A farming project which aims to achieve net-zero emissions has landed the €2m Science Foundation Ireland (SFI) Future Innovator Prize.
Farm Zero C’ is a project led by Professor Kevin O’Connor at University College Dublin (UCD) which aims to help deliver a climate-neutral farm in Cork by 2027, with plans to extend the strategy to a further 5,000 farms within five years.
Farm Zero C is using Shinagh Farm near Bandon, Co. Cork, owned by the farmers of four West Cork Co-ops, as a demonstrator for this project, with the goal that Shinagh will achieve net-zero emissions by 2027.
Wider deployment will then be achieved through a mobile app. This will integrate farm and satellite data, habitat mapping and natural capital accounting, to provide users with information on the carbon footprint of their activities and to develop strategies to mitigate these.
Farm Zero C, in partnership with dairy producer Carbery Group, studied how planting different types of grasses and clovers on pastures and supporting hedgerows can boost biodiversity and soil health, how using renewable energy that reduces greenhouse gas emissions and how changing what we feed livestock affects how much methane gas they produce.
“Agriculture is a critically important sector for Ireland socially and economically and dairy farms have huge potential to help Ireland to address two existential challenges, climate change and biodiversity loss,” Professor Kevin O’Connor said.
“Farm Zero C is building a holistic plan to progressively bring farm emissions to net zero, enhance biodiversity, and integrate natural capital and digitalisation into the farm business.
“We have brought the very best national and international partners together to address the challenge. From the outset Carbery group and the Shinagh farm in West Cork have been incredible societal champions and we look forward to working together to roll out the findings to as many farmers as possible,” Prof O’Connor said.
Awarding the prize, Minister Simon Harris said: “Innovative and disruptive ideas like the Farm Zero C project will become increasingly important as we deliver against the Government’s ambitious Climate Action Plan and significantly reduce our carbon emissions.
“My Department’s support for projects like this one, that have real world impacts, really gives me not only pride, but confidence, as we strive to reduce our carbon emissions by 50pc over the next decade.”
Minister of State Martin Heydon said the project was “Irish bioeconomy in action safeguarding farmer’s livelihoods whilst protecting our climate and environment.”