Australia’s clean energy bank has taken a $100 million stake in Macquarie Bank’s ag business, stumping up the cash to develop energy efficient, low carbon farming systems.
The whopping equity investment represents the Clean Energy Finance Corporation’s first foray into farming, which will also draw on expertise from the CSIRO.
CEFC transaction leader Rory Lonergan said an initial goal of the project is to develop a benchmarking methodology for farmers of any scale to rate their energy consumption against production output.
The project will target improved on-farm energy efficiency and reduced carbon emissions in grains and permanent plantings.
The benchmarking initiative was inspired by the successful rating system used in the property sector.
“Benchmarking energy use in agriculture would have many differences to the property sector, but that system drove significant change and improved emissions,” Mr Lonergan said.
“We want to see something similar come to farming.”
The CEFC and CSIRO will bring the new farming techniques and Macquarie’s Infrastructure and Real Assets will invest in real estate and implementation, with farms located seven regions across the country.
Mr Lonergan said Macquarie was selected for the scale in operations it could provide, and access to capital, required to lead the market in modern farming systems.
He said the knowledge developed through the project will be made for public.
“We just signed the investment deal earlier this year, so we haven’t finalised the rollout but we’ll be working with industry to make sure all the knowledge is disseminated,” Mr Lonergan said.
“The project is not really targeted at developing new technology, we’re interested in adopting or applying existing technology and benchmarking performance,” he said.
Mr Lonergan was confident the new techniques and practices employed by Macquarie “can filter down” across the spectrum of farm enterprises, despite the gulf in farm systems and access to capital.
CEFC’s investment could help Australia meet its international commitments.
Australia is a signatory to the Paris climate change agreement, which requires participant countries to develop sector-specific pathways to emissions reduction.
Agriculture is one of Australia’s heavy emitters, responsible for about 15 per cent of emission (of which 66pc comes from livestock alone).
Macquarie’s Infrastructure and Real Assets division is one of Australia’s largest corporate farmers.
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