Community of practice – On-farm emissions

Do you provide carbon and emissions advice to farmers?  Do you want to learn about new carbon and emissions research and practice developments and share your experience with others?

The On-Farm Emissions Action Plan Pilot Community of Practice (CoP) brings farm emissions service providers and advisors together, providing an opportunity to:

  • Collaborate and learn from each other.
  • Build collective capability and share case studies and stories, information, tools, and resources.
  • Improve the emissions advice being provided to Victorian farmers.
  • Ensure that the advice provided empowers Victorian farmers to help them understand the carbon and emissions story for their farms.

Introductory webinar

Dairy farmer talking to agronomist about pastureKey segments from the webinar

02.50 – Welcome, introduction, and purpose of the CoP (Heather Field and Graeme Anderson)

10.56 - Scrutiny on GHG emissions is coming – why we need to be ready (Professor Richard Eckard)

23.12 - On-Farm Emissions Action Plan Pilot (Ralph Behrendt)

32.18 – What’s an On-Farm Emissions Action Plan look like?  (Alison Kelly)

47.28 - How can you get involved in the Community of Practice? (Graeme Anderson)

52.18 - Questions (Heather Field)

Passcode: COP2022

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Heather Field:

Okay. Hello everyone and welcome to today's introductory webinar on providing on-farm emissions advice, Community of Practice. My name is Heather Field and I'm a Climate Change Service Development Officer with Agriculture Victoria, and will be supporting our presenters today during the webinar. Before our presenters do begin, just a few housekeeping items. This webinar is being recorded and will be made available after today. You are all currently muted just to stop background noise, so if you do have a question, please use the chat function, which is currently explained on your screen, and we'll make some time at the end of the presentations today for some questions. There will also be just a quick survey following our webinar and that'll only take a minute to complete and we greatly appreciate your assistance in completing that one.

So before we commence, I would just like to acknowledge the Traditional Owners of the lands and waters on which we are all meeting and pay my respects to elders past, present and emerging. And I'm tuning in from Ballarat, which is the lands of the Wadawurrung People, and I'd like to acknowledge all the lands on which everyone is tuning in from today. So with that introduction, I might just hand over to our first presenter, Graeme Anderson.

Graeme Anderson:

Thank you, Heather. Thanks very much for that Welcome to Country and welcome to everybody who's joining us today for the On-Farm Emissions Community of Practice and bit of an introduction to the On-Farm Emissions Action Plan Pilot. So just run through the agenda of what we're going to run through over the next hour. We've got just a bit of setting the scene happening with me. Then we're lucky to have Professor Richard Eckard from Melbourne University, to really set the scene on why we need to be ready and the scrutiny that's coming around emissions for agriculture. Then we have Ralph Behrendt, our Senior Specialist in Climate Change, which will give an overview of the Victorian Governments On-Farm Emissions Action Plan Pilot, which is only just recently commenced and will be an important Pilot in the next three years. Then our farm emissions specialist, Alison Kelly, will run through, share some fresh information on some of her one-to-ones with farms and farmers and what's involved in a Farm Emissions Action Plan.

So that's what we're going to be run through, provide a context about, well, what is a Community of Practice trying to do and how much you want to be involved in future, and we'll take it from there. So welcome all, just setting the scene, the emerging space of carbon and emissions, it's been brewing for quite a few years, and we know there's emissions reduction fund and there's carbon credits and all sorts of different things that have been popping around. Farmers have been hearing about this for, well, probably a fair part of my career. But these are just some examples of the sort of questions that farmers are starting to ask. And while there are different services and advice sort of areas that might focus on one component, one sort of area that we see is a bit of a gap is about, well, who's actually pulling all of this together for the actual farm perspective, from a farmer's point of view. And so farmers might be approached to be involved in a particular carbon project or they might be part of a Pilot or some other program.

But one thing that seems to be coming out is they're saying, "I just want some advice to help so I can understand this from our whole of farm perspective." So I guess that the essence of this community of practice is aiming at that whole of farm perspective and there's lots of tools that are out there and there's different programs for carbon neutral or there is links to emissions reduction fund, there's also interest coming from supply chain. And so there's a lot more sort that will be coming in the next few years, but this gap we're really trying to look at, how do we help, is prone to put it all together in terms of the overview of farmers being in a, I guess a position of being more empowered, about understanding the emissions and carbons story for their own farms, so that they're in a better position to be able to navigate how might they participate in a whole range of other requests and programs that might be on offer.

So thanks Heather, the next slide. So the community of practice, what we're really aiming to set up over the next three years, thanks to the On-Farm Emissions Action Plan Pilot, is to run a number of events that are focused around what's essentially a bit of a closed group of those who are service providers and providing advice to farmers. We're really looking to try and share knowledge, technical expertise and experiences in helping make sense of carbon emissions from a farm perspective. So we're not trying to be the actual experts in this, we're conscious that there's lots of people who bring really great expertise for different parts of the farm carbon puzzle. So we're really trying to create that space where we can share what's working and good ways to help farmers make sense. I guess along the journey, our real aim is to build a collective capability in whole farm emissions reduction and carbon advice for farmers. So that's where we're trying to get to.

And a really key point, if the community of practice is working, a really key thing is linking up or enabling a space, a safe space to link up with others who are also trying to navigate this issue. And we have certainly lots of people who deliver great services to farmers and some of them saying, "We know bits of the emissions puzzle, but there's other areas that we're not quite across. So we'd like to team up with others who can help us understand some of those other themes or topics a bit better." And examples might be for some of our farm advisors who do a lot with farm businesses and advising, they probably got most of the data that's needed to have a good conversation around an overall farm emissions audit. Likewise, there might be those that can help advise farmers on their energy solutions, but might be wanting to understand more about, well, how do we put that in context with what's happening with livestock and things like that.

