Call for change

The food industry is under significant pressure due to climate change and increasing population. There is an urgent need to curb global carbon emissions and minimise other environmental impacts associated with food production. Food producers must meet the ask for higher quantities of nutritious food sustainably, without increasing carbon emissions or degrading soil, water or air quality. This includes meeting an estimated 50% increase in demand for meat and dairy. In Ireland some of the most sustainable beef and dairy in the world is produced here naturally. However, output prices are being squeezed, inputs such as fertiliser continue to become more expensive, and regulation increases. This is making it difficult for farmers to meet consumers’ demand for sustainable produce. The challenge for Irish farmers is turning this crisis into an opportunity by using data to prove the sustainability credentials of their produce and increase the viability of their businesses.

When tech meets human ingenuity

Two years ago, Accenture and international agri-technology company Devenish sat down together to develop a solution that would increase farm profitability and reduce farm emissions by improving soil health and biodiversity, creating financial and environmental returns from carbon sequestration. The result of this is Agrinewal; a cloud enabled solution which integrates a variety of data to create a carbon balance sheet for individual farms and identify actions to help farmers increase farm returns and improve carbon balance.

Accenture’s role is to help transform the concept into a workable reality, using AI and cloud technology expertise. Working alongside Accenture is Avanade, a joint venture between Microsoft and Accenture, bringing expertise in sustainability and digital twin technology. Together building a bespoke cloud platform to capture data from individual farms and creating a digital twin of the farms, so the data can be used to measure, manage, and report on carbon sequestration progress.

Carbon capture by soil on a farm-by-farm basis, has never previously been measured or factored into carbon audits. Agrinewal creates a digital representation of a farm and measures carbon levels to set a baseline. The farm’s digital twin is then used to scenario plan and model the impact of actions overtime to aid decision-making and the development of a road map. This enables farmers to make decisions about the future of their farms with confidence and helps them to avoid costly missteps, paving a faster way to reducing emissions and increasing farm profitability.

"The partnership between Devenish and Accenture to create Agrinewal has created a vision for the future of farming. It enables the food sector in Ireland to become renowned as sustainable, nature positive and contributing to global food security."

— Ross Mac Mathúna, Senior Manager, Products – Accenture in Ireland

A valuable difference

Agrinewal’s aim is to recruit 10,000 farms in Ireland over the next five years, with projected carbon savings of over five million tonnes. Quantifying and validating carbon sequestration will enable Irish farmers to create a net carbon balance for their farm: (Emissions – sequestration = net carbon balance). Farmers can track and prove the reduction in their net carbon balance and crucially their contribution to Ireland’s net zero goal by 2050. Test farms now have the opportunity to use Agrinewal to deliver a host of benefits to their business. Through a diverse range of technologies and solutions, such as multispecies and agroforestry, they can improve biodiversity, animal welfare, air quality, soil health, financial performance and decrease emissions. In the longer term, they will be able to benefit from a whole new income stream from carbon capture farming. Meanwhile consumers are increasingly prepared to pay premium prices for low or no carbon products, particularly those with higher welfare standards. This may be supply or demand led, but the whole supply chain from farmer to retailer, brand owner, processor and customer will benefit from better quality, more nutritious and sustainable beef and dairy products.

Agrinewal offers farmers the opportunity to demonstrate their environmental credentials to an increasingly aware consumer. Those who choose to do so will reap the benefits of greater insight into carbon levels and decision-making power when it comes to reducing them. Animals pastured on multi-species sward put meat on more quickly and thus can get to market sooner. Even as the roots of the sward improve soil quality and fix more nitrogen so less fertiliser is needed, they are reducing carbon and flood risk. With a higher quality, more sustainable output with reduced inputs, this system will help farms everywhere to get better prices for their produce, improve margins and secure their futures. And, although the current focus is on carbon, Agrinewal has the potential to enable farmers to manage a range of environmental factors, including water and air pollution. Accenture’s bespoke cloud platform offers an empirical tool for measuring carbon emissions and reductions. This collaboration has transformed the reach and effectiveness of ground-breaking agricultural science into a unique, world-class innovation with the potential to safeguard and feed our world more sustainably in a time of rapid change.

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