Farmers will be able to see how much carbon their farm emits and sequesters under Teagasc’s new sustainability digital platform.

The platform will allow farmers and their advisers to benchmark current emissions at individual farm level and make a plan in order to reduce emissions.

It will be launched in the first quarter of 2023, with a pilot action planner. It will then be updated in the second quarter for dairy and beef farmers and in quarter four for sheep farmers.

Tillage farmers will be included in the model in the third quarter of 2024.

In 2025, it will incorporate spatial information, soil, forestry and biodiversity mapping and in 2026 it will include soil carbon.

The Department of Agriculture, Teagasc, Irish Cattle Breeding Federation (ICBF) and Bord Bia are all involved in the programme.

Farmer data

Farmers will have to give permission for their data to be used on the new platform, such as their Bord Bia quality assurance audit data, data from the animal identification and movement system (AIMS) and co-op feed data.

This data will then be analysed and will help inform action on farms.

Seán Coughlan of the ICBF said that the critical thing is that if farmers are nervous about what’s happening with their data, that’s a good thing because it is very powerful.

“If it’s in the wrong hands, it can be used against farmers. The data is still owned and controlled by farmers, the data won’t be going anywhere without farmers' permission,” he said.

“We need to ensure that when the value is being extracted from the data that the farmers are retaining that data and it’s not being leaked off to third parties. If that happens, you won’t have the buy-in from data,” he said.

Director of Bord Bia’s Origin Green and quality assurance schemes Deirdre Ryan added that 72% of buyers of Irish food are looking for Ireland’s sustainability credentials when buying. She added that it is a huge opportunity to build on and to support farmers.

Advisory programme

Teagasc has also launched a new Signpost advisory programme as part of its strategy, which will be a free service to establish an action plan for each individual farm and bring about the change required on Irish farms.

“The programme we are launching will be available to all farmers,” head of advisory services at Teagasc Dr Stan Lalor said.

“This will not just be a programme facilitated by Teagasc for Teagasc clients, this will be open to all farmers.

"We’ll be working with all of the existing partners in the Signpost programme and the Agricultural Consultants Association (ACA) to ensure that this programme complements very well with their clients, in addition to what we’re trying to achieve with clients who are working more with Teagasc,” he said.

It is to deliver “enhanced advisory and training support” for all the farmers who participate and will be individualised for each farmer’s farm to “ensure the right actions are in the right place” on farms, he said.

50,000 target

Teagasc is targeting to enrol 50,000 farmers by 2030 in the new advisory programme.

Teagasc director Professor Frank O Mara said that it is Teagasc’s ambition to deliver a world-leading climate advisory service for farmers and an accelerated research programme to address emissions reduction and carbon offsetting.

“We are mobilising collective resources of Teagasc, [the] ICBF and Bord Bia to build a unique sustainability digital platform.

"We are doing this from a strong base building on existing strong platforms: the Signpost programme, state-of-the-art facilities, committed and talented staff,” he said.

Teagasc also launched a new virtual National Centre for Agri-food Climate Research and Innovation. The centre, along with the enhanced advisory programme and new sustainability platform, make up the three legs of Teagasc’s new climate action strategy.