Images of climate innovation

Net zero farming

Farming which will deliver highly nutritious food whilst capturing carbon from the atmosphere through soil management and plant growth define net zero farming. Intercropping of maize and lucerne will reduce input costs and emissions through protecting soil, reducing tractor fuel use and provide two crops from where one previously grew. Such solutions are part of the Net Zero Farm being delivered at Harper Adams University.

A bower of green plants and purple flowers

Harper Adams University has pledged to become the first net zero, mixed crop-livestock farm to support the delivery of the sustainability aims set out in the University's Strategic Plan and in its agreed Environmental Strategy.

Four action groups have been set the challenge of delivering sustainable farming activities that collectively will achieve carbon net-zero on-farm by 2030 and as such would be an exemplar for best practice well ahead of the National Farmers Union (NFU) carbon net-zero target of 2040.

The four action groups set up to deliver practical plans to achieve this vision are:

Productivity - focusing on reducing inputs and maximising outputs, with a particular focus on arable, dairy, and sheep.

Water and energy - focusing on better slurry management and use as a resource, water conservation, and use, electricity-generating opportunities including small scale anaerobic digestion.

Land and soil health - focusing on farming practice which will restore and optimise soil health, including biodiversity and natural capital across the Harper Adams estate e.g. intercropping practices and mixed crop-livestock rotations.

Data and benchmarking/systems boundaries - focusing on making data available for teaching and research and underpinning the evidence base for achieving net-zero.

The work to deliver the Net Zero Farm at Harper Adams aligns with the establishment of the School of Sustainable Food and Farming supported by Morrisons and the NFU. The school will be a virtual cross-university centre for training and educating the current and future agri-food sector which will focus its delivery through four main mechanisms:

  1. Industry engagement - Harper Adams academics will be part of a contact team to advise the agri-sector supply chains towards more sustainable best practices and net-zero.
  2. Placements and curriculum development - Industry partners (Morrisons and NFU) will offer high-profile placements for Harper Adams students. Curriculum development will ensure Harper Adams graduates have the required skills for the future challenges of the sector.
  3. Short courses and apprenticeships - A suite of courses will be developed in accordance with the sector's needs to upskill the current workforce in order to deliver the sustainability agenda.
  4. Research - Identified gaps in knowledge will be filled through problem-solving interventions either via direct industry funding or collaborative grant applications.

Entrant: Professor Michael Lee , School of Sustainable Food and Farming, Harper Adams University

Copyright: Michael Lee

Collaborators: Morrisons and National Farmer's Union