Two of the world’s biggest dairy processors, Fonterra and Nestlé, are joining forces to develop New Zealand’s first commercially viable net-zero carbon emissions dairy farm.

The farm project will be at the heart of a new partnership that aims to help “reduce New Zealand’s on-farm emissions”.

Both organisations will team up with Dairy Trust Taranaki, a charitable trust which milks 1,300 cows on 408ha, to run the farm.

The zero-carbon-emissions project will be based at a 290ha site surrounding Fonterra’s Whareroa site in New Zealand’s North Island.

The five-year farm project will examine all aspects of farm operations with the aim of cutting emissions by 30% by mid-2027 and within 10 years reaching net-zero emissions.

As part of the new initiative Dairy Trust Taranaki will work with Fonterra and various industry partners to reduce “total emissions on the farm” including methane.

Lessons learned

The project partners plan to share any lessons learned and detail successful carbon reduction activities to farmers who could then adopt the techniques and technologies that would best suit their own farms.

Both partner organisations have stressed that any carbon-reducing activities identified must be “economically viable and practical for farmers to adopt”.

Fonterra’s chief executive officer, Miles Hurrell, said its collaboration with Nestlé will help both organisations accelerate “their greenhouse gas emission goals”. 

“New Zealand already provides some of the most sustainable nutrition in the world through its pasture-based dairy system,” Hurrell said.

“This new partnership will look at ways to further reduce emissions, increasing the country’s low-emissions advantage over the rest of the world. Part of our strategy is to lead in sustainability and we aspire to be net zero by 2050.”

“As well as our own goals, it’s important we help our customers achieve theirs,” he added.

Emissions pilot programme

Fonterra and Nestlé also plan to launch a greenhouse gas farmer-support pilot programme as part of their new partnership.

This will give Fonterra-supplying farms an opportunity to get additional support to implement changes aimed at lowering their on-farm emissions – this includes management of feed and pasture and enhanced milk production efficiency. 

The pilot project is expected to launch with around 50 farms with plans for it be scaled up over the next three years.

Nestlé New Zealand chief executive officer Jennifer Chappell said the new joint initiatives could be transformative.

“Dairy is our single biggest ingredient, and our vision is that the future for dairy can be net zero,” Chappell said.

“Working towards a net-zero farm means looking at all aspects of the farm, from cow nutrition to sequestering carbon.

“We will share what we learn on the journey across the dairy industry, with the goal of ultimately mainstreaming on-farm practices that will reduce the climate impact of the dairy industry,” she added.