Reducing emissions from agriculture – the role of new farm technologies

Research output: Book/Report/Policy Brief/Technical BriefCommissioned reportpeer-review

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The Scottish Government has committed to reaching net zero emissions by 2045. The Scottish Government's Climate Change Plan update requires the equivalent of a 31% reduction in agricultural emissions by 2032 from 2018 levels. Between 1990-2019 Scottish agriculture’s emissions decreased by only 13%. The uptake of new technologies and practices provides a means to meet reductions in greenhouse gases (GHGs) whilst balancing the need for food production.
A number of practices and technologies have been identified which would support progress to this goal, and their cost-effectiveness and impact has been assessed through the Marginal Abatement Cost Curve. The purpose of this project is to identify and explore technologies which have not currently been considered and evaluated for Scotland but which may provide additional carbon savings. It is important to note that the scope of this report does not include nature-based practices but is focused on new technological development that may be applicable to farms in Scotland. Moreover, we take a time frame of 20 years as the horizon by which technologies could be feasibly developed and adopted to impact Scotland's Net Zero goal.

Using expert knowledge, state of the art literature reviews and scrutiny of patents databases we identify a 'long list' of 86 new technologies and technology areas which may be applicable to Scottish agriculture if they were developed further and trialled within the Scottish context.
These new technologies cover a range of areas, including feed additives directed at enteric methane, remote sensing technology and associated monitoring and data analysis to support control and management of input resources, as well as the replacement of traditional materials with more sustainable components, e.g. single cell proteins grown from algae. Moreover, technologies from other sectors, e.g., distributed ledgers, 3D printing were also identified as having potential. In order to produce a short list all technologies were scored against a range of criteria. This produced a list of 13 technologies or technology areas which are worth exploring further

This short-list was explored in greater detail to understand the GHG potential of these technologies, their current stage of development, their potential on-farm cost and further barriers to implementation. For most technologies, the estimates of GHG savings range quite considerably and are typified by only limited evidence of application from mostly within other contexts, for instance asparagosis(a feed additive based on seaweed) has been found to reduce methane emissions by 56% in beef cattle, but this relates to a single trial in another country. Accordingly, any estimates of GHG saving and their cost of implementation are difficult to generalise and come with large uncertainties.
Original languageEnglish
PublisherThe Scottish Government
Number of pages96
ISBN (Electronic)978-1-80525-506-2
Publication statusPrint publication - 15 Feb 2023

Bibliographical note

© Crown copyright 2023


  • Agricultural Technology
  • GHG mitigation
  • Scotland

Rural Policy Centre Themes

  • Environment and climate


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