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Farming & Food Systems for a carbon, water, energy and nutrient constrained world

CCRSPI Conference, MCG 17.2.11

Andrew Campbell
Research Institute for Environment & Livelihoods

1. Context: converging insecurities
– – – – Climate Water Energy Food

1. Big Picture Reflections 2. Food & farming systems 3. Knowledge, science & policy

Key Points
• Climate challenges:
– inherent variability, extreme events, underlying change – the carbon age is beginning – water security will be a perennial issue for southern Australia

• the age of cheap, abundant fossil fuel energy is coming to an end,
with huge implications for Australian agriculture and food systems

• Each of these has their own imperatives, but their interactions are
equally, if not more important

• We deal with these issues in science and policy silos • We tend to be always fighting the last war • What sorts of knowledge do we need, and how might we get it?

“ a significant risk of a peak in conventional oil production before 2020. The risks presented by global oil depletion deserve much more serious attention by the research and policy communities.” UK Energy Research Centre, An assessment of the evidence for a near-term peak in global oil production, August 2009

“we have to leave oil before oil leaves us, and we have to prepare ourselves for that day”
Dr Fatih Birol, Chief Economist IEA, 3 August 2009 “The challenge of feeding 7 or 8 billion people while oil supplies are falling is stupefying. It’ll be even greater if governments keep pretending that it isn’t going to happen.” George Monbiot, The Guardian 16.11.09

IEA World Energy Outlook 2010 acknowledges

• Each calorie takes one litre of
water to produce, on average

• Like the Murray Darling Basin,
all the world’s major food producing basins are effectively ‘closed’ or already over-committed


Water, energy, and GDP
Water and energy have historically been closely coupled with GDP in Australia Water & GDP

Energy & GDP

Our challenge now is to radically reduce the energy, carbon and waterintensity of our economy


from Proust, Dovers, Foran, Newell, Steffen & Troy

Climate-energy-water feedbacks
• Saving water often uses more energy, and viceversa • Efforts to moderate climate often use more energy +/or water
• E.g. coal-fired power stations with CCS will be 25-33% more waterintensive

• Using more fossil energy exacerbates climate chaos

from Proust, Dovers, Foran, Newell, Steffen & Troy (LWA 2007)

Profound technical challenges
1. To decouple economic growth from carbon emissions 2. To adapt to an increasingly difficult climate 3. To increase water productivity
— decoupling the 1 litre per calorie relationship

1. To increase energy productivity
– – – – more food energy out per unit of energy in while shifting from fossil fuels to renewable energy while conserving biodiversity and improving landscape amenity, soil health, animal welfare & human health

1. To develop more sustainable food systems

— improving sustainability and resilience

2. Big picture reflections
Terry Moran, Institute of Public Administration, 15 July 2009: Reflecting on the challenges of public sector reform:

“ By and large, I believe the public service gives good advice on incremental
policy improvement. Where we fall down is in long-term, transformational thinking; the big picture stuff. We are still more reactive than proactive; more inward than outward looking. We are allergic to risk, sometimes infected by a culture of timidity…. The APS still generates too much policy within single departments and agencies to address challenges that span a range of departments and agencies… We are not good at recruiting creative thinkers. ”

Reflections (2)
Two countervailing forces in Australian policy and politics:
1. An unprecedented analytical base, comprehensive, deep, broad, led by authoritative people with a long national view:
– – – – – Garnaut report and its updates Henry tax review Beale biosecurity review Hawke review of EPBC act Drought policy review

1. A political discourse dominated by returning budget to surplus ASAP, cutting programs to fund flood and storm rebuilding
– Apparent preference at all levels of govt to fund high profile emergency response & restoration after the fact, rather than invest in less visible prevention, systemic measures & risk mitigation — rampant myopia


3. Farming and food systems
• Where’s the master plan for Australian agriculture and food? • Why not set some high level COAG goals, to guide the multiple PISC strategies? E.g:
– Australian agriculture to be a net producer of energy by ….? – Australian agriculture to be carbon neutral by….? – Australian food system to halve its water intensity by….? – Australian agriculture to be an employer of choice, with VET and tertiary courses tuned to 21st Century needs, attracting top talent into the sector

– A coherent orientation around understanding risk and uncertainty, proactive mitigation and management

We need a third agricultural revolution
• Closed loop farming systems, not leaking:
(water, energy, nutrients, carbon, biodiversity, young people)

• Smart metering, sensing, telemetry, robotics, guidance • Better understanding of soil carbon & microbial activity • Radically reducing waste in all parts of the food chain • Urban and peri-urban food production (tapping into waste streams)
n d • Farming systems producing renewable bioenergy (2 generation)

• Attracting young talent back into agriculture and rural communities


Murrumbidgee Irrigation - a current
• Bulk water distributor and seller in the MIA
– $1B GVAP, and $7B value-add of food, wine and fibre production

• 100 year old irrigation & drainage network being modernised • Piping and pressurisation will treble energy consumption
– And hence greenhouse gas emissions

• Options:
– – – – Biomass energy plant - 0.5m tonnes p.a. of ag & food process waste Solar thermal power plant on linear easements (C price-dependent) Conversion to biodiesel Carbon offsets through large scale tree planting

• Turning a water company into a water, energy & carbon company
– Liberating potential opportunities through a more integrated approach


Coliban Water Greenhouse Gas Emissions
• Note total emissions have trebled in five years • ‘Superpipe’ to Bendigo from the Goulburn online in 2007

Coliban Water emissions per Megalitre
• Note water supply emissions increased tenfold in five years • What is the net GHG impact of implementi ng the Basin Plan? Or all urban water projects?

