DENMARK – Danish multinational dairy cooperative, Arla Foods has turned to big data to help its farmers adopt practices that with proven ability to decarbonise dairy farming.

The new strategy is part of Arla’s ambition to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 30 per cent per kilo of milk over the next decade and to work towards carbon net zero by 2050.

The Danish dairy firm notes that for the last decades, its farmers have been working steadily towards sustainable farming and implementing green opportunities on their farms, such as circular farming practices, renewable energy and biodiversity and now also Climate Checks. 

According to Arla, a total of 7,986 farms across seven European countries have concluded a Climate Check using the company’s new standardised tool for identifying carbon footprint.

leveraging bid data to decarbonise farming

The company noted that data from the farms shows that they are among the most climate efficient in the world and it now intends to use it to identify activities that can be embraced to reduce the carbon footprint of its dairy farms.

“The unique data set that Arla farmers have now created clearly shows which activities will accelerate our reductions over the next decade,” says Arla Foods Chairman Jan Toft Nørgaard

“We will use this to decarbonise our farms at a faster pace and share our findings with stakeholders to help drive an effective transition for the whole industry.”

Based on the data collected from the farms, Arla has identified five universal levers to a lower carbon footprint for dairy on all types of  its farms.

They are:  Better feed efficiency to improve milk yield; Precision feeding to reduce surplus protein in feed rations; A healthy and long life for the cow to improve milk yield; Precise fertilizer management to reduce nitrogen surplus from feed production; and Better land use management to ensure better crop yields.

“The data shows that all types of farms can achieve tangible results if precision farming is increased in these five areas. This helps us significantly going forward both to lower our CO2e footprint and for future investments on farms to help meet our ambitious climate goals,“ says Jan Toft Nørgaard.

improving dairy farming through benchmarking

As the next round kicks off in June, Arla farmers will get access to a new digital tool that enables them to follow their own progression and to benchmark against data from other Arla farms. 

What is particularly interesting is to learn from the high-performers. The data shows that the best performing Arla farmers are able to produce a kilo of raw milk with a farm level footprint well below 0,9 kg of CO2e. 

Additionally, Arla has promised to share insights generated from the compiled data within the cooperative and to other industry stakeholders to support longer-term transition on farms.

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