Choosing carbon footprint software

Choosing carbon footprint software to measure and monitor GHG emissions in agriculture is not an easy task. At Agrecalc, we are often asked: “The carbon calculator market seems very confusing; can you simplify it for us and highlight some key starting points?"

And our answer is – we are happy to help you with the process of choosing carbon footprint software.

The points below are what we usually advise people who are about to start their low-carbon agriculture journey.

1. Baseline – know your numbers.

You know the old adage how a journey of a thousand miles starts with the first step? But how can you take that first step if you don’t know where your journey starts, let alone where you’re going? The baseline – that first carbon assessment that you do – is the equivalent of ‘you are here’ on a map.

It is the same when it comes to choosing carbon footprint software. We understand that farmers constantly get bombarded by ‘percentages-reduction-by-this-year’ – type of messages. And you are sick of it. Many of those percentages that float around in the media, the internet and in official government documents sound like insurmountable targets. But don’t panic – in reality, those numbers translate into probably around 1-2 percents per year.

But until you do your first assessment – and in any calculator that is suitable for your business – you won’t know what reduction measures can pay immediately, and what you can leave for a few years down the line.

There is more time than you think to find solutions that suit your farm. But all of that starts with understanding your baseline. And why not now? The timing is perfect for owning your GHG emissions story. Even if you’re not actioning it right away, you are better prepared for the future.

2. Identify your business hotspots.

Choosing carbon footprint software and doing a carbon assessment will help you answer some of the questions like these:

  • Is a certain field less productive than others?
  • How efficient is your equipment?
  • Could you tweak your management practices?

Once you have a farm emissions report in your hands – or on your screen – you can move from anecdotal evidence of your business hotspots to concrete, black-and-white, data-driven hard facts.

Furthermore, with solutions like Agrecalc’s Compare package, it is possible to scenario-test certain aspects of your farm, without going through a costly and time-consuming exercise. Adopt a ‘what-if’ mentality, and let the calculator do the work for you.

Once you have a farm emissions report in your hands – or on your screen – you can move from anecdotal evidence of your business hotspots to concrete, black-and-white, data-driven hard facts.

3. Choosing carbon footprint software for informed decision making.

Closely connected with the previous point is the fact that now, with hard data in your hands, your decision making has a solid, auditable trail.

That is the best shield against the potential ‘regulatory stick’ that farmers are afraid may be looming in their future. Informed decision making, evidenced by the reports year after year, shows that you’re moving in the right direction and taking up low-carbon practices with documented results. Let’s not forget, choosing carbon footprint software now only benefits you in improving your efficiencies which should improve your wallet.

The low-carbon practices that are possible to implement will depend on your farming ecosystem – no two farms are the same, and there is no silver bullet or one-size-fit-all approach. The results will reveal themselves cumulatively, year after year, and what our experience so far has demonstrated breaks down to this:

  1. Around a quarter of your emissions reduction can be easily and readily achieved for most farm businesses by auditing your resource efficiencies, and taking steps to improve the management practices on a farm, without a burden of investment. This course of action will also leave the farm cash positive.
  2. The other quarter might be achievable over 2-3 years with a low investment (e.g., new slurry equipment), which would produce a measurable return within the same timeframe.
  3. The rest may require a net cost (e.g., inhibitors), or major system change and / or a significant capital investment (e.g., new animal housing, or an AD plant). These remaining actions could see a longer period of time pass before you see a return on investment.

4. Increase resource efficiency – and that will reduce your emissions.

Emissions reduction is a natural by-product of increased resource efficiency; resource efficiency will improve operations and importantly improve your profit and loss – therefore emissions reduction is a bonus to your bottom line. That is why we created Agrecalc in the first place – it is an Ag(ricultral) R(esource) E(fficiency) Calc(ulator).

To demonstrate, here we have two tables from a recent case study:

Both are more or less self-explanatory: the first one shows what happens when you increase the amount of clover in the pasture and reduce the use of artificial fertiliser, in comparison to the previously measured baseline.

