FARMERS ON the Isle of Arran could provide the carbon-reduction blueprint for Scottish agriculture.

A project is underway involving a group of Arran farmers measuring their carbon footprint using SAC Consulting's tool 'AgreCalc', and then trialling and testing local solutions, which could help shape Scotland's wider response moving forward.

The Soil Association Scotland-led Rural Innovation Support Service group of 15 farmers and affiliates is being facilitated by Alexander Pirie of SAC Consulting, who along with one of Net Zero Arran’s farmers, David Henderson, will be among the speakers in the free online RISS workshop – Futureproof your Farm – taking place this Wednesday (May 20).

MrPirie commented: “My hope is we can reduce the carbon footprint of the island if we can quantify it and that by identifying common areas for improvement, we can take a collaborative approach.

“By tackling issues around farm efficiency and best practice as well as the environment and climate change, with an emphasis on building strong local community engagement, Arran could contribute is some small way to the solution for Scotland as a whole," he continued.

“This is a broad project, building and expanding on data and processes from the Beef Efficiency Scheme and the Farming for a Better Climate Initiative and gives us scope to involve Taste of Arran or the local Eco Savvy, for example. We’re also looking at the link between farm businesses, processors and retailers. RISS has given me the scope to get everybody in the room.”

That room is now a virtual room for the time being, but this won't stop the farmers in the group from using the AgreCalc tool to audit their emissions, as well as the carbon they are sequestering into the farmed landscape.

Mr Pirie will then help co-ordinate the actions the farmers can take to reduce their emissions: “Common areas for improvement are things like fertiliser applications, increasing lambing percentages, fertility MOTs for breeding potential and increasing biodiversity on farms.”

Mr Henderson farms beef and sheep at Kilpatrick Farm on Arran. He said: “I have done our carbon audits and our emissions were good partly due to our stocking rates. But I’m in the group to learn. We know that future farm programmes will be based around carbon footprints, whether we like it or not, so the question is, how do we adapt? Farmers need to work together more, and be more open about the good and the bad."

As well as Net Zero Arran, Wednesday's online workshop will hear from Scottish Apples’ Roger Howison, with facilitator Amanda Brown of the Scottish Agricultural Organisation Society, and Colleen McCulloch of RISS.

The Scottish Apples group is exploring how to bring a commercial apple-growing industry back to Scotland. Mr Howison, who is growing apples and arable crops together in a silvoarable system on Parkhill Farm in Fife, said: “Farmers need to be in touch with each other – if I’ve had an idea maybe others might have had it too. In the group I can share knowledge, hear about how other farmers are doing things. It’s exciting, it feels like together we have the drive to develop a market for Scottish apples.

“Now more than ever, with the coronavirus, I do think people will be more interested in knowing where their food came from and how it was grown. It’s becoming clear that we must create and support accessible, sustainable routes to market for the food we grow in Scotland. Scottish crops for Scottish people."

The 'Futureproof your Farm' online workshop takes place on Wednesday May 20, between 9.30 and 11.30am. Register at