Teagasc has launched a new advisory programme to help farmers to reduce their carbon footprint.

The service will be free for all to access. Siobhán Kavanagh, head of communications at the Signpost Programme, spoke to Stan Lalor, head of Teagasc knowledge transfer, about the new service.

1 Tell us about the new Signpost Advisory Programme

Teagasc is setting up a new, targeted advisory programme to support climate and sustainability actions on farms. This new public programme will be available to all farmers. It will build on the network of Signpost demonstration farms by providing enhanced advisory and training support to farmers to commit to and select and implement climate and sustainability actions that will be appropriate and impactful on their farms. Participating farmers will be given the opportunity to commit to taking action on their farms.

2 What is the overall aim of the programme

The overall aim of the programme is to empower farm families to adopt new and existing technologies and production systems that will allow agriculture to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 25% by 2030 while maintaining farm profitability.

3 What will the programme involve?

There are five steps to the programme for participating farmers:

  • Farmers register for the programme.
  • A baseline assessment is carried out of the current actions being implemented on the farm.
  • Farmers will have the opportunity to see the total emissions figures for their farm (Know Your Number). This is an important starting point. It’s hard to change what you don’t measure.
  • An action plan for the farm will be developed in conjunction with an adviser (Make My Plan). Creating this action plan will be supported by being able to assess, select and commit to the actions that are most appropriate to the farm.
  • Farmers will be supported to enable them to make the plan happen through a range of advisory supports, including both group-based and individual follow-up and advice.
  • 4 How many farmers do you plan to engage with annually?

    The target for the programme is to register 10,000 farmers each year, with 50,000 participating in the programme between now and 2030.

    5 How long will the programme run for?

    Participation in the programme will be for three years. Farmers will be supported during this period in adopting the key technologies identified in the action plan for the farm.

    6 How does the programme link in with the Signpost demonstration farm network?

    It has always been an ambition of the Signpost Programme to combine the network of demonstration farms with a dedicated advisory campaign to maximise the reach of the Signpost Programme. The launch of this advisory programme is the realisation of that original objective. The network of 120 demonstration farmers will play two critical roles in this programme:

  • They will be among the first to adopt climate mitigation and adaptation technologies, supported by their advisers.
  • They will be central to farmer-to-farmer learning, sharing their experiences with other farmers through farm walks, events, articles, videos, media etc.
  • 7 A basic requirement for change is knowing where you are starting from, will farmers have access to this information for their own farm?

    Yes – through the new Sustainability Digital Platform that will be launched in 2023. This platform will recognise the existing actions in place on the farm and establish baseline data for all farms and generate a total emissions figure for all farms. Following on from that, farmers will be able to determine the impact of different options and actions on the emissions profile specific to their farm. ‘Know My Number’ is an important starting point for selecting the right actions in order to ‘Make My Plan’ for the farm.

    8 Is there a charge for the service?

    No, the service will be free of charge to all farmers.

    9 Who will deliver the service?

    A team of new advisers is being established within each of the advisory regions to deliver the service. The service will also be closely linked to the ongoing advisory support services currently in place, ensuring consistency and good integration into existing advisory programmes. However, additional advisers will help boost the support available to all farmers.

    10 Will the programme deal with water quality and biodiversity loss?

    While the main focus of the programme will be on achieving our Climate Action Plan target, there will be complementarity benefits to water quality and biodiversity enhancement. Programmes like the Agricultural Sustainability Support and Advisory Programme (ASSAP), as well as our ongoing programmes across the range of farm enterprises, will complement this programme.

    11 Where can farmers register for the programme?

    Check out www.teagasc.ie or scan the QR code below.

    12 Where does the advisory programme fit in with the broader climate strategy?

    Teagasc is significantly increasing its resources devoted to climate-related research and knowledge transfer. The Signpost Advisory Programme is one of three key pillars of the new Climate Action Strategy as outlined below:

  • A Signpost Advisory Programme.
  • A Sustainability Digital Platform will be a new secure online platform that will allow farmers to calculate the emissions and carbon balances on their farm. It will also have a decision support capability that will allow advisers to work with farmers to develop tailored sustainability plans and track progress on implementing the plan.
  • A National Centre for Agri-food Climate Research and Innovation.The National Centre for Agri-food Climate Research and Innovation will be a virtual research centre across all of our existing research programmes in order to increase the co-ordination and collaboration of research and development around climate change mitigation and adaptation. This will accelerate the development of new technologies by co-ordinating and accelerating research and innovation programmes across Teagasc, as well as with other institutes, both in Ireland and internationally.
  • The new Signpost Advisory Programme will increase the capacity to support and accelerate the adoption of new technologies as they emerge from research.