Farming vs filmmaking

21/06/2019

James Cameron makes movies.

I haven’t, as far as I know, watched any, but the numbers of people who have and the money he has made from making them, suggest he’s very good at it.

He and his wife Suzy have chosen to buy farmland in New Zealand and convert it from pasture to organic vegetables, hemp, linseed and rye corn.

It’s their land they’re free to do what they want with it providing they don’t contravene district or regional plans in doing it.

They’re also free to tell us what they’re doing and why as they did on Sunday but I’d take them a lot more seriously when they criticise our farming and its contribution to climate change  if it wasn’t for the hypocrisy.

How does the benefit from pastoral farming compare with the benefits from the films he makes, what’s the real value of food production in contrast to entertainment and what are the carbon emissions from both filmmaking and the frequent flying the Camerons do between their homes in New Zealand and the United States?

In an open letter to Cameron, ASB rural economist Nathan Penny explains:

Pasture-based New Zealand dairy production is the most carbon efficient dairy farming system in the world. In fact, you can ship a glass of New Zealand milk to the next most efficient country (Ireland) and drink it there and it still has a lower carbon footprint than an equivalent Irish glass of milk.

• In addition, pasture-based New Zealand beef production is top dog in the global carbon efficiency stakes.

• You might have already heard that our agriculture produces around half of the country’s carbon emissions, and while that sounds like a lot, the New Zealand agriculture sector produces enough food for around 50 million people or 10 times our population. The question then becomes how carbon efficient New Zealand agriculture is – and that takes us back to points 1 and 2.

• We also know to take the sustainability claims of alternative food manufacturers such as Impossible Foods (meat) and Perfect Day (dairy) with a large grain of salt. For example, New Zealand dairy has a much lower carbon footprint than Perfect Day milk on a like for like nutrition basis.

• As you rightly pointed out on Sunday, farming is in our DNA and you also noted that New Zealand farmers have that good old number 8 wire mentality. But there’s another secret that you may not know about Kiwi farmers. That is, they’ve had to farm effectively subsidy-free since the 1980s. In this context, our farmers have had to get smart and quickly, finding efficiencies that other (subsidised) farmers globally don’t even know exist.

For these reasons, local Kiwi farmers think there is a place in the future for pasture-based New Zealand meat and dairy. And with global food demand set to surge around 70 per cent by 2050, we think the world needs all the food it can get!

Measuring carbon emissions in isolation is a very blunt instrument.

As Rabobank managing board member, Berry Marttin, told Farm2Fork, we need to take into account nutrient density.

If we compare the nutrient density and overall value to the world of New Zealand pastoral farming with filmmaking and flying there’s simply no contest.

Something else to consider:


Nutrient density must be part of carbon equation

10/05/2019

Are non-dairy drinks really better for the environment than milk?

It depends on what you measure:

A lot of people make food choices based on what they think is good for the environment, and therefore also makes them feel good, but often their choices are hurting the environment unnecessarily.

The trouble is, it’s difficult to distinguish between green and greenwash.

This was the underlying message of Rabobank’s Netherlands-based managing board member, Berry Marttin’s talk at last month’s Farm2Fork summit, held at Cockatoo Island. . . 

“Let’s start measuring the right thing,” Mr Marttin said, as he opened his talk. . . “

He said “those people” (i.e. our world leaders) that agreed on the Paris Climate Agreement set the rules and guidelines that we will have to abide by in the coming years.

“Why that is so important and so relevant, is agriculture is the second most polluting process in the world, after energy,” he said. . . 

“In 2010, our industry (agriculture) emitted 12 megatonnes of carbon of a total of 50Mt (globally),” he said.

“The other thing that they (the Paris Climate Agreement folk) have said … (is) if we want to limit the increase of temperature by two degrees, food production can not emit more than four megatonnes.

Today we talked a lot about world population – we have to produce more. But Paris is saying ‘no, no, we can only emit four megatonnes'”.

Do we feed the world or save the planet, and can we do both?

He said the gap that our food producers will have to overcome is to lift from the current 13 trillion calories to “20-something trillion calories”, in 30 years time, which is an increase in the realm of 50-60 per cent.

At the same time, food production will have to go from 12Mt down to 4Mt of carbon output.

“Every calorie produced has to be four to five times more efficient,” Mr Marttin said.

“So we have to understand, what are we going to do? What are we measuring?”

He said a lot of current reports are measuring how much emissions per gram, or kilogram.

“But the issue is that we don’t live by kilos. We survive as humans by calories.”

He said if you look at it from a calorie point of view, it painted a clearer picture of the amount of carbon output along the whole supply chain versus what calorific value you obtained from that food – and also better reflected the amount of processing.

However, humans don’t live on calories alone, we also need nutrients.

All calories aren’t equal.

He used milk as an example (with findings from the report Nutrient density of beverages in relation to climate impact, by Annika Smedman et al), as it was consumed by 6 billion of the world’s 7.7 billion people.

It had lots of “pretenders” competing for its market share, such as plant derived “milks”, many of which sold themselves as healthy alternatives.

Milk production also represents 3-4pc of global carbon emmissions.

“And that brings us to the fact that people think that cows are polluters – it’s a big issue. That’s what people think about it.”

He said the Australia-New Zealand region did have the lowest output of carbon in the world per litre of milk produced.

“If you look at 100 grams of milk, it produces 100g of CO2. But if you look at the most important thing, which is actually the nutrition density of milk, it’s 50 (nutrients that we need daily).

