AgriFutures Rural Futures Researcher Spotlight: Julian Hill

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Tracking shot. Drone point of view of a Tractor spraying on a cultivated field. Small Business.

Earlier this year, AgriFutures Australia committed $2 million to explore novel approaches to increase carbon storage and reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. AgriFutures Australia is pleased to announce support for 15 projects through this exciting initiative, each aimed at delivering practical benefits and high impact for Australia’s farmers, fishers and foresters.

The Carbon Initiatives program was designed to fill gaps in knowledge, deliver innovative and novel approaches to solvable problems and explore new market pathways for producers to collaborate on carbon projects.

Julian Hill, from Ternes Scientific, has been appointed as the Project Manager to oversee the roll out of AgriFutures Australia’s carbon initiatives program. In addition to managing the 15 projects, Julian will help connect the various projects to leverage new data, knowledge and approaches among the researchers, and engage with other private, government and industry-backed initiatives delivering important carbon research.

He’s had a long career in carbon and is confident this program will bridge critical gaps to enable the industry to embrace the opportunities in the carbon space.


Tell us about this $2m investment from AgriFutures Australia to find new ways to improve carbon storage and reduce greenhouse gas emissions in Australian agriculture.

The program will run until the end of December 2022, delivering some really clear outcomes to benefit farmers, fishers and foresters. These include innovative and novel solutions for carbon storage, market development pathways for producers and increasing alignment to of activities across the agriculture value chain in relation to efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

There are key strategic gaps in the carbon research portfolio, so this program has commissioned research to fill those knowledge gaps. There is a very strong emphasis on business practices, the way carbon markets work, and the way that financial markets may work in the future. The other aspect is trying to provide clear guidance for producers on what they can do to adopt new technologies in carbon abatement.

Once we fill the knowledge gaps, we will be better placed to help businesses and producers start to use and build carbon asset landscapes, which may include soil carbon, trees, and areas of land regeneration.

Primary producers are interested in learning more and understanding how they could participate in this space, but generally they don’t have all the information they need to feel confident about taking the next steps.

We’re hearing common questions from farmers, such as ‘I’ve got a landscape like this – how do I measure the soil carbon, what do I need to do?’ The research is targeted at answering those kinds of questions.

What are some other examples of knowledge gaps you’re trying to fill?

We’re trying to build detailed information for farmers, fishers and foresters about the financial impacts of entering into a carbon trading agreement and how that potentially could provide new revenue streams.

There’s also a project on the sequestration potential of irrigated land. Within our land use models, we understand a lot about how carbon is stored into forests, soils, etc, but we know very little about how carbon may be sequestered in irrigation landscapes where you have large bodies of water moving around that environment.

In terms of abatement, there is a research project looking at freshwater plant species that could be used to reduce methane emissions from livestock. We have no information on whether there are any phytochemicals in freshwater plants that could be used in animal feeding systems to directly reduce livestock methane emissions. If we do identify a phytochemical in one of the plants, maybe the sector could start to produce large volumes of that type of product in managed aquaculture systems. We just don’t know yet!

And what can producers do now, if they want to get the ball rolling?

If producers want information, there’s a large amount of information available on carbon abatement, from the Research and Development Corporations (RDCs), State Governments and the Clean Energy Regulator website.

And if they want to engage in carbon trading, the ERF (Emissions Reduction Fund) is a well-establishing trading system, which generates Australian carbon credit units from Australian farming systems. It is supported by legislation and is effectively working with producers so they can understand all the aspects of the program.

Many industry bodies have set ambitious targets for carbon neutrality (e.g. the National Farmers Federation and Meat & Livestock Australia are advocating for carbon neutrality by 2030, and the egg and chicken meat industries also have roadmaps for carbon neutrality). How will the AgriFutures Australia projects link in with these targets?

Throughout this program we will be working in consultation with the RDCs, industry bodies, State Governments and the Commonwealth Government. Critically, our research will not duplicate their work – it will complement it. When we use our new research with their existing research, our plans will be more meaningful and our actions will be more powerful.

Projects

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Provider Project Title Project
Common Capital Market development pathways for producers Tools to future proof revenue and increase competitiveness
Australian Farm Institute Carbon market development pathways for producers Develop a carbon market map for Australian primary producers
Limestone Coast Landscape Board Limestone Coast Carbon Smart Landscape Project: Stimulating a collaborative practical approach to carbon smart primary production at a local level in the Limestone Coast. Break down engagement barriers and accelerate adoption of carbon management
Queensland University of Technology Evaluation of Cooperative Models for Carbon Pooling through Behavioural Economics Identify an optimal cooperative model for agricultural producers to utilise carbon pooling
Grow4 Pty Ltd (Trading as Platfarm)  Application of spaceborne-inspired hyperspectral imaging for soil carbon quantification Demonstrate that learning-based approaches can overcome high costs of soil sampling
University of Technology, Sydney Collaborative management and measurement of carbon farming and its co-benefits Test if working together on soil carbon will lower costs and give farmers greater bargaining power
The University of Adelaide Using compost to improve nitrogen use efficiency and productivity of Almonds Assessing existing research trials to quantify the magnitude of the increases in soil-stored carbon
Climate Foundation Marine Permaculture cultivation, sinking and storage of deep blue seaweed biomass carbon in Australian EEZ waters Regenerate deep ocean carbon export to serve as an economical source of blue carbon removal
Wimmera Development Association (WIM) Roadmap to Net Zero Emissions Grampians Agriculture Project (R2ZGAP) Explore at why carbon calculators are not being more broadly adopted by farm managers
The University of Sydney The Efficiency Factor of Soil Carbon Stock Auditing Methods  Discover the four most common methods to deliver efficient measuring of soil carbon stock change
Deakin University Quantifying the greenhouse gas emission and carbon co-benefits of on-farm irrigation dams Investigate whether farm dams are a feasible option for carbon farming
Deakin University Can freshwater plants act as a feed supplement to reduce methane emissions from cattle? Explore the potential of freshwater plants to reduce methane production
 Southern Queensland Natural Resources Management trading as Southern Queensland Landscapes (SQN) Evaluation of cooperative models under a carbon market as a method of increased engagement and uptake by producers (including exploring new or augmented approaches). Investigate a cooperative model for engagement and uptake of carbon abatement and storage
Carbon Market Institute Limited Carbon Market Readiness – Financial Services Provide guidance around valuations for carbon rights and ensuring accessibility for producers
Australian Wildlife Services Carbon Abatement and Storage – Kangaroo Grazing Systems Explore how Kangaroo management could deliver carbon credits that supplement landholder incomes

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