Overseas investors plan to steer carbon pledges on Aussie farms

Overseas investors plan to steer carbon pledges on Aussie farms

Agribusiness
A new investment fund, backed by the Australian government, is targetting 'underperforming' grain farms.

A new investment fund, backed by the Australian government, is targetting 'underperforming' grain farms.

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Underperforming Australian farms are the target of a new $100 million fund which aims to help make them more resilient to climate change.

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Underperforming Australian farms are the target of a new $100 million fund which aims to help make them more resilient to climate change.

The overseas-backed fund intends to turn a profit at the same time, partly through potential carbon credits from building an Australian farm property portfolio.

With $50 million in seed funding from the Federal government through the Clean Energy Finance Corporation, this new program will use expert advice from CSIRO and others to help "transform" what it calls small and medium sized farms.

The Transforming Farming Platform is looking to invest in the struggling farms or companies which own farmland across the main cropping areas of Australia to help lift their productivity and optimise land use.

The other $50 million has been pledged by the global agricultural impact fund, the Kempen SDG Farmland Fund, with cornerstone investments by Dutch pension and insurance schemes.

That fund has earmarked Australia as well as agricultural areas in New Zealand, the US, Portugal and Denmark for spending.

The aim of the fund is to lower the "carbon intensity" and improve carbon sequestration of farms.

It is not the only fund wanting to invest in carbon, cattle property investment firm Packhorse Pastoral Company last month unveiled its plans to buy properties worth $1.5 billion across Australia over the next five years.

The company has launched a second public fundraising looking for another $50 million to continue its buy-up of cattle properties, mainly in NSW and Queensland.

Packhorse's signature appeal to investors is to combine cattle production with carbon sequestration on a large scale.

In Australia, the government-backed sustainable farming initiative will be managed by Gunn Agri Partners, with an existing portfolio of $300 million.

The fund plans to use expert advice from a team of leading agronomic and environmental advisers, including the CSIRO, to adopt data-driven practices to make the farms more productive and resilient in a changing climate.

Yield Gap charts 'underperforming' crop growing areas. Map: CSIRO.

Yield Gap charts 'underperforming' crop growing areas. Map: CSIRO.

This includes integrating regenerative farming methods and improved land management techniques to optimise yield productivity, reduce carbon emissions and sequester carbon.

Incorporating data from the CSIRO, including its Yield Gap research, the platform will look at cropping systems, weather and soil data and crop variabilities to optimise production.

Yield Gap is a mapping tool which shows the gap between actual and potential crop yields of rainfed wheat, barley, sorghum and canola crops in Australia.

CEFC chief executive officer Ian Learmonth said the approach would be transformative for the portfolio farms.

"Across Australia, farmers are looking to the latest technology to help them farm more productively and sustainably," Mr Learmonth said.

"We are delighted to support the broader use of research from groups such as the CSIRO to deliver energy efficiency improvements to farms as well as optimise production, soil carbon, biodiversity and other environmental outcomes."

He said smaller, mixed use Australian farms could reap "considerable benefits" by using data-backed best practice farming techniques to increase profitability and productivity while cutting their carbon footprint.

"This is a win-win development for farmers, agriculture and emissions reduction," Mr Learmonth said.

The regenerative farming project also has scope to generate Australian carbon credits for soil and biomass carbon sequestration.

Gunn Agri's platform portfolio manager Bradley Wheaton said integrating agricultural and environmental management practices to generate market-linked returns is at the frontier of institutional investing in Australian agriculture.

"As agricultural asset managers for institutions there is complete transparency in our financial performance," he said.

"What is ground-breaking here is that we have embedded the same accountability in the delivery of soil carbon, carbon in vegetation, emission reduction, biodiversity and other sustainability measures.

"The CEFC asked if we could target certain carbon emission and sequestrations outcomes and ensure we could deliver on them. We developed a comprehensive set of indicators that track our performance, and we baseline and report against these with independent assurance of the whole framework."

CSIRO science says future global food security depends in part on achieving the highest possible yields on existing farmland.

The CEFC has committed more than $500 million to small and large scale agricultural projects, including emerging soil carbon initiatives - one of the five priorities identified in the Technology Investment Roadmap Low Emissions Technology Statement.

Together with Macquarie Infrastructure and Real Assets, the CEFC has also worked with the CSIRO on the development of FarmPrint, a unique tool designed to enable Australian farmers to monitor, benchmark and evaluate their on-farm carbon footprint.

Agriculture is said to generate about 15 per cent of Australia's carbon emissions.

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The story Overseas investors plan to steer carbon pledges on Aussie farms first appeared on Farm Online.

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