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A first for on-farm carbon certification

Lake Hawea Station has been named as the first farm in New Zealand to have a carbon footprint certified by environmental certifications provider Toitū Envirocare, a subsidiary of Manaaki Whenua.

Owned by Geoff and Justine Ross, Lake Hawea Station, a 6,500-hectare station on the eastern shores of Lake Hawea, runs close to 10,000 Merino sheep and 200 Angus cows. Selling its Merino wool offshore to carbon-focused brands such as All Birds and Sheep Inc., the farm is pursuing a farming strategy that is both beneficial to the planet and the farm’s bottom line.

The process was relatively simple, says Mr Ross. “We started with some simple online calculators. We then had this process ‘ground truthed’ by two scientists and then Toitū came in to check our numbers and view our operation. Much of the information needed to calculate a carbon footprint is available as part of systems that farmers are already using, (Farm IQ and Overseer). So, it is more about gathering existing information and having Toitū run the calculations.”

Close to 1,800 tonnes of CO₂-equivalent emissions from Lake Hawea Station, 71% of their total emissions, are due to methane from grass-eating sheep and beef. Other contributing areas include greenhouse gas from animal urine, fertiliser use, supplements, and farm vehicles. However, on the other side of the carbon ledger, the farm locked up well over 3,966 tonnes of carbon through extensive tree planting and areas of regenerating bush.

"Through extensive planting and regenerating bush, Lake Hawea Station has gone beyond carbon zero to sequester twice the amount of carbon they emit."

Mr Ross has therefore been able to increase stock numbers while improving the farm’s carbon position. “The popular myth is the only way to reduce your carbon profile is by reducing stock numbers. This hasn’t been the case here. Instead, we have increased stock numbers and wool production while increasing our tree plantings and retiring of marginal land”.

Becky Lloyd, Toitū Envirocare Chief Executive, says Toitū carbonzero farm certification is important as it demonstrates to farmers, their customers, and regulators that pastoral farms can be carbon-neutral and at the same time commercially viable.

Developed in partnership with Overseer and AsureQuality, Toitū’s farm certification programme is New Zealand’s first carbon certification designed specifically for farms. The programme uses Toitū carbon management software that integrates OverseerFM greenhouse gas emission analysis. AsureQuality’s role is to independently verify the farm’s carbon footprint.

The certification process Toitū has undertaken on Lake Hawea Station is planned to be the first of many for New Zealand farms, as the country moves to lower its overall carbon footprint and consumers worldwide demand carbon-positive food and fibre. To demonstrate this commitment, in 2020 the primary sector and the Government signed a joint action plan, He Waka Eke Noa, to require farmers to measure and reduce primary sector carbon emissions, and to put a price on farm carbon emissions by 2025.

Lake Hawea Station’s Toitū carbonzero certification was supported by The New Zealand Merino Company as part of the exploratory science work behind their ZQRX regenerative platform. The Station sells its Merino wool through the ZQRX platform to offshore brands.

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