The greenhouse gas calculator developed by University of Aberdeen researchers has scooped this year's hotly-contested 'Practice with Science' Award run by the Oxford Farming Conference.
The Cool Farm Tool is a free-to-use calculator for the whole supply chain to measure the carbon footprint of crop and livestock products.
The tool, originally developed by Dr Jon Hillier and colleagues at the University’s Environmental Modelling Group, in partnership with Unilever and the Sustainable Food Lab, is now owned by the not-for-profit organisation Cool Farm Alliance.
The Cool Farm Tool is an example of Aberdeen research which placed the University top in the UK for Agriculture, Veterinary and Food Science research in the recent REF14 assessment of research quality across UK universities. Over three-quarters of research submitted by the University across all areas was deemed to be either ‘world leading’ or ‘internationally excellent’.
The award presented by the Oxford Farming Conference and the Royal Agricultural Society of England and sponsored by AB Agri gives Dr Hillier and his team £10,000 to develop an economic assessment module to enable farmers to better understand the profit and loss implications of more sustainable production choices.
The sustainable management of agricultural systems is one of defining challenges of the 21st century, with greenhouse gas emissions a major priority for action with governments and businesses. Recent studies estimate that agriculture contributes up to 25% of global greenhouse gas emissions and is the main source of emissions in food supply chains.
Dr Tina Barsby, one of the directors of the Oxford Farming Conference and CEO of NIAB said: “The judges were impressed by this project because of its obvious value to the supply chain.
“The tool helps farmers identify hot spots, but where it becomes really valuable is that it allows the user to test alternative management options to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.”
Dr Hillier said: “I am delighted to accept this award on behalf of the Cool Farm Alliance. The Cool Farm Tool today is the product of a multi-sector collaboration over several years to deliver science-based environmental decision support to farmers. We are extremely happy that the research and research translation work we have conducted at the University of Aberdeen and supported by the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC), in collaboration with other universities, global food and drink companies, and fertiliser companies is helping informed decision-making in the supply chains of global businesses.
“There are also exciting developments of the tool in progress, not only to improve the greenhouse gas accounting components, but also to add metrics for water use efficiency (with Reading University and GeoForschungZentrum Potsdam), and for biodiversity management (with the conservation science group at Cambridge University).”