Dairy producers co-operative First Milk has acquired a 5% stake in the Dundee-based farm carbon measurement start-up, Agricarbon.
The move follows a large-scale pilot project across 7000ha of south-west Scotland and is an indication of the strength of the dairy industry’s commitment to finding ways of meeting net-zero targets by 2040.
Agricarbon was founded in 2018 by Perthshire fruit farmer and entrepreneur Stewart Arbuckle, decarbonisation specialist Annie Leeson and technology commercialisation expert Alan Strong to help farmers measure the amount of carbon in their soils.
The company uses state-of-the-art technology to automate intensive, direct soil sample collection and analysis at a fraction of the usual cost, and it has already attracted an investment of £1.8 million from Heathrow .
The data gathered from the pilot has gathered 40,000 soil samples, which First Milk claims is one of the largest datasets of “real-world” soil carbon measurements ever to be compiled.
The co-op says it is launching a programme which aims to increase soil carbon capture to help farmers meet emissions targets and net-zero targets.
First Milk’s sustainability director, Mark Brooking said: “The data represents a breakthrough in the visibility of carbon in farm soils. As well as establishing average soil carbon levels, the pilot has also shown that there are wide variations between the levels of carbon in different fields and at different depths.
“This demonstrates the real opportunity to sequester significant additional carbon in soil through the adoption of regenerative agricultural practices.”
Agricarbon’s chief executive Annie Leeson said First Milk’s support was invaluable.
She added: Their investment will allow us to expand our service to the wider farming industry and meet rapidly building demand for affordable, decision-grade data on carbon stock and soil carbon sequestration, unlocking the potential for sustainably managed soils to offer a major new natural climate solution.”
First Milk has committed to achieving net-zero by 2040 at the latest and to sequestering an additional 100,000 tonnes of carbon per year through the adoption of regenerative farming practices by its members.
The co-op’s chief executive, Shelagh Hancock said First Milk’s investment in Agricarbon would strengthen its position in dairy sustainability, and help it demonstrate that dairy farmers can be part of the solution to the climate crisis through good soil management.