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Farm tool benchmark.

Byline: KELLEY PRICE

EXPERTS behind a unique online carbon measuring tool for farmers, developed with Teesside's biofuels' industry, are hoping their system will become the benchmark for the whole of Europe.

Farming Footprints, a joint venture between agricultural supply merchants Farmway and Stockton energy consultants Five Bar Gate, was launched yesterday.

The system is thought to be the first online calculator for a crop's carbon emissions at farm level. Driven by the growing biofuels industry, it could be invaluable for North-east farmers supplying energy crops for Wilton's Ensus bioethanol plant and forthcoming projects on Humberside.

It can also be used to assess the carbon lifecycle of food crops. Its Teesside inventors are registering the system as a voluntary scheme with the European Commission.

The major oil companies are incentivised to reduce their CO[sup.2] by the EU's "cap and trade" emissions scheme. In addition, the EU Fuel Quality Directive -which could be introduced as early as next year - is expected to set out mandatory monitoring and reporting of "lifecycle greenhouse emissions" from fuels, and an obligation for fuel suppliers to ensure greenhouse gases from their products are cut by 1% a year from then until 2020.

Speaking at the launch at Farmway's headquarters in Piercebridge, near Darlington, the company's Richard Martin, said: "We want to make sure incentives paid to oil companies are passed down to farmers," said Mr Martin. "Farming Footprints is ahead of its time. There's an industry concern there will eventually be too many small schemes. A single scheme, independently run, will be of better value to agriculture. That's why we are launching this ahead of the competition."

Farmway chief executive Peter Hull said: "This provides an audit trail certificate for the carbon footprint of a tonne of wheat, useful to farmers and their customers, such as Ensus. If the farmer can get pounds 10-pounds 15 more per tonne of wheat because carbon emissions are lower, it will make a huge difference."

Project co-founder Ian Waller, owner of Five Bar Gate, said: "We're not aware of any other European schemes operating at farm level. There's an inevitability, and it's gathering pace, that these systems will be mandatory. Some oil companies require 50% carbon reduction targets."

Jane Salter, head of environment policy at the Agricultural Industries Confederation (AIC), also spoke at the launch. Farmway has also announced positive end-of-year results. Profit increased, despite a reduced turnover of pounds 44.8m, down from pounds 55.5m in 2009.

[bar] For a full report and video, log onto www.nebusiness.co.uk

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BIG DIFFERENCE: Peter Hull, chief executive of Farmway
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Title Annotation:Business
Publication:Evening Gazette (Middlesbrough, England)
Date:Jun 24, 2010
Words:433
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