Climate-smart agriculture: The latest attempt to go green

15 Jul 2016

The dual challenge of food production and emissions targets is the focus of a new independent report, with smart technology promoted as a potential saviour.

A new report into Ireland’s agricultural and environmental performance shows worrying signs in terms of the country’s EU-designed emissions targets. However it suggests climate-smart agriculture (CSA) as a way to increase food production, while tackling climate change.

The detailed report compiled by both the International and European Affairs (IIEA) and the RDS claims dramatic improvements in technologies could help farmers reduce their carbon footprint, however it will take some doing.

Smart Agriculture

With a “growing contradiction” between Irish governmental policy objectives across agriculture and climate mentioned in the full report, Matt Dempsey (RDS president) and Brendan Halligan (IIEA chairman) wrote that the increased supply of food, and decreased production of harmful emissions, is “without question one of the great issues of the century ahead”.

Recommendations from the report include incentives for farmers to invest in cutting edge technologies, encouraging younger tech-savvy people into farming and promoting climate-smart farming across the board.

The overall goal, should everybody get on board, is to improve farm income, plan against current climate change issues such as flooding and drought, and reduce emissions as per Ireland’s EU targets. What the report calls a ‘triple win’.

However the plan is fraught with difficulty, as Tom Arnold, IIEA’s director general, noted it will require “high level political commitment, a coherent whole-of –government policy, buy-in from farmers and their organisations, and innovative partnerships involving all actors.”

The ‘triple win’ to which the report pins hope may not be possible, though, with a growth in food production quite naturally married to a growth in emissions throughout the entire supply chain.

A tranche of approaches are recommended, though, to help future negative climate scenarios which could result in greater global levels of food insecurity, hunger and malnutrition.

For these risks to be “mitigated or avoided”, everything from technological discovery right through to dietary change should be focused on.

“While there are clearly risks to be managed, the solutions, technologies, techniques, practices and institutional and analytical innovations necessary to marry climate and agriculture policy objectives that are developed here will be required across the EU and globally in decades to come,” reads the report.

Smart technology in agriculture image, via Shutterstock

Gordon Hunt was a journalist with Silicon Republic