New Zealand gets its first net zero carbon emissions dairy farm

03-03-2023 | |
The demonstration farm at the centre of the project is a 290-hectare property surrounding Fonterra’s Whareroa site. Photo: Nestlé
The demonstration farm at the centre of the project is a 290-hectare property surrounding Fonterra’s Whareroa site. Photo: Nestlé

Fonterra and Nestlé are jointly developing New Zealand’s first commercially viable net zero carbon emissions dairy farm.

The dairy companies have announced a new partnership especially for this 5-year project. The demonstration farm at the centre of the project is a 290-hectare property surrounding Fonterra’s Whareroa site.

The farm, run with co-partner Dairy Trust Taranaki​, will examine all aspects of farm operations to reduce carbon with the aim of cutting emissions by 30% by mid 2027. The ambition is to reach net zero carbon emissions within 10 years.

Dairy Trust Taranaki will work with Fonterra and industry partners to reduce total emissions on the farm, including methane. The aim is to use solutions that are also ‘good for the farmer, good for the cow and good for the milk’.

The lessons learned and activities in the project will be shared through open days with farmers, who can then adopt the techniques and technologies most appropriate for their own farms. The practices must be economically viable and practical, and available to all farmers to adopt, according to the companies.

Creating innovative solutions

Fonterra CEO, Miles Hurrell, says the collaboration will help both Fonterra and Nestlé accelerate progress towards their greenhouse gas emission goals. “New Zealand already provides some of the most sustainable nutrition in the world through its pasture-based dairy system. This new partnership will look at ways to further reduce emissions, increasing the country’s low-emissions advantage over the rest of the world.”

Sustainability is an important part of Fonterra’s strategy, Hurrell says. “We aspire to be net zero by 2050. We know we will make bigger gains, for both the Co-op and country, by partnering with others. Working with partners such as Nestlé is our best opportunity to create innovative solutions to local and global industry challenges.”

The Fonterra CEO emphasises that the project will also help Fonterra’s and Nestlé’s customers to achieve their goals. “Nestlé has ambitious plans and we look forward to working together to discover systems that could help our farmer owners to continue to build on the already good base they have.”

According to Nestlé New Zealand CEO, Jennifer Chappell, the Taranaki farm would build on Nestlé’s work around the world to help transform the dairy industry. “Dairy is our single biggest ingredient, and our vision is that the future for dairy can be net zero,” Chappell says, adding, “It’s critical we work with dairy farmers and their communities.”

Greenhouse gas farmer support programme

Nestlé currently has over 100 pilot projects with partners around the world, including in New Zealand. The company has 20 farms already striving towards the ambition of net zero emissions. Chappell points out that working towards a net zero farm means looking at all aspects of the farm, from cow nutrition to sequestering carbon. “We will share what we learn on the journey across the dairy industry, with the goal of ultimately mainstreaming on-farm practices that will reduce the climate impact of the dairy industry.”

Nestlé expects the new project will contribute to Nestlé meeting its goal to achieve net zero emissions by 2050, including reducing its emissions by 20% by 2025 and by 50% by 2030.

The partnership between Fonterra and Nestlé also encompasses the launch of a greenhouse gas farmer support pilot program. This multi-year project will see enrolled Fonterra supplying farms get additional support to implement changes aimed at lowering their on-farm emissions.

This could include solutions such as improved management of feed and pasture, and enhanced milk production efficiency. The opt-in pilot will start with around 50 farms and then be scaled up over the next 3 years.

René Groeneveld Australia correspondent