Farm Carbon Assessment Tool (FCAT)

Recognising and understanding the impact that different farming practices have on greenhouse gas emissions is an important aspect of tackling the ambitious emissions reduction target that has been set for the UK agricultural industry.

As part of the Low Carbon Farming project, the Soil Association have developed an alternative approach to farm carbon footprinting. The Farm Carbon Assessment Tool (FCAT), instead of focusing on figures and tonnes of emissions, allows farmers to look at the aspects of their farm which contribute most significantly to the farm's carbon footprint and scores key farm practices in relation to the impact they have on greenhouse gas emissions. The feedback report highlights areas for improvement, provides targeted, technical support and enables and encourages the user to monitor their progress towards best practice in relation to low carbon farming, lowering the emissions impact of their farm, saving valuable resources and improving the overall efficiency of the farm.

How does it work?

The tool takes a qualitative approach to assessing nutrient, manure, grassland and soil management and assesses various key management techniques in relation to their impact on nitrous oxide, methane and carbon dioxide emissions as well as, importantly carbon sequestration. It also provides the ability to monitor livestock production, recording key performance measures for beef, sheep and dairy and comparing these to industry standards and targets to measure improvement towards a more efficient system with a lower emissions intensity. The tool also includes an energy and fuel use calculator which provides a ‘footprint' of the farms annual energy and fuel consumption.

How can I monitor progress?

The assessment tool produces a feedback report once the series of questions have been answered and any relevant information and data has been input. This includes a series of graphs which clearly illustrate the ‘highs' and ‘lows' of the farm system, highlighting areas for improvement and recognising areas where the carbon impact is already minimised. Where improvements can be made, factsheets with supporting technical advice are provided to explain and aid a move towards better practice. The login facility within the tool allows data to be saved year on year to enable the comparison of results and monitoring of improvement.

Is it going to take all day to complete?

Designed to be easy and quick to complete (ideal activity for a rainy afternoon), the tool will be available to ALL farmers and growers for free, online via the SWARM Hub and Soil Association websites. The majority of the information required to complete the assessment is descriptive and will not require a great deal of preparation other than knowledge of the practices currently employed on the farm. The energy and fuel calculator and the livestock section of the toolkit will require a bit more data gathering beforehand - data collection sheets are provided to help with this. The 4 sections of the tool can be completed independently from one and other although completing them all will give a fairer and more complete review of the carbon impact of the farm.

How do I access it?

The new online tool was launched during the Soil Association's two day symposium in November, in Coventry, where a full overview and demonstration of the tool was given along with the opportunity for delegates to try the tool for themselves. Future demo sessions will also be held at all on-farm events organised through the project as the tool is rolled out across the country.

For more information about the Farm Carbon Assessment Tool please contact sadams@soilassociation.org or call 0117 314 5127.

To try the Farm Carbon Assessment Tool click here.

Click here to read about how Duchy Colleges Home Farm performed in the FCAT

To read a case study comparision review of four independent carbon footprint calculators, written by the Soil Association, please click here.

Keep an eye on the Low Carbon Farming project pages for more details about the online tool, in the meantime why not read some of the factsheets the project has produced for some inspiration?

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