So usually the aim of the community of practice, it's hopefully you'll get to meet and link up with others who are doing stuff in this space and often people that you may not have met before, but they all bring a part of the jigsaw that you might be needing, in terms of putting this all together. So that's the journey, we'll run through with a little bit more. I think, Heather, you've got a bit of a Zoom poll just to check who's joining us today.

Heather Field:

Yes, I have. So I'll just launch that now. So hopefully everyone is seeing that on their screen and we've had some good interest in this introductory session. So we're just getting a little bit of information on where you're tuning in from today. So that's the first question. And then if you scroll down in your poll, the second question is, what is the main industry or sectors you service? So hopefully that helps us get a little bit of an idea of who's online today, and I'll also share that in a couple of seconds once everyone's had a little bit of a go. It looks like we are nearly there, about 70% of participants have answered those two questions, and then I'll share it shortly. So it looks like we're getting most of you ... lots from livestock. I'll share these in a minute.

Okay, I'll end it there. Most people look like they've done it and I'll share those results. So hopefully you are seeing those on your screen, but if not, maybe I'll pop it over here, that might help. So we've got 14 per cent from the Southwest, we've got a small number from the Northwest, Central Victoria, Gippsland, and we've also got some from Melbourne and some joining from other states. So welcome to those joining from other states. And the main industries and sectors, quite a number there, 67 for livestock and then grains, dairy, got some horticulture, which is great, pigs, poultry, and we've got a few others. So that's good information for us and I hope that helps you get a bit of an idea also of who's joining us.

Graeme Anderson:

Thank you. That's great, Heather. Thanks everyone for just taking time to share that info. The On-Farm Emissions Pilot and work over the next three years is actually looking across industries, so it's great we've got all industries represented, so that's terrific. So we've got a bit to get through, so we'll kick off with our guest speaker, Professor Richard Eckard. I'd like to welcome you Richard, thanks so much for making time to help set the scene for us today. Richard is Professor and Director of the Primary Industry's Climate Challenges Center with the University of Melbourne. He's very well known to a lot of people in the carbon and emissions and climate space. His research focuses on carbon farming and accounting towards carbon neutral agriculture, managing extreme climate events and options for agriculture to respond to climate change. And also science advisor to not only the Australian government but the government in New Zealand, the UK and US.

So in Richard's interaction, not only has he got global research networks, but he's also often asked to help others make sense of what's coming with emissions and carbon in agriculture. So we're really appreciative, Richard, of you just giving a bit of a taster on why we need to be getting ready. So over to here, Richard.

Richard Eckard:

Great, thank you, Graeme. And hello everybody and thank you to Agriculture Victoria for the opportunity, coming to you from the land of the Wurundjeri People. Why do we need to be ready for emissions reduction? So I'm just going to go through about 10, 12 minutes of where's the drive coming from, who's asking for us to be carbon neutral? So we know that the Paris Climate Agreement set us on a course towards a climate neutral world by 2050. So what we're seeing is a lot of governments taking notice of that and the latest Glasgow agreement, COP26, just increased short term ambitions. So not just a 2050 target, but a 2030 target. So what we've seen there is ... sorry, it's not going forward. Oh, there we go. So what we've seen in response to that is a lot of governments being quite tidy in their responses around the world and debates about whether to set targets or not.

But the supply chain have moved. They have said, "In order for us to operate into this future environment, we need to set targets for the agricultural sector." And so the companies on this screen are just a snapshot of the major multinational supply chain companies that have all set targets that are starting to align with where the Paris Agreement is headed towards net zero by 2050. And I would put it to you that we live in a different world now to the one we did when we first started talking about this. Where of the 100 largest economies in the world, 69 companies, not countries. Amazon, Google, Microsoft, are bigger than half the countries in this world. And supply chain companies are particularly big and influential, and what they're doing is responding to shareholders. And so you can see that it actually in some ways empowers us as individuals because the shareholders are concerned about shareholder value, but that's because of your buying patterns and they're predicting buying patterns towards lower emissions in the future.

So I'd put it to you that the drive comes from the supply chain and the bank's concerned about their exposure to greenhouse gas emissions, and that's where we see the major drive coming from. Whoops. Heather, would you mind putting me back where I was? Sorry about this. We get to see all the slides in reverse order. All right, thank you. All right, and so we asked the question, well how real is this pressure? And I'd put it to you, these examples I've got here of how real the pressure is. This is a report to the London Stock Exchange from the Farm Animal Investment Risk and Return group. And it's advising institutional investors of the risk of investing in animal agriculture as a result of greenhouse gas emissions exposure. And while you think, well how influential is that? Well what we've got here is Fonterra, the fourth from the left, on the good side because they had lots of good words in their sustainability statement about where their emissions are. And then we have, about fifth from the left, one of the largest agricultural companies in Australia that operates livestock across Northern Australia.

And within days of this coming out, I got a phone call from the special operations officer from this livestock company saying, "What do we do? How do we do a carbon audit? How do we work towards lower emissions? What do we need to do to prepare for this new world?" So it's very real and they need to respond to shareholder demands. So what we can see here, a potential impact, for example, on the dairy industry, is Danone, of the largest supply chain companies in the world, buying into alternative milk products, the SILK brands, those brands on the right there. And while there's lots of things around diversified income, what I think's notable is comments in their media that they want to provide more sustainable options and move towards more sustainable and healthier eating. Which if you're a dairy farmer, that's kind of reverse code, if you think about it. It's actually saying, well, they're saying that current conventional dairy isn't sustainable.

