Project that aims to make 5,000 dairy farms climate neutral awarded €2 million

Farm Zero C aims for Bandon, Co Cork farm to achieve net-zero emissions by 2027

A UCD project that will help a Co Cork dairy farm become climate neutral in the next six years has been awarded the €2 million Science Foundation Ireland (SFI) future innovator prize.

The Farm Zero C programme led by Professor Kevin O’Connor is working with Shinagh farm near Bandon to help it achieve net-zero emissions by 2027 with plans to extend the strategy to a further 5,000 farms within five years.

As part of the SFI Zero Emissions Challenge, the Farm Zero C project will tackle emissions from animals, slurries and fertiliser use by using “integrated renewable energy and bio-refining” of agricultural waste streams.

Working with the dairy producer Carberry Group, Farm Zero C also examined grass species selection, as well as measuring and monitoring soil carbon stocks, to reduce the overall gas emissions on farms.


The project involves a combination of a range climate mitigation strategies that reduce the greenhouse gas emissions of farms and increase biodiversity. It also aims to reduce operational costs

The strategies have been either experimented, tested and/or modelled to determine ways for dairy farms to achieve net-zero emissions, according to SFI.

Expansion of the project to 5,000 farms will be done through a mobile app, which will use farm and satellite data and habitat mapping to provide dairy farmers with information on the carbon footprint of their activities and to develop strategies to mitigate these. The technology is currently being patented.

A special prize of €500,000 was awarded to Dr Tony Keene and his team at LiCoRICE, UCD in recognition of the potential impact of their project to bring lithium cobalt batteries into the circular economy to decarbonise road transport.

A team at Trinity College Dublin led by Dr David McCloskey were also awarded €500,000 for their SolarCool project, a cost-effective technology that improves efficiency of existing and future solar PV technologies.

The SFI future innovator prize, funded by the Department of Further and Higher Education, Innovation and Science, is a challenge-based prize funding programme to support development of potentially disruptive technologies to address significant societal challenges.

Announcing the award Minister for Higher and Further Education Simon Harris said "innovative and disruptive ideas such as the Farm Zero C project will become increasingly important as we deliver against the Government's ambitious Climate Action Plan and significantly reduce our carbon emissions.

“Crucially, this will be led from the ground up working with our farming community to ensure they are part of the solution. This will have real world impacts and will provide confidence as we strive to reduce our carbon emissions by 50 per cent over the next decade.”

Agriculture accounts for 35.3 per cent of Ireland’s greenhouse gas emissions, of which 95 per cent are emissions associated with livestock agriculture.

The Government set ambitious targets to reduce overall carbon emissions by 50 per cent by 2030 and to reach net-zero emissions by 2050, underpinned by controversial climate action legislation passed by the Dáil last week and going to the Seanad today. Failure to meet these targets will result in fines of up to €600 million annually.

Marie O'Halloran

Marie O'Halloran

Marie O'Halloran is Parliamentary Correspondent of The Irish Times