|Location||Australia and Brazil|
With rapid population growth and increasing demand for better standards of living, the pressure on natural resources around the world has increased exponentially.
For the agricultural sector, this means improving the productivity of every hectare of land and protecting the ecosystems and natural resources of which farmers have been stewards for generations. There is pressure to produce more with less, while maintaining high standards of quality and safety.
To address this challenging context, farmers around the world have adopted parallel but complementary strategies. On the one hand, adopting natural climate solutions, such as reforestation, cover crops and wetlands restoration; and on the other, deploying increasingly sophisticated technology and data. For example, using analytics to improve yield and productivity, or satellite technology to maximise the precision and efficiency of inputs such as fertiliser. Piloting and implementing on-farm technology has also become an important driver of change in farming.
MAM’s support for a net zero carbon future, captured in our own commitment, has set the scene for net zero efforts across our agriculture portfolio in Australia and Brazil. This has helped frame the approach to sustainability, as well as develop key performance indicators to measure progress.
Our asset managers develop plans for deploying resources and engaging with local communities, while promoting safety and good labour conditions for staff. Most of those involved live in the farming communities, reinforcing their ties to the local community.
We are encouraging the adoption of performance targets and promote regular reporting, which is then consolidated in an annual agriculture sustainability report.
More resilient farmland
Elizabeth O’Leary, Head of Agriculture and Natural Assets
We have delivered improved asset performance against a range of key metrics. For a number of years, we have measured the soil pH level, a key indicator of soil health, and pursued a target range of 5.5 – 7.0 for this level across our Australian portfolios. The data shows significant improvements due to soil maintenance programs implemented by management, with portfolios achieving or moving towards the target range.
Since 2019, we have been able to measure the emissions per unit of output for the Viridis Ag row cropping portfolio, using the FarmPrint tool. From 2019 to 2020, emissions intensity improved from 0.27 tCO2-e to 0.19 tCO2-e per tonne of production. We were able to understand the drivers of improvement, which included higher production due to strong rainfall, coupled with ongoing investment into energy efficient technologies and practices.
We are conscious that performance in our sector is heavily weather dependent, with no guarantee of continuous improvement every year, so it is critical to look at trends in performance over the long term.
There is evidence to suggest that, as sustainable practices are pursued, financial returns improve. For example, our portfolio companies have set a target of 100 per cent utilisation of Variable Rate Technology (VRT) for fertiliser application, to reduce both environmental impact and production costs. We are also seeing sustainable practices driving improvements in the livelihoods of local communities, where there is growing pride in adopting methods that demonstrate stewardship of the natural environment.
Systematic reporting is an important driver of good practice and a way of sharing awareness of key issues. In some cases, this involves reporting on actions that farmers have been carrying out for years, but in others it requires new ways of thinking about a familiar challenge.
This is why MAM Agriculture annually reports its key metrics, including soil pH levels, emissions efficiency, VRT utilisation, water use efficiency, training hours, and more. For some metrics such as emissions efficiency, we also benchmark our performance against regional peers, to understand where more improvement could be achieved.
In addition to key metrics, MAM Agriculture has been reporting against the UN SDGs since 2018. This framework resonates with our investors around the world and provides a common language that enables users to focus their efforts.