Then we've seen Norco and CSIRO form a partnership. Now Norco's one of our third largest dairy cooperatives, form a partnership called Eden Brew, which is producing milk from yeast fermentation, and it has the same casein as normal milk but doesn't have the lactose and has unsaturated fats. So their media says sustainable food futures, environmentally sustainable, less resource intensive. So I think the signals are there that we've got to take note that this is a new world we're moving into. Now we've seen a number of responses to this, like the Australian red meat industry can be carbon neutral, the CN30 strategy, and you wonder, well that was quite an ambitious target for the red meat industry. Why did they do that? Because we see our competitors around the world doing similar things.

So the state of Mato Grosso du Sul, has the carbon neutral initiative and it includes their livestock sector. We've seen the release of the carbon neutral Brazilian beef brand making inroads into the European Union. We've seen New Zealand set a net zero target and all farms required to complete a carbon audit by the end of 2022, they've set a higher price on methane from livestock as well. And we've seen California set a target on methane as well, which if you think of California major feed locks, major feed lock dairies, it's sent shockwaves through the livestock industry. And this all aligns with about the target in the global methane pledge, where 105 countries have signed up to a 30% target to reduce methane. So very real again. In response, here's just two contrasting examples of what we've seen in Australia, livestock companies responding and targeting sectors of carbon neutral meat in the marketplace.

And at the other extreme, wine, where most of the emissions are actually not from wine growing, they're actually in the bottling process. So the target there is not as stringent as it would be for livestock. But we're seeing these carbon neutral market differentiation coming through. We see farmers getting paid premium prices for carbon neutral wool, for example. So it's becoming real. Now, just a couple of warnings along the way that there's a bit of an emphasis on carbon credits and carbon offsets and we hear stories about Woodside Petroleum buying up agricultural land in Western Australia to plant trees. Bottom line is if the mining industry in the northwest of the Pilbara bought all the agricultural land and forested it in Western Australia, we still wouldn't meet the full offset of that industry. So it's fanciful that that's going to solve the problem. So between now and 2030, we might see premium markets like carbon neutral wool for farmers that can demonstrate lower emissions, or you could see diversified income from the sale of carbon credits.

But after 2030, agriculture won't be talking about carbon credits anymore. We'll be talking about insetting or keeping your carbon for yourself because you need your carbon covered for yourself first, so that you can access your own supply chain and meet the supply chain targets. The notion of selling soil carbon credits out of your farm, to only have to go back to the market and buy them back at three times the price in 2030, I think is something we need to take notice of. And carbon credits after 2030 will only really be tolerated in the hard to abate sectors. It's also worth noting that there's a fundamental difference between soil and tree carbon, which is a carbon sequestration and it's a finite resource by definition. You can only grow trees so much on your landscape, you can only store so much soil carbon. And because it's finite, the idea of selling that off your farm and then one day needing that soil carbon to meet your own obligation, we need to start thinking about insetting our carbon, first rather than selling it out of the farm.

And certainly we're working with Climate Active on an insetting framework for agriculture. Emissions avoidance, I see is quite different, in that if you reduce methane, if animals go to market a month earlier or three months earlier and there's less methane produced, well that did or didn't happen. And so the idea of selling that is a lot less impactful on a future target and farmers could actually achieve that and sell that as a carbon credit up until the day they need to be low carbon and then no longer sell it. So I think there's some very clear warnings for us in that. Just moving on to the next slide. Thanks, Heather.

Now Graeme talked about a few framework tools. We host a number of tools on our website for sheep, beef, even for buffalo and deer and sugar and cotton and pork and poultry. I noticed there were some pork and poultry, we have calculators for those industries as well. We've tried to structure these calculators carefully so that they fit into the framework required, which is scope one emissions on farm, scope two emissions off farm, scope three emissions before farm and tell you what your emissions intensity are. So this meets the climate active and the National Greenhouse Gas inventory definition and underpins the carbon Pilot.

And what this gives you is farm profiles of different farming systems of what a dairy farm might look like, what a beef farm might look like, what a grain farm might look like. And so on pigs and poultry, where we see most of the emissions don't actually come from the animals, they come from the manure management. So it gives you very different options on how to manage these emissions. And then to end off, it gives you a comparison of the emissions intensity of your product that are relative to say others in the marketplace. So Graeme, I'll leave it there and hand over to you.

Graeme Anderson:

Thank you, Richard. Excellent. That was a pretty quick whiz bang tour of the global story, so I really appreciate you fitting that into quite a tight thing. We'll have time for some questions a bit later on. There's one there Richard, just a good one from Chris [inaudible 00:22:12], just saying, is there an international umpire auditor? And I think that issue of trying to avoid greenwashing out there is a live issue, both at a global level but also within agriculture. And part of, I guess, the community of practice is to try and help make sure we can spot all of that and make sure there's good evidence base to any claims that have been made. So thanks for that.

Now I'd like to thank Ralph Behrendt, who's a Senior Specialist in Climate Change. Ralph, so thanks heaps for joining us. Ralph's going to just run through the Agriculture Victoria and Victorian government's got an On-Farm Emissions Action Plan Pilot, which is why we're here today, and opportunity to explore a lot more about what's happening with emissions on farm. So thanks for joining us Ralph, and look forward to hearing a bit of an update of what's the Action Plan Pilot all about.

Ralph Behrendt:

Thanks Graeme and thanks Richard for the great introduction. And I'd also like to acknowledge our First Nations people, I'm coming from the lands of the Gunditjmara at Hamilton and acknowledge their elders past, present and emerging. So the On-Farm Emissions Action Plan Pilot is really about supporting farmers to reduce emissions on farm, and it's part of our 2021 agriculture sector pledge. So the Victorian government's Agriculture Sector Pledge that covers our commitment to net zero economy by 2050 and it's within the agricultural industries. And as part of that sector pledge launch in 2021, the government committed close to $20 million to cover the development of a statement that develops a long term shared vision around a net zero emissions economy for agriculture, contributes to some research trials on methane mitigation and emissions reduction technologies, and then supports the development of tools and services to allow farmers to reduce emissions while improving their productivity and profitability.

