|Farmers that participated in Smart Farming in 2020 identified average cost savings of €5,600 and average greenhouse gas emission reductions of 9 per cent.
Smart Farming is a voluntary resource efficiency programme led by the IFA in partnership with the Environmental Protection Agency. The programme is now accepting 2021 applications.
IFA President Tim Cullinan said that programmes like Smart Farming that work with farmers to deliver change at farm level have never been so important. They help guide and support farmers to change farming practices.
“Smart Farming demonstrates that improving efficiency can deliver significant cost savings as well as emission reductions, without negatively impacting productivity on farms,” said the IFA President.
“Smart Farming connects farmers with professional agronomists who provide the latest advice under the eight thematic areas, including grassland management, soil fertility, energy use and feed management.”
He said that achieving net-zero emissions in farming is a huge challenge. “There is no silver bullet - it will require programmes like Smart Farming that give farmers confidence that investing in mitigation technologies or changing farming practices won’t affect their competitiveness. Instead, they can save money while improving farm sustainability.”
Laura Burke, EPA Director-General, said “The EPA’s State of the Environment Report, published last year, calls for the agriculture sector to go beyond improving efficiencies and focus on reducing total emissions. They can do this by breaking the link between animal numbers, fertiliser use and deteriorating water quality.
“The Smart Farming programme provides practical actions that protect the environment, while also delivering significant savings. Business-as-usual scenarios will not tackle environmental issues, and the EPA encourages farmers to engage with Smart Farming and adopt more sustainable practices.”
In 2020, the most significant savings came from improving soil fertility (on average 29% of the savings), followed by grassland management (on average 19% of savings) and energy (on average 18% of savings).
The results show the importance of soil and grassland management to farm profitability and climate action.
Smart Farming has updated two guidance notes - Grassland and Energy, which gather the latest expert knowledge from Ireland’s leading academic and advisory bodies, state agencies and technical institutions.
The grassland guidance shows that better grassland management can increase farm profitability by €250 to €350 per hectare. Farmers can achieve energy savings by assessing their energy bills and energy demands and following the guide’s advice.