Agritech company Agrimix says it is on track to deliver a scientifically backed toolkit which will reduce the cost of soil carbon measurement by up to 90 percent for farmers.
The technology aims to improve pasture productivity and improve access to the carbon credit market - often out of reach due to the high cost.
Agrimix, which has offices in Qld and NSW, has been working with MLA, Packhorse and QUT on the $3.5 million project, which uses eddy covariance flux tower technology, soil carbon models and remote sensing.
For more than a year, a network of these towers across grazing properties in Queensland and NSW have been remotely measuring carbon and water flows into and out of plants and soil at a rate of 20 times a second, every day of the year.
This massive amount of data has enabled the natural processes driving plant growth and carbon sequestration to be understood in greater detail.
Results show combining this big data with soil carbon models and remote sensing technologies creates a platform enabling farms to monitor and drive productivity and environmental outcomes.
Cutting carbon measuring costs
Agrimix CEO Ben Sawley said the cost to measure soil carbon through drilling soil cores and transporting them to a lab for analysis could be more than $30 per hectare, whereas using the soil carbon model with flux tower data offered low ongoing operating costs over large areas.
"The goal of the whole project that we started was premised on ultimately trying to achieve the previous government's target of $3 a hectare measurement costs," Mr Sawley said.
"To achieve that requires a paradigm shift in quantifying soil carbon, and that's where we teamed up with QUT to go about creating this new toolkit and can look to achieve that sort of dramatic cost reduction."
Within the next few months, property owners will be able to rent a flux tower to get a good representation of what's happening in their paddocks in terms of carbon flows and water use efficiency of their plants.
The larger soil carbon model combined with flux tower and remote sensing is 12 to 18 months away.
Waiting in the wings
Beef producer John Scott, Allandale, Roma, said the new technology was highly anticipated.
"While many farmers and graziers want to participate in carbon sequestration projects to maximise their land and help the environment, the barriers are substantial," Mr Scott said.
"This is news we've been waiting for as it will enable us to use a trusted measurement tool to realise commercial opportunities on our land while supporting the environment."
The flux tower-based technology is being developed and validated by QUT on multiple properties in Queensland and NSW including on Packhorse's 10,029 hectare Moolan Downs property.
Packhorse Investments Australia chair Tim Samway said the collaboration with Agrimix and QUT to develop flux tower technology was "extremely attractive" considering Packhorse was accumulating two million hectares of pastoral property with strong productivity improvement and carbon capture potential.
"As organisations globally pledge net zero targets, an increasing quantity of carbon credit units will be required to offset emissions," Mr Samway said.
"Soil carbon is a key low-emissions technology, so further development of affordable and accurate technology such as flux towers and soil carbon models is a game-changer."