So the On-Farm Emissions Pilot is very much about developing on farm emissions plans, sorry, going forward. So working with up to 250 farmers and growers to calculate their emissions on farm and develop emissions action plans and implement those actions on farm, with access to a pool of around $5 million in grants. Each of these grants are being worked through through an expression of interest process that goes through nine rounds, and each step of that process involves an expression of interest, a selection process. And then our Agriculture Victoria staff, our farm emission specialist or service provider will go on farm and complete an on-farm emissions assessment. So farmers can know their emissions number, the amount of emissions they're producing, they're on farm sources and they're on farm sinks of emissions, and they can delve into what that might mean for their farm and their future goals.

And in so doing, they'll also prepare an action plan that addresses potential options to reduce emissions. And once that action plan is completed and accepted, there's an opportunity to apply for a grant. And those grants, there's two types that they can potentially access, one being the action plan grants, for a pool of funding up to $4 million over three years, and the innovation fund with a pool of $1 million over years two and three of the project. The action plan grants are up to about $16,000 in a one to one co-contribution. Whilst the innovation fund grants are for larger based projects that significantly reduce emissions and are testing new innovative ways of reducing emissions and they are a two to one contribution up to $100,000.

So types of actions that are opportunities for grant submission, could be engaging professional services, conducting demonstration projects or technology deployments on farm, purchasing equipment, capital works, plantings and there's other categories as well. Some specific type actions that might be implemented could be engaging professional services to develop a sheep breeding and selection plan, to breed low emissions livestock. It could be the trialing of different nitrogen fertiliser type formulations to reduce emissions. Could be the purchase of equipment to improve solar power, or it might be to undertake future planting and more plantings in terms of shelter belts or revegetation, to protect farm dams or drainage lines. Each of the action plans will be detailed in the action plan for each participant that's going through the process.

So the action plans go over nine rounds, expression of interest in each round over the three years and seeking 250 farms in total. There's beef, dairy and sheep rounds in 22/23. The dairy round has recently closed and we'll be opening the sheep round towards the end of the year. The rounds for grains, pigs and poultry, horticulture and there'll be a combined dairy, beef and sheep round in 2023/24 and there'll be two further rounds across all industries in 2024/25. Agriculture Victoria may go to market in the near future for delivery of some of these On-Farm Emission Action Plans. And any service providers or advisors interest in tendering with the department, should register their details on the buying for Victoria website, which is Please ensure that you're registered and then once you're registered, keep those contact details up to date to ensure you get notified of any tenders issued by the department.

So Agriculture Victoria's providing information and support and over the entire rounds, we're going through that stage process so that we can actually develop the templates and the tools and customize them for industry. We'll also be working with the industry organisations and partners, to compliment and build on what they're already doing in the emission space and we'll be working and communicating and collaborating with the participant farmers over that time as well. Looking obviously for opportunities that are value adding to existing projects and services, and learning from those as well and supporting service provider capability through our community practitioners, which as Graeme pointed out, is really about providing that support and providing an environment for shared learning. So in terms of getting further information, we'll also be providing resources training and providing access to any information through the website. And if there's any further questions around the On-Farm Emissions Action Plan Pilot, you can look at the frequently asked questions on our website.

Graeme Anderson:

Very good, thank you very much Ralph, for that overview. So we're really pleased there's an opportunity here with the On-Farm Emissions Pilot, to jump in at the farm level and try and collectively make sense of what the opportunities and challenges are at a farm level. And I just want to stress that this is actually trying to bring together, for each industry and each round, to make sure it's adding and pulling together what's already happening. So the round one was with the beef industry, there's 25 farms participating in that and there's been some great discussion to make sure that what we're doing is adding to the work that's already happening in the beef industry with the MLA carbon neutral 2030. So at each round and each industry, I've been trying to make sure that this is done in partnership, using whatever resources and tools and knowledge is available, to try and make sure we can make it a useful journey for those participating farmers, but also learn a bit about the process and what we have and what we don't have from each Pilot. So thanks Ralph.

And like to welcome Alison Kelly. Thank you Alison, for joining us. Alison's a farm emissions specialist and has actually, for the round one in beef farms, has just started on the process and I think has visited about eight or nine of the farms and is working through well what is a Farm Emissions Action Plan, what does it look like? So thanks for joining us Alison, if you could give us a bit of a taste of what's happening out there.

Alison Kelly:

Thanks, Graeme. So yeah, I'm going to delve in today on the key product from the Pilot, which is that Farm Emission Action Plan. This actually is a new template that we've developed as part of the project, so the Pilot itself. It's one that we will be working through with each of those 250 Pilot participants, as part of the process that we're working with them through a session. And I'm just having difficulty, Heather. There we go. Sorry, there's a bit of delay there, coming up with some of these slides. But at a glance, just to give a bit of a sense of what the action plan itself will entail, is that this is work in progress, it will evolve over time, but it is something that we're hoping makes sense at the farm scale. The idea here is that we want individuals to be able to know and understand their number.

We know, as Richard sort of pointed out, there's increasing demand for evidence from governments, markets and supply chains for emissions, but also on progress, that participants and producers are actually making in terms of some formal actions around emissions reduction. And so we would like to be using this action plan and the action planning process to sort of go through the emissions, the sources and sinks that are on farm and also to then work through with them around how that fits within their farm context. Because what I'm already finding through the on farm visits I've had so far is that no two businesses are going to be the same, and that business context is quite critical to understanding a number. We know that tools already exist to estimate emissions, but they don't always tell the whole story. So for example, a business that is a stable mature business, as opposed to a business that might be in growth phase, is going to have significant differences in terms of the emissions that we look at for any one 12 month period, which is what a profile is trying to do.