“It’s a very high nutrition density.”

“Let’s look at the emission of soya drink – it has very low emissions (per unit of volume). But then let’s look at the nutrition density of soya drink, the problem is it has only one or two nutrients that we need every day.

“So are we measuring the right thing? Nope. Are we telling the right story? What’s better? Milk, or soya drink?

“Is the industry telling what is better for the environment?”

He said if you correlate the emissions with the nutrient density, you get a clearer picture of nutritional value against emissions output.

Mr Marttin said people must start asking what is the nutritional value per amount of carbon emitted, or else food production from farming will never get to the four megatonnes target.

And, as a society, if we don’t understand that, we will continue to make the wrong decisions and produce foods that are actually not nutritious and be emitting carbon in the process.

He said it takes, on average, about 2.5 tonnes of CO2 to feed one person per year, and he estimated that if carbon was priced, it’s value would be about US$100/t.

Milk has higher per kilo emissions than the ‘pretenders’ but  when you take into account its nutrient density it is far better than manufactured alternatives.

P.S. Beer comes a distant third in the nutrient density equation – but some might say it has other qualities which ought to be taken into account.

 

 


Rural round-up

17/10/2012

Meanwhile back at the ranch – Fran O’Sullivan:

Is Fonterra’s Sir Henry van der Heyden staying on past his use-by date as the dairy co-operative’s chairman to protect chairman-elect John Wilson from a boardroom coup?

That question was doing the rounds even before Fonterra confirmed on September 27 that van der Heyden would not step down from the board as expected this December when he hands over the chairmanship to John Wilson at the co-op’s AGM.

Van der Heyden will instead stay on for an unspecified period – expected to be much less than the December 2013 period when his term as an elected board member runs out – to ostensibly “provide continuity around the board table” until after Trading among Farmers (Taf) is up and running. . .

Maintaining lifestyle balance – Sally Rae:

Keri Johnston was about halfway through her final year at St Kevin’s College, in Oamaru, when she decided to pursue an engineering degree.

Ms Johnston had always loved science and mathematics but laughingly recalled how she hated the sight of blood, which ruled out anything in the medical profession.

After hearing a talk from a lecturer from the University of Canterbury School of Engineering, she decided engineering was something she might like to do. . .

Rabobank Australia & NZ country banking head appointed CEO of US Rabo AgriFinance:

Rabobank Australia and New Zealand Group country banking division head Neil Dobbin has been appointed to run Rabobank’s United States agri banking business, Rabo Agri Finance (RAF).

Mr Dobbin – a veteran of 25 years with Rabobank in Australia and New Zealand, the past decade as group executive Country Banking Australia & New Zealand – has taken on the role of chief executive officer for RAF.

Announcing the appointment, Rabobank Group executive board member Berry Marttin said during Mr Dobbin’s stewardship of its Country Banking operations in Australia and New Zealand, Rabobank had grown to become the leading food and agribusiness bank in the region. . .

New voice for local farmers

The new president of Federated Farmers in Wairarapa is aiming to make sure local farmers have their voice heard.

Bideford’s Jamie Falloon was voted in on Tuesday night by the executive committee to replace outgoing president Paul McGill, who is taking up a position at Landcorp in Wellington.

Mr Falloon, 43, lives in Bideford with his wife Georgie and three children Joe, 9, John, 6 and Anabelle, 4. . .

Blue sky thinking from green fingered finalists:

Ideas that cut the cost of heating propagation beds to grow plants and turn frost fans into power generators are just two of the six projects being developed by the finalists for the Agmardt Market Innovation project in the 2012 Young Horticulturist of the Year Competition. Other innovation ideas include collapsible crates for freighting small plants, an instant rollout flower mat, and a design that takes weeding to a new level.

Six finalists from around New Zealand who have won their industry sector competitions are preparing for the intensive two day competition on November 14 and 15 in Auckland.

“The standard this year is amazing; I think the judges will have difficulty selecting the winner,” says Nicola Rochester, Chair of the RNZIH Education Trust, which manages the competition. . .


Brrrrr

25/06/2012

Sunday: Vejer de la Frontera – 33 degrees.

Monday: Granada – 38 degrees.

Tuesday: Almagro – 28 degrees.

Wednesday: Alcalá de Henares – 30 degrees.

Friday & Saturday: Bangkok – 35 degrees.

Sunday: Auckland – 13 degrees, Christchurch – 9 degrees, home – 6 degrees.

Monday: Brrrrrr.

The trip was prompted by an invitation for my farmer to attend Rabobank’s first Global Masterclass, a gathering of 50 farmers from 16 countries:

Berry Marttin, member of the Executive Board Rabobank and host of the event, invited farmers from developed, emerging and developing countries: “As the world’s leading specialist agribusiness bank we are committed to the development of the agricultural sector and keen to understand the whole supply chain, that starts at the farmers’ gate, from beginning to end. Questions like having to double food production and doing this in a sustainable way are not easy to answer. Bringing together 50 farmers from around the world allows us to really get to grips with this challenge and face it head on.”

We started our journey in England before crossing to Holland for a three-day farm-stay organised by Rabobank for masterclass participants and partners.

While my farmer was at the summit I went back to school in Spain to take some of the rust off my Spanish. He joined me there for the last few days in Spain and we broke the return journey with 36 hours in Bangkok.

A month is about our tolerance for travel and it was good to get home yesterday but it is a wee bit cooler than the temperatures we’ve been enjoying.

Some travellers’ tales and observations will follow in future posts.


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