Reducing the environmental impact of agriculture

A digital application to help farmers reduce the environmental impact of livestock farming and polyculture has been developed and French farmers are currently using it.

The app uses specific data, collected on the farm, to provide cattle, goat and sheep farmers with recommendations to reduce their environmental impact, according to a European Commission spokesperson.

Livestock systems, particularly involving ruminants, are at the center of the conversation about the environmental footprint of agriculture.

This has led the sector to seek more environmentally and animal-friendly production methods, which also improve the economic and social aspects of livestock farming, the commission’s spokesperson explained.

digital technology

At the same time, an increasing number of digital technologies and data-driven solutions are becoming available to the EU agricultural sector to enable farmers to work more accurately, efficiently and sustainably, to improve the agricultural decision and practices, overall performance.

In France, Idele (Institut d’Elevage) has developed an online data-driven application called CAP’2ER. Thirty sets of activity data are entered into the program to determine agro-ecological indicators.

This data is divided into five categories:

  • Cattle;
  • Manure management;
  • The fields;
  • Feed;
  • Energy consumption.

Here are some examples :

  • Total annual fuel consumption;
  • Animal productivity (fertility, growth, marketing age);
  • Food purchased;
  • Manure quantities and management;
  • Number of trees and thickets (area of ​​trees and shrubs growing closely together), shrubs, hedges, strips of grass, rock piles and stone walls and water bodies on the farm.

Based on the analysis, the farmer receives a summary report and recommendations taking into account water and air quality; biodiversity; greenhouse gas; carbon sequestration capacity; and the amount of nutrients produced for human consumption.

The report visualizes these aspects in understandable graphs and figures. It compares each farm with reference values ​​corresponding to the same production system.

Benoit Gavaland, a cattle farmer in western France, was enthusiastic about using the app: “Environmentally friendly and economically viable farming techniques go hand in hand. By contributing to the protection of the environment, we also improve the economy of livestock farming.

Idele maintains and updates the program, based on current data and feedback from a committee of agricultural organizations. The program is made available to advisory services in France (which pay a fee) and Idele offers training to farmers, the commission spokesman said.

Farm valuations – the answer

The application has been tested in several European countries during the LIFE Beef Carbon and LIFE Green Sheep projects. Today, it has already carried out 23,000 farm surveys in France.

For example, at the Pamplie dairy cooperative, 15 breeders recently carried out the CAP’2ER assessment of their dairy farm.

One of the farmers and president of the cooperative, Jean-Pierre Germain said:

“Farmers and the dairy industry are motivated to use this tool, not only because it helps to improve the economic and environmental performance of farms, but also by looking to the future and the potential support of ecosystem services.”

A European version of the tool is now available, which uses a common methodology linked to national references. The tool is being translated into English.

The massive adoption by farmers has highlighted the role of agricultural data in reducing the impact of agriculture on the environment.

The results showed that the app helps farms reduce their greenhouse gas emissions by 6% to 15%. Recently, the tool was certified by the French low carbon standard to certify carbon reductions. Its application on farms rewards farmers for their efforts in applying mitigation practices.

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