The other key point is around their starting points. So we are finding that some of the participants we're working with have already had a long history of working on efficiencies in tree planting or sustainability more broadly. Now that's going to have a difference in their profile as opposed to someone who's just starting or looking at this topic for the first time. So we want to be able to provide a bit of that story, that narrative around the numbers that we have, so that context comes through. The process also allows for us to look at hotspots, that's the delay coming through there, as well as looking at where we can simplify the process for them, where we can clearly identify sources and sinks and where we can provide some form of comparison. And what that allows us to also do is to importantly provide a customise or tailored approach for each of the individuals.

So how will we actually do that? On the slide here is the six steps that we're working on as part of the Pilot. There's some pre-work that we do before we go out on a one-on-one session, which is around some data that we request from individuals and then doing their emissions profile, a preliminary version of that, that we can take out to the one-on-one session. We are conducting one-on-one sessions, which are face-to-face, such a novelty at the moment, but really valuable in terms of what we're able to achieve, in terms of considering the farm business context, what their goals around sustainability and emissions look like and what some of the potential actions are, where we can sit down and workshop those together. And then obviously Ag Vic, currently is our role is post the visit, to pull that all together into the Emissions Action Plan and to support them through to the grants team, so they potentially could apply for some support to implement an action.

That's entirely optional but it's obviously a step that we would like to encourage, to give people further recognition and support for making some form of formal action on their property going forward. Again, I'll just keep shooting through, even there's a bit of a delay. So I'd like to go into each of those steps in a bit more detail. First of all, in regards to the data. So we already have an Ag Vic Pilot template that we're using, which is actually something we send out to farmer participants to get information on their livestock inventory, for specifically for round one, with the beef and sheep industry, any other inputs or purchases they may have, whether they are split or mixed enterprise, whether sheep and beef included in there, some land use questions, as well as some further farm details. It is not the full suite of data that's required for something like the SB-GAF tool, which is the University of Melbourne tool we're using for this round, but it does try to provide us with a really high level initial estimate that we can take on farm.

So we use that data that's submitted to us, we put it into what's currently the SB-GAF tool. We look at whether or not there are other tools or other components that need to be added in, for example, some mixed enterprises also have included cropping and others included some vineyards. And so to try and look at how we can actually put a good estimate of their scope one, two and three emissions together for them. And so we do that basically before we go out to that one-on-one session, but when we actually get there and we actually have a chance to sit down with them, we sort of use that process to validate some of the information they've provided. What we are finding is that not always is the full suite of data available for anybody, whether that's the seasonal live weight numbers or even livestock numbers.

We have been using default values where that's not available or provided, but the one-on-one session allows us to dig deeper into that. So what could we use as a proxy, where are some assumptions that we could make to help provide an emissions profile, and really then delve into some of the business context and goals that they might want to see coming through. And so the scope one and two is something that we present to them in this format. So this infographic is another product that we've developed as part of the Pilot, to present the emissions number to them. And we go through that, first of all, looking at the on-farm emissions numbers first, what is your footprint when you look at just the stock and sinks of emissions that are there. We aren't doing a soil analysis, as you can see there we're sort of describing that as a stable state with no annual change, but perhaps that's something we can delve in with them when we're talking through in our one-on-one session.

And then we flip through to having a conversation about the upstream impacts, so those scope three emissions that we've been talking about. The numbers that you'll see on the slide here are actually from a beef finishing business that we visited, so they are actual numbers that we've got here. And we use this as an example to describe some of those sort of lasting conversations we can have around your role in the supply chain as well. So while we know scope one and two is in your direct control to influence, how can you also, in your purchasing decisions, help to drive some of this emissions reduction even though it might not be something you can directly do within your On-Farm Emissions Action Plan per se, perhaps longer term thinking that through. So step four, we then work with them around, now you've got your numbers, now you've had a bit of a reflection about where your highest bang for buck might be, what are some options to look at now?

And most of the time those conversations are ending up being where are there opportunities for efficiency or emissions intensity focus in the short term. I put a couple of examples there in the green about what's come up so far, starting with actually one around better data collection. So as I mentioned, there's some that haven't already been collecting live weight data or even livestock numbers that might not be over time and in longevity. So how can they get better for collecting that data for now, maybe in the future when and if this information is needed on an annual basis. The other is around things like livestock and herd efficiencies. So where there are opportunities to identify unproductive animals earlier, whether opportunities for quicker turnoff rates are possible, or where reproductive efficiencies could be where some other gains could be made. Another is around feed efficiencies, obviously totally dependent on the farming system, but whether or not there are pasture paddock or containment feeding options that could help with, looking at opportunities for getting animals up in live weight if that's a goal, or getting them off quicker.

The other is overall where there's opportunity to reduce inputs, whether that be from an energy point of view, fuel, fertilisers or maybe even an opportunity for renewables. So we start with approve efficiencies, look at opportunities to reduce and then look at where we can understand and better maintain carbon on farm. So the sort of term Richard was using on insetting, we talk about where there's opportunities for trees and soils. So then following on from that session, we take away notes from that, go through that process we've gone through to identify actions and turn that into their Farm Emission Action Plan. An example of that, I've provided here, it's actually a short version. They're normally ending up to be around seven pages at the moment, but what it does include is exactly what I've just described, which is their emissions profile finalised and updated based on that validation process I've just talked about, with a bit of a comparison number.

