New £15m net-zero centre to help farmers meet goals

Figures show emissions from UK farms amount to 45.6m tonnes of carbon dioxide (CO2e) equivalent a year
Figures show emissions from UK farms amount to 45.6m tonnes of carbon dioxide (CO2e) equivalent a year

The development of a £15 million net-zero farming centre in North Wales could play a key role in helping the UK meet its carbon neutral targets.

The 15-year initiative, based at Coleg Cambria Llysfasi, in Denbighshire, will pioneer new technologies in digital and precision agriculture and renewable energy.

It will host a suite of demonstration facilities where farmers and land managers can learn best practice and see for themselves how they can be applied.

The hub will aim to improve the uptake of renewable energy initiatives with a target of 40 projects over five years, along with improved knowledge transfer to 500 businesses and communities.

It will provide opportunities for commercial testing of market-ready technology whilst delivering a financial injection and further diversification of the region’s rural economy.

It comes as the UK government set 2050 as its net zero deadline; the Welsh government believes it can be done sooner and the NFU is aiming for 2040.

The union is encouraging farmers to improve productive efficiency and land management, boost renewable energy on-farm and the look at options for capturing carbon.

Llysfasi's project manager George Fisher has been busy garnering the support, opinions and concerns of farmers and relevant stakeholders across the region.

“There is a hunger there to get this done and to make the changes needed to meet these targets to improve efficiency, which will in turn improve profits and business models,” he said.

“The main challenge I have is the sheer complexity and number of different organisations and individuals to tap into, but already we have had very positive feedback and are making progress.

“The plan is to put a spade in the ground next year and be ready to go in September 2023, and we are very much on course for that.

"Discussions and relationships will continue to be forged throughout 2021 – hopefully in person as Covid restrictions ease – and we can make even more headway throughout 2022.”

Recent figures revealed emissions from UK farms amount to 45.6 million tonnes of carbon dioxide (CO2e) equivalent a year – about one tenth of UK greenhouse gas emissions.

In stark contrast to the rest of the economy only 10% of this is CO2, while around 40% is nitrous dioxide (N2O) and 50% is methane (CH4).

In Wales, farming and land management accounts for 14 percent of national emissions.

Mr Fisher said that farming was an industry that must change to survive and making efficiency improvements would play a major role in that.

"The farming sector must be congratulated for the enormous strides it has already taken to reduce inputs and improve efficiency, and that has to continue.

"The net zero farming centre will support them."