Towards a sustainable food industry: Part II – The Property Chronicle
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Towards a sustainable food industry: Part II

The Analyst

Many farming and food companies are investing or plan to invest in improving the sustainability of food production. This Craigmore commentary, the second in a three-part mini-series, examines the strategies of food companies and farmers to improve their environmental footprints. While sustainability is a much broader topic, this series focuses on strategies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and climate change mitigation.

This article looks at the greenhouse gas efficiency of farming systems and then at specific initiatives under way in the food industry to reduce net emissions using Map of Agriculture, a Craigmore established farm data platform, as a case study. While each article in this three-part series stands alone, the three parts combined go further into the full breadth of the topic.

Are some farming systems better than others?

Day- and night-time temperatures, rainfall, irrigation, evapotranspiration, sunlight hours, altitude, latitude, soils and many other factors mean that crops in some places grow two or even four times faster or more resource efficiently than in others. In economic terms this means average ‘factor efficiencies’ (per unit of land, water, fertiliser or other input) vary widely between farming regions, which leads to economic and environmental comparative and competitive advantage.

For example, there is no better place on earth to grow soya beans than the plains around Buenos Aires, while Iowa is almost perfectly suited to growing corn (maize). And kiwifruit, apples, radiata and pastoral dairy cows are most productive on the islands of New Zealand.

Readers will have their own view on whether NZ Sauvignon Blanc falls into the same world-beating category, but you get the idea. I often explain to investors that farms produce commodities, but land itself is not a commodity. Each farm or forest is a unique claim on nature’s bounty.

The Analyst

About Forbes Elworthy

Forbes Elworthy

Forbes was brought up on Craigmore Station in the South Island of New Zealand and worked as a shepherd in the early part of his career. He then trained in Agricultural Economics at Lincoln University in New Zealand where he was student president in 1984. He went to Oxford as a Rhodes Scholar in 1985. After some time at Goldman Sachs he completed an MBA at Harvard Business School in 1992. Forbes worked as a credit trader at Merrill Lynch from 1992 to 1999 where he headed a convertibles trading desk. He then led financial information publisher Credit Market Analysis which was acquired by Chicago Mercantile Exchange. Forbes returned full time to farming in 2005 to live on and manage Craigmore Station – a sheep, beef and deer property farmed by the Elworthy family since 1864.   From 2009 Forbes partnered with his brother-in-law Mark Cox to create Craigmore Sustainables, a specialist manager of farms and forests in New Zealand. Since 2014 he has been leading a Craigmore sponsored farm information management company called Map Of Agriculture. It provides software and farm data integration systems to help over 80 AgBusinesses including Centre for Dairy Excellence in New Zealand and McDonalds Restaurants in the UK connect to and assist their networks of farms. 

Articles by Forbes Elworthy

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