Friday, 20 October 2023 08:55

OverseerFM helps with crunching GHG numbers

Written by  Staff Reporters
Penny McIntosh, on farm liaison officer for Westland Milk. Photo Credit: Wendy Bennett Penny McIntosh, on farm liaison officer for Westland Milk. Photo Credit: Wendy Bennett

When Westland Milk Products needed to set up a system to support their farmer suppliers to get their greenhouse gas (GHG) emission numbers, they opted for a collaborative approach using OverseerFM.

“One of the requirements of the He Waka Eke Noa Primary Sector Climate Action Partnership (HWEN) triggered the need for all our suppliers to know their GHG emission numbers by December 2022,” says Penny McIntosh, on farm liaison officer for Westland.

“We wanted to support our suppliers calculating their GHG emission numbers by making the whole process as easy and affordable as possible.

“One of the reasons we chose OverseerFM as the greenhouse gas calculator was because it models the whole farm system, including mitigations and all the good work farmers are already doing.

“It gives a good breakdown of GHG emissions and sources and it can run scenarios, which helps farmers avoid ‘pollution swapping’. Also it enabled us to report collectively as an organisation.”

McIntosh is one of the team of Westland Milk farm liaison officers/milk supply managers who provide support to 388 farmers throughout the West Coast and part of Canterbury.

She says teaming up with Ravensdown and Ballance Agri-nutrients enabled them to streamline the whole process and make it as easy as possible for farmers to get their GHG numbers.

“Both already had good knowledge of OverseerFM and we could use their experienced environmental teams, which already process Overseer accounts for other dairy companies.

“Lots of information needed to be collected and we needed to be very efficient, get the information on time and avoid duplication. Their fertiliser reps also had existing working relationships with many of our suppliers, knew their farm systems and had a lot of the fertiliser information so it made total sense to work together. We teamed up with them to do the digital mapping of farms too.”

Ahead of rolling the project out widely in May 2022, the companies created a template farmers could fill out, so their farm systems could be modelled in OverseerFM.

They ran an advance trial with a small number of farms to ensure they could streamline the process as much as possible for farmers and pick up any potential issues in advance. They also worked closely with Alastair Taylor, business development manager for OverseerFM, to gain a good understanding of the software.

“It was really good having Alastair on board to help us,” says McIntosh.

“If we had any issues or questions, we only had to pick up the phone and call him.

“Following approval from farmers, we set up the Overseer accounts for farmers and paid the subscription for them directly to Overseer, and to Ravensdown and Ballance for the processing. The money was then repaid from their monthly milk cheque.

“Taking part in the Overseer project was optional and we gave our suppliers the option to use any of the calculators approved by HWEN however, 97 per cent of our supplier base came on board and used Overseer.”

The three companies also ran a series of dropin sessions for farmers so they could bring in their templates and be helped to fill them in. The fertiliser reps and Westland Milk Supply Managers also provided help with filling out templates on farm.

Following the successful completion of the project, Westland teamed up with DairyNZ and Overseer FM to provide a series of roadshows throughout the West Coast covering topics such as the main drivers of GHGs, use of OverseerFM and benchmarking. Ongoing support is also being provided to those farmers who have opted to continue using OverseerFM.

McIntosh says the whole process was well received.

“It was brilliant, farmers came on board really well and they saw that we were trying to make it as easy as possible for them by setting them up in Overseer and working with the fertiliser companies to gather and process the information.”

She says a further benefit for farmers is that banks are increasingly asking to see farms’ GHG numbers when discussing financing – and a number of their farmers have requested their Overseer reports for this purpose.

“It’s also about being a good corporate citizen and caring for the environment. That is at the heart of Westland’s business philosophy. More of our customers are also asking for GHG numbers for the whole supply chain, including on-farm emissions.

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