So we do introduce that emissions intensity number and those comparisons, like what Richard provided on his slides, how they are fitting with an industry average, what's that looking like, and then a table that describes their actions for them, whether they're high priority, medium priority, low priority, long term, the suite of them are in there to be included. Some of them are do now but some of them are for later on. We do capture that all and then are submitting that back. So far. As I said, I think Graeme, you might have mentioned we've seen nine participants so far, so we're still working through this template, still finding that every single farm is different. There's some tailoring that happens, there might be real interest in understanding trees or soil carbon stocks on the farm. And so each of these have a bit of a unique flavor and it's been really interesting to be getting into that so far.

So what are we hearing? As I said, round one so far has been beef with beef, sheep enterprises included. We've been getting really positive feedback to date about the ability to have someone that's real visiting them to talk about this topic and demystify what's out there. Every single one, at some point, has asked about where there's opportunities for feed additives, whether the word seaweed comes up or whether other options are considered, it differs depending on where they're sort of tapped in and engaged with some of those innovations already. But one of the things that's consistent is that issue of how relevant these are going to be for pasture based systems, but also for smaller scale farmers as well. The scale of that livestock methane being a problem gets raised quite regularly, obviously once we provide that emissions profile, that really demonstrates that 80 to 90% from a livestock producer is going to be that enteric methane.

Obviously that will be different for dairy and for other sectors. But it is something that's a concern, that has been raised about how we actually treat methane, whether it could be looked at as a short-lived gas, whether that is actually an issue for the industry, all these things I'm not there to give the solution for or be the silver bullet for, but it's all something that we can have ongoing conversations about how that actually is going to be measured, monitored and the targets that are going to be set for that going forward. Another point is that this action planning process is quite helpful, some have already trialed things like the SB-GAF tool previously, got stuck on data entry or got stuck on what the number actually means and where they go from there. So this has been a really good process to take them to the next level.

And then every single one has wanted that local and tailored information, so that's to the farming system but also potentially to some options that might be available for them. I mentioned one that was located with viticulture around them, whether there's options there to be tapping into other waste products from those. Yeah, I've put some quotes up there, this is all work in progress, we're already part way through round one, but it's been really exciting to see where we're getting to and hopefully that's just given you a snapshot of where that action plan template is starting to fit into it for now. That's it for me.

Graeme Anderson:

Great, thank you Alison, for taking us through those first few farm visits and sharing, and I guess that's the point of the Community of Practices is to be able to share this journey along the way. And one of the key things is while 250 farmers that are involved in the Pilot over the next three years may not seem a lot, the really important bit is that if it's done with partners and industry, so the shared learnings, then it provides what each industry can take and then feed back into their own program. So this is really a shared learning environment we're trying to set up. Just want to flag, we do have some existing resources that are available for those that are in the caper of trying to help farmers make sense of carbon emissions. So in the center there we've got the climate webinars, so there's some great webinars that Ag Vic runs, they're public webinars, there's a growing list of about 1,600 people that have subscribed, it's free, you get updates on any climate webinar.

So while the community of practice will be more a bit of an in-house for those that are actually providing advice so we can dig into some topics a bit deeper, for the broader public, good stories and messages and information sessions, they'll be on our public webinar. So that's a climate webinar to subscribe to. We've also got the booklet there on right, the making sense of carbon and emissions on farm booklet. It's just a really good overview for farmers just trying to make sense of what are the different chunks of our business and what sort of things you'll be thinking about for taking action on carbon and emissions. We've got the soil carbon snapshot which is there on the left, and that's just a new science snapshot. It's about a 25, 30 page booklet but it links to 70 key research papers and work that's happening in Australia and elsewhere, around soil carbon knowledge.

So there's been a lot of science done on soil carbon, so it's a great place to go and start so you can help make sense of it. And then just questions to ask before farmers sell their carbon, we've got sort of a fact sheet there on our website there. So thanks, Heather's been posting those in the chat box, please feel free to use them. Also, one of the opportunities are with the community of practice, is if there are particular gaps or products, that people say, "Gee, wouldn't it be good if we had something like this?" That's the sort of stuff which could be pretty valuable feedback for us to say, "Well you know what, I think we're all seeing that so let's see if we can help create some new products that help make this task a bit easier."

So how can you get involved? So here's a bit of an overview of this space, a community of practitioners is really for those people trying to help farmers make sense of the whole farm system and how and where carbon and emissions actions or opportunities can fit into that. So one, how would you get involved, I guess we'll be really keen to get your feedback. What sort of activities and events could it include, how often? And I guess I'd like to say, there's the level of the community of practice which is trying to bring it all together from a whole farm perspective so we can signpost well for farmers in each industry. There will be opportunities, of course, because we know there are a lot of service providers that are involved in various solutions areas or particular themes. So there is room to go and visit some of those places and talk about particular themes or get particular research updates or dig deeper in particular, understanding tools and how they work or what each industry is up to.

So there's a whole range of things there, but I guess part of the core thing is what we're trying to find out from you, is what would be useful to you to help you with the advice you're providing out there to farmers, especially to add some extra sort of strings to your bow around covering some of the bits that you're saying, "Well we know this part of the farm carbon store and emissions, but this sort of other area, we'd like to speak with more people who've got that bit covered." So that's what we want to do.

So that will happen via a survey. So one thing, I think after this Zoom session Heather, there'll be a quick satisfaction and feedback on the Zoom session, but there'll also be, for those that have registered an email, we'll send you a survey where we're just really keen if you want to participate in future community practitioners events, where you can tell us what sort of activities and things you would like it to try and focus on. So that'll be really valuable for us and it'll be really important information to see what direction we might head off on. So thanks, Heather. So we've got a bit of time for some questions. So I know there's been some good chat happening in the chat box, so if anyone has any questions there, feel free, we've got the panel available, so if everyone can pop their cameras back on. And Heather, over to you, is there any there?

