Farmers' co-operative First Milk, along with Nestlé and Agricarbon, have announced the launch of a pioneering soil carbon capture project – the first of its kind in the world.

The project, which establishes a comprehensive and scientifically robust soil carbon baseline for First Milk farms, will use state-of-the-art machinery to carry out intensive soil carbon analysis at a fraction of the usual cost.

The approach allows soil carbon sequestration to be quantified over time to support the net zero ambitions of First Milk farmers and customers.

The initial phases of the project are being conducted in partnership with Nestlé, which is supporting this as part of its climate journey roadmap, building robust scientific data, with partners, to effectively drive meaningful progress in carbon reduction through its supply chain.

The project will see high intensity, field-by-field soil carbon stock quantified across 40 farms, with the intention to extend this to 100 First Milk farms by the end of 2021.

The project is being guided by Dr Helaina Black, a leading soil-ecologist and honorary associate at the James Hutton Institute.

Mark Brooking, sustainability director for First Milk, which has a creamery in Haverfordwest, said: “Just last week we announced a major development to our First4Milk sustainability programme that has seen us commit to net zero by 2040, to the launch of regenerative action plans for all our members, and to sequestering 100,000t of carbon in soils per annum by 2025.

“Having robust, scientifically-validated soil carbon data is absolutely critical to the successful delivery of this strategy, and we look forward to collaborating with Nestlé and Agricarbon as we roll out this ground-breaking initiative.

"Moving forward, we’ll be working with all of our farmer members and external advisers, using this data to understand soil carbon levels and inform the development of practical regenerative plans for farms that capture additional soil carbon through sequestration, whilst maintaining and enhancing productivity and efficiency.”