AgricultureEnvironment & ClimateFossil FuelsHeavy Duty & Off-highwayHydrogenSustainabilitySustainable farming

Farm to fork. How the APC and LCV are highlighting the need to decarbonise farming and agriculture.

By November 22, 2023 No Comments

The Advanced Propulsion Centre (APC) support innovative automotive net-zero R&D in the UK, collaborating with the UK government, the automotive industry and academia.

The APC, celebrating its 10th anniversary this year, also hosts a series of events throughout the year to highlight and discuss key areas in net-zero automotive innovation.

Every APC event is an opportunity for industry figures and leading academics to discuss, debate and challenge the way we think about a wide range of innovations.

It is acknowledged that the heavy-duty, construction, agriculture, marine and aviation sectors are some of the most challenging sectors to decarbonise.

However, in all of these sectors it is not only the vehicles which are in need of decarbonising, but also the entire infrastructure which surrounds them.

One sector which has multiple areas to address, is farming and agriculture.

On Thursday 23rd November 2023, the APC are hosting Future of Technology – Farm to Fork: Is there sufficient appetite to drive a sustainable food system?

During this event, the APC will focus on whether there is sufficient appetite to drive a sustainable food system. (1)

The event will focus on the progress that’s been made to date in the transition to net-zero agriculture and food distribution including:

  • exploring every step of the food journey, from planting, growing and harvesting, to processing and delivery to the consumer
  • examining the circular economy
  • reviewing risks and opportunities for this essential sector.
  • With around 30% of global greenhouse gas emissions coming from the food system, the urgency of this transition cannot be understated. (1)

The Future of Technology event will bring together some of the most influential innovators and academics to discuss and share the progress being undertaken to make the entire farm to fork system sustainable and reduce emissions. (1)

Despite the majority of emissions from agriculture being emitted from food production and livestock, the machinery which supports the worlds farming communities is also under the spotlight.

The 2023 Cenex Low Carbon Vehicle (LCV) and Connected Automated Mobility (CAM) event turned the focus on farming and farming methods, showcasing a broad selection of machinery and fuel innovations being researched and developed in the farming and agriculture sectors.

One of the dominating features of the LCV farming showcase were the New Holland T6 tractors. These tractors are one of the innovations already being produced to reduce emissions and they run on methane.

This year’s LCV seminar programme gave attendees an opportunity to engage directly with those at the heart of farming innovations and find out more about how the farming communities are tackling their part in reducing GHG emissions.

During the ‘Future of Farming’ seminar, Steve Carroll – Head of Transport at Cenex – spoke about how the policies for reductions in GHGs in farming are primarily focussed on the outcomes, namely soil, crops, the food supply chain and cattle/dairy farming.

With 90-95% of methane from cattle farming being emitted through a cow’s burps and only 5-10% from flatulence, it poses challenges in how to reduce these emissions alongside the considerations for the farm machinery as well.

However, Steve recognised and acknowledged that there is a real need for transferable technology in the farming and agriculture sectors to drive the innovations in the supply chains and in the transport options.

Note: Technology to reduce cows burps by using a seaweed-based food additive have already achieved global investment.

As part of the ‘Future of Farming’ seminar, Alistair Walshaw – CNH Industrial – explored the work CNH, New Holland and Bennamann Ltd have been working on with the T6 tractor.

When CNH were originally looking at the investment required to support the decarbonisation of agriculture and farming, hydrogen was one of their initial future fuel choices. With this in mind, a hydrogen production test was developed in Italy whereby a farmer was provided with hydrogen for his farm vehicles. The farmer advised developers of the test that as he had access to an abundance of free methane, why couldn’t they use that?

It was this change in tactic which lead CNH Industrial to develop the New Holland T6 methane powered tractor.

The technology surrounding the capture of methane and turning it into a sustainable fuel for farming and farm machinery comes from Cornish company Bennamann Ltd, now a part of the CNH Industrial portfolio.

The process involves dairy farmers covering cow manure slurries and capturing the methane as it expands. The methane is then processed into a usable fuel and pumped back into the methane tractor.  Methane, recognised as the most harmful GHG, may not be a perfect solution, but in use it is recycling the gas and proposes a sustainable and readily available option for farmers and can benefit the circular economy.

However, another contender in the vast field of future fuels for farming and agriculture is hydrogen.

Hydrogens versatility and adaptability allows it to either be used in an ICE or fuel cell. With many farms already generating renewable electricity from solar, wind and in some cases biogas and anaerobic digestion; their ability to generate surplus renewable energy also means they may be able to produce hydrogen via an electrolyser.

With the hydrogen economy still being in it’s infancy, the investment into the UK hydrogen infrastructure (storage and transportation still being a national stumbling block) is still very much needed to make hydrogen a viable and usable alternative for the heavy-duty sectors.

Undeterred by the challenges posed by the current lack of hydrogen infrastructure, UK manufacturer JCB have already developed a hydrogen ICE. The H2 ICE has already been fitted into the JCB back-hoe loader and is already commercially available.

Farming and agriculture need to find ways to support the decarbonisation of their sector and take action to eradicate their collective emissions from food production and livestock. The Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy report identified that the combined methane emissions from five of the largest meat corporations and ten of the largest dairy corporations are roughly 12.8 million tonnes. This figure equates to over 80% of the European Union’s entire methane footprint.

With these vast emissions in play, it is no wonder that innovations in farming and agriculture machinery are rolling out now, with a view to a larger variety of future fuel innovations seeking to mitigate climate impact in the future.

Written by Katy Mason for and on behalf of Dolphin N2.