Heather Field:

Yes, yes, we've had one from Emma, around Climate Active and I think Richard, you were keen to respond to that one, and it's around Climate Active is still out of reach for a lot of landholders in terms of costs and is there anything emerging between that and the free GAF calculators, so that landholders can consistently and confidently state their emissions?

Richard Eckard:

Yeah, look, it's a valid question. Historically, if you wanted to get certified as carbon neutral with Climate Active, you had to engage in an ERF methodology. So have an audit, engage in an ERF methodology, generate Australian carbon credit units and then retire your credits back to Climate Active or buy credits on the open market and retire them back. We put it to them that was just unnecessary cost for a farmer that just wanted to keep their own carbon for themselves and demonstrate the net balance being neutral. So that link that I put into Cassie Wright earlier, Cassie Wright's question was a document we started with Climate Active to get them to a point where they have an insetting framework. In other words, let's do an audit, let's look at what is validly accounted for on your property, both sources and sinks and not worry about carbon credit units, let's just look at what you've got.

Which is what we've done on properties like Jigsaw Farms, where we just did a valid audit, they didn't engage in carbon credits and they are validly, well they were at that particular stage, validly carbon neutral, it's called insetting rather than trading in offsets. So yeah, I think that addresses the issue of the cost involved because now it's just a cost of engaging in the Pilot or using the tools that we've got available.

Heather Field:

Thanks Richard. Gabrielle, probably a good question for you Ralph, in regards to how to get more involved in the action plan delivery, if you've got a couple of comments?

Ralph Behrendt:

So as mentioned, we're looking to tender for some services. If you register on the site with your details, then you'll become aware of any tenders that open with regard to the services that we're looking to do. The other opportunity obviously is to engage with the community of practice. And following this seminar, Heather will be sending out a survey. In that survey is a question about whether you wish to continue to be engaged with community of practice, so make sure you provide your details and answer yes to that question and you'll continue to get information from the community of practice.

Heather Field:

Thanks, Ralph. And a quick one there from James. Yes, if you access the chat box there, you'll be able to get a link to the soil carbon snapshot, but I'll also email that out, that link, if you can't access it in the chat box. So stay tuned for a link to the soil carbon snapshot. Sophie's got a question around the Blue Carbon Lab and whether we're working with landholders on fencing off salt marshes and farm dams as one of the actions? Do you want to comment on that one, Graeme/

Graeme Anderson:

Yep, yep. No actually that was a good one. The farm visit yesterday, Alison was on the property, has a salt marsh and actually was one of the study sites with the Blue Carbon Lab. So yes, we will be teaming up with opportunities like that. And one really interesting question, because the farms that had the dams fenced off, were telling us about how it's halved their methane emissions from the dam. So one thing we're just looking to put in context is well how does that relate to the emissions from the livestock component of the farm? So I think that's a really good example of how those, linking up with other projects and how does each add a little bit more sense making to helping get a picture of what solutions have we got and how do we do them and then what's still left that we've got to solve. So yeah, that's great. Thanks for that heads up.

Heather Field:

Thanks, Graeme. And we've got a couple of questions coming in on regenerative agriculture and cell grazing. I'm just having a look.

Alison Kelly:

I think there was one just about there not being too much focus on that. I guess that's probably just trying to keep everything tight with the presentations today. We're not discluding any active opportunities to reduce emissions. A lot of the conversations we've been having to date have been around where the interest already lies for that participant. So where we could actually help support them with some of those goals, but also suggesting opportunities for emissions reduction action. So it's not that we haven't had these as considerations within emissions reduction options or actions that we can describe, but we are trying to allow for those conversations where if they're seeking a grant, anything that's going to be seeking a grant does have to have peer reviewed science that's going to be backing up any emissions reduction that we're looking to be making as part of that process. So where there's evidence that we're able to be utilising and having a look at, we can be adding those actions into the suite of actions we're coming up with as we go. So yeah, there's definitely more opportunity to add actions over time.

Richard Eckard:

Yeah, I could probably address that comment. Look, there is a view that because you are regenerative in your farming practice, you're automatically low emissions and there really isn't evidence for that. There is evidence that certain farming practices reduce emissions, but not that it's exclusive to a definition around regenerative agriculture. Nothing for or against, we've just completed a global review of all the evidence for and against different grazing management practices that will build soil carbon. And it aligns with what Ag Vic soil carbon brochure, that link that Heather posted, says there. Once you move out of set stocking, once you move out of an overgrazed situation into some form of controlled management rotation, there isn't any difference between cell grazing or any other form of controlled management specifically in terms of soil carbon. So just the major gain is moving out of set stocking, where you get caught with overgrazing and you're actually guilty of losing soil carbon through surface erosion. But once you move into some form of controlled management, controlled rotation, there is no evidence that one particular approach is better than another approach. So just want to put it out there.

Graeme Anderson:

Yeah, thanks Richard. And one of the things with the On-Farm Action Plans, we're just trying to help people make sense. Yep, there are actions you can do and some actions are good things and might be one percenters or two percenters, others might be five or 10 percenters. And part of it is just trying to help us all get bit of a sense about well how significant are some of these actions, because we're not sort of finding any silver bullets, it's the old saying of silver buckshot, is there's a whole range of different things which all contribute across all of the different areas of sources and sinks of emissions and carbon. How are we going, Heather? Got a few more?

Heather Field:

Yeah, we've got a couple around the Pilot. So just some clarification around are the grants open only to the businesses that are part of the Pilot and whether the Ag Vic template, which is looking really good, is open to other businesses that are not participating in the Pilot? So just a couple of comments from the panel around those.

