1 Dec 2022

Fieldays 2022: Government launches emission reduction centre

12:53 pm on 1 December 2022
Fieldays has begun with 1000 exhibitors at the 4-day show.

Farmers have another three days at Mystery Creek to check out the latest related technology and equipment at Fieldays. Photo: Fieldays/Supplied

The annual place-to-be for farmers wanting to swap tips and pick up new toys is underway in Waikato after a six-month delay.

But visitors to this year's Fieldays have plenty to think about, with the government having launched its Centre for Climate Action on Agricultural Emissions yesterday.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said Kiwi farmers were the most sustainable food producers in the world, and she wanted them to stay that way.

Sustainability had made New Zealand's exports more profitable than ever, Ardern said.

"Increasingly, they have buyers that are looking for the credentials to demonstrate we're sustainable, to demonstrate future carbon neutrality," she said.

"I see the price premium that some of these products that are already doing that are achieving, to me that represents both challenge and opportunity."

But it wasn't all positive, methane emissions were the elephants in the room at this year's Fieldays even.

After Ardern's speech, Agriculture Minister Damien O'Connor took a firmer tone.

"She's a lot kinder and more patient than I am, I'm a little older," O'Connor said of Ardern. "But you'll realise as you get a little older that you run out of time, and some of the challenges that we have in front of us we need immediate action on."

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Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and Agriculture Minister Damien O'Connor spoke to the crowd at Fieldays. (File picture) Photo: RNZ / Dom Thomas

The industry had a responsibility to address its emissions, he said.

"The agriculture sector, as we know, contributes 50 percent of our gross greenhouse gas emissions and around 91 percent of our biogenic methane emissions," he said.

"So it's crucial that this sector is part of the solution."

Ardern said the new centre would support the creation of sustainable agri-tech.

Originally promised during May's budget announcement, the initiative will be a collaboration between the government and key industry players like Fonterra and Nestlé.

"This will see a new, strong commercial partnership to work alongside a strong research and development partnership that already has a global reputation for quality science," Ardern said.

"The centre will be about action, we want to show the world that we're the ones to look to for reducing agricultural emissions."

Among the first round of investments were a methane-inhibiting capsule, the breeding of more low-methane rams, and new greenhouse gas measurement equipment, costing $27.5 million in total, $11.5m of which was contributed by the private sector.


The new Centre for Climate Action on Agricultural Emissions is set to invest in intiatives like the breeding of more low-methane rams. (File picture) Photo: RNZ/Cosmo Kentish-Barnes

But some farmers were already looking at ways to make their farms more sustainable. Farmer Steven Silcock said he was shopping for equipment to do just that.

"One of the bigger things is to be more accurate with our nutrient placement, so at the Fieldays today, I've been investing in technology that helps with that," he said.

"A GPS tracking system that keeps track of nutrients and chemicals."

Another, Neil Walker, said climate change was not something farmers could ignore.

"It's no good just folding your arms and hoping things will change," he said.

"You have to move with the times, and we always have moved with the times."

O'Connor said if other farmers like Steven and Neil could adopt new technologies, the country would soar past its 2030 methane goal.

"I'm absolutely confident that with these projects, and many others that will pop up between now and 2030, that we'll reach that 10 percent target," he said. "And go well beyond that, which is an ambition of many companies."

The prime minister said it would require some effort to get there.

"These proposals are all about: how do we get there as a nation? How do we make sure that farmers know clearly what it is that if they adopt will reduce their costs? That's what we're working so hard on," she said. "But change is always difficult."

But in the long term, Ardern said making that change would be worth the trouble.

Farmers have another three days at Mystery Creek to see how the latest technology and equipment can help them keep their top spot when it comes to sustainability.

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