Woody biomass energy
• Learning from the Vikings:
– Finland: same area and population as Victoria, tougher climate, shorter growing season, slower growth rates – Private forestry thinnings etc produce 23% of Finland’s primary energy, over 75% of thermal energy needs, and 20% of Finland’s electricity – In Sweden it is 20% (already higher than oil) with a target of 40%

• Foran et al suggest woody biomass energy can fuel Australia • WA already in the lead
– 2nd Gen biofuels (mallees) 40-50 times more energetically efficient than ethanol


CRC Future Farm Industries energy trees
Developing an efficient supply chain for woody energy crops integrated into wheatbelt farming systems. Solving a bottleneck with the invention of a new harvesting head that can handle tough mallee species efficiently


“Carbon plus” wool, beef and sheep meat


Transition to carbon-neutral, energy-positive, water-smart rural landscapes


Forestry integrated with farming vs replacing farming


Forestry integrated with farming vs replacing farming


The integration imperative
• Managing whole landscapes
– – – – – “where nature meets culture” (Simon Schama) landscapes are socially constructed beyond ‘ecological apartheid’ NRM means people management engage values, perceptions, aspirations, behaviour

• Integration
across issues — e.g climate, energy, water, food, biodiversity across scales — agencies, governments, short-term, long-term Across domains — science, policy, management across the triple helix — landscapes, lifestyles & livelihoods

Putting landscapes back together
• How can this all ‘fit’ at a landscape and regional scale? • The landscape needs to be re-plumbed, re-wired and re-clothed • We need new regional planning approaches that:
– – – – – are robust under a range of climate change & demographic scenarios build in resilience thinking accommodate carbon pollution mitigation options (energy, transport, food) safeguard productive soil and allow for increased food production facilitate reuse and recycling of water, nutrients and energy

• Integrating and/or replacing regional catchment strategies
and local government planning, zoning, rating and DA processes

and a complementary food policy overhaul
• Policy propositions from Campbell (2009) “Paddock to Plate” (published by the ACF & also at


A food policy agenda (2)


A food policy agenda (3)


A food policy agenda (4)


A food policy agenda (5)


3 main reasons to invest in knowledge: 1.To help us make better decisions & policy 2.To underpin the innovation process
– when the status quo is not good enough

1.So that we can learn as we go along — in the words of Peter Cullen:
“at least we should be making new mistakes”

Types of Respons e
We need to be operating in each of these quadrants Develop research partnerships +/or link into existing collaborations

Source: FFI CRC EverCrop

• • • • • •

What sorts of knowledge do we need?
Integrated metrics, or tools for integrating metrics Simple mud maps of generic trade-offs and win-wins Narratives that make the challenge more meaningful

– Including international best practice case studies
How to articulate, quantify and evaluate climate-energy-waterfood interactions, trade-offs and synergies holistically Better climate-energy-water-food project assessment tools for new developments, and optimisation tools for improving them (across water, energy, carbon & food) Pathways to more distributed governance, leadership, energy grids, transport systems etc

What sorts of knowledge do we need (2)?
to • Component technologies that help usandreduce the carbon, energy and water intensity of our economy, food farming systems for putting whole packages together across • Systems and integrative toolsEnvironmental, Economic and Political) STEEP (Social, Technological, dimensions — and across scales from paddock to region to nation closely linked to the policy • Inter- and trans-disciplinary sciences,edge SMEs & consultants) and management environments (leading

• Institutional analysis tools to spotlight blockages and develop better planning and regulatory environments • Community engagement — work with champions, bring communities, industries & regions along the journey


Traditional science & policy silos won’t work
– need to work with at least four Ministers & their agencies

How might we acquire that knowledge?

• A Water, Energy & Land (WEL) R&D Corporation? (PC Inquiry) • A food systems CRC to build R&D capacity & integration? • A Sustainability Commission with a research mandate?
– sister agency to the Productivity Commission? – or an expansion of its mandate?

• Commitment to some pilots – e.g. greenfield suburbs, regional
centres on the margins of the energy grid, MIS plantings?

• Social learning: much smarter use of web 2.0 technologies,
linked to real-time smart meters etc

“In order to discover new lands, one must be prepared to lose sight of the shore for a very long time”*
• Shared training in ag & food systems renewal and network leadership for
bright, mid-level cohorts across industry & govt

• Reinvestment in regional level leadership through e.g. CMAs, farming
systems groups, industry groups, SMEs

• Longer term education programs in unis, TAFE & schools • Social learning: much smarter use of web 2.0 technologies, linked to
real-time smart meters etc

• Don’t wait for leadership from the political system!

* André Gide, 1925 Les Faux-Monnayeurs (The Counterfeiters)”

Take home messages
 Rural landscapes are more contested and squeezed between major drivers: climate, water, energy, food  Australia needs a third agricultural revolution  Australian land use, farming and food systems need to improve performance, irrespective of climate change  This creates exciting new opportunities for agriculture and food system participants and leaders

 This is about knowledge, innovation & leadership



For more info
e.g. Paddock to Plate
Policy Propositions for Sustainable Food Systems

Powerful Choices (with Barney Foran)
A Climate Change Primer for Regional NRM Managing Australian Soils