Choosing carbon footprint software - case study - grazing

The second one demonstrates a reduction in cow size: the change from a Jersey cross to a Holstein cross. The reduction from cow size of 650 kg to a cow size of 500 kg lowers the emissions by close to 10%. You know your business best; we are here to help you navigate these choppy transition waters with the least amount of boat rocking.

Emissions reduction is a natural by-product of increased resource efficiency; resource efficiency will improve operations and importantly improve your profit and loss – therefore emissions reduction is a bonus to your bottom line.

5. Remeasure your baseline – your best benchmark is yourself.

Agrecalc boasts with the largest farm database among the calculators on the UK market – with more than 30,000 validated reports (and counting), which we use for anonymised benchmarking of farms and enterprises. We hope that our ability to provide you with a robust database of resource efficiency in your industry would be a deciding factor when it comes to you choosing carbon footprint software.

At Agrecalc, we believe that data should be farmer-controlled: you choose with whom you’re sharing your data. You compare your results in the form of anonymised, secure data of farms with the same enterprise, or farms in a particular sector, or the performers in the top / bottom 25%.

But regardless of these numbers – your best benchmark is yourself. Tracking your results year in and year out is the best way to improve your resource efficiency, and as a positive outcome, your emissions reduction too.

6. Choose carbon footprinting software - and stay with it.

Of course, we’d like you to use Agrecalc – the byline of this blog says so. However, all joking aside: you need to choose the tool that suits your business best. Most calculators have free versions too. Test them; and don’t just go for the one that gives you the lowest carbon numbers.

There are many reasons you’d want to choose a specific calculator; for some it may be cost, or the way they input or present data. We recommend that you consider the following:

  1. Are they independent? Or are they motivated to sell you other services / products?
  2. Are they involved in carbon trading? This area still carries a lot of risk, as it is currently not fully regulated. Read the small print.
  3. Are they accredited to at least BSI PAS 2050 standard?
  4. Do they measure your whole farm, as well as offer specific enterprise / kilo-of-product breakdown?
  5. Do they report methane emissions to both the GWP and GWP* methodologies?
  6. Do they include carbon sequestration?
  7. Are they backed by a globally credible science institute?
  8. Do they offer a large database to give you good benchmarking guidance?
  9. Can you run scenarios to set your future KPIs?
  10. Will you get support in the validation of your data?

Choose a balance between your needs and how much you want to invest in your business. Your carbon assessment is not a tick-box exercise – at least it shouldn’t be. If done properly, it can bring a myriad of benefits – to reiterate some:

  1. Compliance with future regulations – proactively managing carbon footprint can ensure compliance with evolving environmental regulations and avoid potential penalties or market restrictions.
  2. Identifying cost-saving opportunities – uncovering inefficiencies leads towards implementing targeted mitigations for improved resource efficiency.
  3. Improved resilience – optimising your resources enhances farms’ resilience to external factors such as fluctuating energy and fertiliser prices.
  4. Meeting consumer demand – demonstrating commitment to carbon reduction can differentiate your business in the market and attract consumers willing to pay a premium for sustainable products.
  5. Enhancing farm profitability – implementing carbon reduction strategies can improve the overall efficiency of your business, which will show up on the bottom line.

There is plenty of useful content on our website, and it gets updated regularly. We do our best to highlight all the benefits the farming industry can have from correctly choosing carbon footprint software.

Farmers should take a look at our Case Studies page . We maintain a close link with our users and like to showcase their successes. Could you be one of them?

Picture of Aleksandra Stevanovic

Aleksandra Stevanovic

Aleksandra grew up on a smallholding, before launching a 30-year career in journalism, translation, digital marketing and Search Engine Optimisation. As the Head of Marketing, in charge of transforming strategy into tangible assets, by combing her two great loves of content writing and tech.

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