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Zero-carbon dairy project lands €2 million prize to deliver climate-neutral farm

There are plans to extend the strategy to 5,000 dairy farms.

Image: Shutterstock/John And Penny

A DAIRY FARMING project which aims to achieve net-zero emissions has scooped the €2 million Science Foundation Ireland (SFI) Future Innovator Prize.

‘Farm Zero C’, led by Professor Kevin O’Connor from University College Dublin (UCD), aims to help deliver a climate-neutral farm by 2027.

The initiative is based at Shinagh Farm near Bandon, Co Cork, and there are plans to extend the strategy to a further 5,000 farms within five years.

The project, 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.

It also examined renewable energy use and how changing livestock feed affects the amount of methane gas animals produce.

It’s planned that wider deployment will 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.

Professor Kevin O’Connor said dairy farms have “huge potential” to help Ireland address the existential challenges of climate change and biodiversity loss.

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,” Professor O’Connor said.

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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 50% over the next decade.”

About the author:

Céimin Burke

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