to the farm the wool comes from and adopt a sheep on that farm — in this case Lake Hawea Station. Sheep Inc see working with Lake Hawea Station and its carbon clear position as a competitive advantage they can use in selling their sweaters.
The process was relatively simple, says Geoff Ross. “Prompted by our son and seeing changes in consumer preferences offshore we started with some simple online calculators. We then had this process ‘ground truthed' by two scientists and then Toitū came in to check our numbers and view our operation. Much of the information needed to calculate a carbon footprint is available as part of systems farmers are already using, (Farm IQ and Overseer). So, it is more about gathering existing information and having Toitū run the calculations”.
"Given New Zealand is largely a pastoral farming system and that so many of New Zealand farms have significant native bush and tree lots this country has a significant competitive advantage over other agricultural nations, by providing carbon positive food and fibre.
“As consumers the world over move buying preference, New Zealand has an early advantage” says Ross. “As long as we know this information and communicate the carbon positive way we farm here. Not to mention that over 40% of our country’s land mass is sheep and beef farms — to have that huge part of our country being carbon positive would be a big step change in our country’s overall carbon footprint”.
Toitū’s GM Partnerships and Strategy, Steve Dixon says "Toitū is working with some of New Zealand’s largest organisations and is now adding farming to this mix. Agriculture represents some 40% of our land mass and close to 80% of our exports. So, to know the footprint of this sector and provide it with a competitive advantage will be a real asset to the agricultural sector and our economy”.
Close to 1,800 tonnes, or 71% of CO2-equivalent emissions, from Lake Hawea Station are due to methane from grass-eating sheep and beef. Other contributing areas include greenhouse gas from animal urine, fertiliser use, supplements, and farm vehicles. However, on the other side of the carbon ledger, the farm locked up well over 3,966 tonnes of carbon through extensive tree planting and areas of regenerating bush.
In time the Ross family hope to add the value soil will play, from their recent regenerative farming initiatives and the ability tussock has in the alpine country to sequester carbon. They are also actively looking to reduce methane emissions, through genetics, regenerative farming and possibly seaweed. Importantly, the Ross family believe that the goal for farms should not be just carbon zero but rather to achieve the best carbon position possible for that farming system, for many farms this will be carbon positive. Their ultimate goal is to be 10 x carbon positive.
Developed in partnership with Overseer and AsureQuality, Toitū’s farm certification programme is New Zealand’s first carbon certification designed specifically for farms. The programme uses Toitū carbon management software that integrates OverseerFM GHG emission analysis. AsureQuality’s role is to independently verify the farm’s carbon footprint.
“We’re proud to be partnering with Toitū, using our assurance expertise to add a layer of trust to this programme” says Simon Love, the Environmental Assurance Lead for AsureQuality.
“Independently-verified carbon measurement and reduction is a critical part of the sustainability story for farming in Aotearoa”.
Mr Dixon said integration of Toitū Envirocare’s programme with OverseerFM was a huge advantage as it is already used by thousands of pastoral farmers across New Zealand with cross-sector coverage.
“We are delighted to partner with Toitū in supporting farmers who wish to improve their farm sustainability and to meet consumer expectations overseas. Farmers who have OverseerFM accounts can choose to share their Overseer GHG emissions results and carbon sequestration analysis with Toitū for certification purposes. You can also save duplication of effort as you don’t have to enter farm information into the Toitū system manually.” says Caroline Read, Overseer Limited Chief Executive.
“We are constantly looking for ways Overseer can support farmers who wish to tell a verifiable environmental sustainability story. OverseerFM is also approved by He Waka Eke Noa as an emissions reporting tool.”
The primary sector and the Government last year signed a joint action plan, He Waka Eke Noa, to commit farmers to measuring and reducing primary sector carbon emissions and putting a price on farm carbon emissions by 2025.
Mr Dixon said many in the agriculture sector do not believe Government regulation is the most efficient way to cut emissions and the He Waka Eke Noa accord gives the sector the opportunity to develop its own solutions first. He Waka Eke Noa has set a target of 25 per cent of farms having a plan to measure and manage greenhouse gas emissions by end of 2021 and all farms having measurement in place by 2022.
He said Toitū carbonzero certification will enable farmers to “future-proof” their farms by staying ahead of anticipated regulatory requirements, meeting the evolving sustainability expectations of the consumer market, and validating on-farm environmental efforts.
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