Graeme Anderson:

I think the Farm Emissions Pilot is essentially, it's the plan first and then the grants are enabling some of those farmers to undertake an action. So it's not an open grants program, it's a On-Farm Action Pilot, so grants are only available for those that have been selected through those nine rounds, for being participants to do the On-Farm Action Plan. And what was the other one there, Heather, Sorry?

Heather Field:

Around the actual action plan, whether that template's open to businesses not participating in the Pilot?

Graeme Anderson:

Yeah, I think so. I think it's pretty fresh, the action plan, and Alison and the team have done a great job having these first ones that we're doing with some of the beef farms, and they're soon going to be working into the dairy and there'll be a modification of the template that works for dairy industry. So as we go through each industry, there will be a template there and certainly our intention is that that template is going to be available for others. And we also want to make sure, we aren't the font of all knowledge, the process of this is trying to help not just focus on some emissions numbers, but really helping farmers make sense, have good conversations and try and get a bit of a feel for what are the options that they can implement now, but also what's some of the things that might be needed in their industry that they need to focus more on if they're going to have solutions for issues where there aren't actually magic solutions there now.

So it's working towards what do we do on the ground, so certainly as we go through, we'll be improving those templates, but we'll be really willing to share them as we go through. And part of the community practice is really, we'd be keen at various points to get others feedback because I'm sure people are already out there working with farmers on lots of other different programs and have really effective little tools there to help convert this issue into action, which is what it's all about. Thanks.

Heather Field:

Thanks, Graeme. And Richard has just popped in those guidelines in the chat box, but I'll also send those out when I send out the recording email as well, so if you can't access that. We've probably only got time for one more question. I think we've got through most of them, but I did see one about the SB-GAF tool and whether that's adapted to niche industries. Now Richard, if you wanted to cover that one.

Richard Eckard:

Yeah, Sarah, I think, asked the question and I just posted a link to all the tools. So we have tools for nearly every single industry. So if you're a pig producer or a goat producer, we've got tools for those as well. So have a look at that link.

Heather Field:

Thanks Richard. So I think we've addressed most of the questions there.

Richard Eckard:

It's probably worth mentioning on that tools question, that Agriculture Innovation Australia, AIA, which is one of the new sort of cross sector research and development corporation, is developing a whole of industry, cross industry carbon accounting tool that will be available soon. So it'll be basically taking all our GAF spreadsheets and putting them into an online compiled tool.

Graeme Anderson:

There you go folks, heard it first here. Thank you, Richard. That's sort of good internal gossip you can get if you want to join us, because I'm sure there's going to be a lot more happening in this space over the next few years and tools and the updated tools and as that develops will be one key area. So thanks for that, Richard.

Heather Field:

Thanks, Richard. And I do see another question from Nick, about scope three emissions, and does this result in double counting ... sorry, I'll start the question again. Including purchase steers in scope three emissions, does this result in double counting if the breeder of these steers has already counted the emissions?

Richard Eckard:

Can I answer that? That's a good question, and one we get all the time. We deliberately have scope three in there and Climate Active have supported that because it will ask that conversation. It'll make you have that conversation with your seller. So the next time you go to buy steers, you'll be asking, "Have you taken account of your carbon of the steers you're selling me? Oh no, I'll go to the neighbour and I'll buy from them, because they have." Or you go to your glyphosate supplier or your fertiliser supplier and say, "Can you supply me with a carbon neutral product that takes care of that scope three emission?" So the conversation will start, in which case if they say, "Yes, you can buy our steers carbon neutral," well you can zero out that figure because they have, but if they haven't, you have to take responsibility for that. And you could imagine that by 2030, that becomes a common conversation saying, "I can supply you with carbon neutral inputs," and then you zero out those figures.

Graeme Anderson:

Yeah. Great one, Richard. And it's interesting that as the food industry and supermarkets and others, all have targets for scope one and two emissions, as they move to scope three emissions, that actually means on farm. So part of why we need to get ready is we're about to be asked that, and from lots of different angles, whether it's for export reasons or finance reasons or trade reasons, what have you. So we're off to a good start. Thank you. Thanks everyone who's joined today, hopefully it's been of use and we've explained a bit more about the Pilot and the community of practice that we're looking to set up. And Heather, thank you for organising. We've got, like I said, there's a satisfaction survey just of the Zoom, but then there'll be follow up with an email to everybody to actually get your feedback on whether you want to continue to participate in a community of practice going forwards, and also telling us what sort of things do you think we should focus on. So thanks, Heather.

Heather Field:

Thanks, Graeme. And I've just popped in just a link to our website for the frequently asked questions about the Pilot. So take a look at that one, that might answer some of your questions if you have any in regards to the Pilot as well. Yeah, so thanks everyone for joining. We did have a lot of interest in the community of practice. We had about 90 people register and about 50 of you are online today. So yeah, lots of interest. But stay tuned for an email hopefully coming out later today with the recording and follow up survey, just to gauge your interest in the community of practice and what you might like to get out of that as well. So thank you to all our presenters and thank you Richard for joining and helping out Agriculture Victoria with your great presentation as well. Have a good afternoon everyone, and thanks for joining.

Richard Eckard:

Thanks very much.

Graeme Anderson:

Thanks everyone.

Ralph Behrendt:

Thank you, Heather.

Carbon and Emissions Resources

Agriculture Victoria delivers regular climate webinars on topics including seasonal risk, climate change projections and impacts, adaptation opportunities, innovative farming practices, and soil moisture monitoring.

Subscribe to be notified when new webinars are available or visit Agriculture Victoria events.

These resources on carbon and emissions for Victorian farmers may also be helpful:

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The CoP will meet regularly over the next two years of the Pilot - if you’re interested in getting involved or have a suggestion for a topic you’d like to explore more, please email

Page last updated: 08 Jan 2024