On Tuesday the 28th July, the AAAS Southern NSW branch held its first webinar! It was a fabulous success with great attendance and discussion.
The first speaker of the evening was Maeve Harding from Fulton Market Group (FMG). Maeve explained that holistic management for FMG means identifying the areas of the business that have interrelationships and depend on each other and how they interact. A key point she made was that sustainability looks different and means different things to various operations within the beef industry. “Sustainability is very much an ongoing journey of continual improvement and further developing and refining the best practice within our industries so we can operate more efficiently and produce product that meets the needs, wants and expectations of consumers” Maeve said. The beef industry needs to be on the front foot with continuing to communicate what has already been achieved as well as what is currently being done because there has already been an increase in consumer desire to understand where the products that they are consuming are coming from. She noted that a key for sustainability is making the most out of what you produce.
Our second speaker, Mason Crane, is currently working on the Sustainable Farm Initiative. The work looks at the natural assets on farms (such as shelter belts and remnant patches that have been enhanced) and how they help conserve biodiversity. On defining and achieving sustainability, Mason said people need to identify the level they want to set and need to acknowledge that we need to improve on the level we are currently at. “Although agriculture is a major contributor to the current problems, it is also the solution and by getting sustainable ag right we can achieve a lot of gains.” Mason said. The definition at Sustainable Farms is “Sustainable farming is the production of food and fibre that meets societies needs and presents without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.” He said that it is important that we measure change rather than just assume it is occurring. Enhancing financial viability on farm is essential and through improving environmental outcomes, will hopefully have financial benefits as well. Another important aspect of sustainability brought up by Mason was enhancing the quality of life for those on farms and within rural communities. Healthy people on farms are vital for a sustainable system, and that goes for the communities as well. On sustainability in smaller towns and making these towns attractive to for people to live in Mason said “If you’ve got a good healthy environment, which around country towns is the agricultural landscape, it makes the landscape more appealing. Community connection and community well-being plays a big role in people’s mental health and how they feel about the liveability of their community.”
Our final speaker, Katherine Balding, discussed sustainability in the poultry industry. Chicken production is an efficient production of plant protein to animal protein and has the lowest emissions and smallest carbon footprint of all the animal species in terms of intensive animal production. Major gains in the industry are through the genetics of the birds which have improved efficiency, and subsequently reduced emissions by up to 15% in the last 10 years. The industry has focussed on improving sustainability predominantly through water, energy and waste within the processing operations. Feed has a major impact in terms of sustainability with 86% of the carbon footprint from the industry being from indirect emissions that are difficult to control. Katherine said to achieve carbon neutrality in the industry will be very costly and take a lot of time. Areas that are being looked at are solar power, the environmental impact of dust and noise, sustainable packaging and delivery – all of which are areas that consumers are interested in. Katherine said that sustainability is a balance between what the consumer wants from a particular perspective, and the overall sustainability of the production. With regards to gains in the poultry industry, Katherine referred to the selection of genetics within the industry. But because the genetics are selected, it can take up to 5 years for a certain trait to come through to the industry. For the next period of time the priorities for the industry are the health of the birds and how farmers can reuse litter and use it as an energy source. For the poultry industry, Katherine said that the most important area of sustainability is defined by the consumer perspective.
The speakers agreed that sustainability is about industries offering transparency and gaining trust with their customers. What society sees as sustainable might not actually be sustainable when looking at the industry as a whole, so it’s important to effectively communicate what is being done in industry.
The branch plans to hold a number of member-driven events and encourages anyone who works within the broad church of the animal sciences to get involved and let us know what you think we should do next!
Next up we have a social media competition so keep an eye out!