FROM Adelaide game designers to Sydney micro algae experts, innovative minds around the country are on the job to reduce the carbon footprint of Australia’s red meat industry.
Producers, too, are doing their fair share of the heavy lifting on working out ways to reduce methane emissions from livestock and new methods of measuring carbon in soil.
Technology business ‘incubator’ Cicada Innovations and the beef industry’s research and development body Meat and Livestock Australia joined forces to set up a ‘hackathon’ to come up with solutions to those two key challenges.
MLA is driving the red meat industry’s ambitious goal to be carbon neutral by 2030 through a combination of new investment in research, development and adoption, and via policy settings.
The hackathon offered a $10,000 cash prize and involved months of work on the challenges.
A precision feeder to manage the delivery of carbon-limiting supplement to livestock, the brainchild of a group of producers who run a small breeder operation in South East Queensland, took out the emissions reduction challenge.
Peter Heywood, co-founder of the NextGen Supplement Feeder, said the team – Robert Aisthorpe, Craig Fraser-Grant, Ross McNichol and himself – were in the early stages of developing the combined hardware/software solution.
“Given the feed-additives research currently underway, we anticipate in the coming years there will be a whole range of things that can be added to livestock feed to reduce greenhouse emissions,” Mr Heywood said.
“From this we saw a potential opportunity for developing a solution as to how this is managed in the field.
“We had promising results from our initial field testing and to further develop our solution, we entered the hackathon.”
There, they were able to access Cicada’s high-tech facilities and collaborate with other members of the deep tech and agtech community and are now looking forward to ongoing support and guidance from MLA and Cicada Innovations to take the idea from proof of concept to the next stage.
“We support the beef industry’s goal of being carbon neutral by 2030 and want to make a contribution towards achieving this,” Mr Heywood said.
South Australia grape grower Oli Madgett expanded his cutting edge vineyard soil testing technology to help graziers measure and monitor soil carbon, winning the second hackathon challenge.
Mr Madgett’s Platfarm brings together several, separate groups to make soil carbon measurement seamless.
From dividing up land into measurement zones, to telling contractors precisely where to go to sample the soil to tracking exactly how the landholders manage that property to sequester atmospheric carbon, Platfarm will allow graziers to baseline their levels today, so they could potentially apply for carbon credits in the future.
Mr Madgett said carbon credits were really just the cherry on top.
“Understanding our soil organic carbon levels allows us to make soils as healthy and resilient as possible, to retain moisture levels and to grow better fruit,” he said.
“It’s really just good land management strategy, with future potential to have another income source.
“The same is true for pastoralists so moving Platform to the red meat industry was a logical step.”
Hackathon organisers said one of the unique characteristics of the event was the variety of backgrounds of participants.
Teams from outside the agriculture industry were taking skills developed in other disciplines and applying them to help the Australian red meat industry find ways to reduce emissions, they said.
MLA’s manager of supply chain sustainability innovation Doug McNicholl said work undertaken by the CSIRO had led the industry to believe it could be carbon neutral by 2030.
“Initiatives such as this hackathon are designed to encourage new and innovative ideas to address specific challenges identified in our Carbon Neutral by 2030 initiative, whilst also driving productivity gains for industry,” he said.