Archives: Case Studies

Case Study: Caplor Farm

Caplor Farm

Date of Case Study: 2012

Farm Name: Caplor Farm

Location: Herefordshire

Enterprise: Mixed Arable (including Potatoes) and Cattle

Farm Size: 222 hectares

Sustainable Practices: Multi-award winning company focusing on many aspects of efficiency including reducing transport/distribution mileage, energy efficiency improvements for buildings and renewable energy generation.

Business Benefits: Exact knowledge of the business’ costs allowing for actions to be taken. Expensive fuel and fertiliser overheads reduced.

Sustainable Farming Approaches

Gareth Williams manages the family farm in Herefordshire, farming over 550 acres of potatoes and arable crops, as well as around 80 breed Hereford cattle.

In 2007 the ever rising cost of energy and an interest in sustainability led Gareth to adopt annual carbon footprint assessments and commission two studies into his farm’s energy use. The findings have directly influenced changes on the farm. These include prioritising transport efficiency, as part of which the farm has reduced the number of unnecessary journeys made each year, sent drivers on fuel efficiency training courses, and changed machinery manufacturers to ensure they use only the most fuel efficient vehicles. This has saved not only fuel, but time and money spent on maintenance, freeing up time for other tasks. 

Another change is the introduction of cover crops, grown between rotations, retaining vital nutrients in the ground and building Soil Organic Matter. For example clover is often grown, which can fix nitrogen in soils as a natural fertiliser. The farm has used a variety of different sources of organic matter over the years totalling thousands of tons and is currently investigating an organic source of fertiliser in the form of a green manure or compost, and already uses chicken droppings instead of Ammonium Nitrate. Given the finite nature of most chemical fertilisers and the link between Nitrogen and fossil fuel prices, this is a sustainable, but also shrewd business decision.

Building and Renewables

The farm realised a considerable proportion of annual costs were being spent on storing potatoes. Instead of renting an inefficient building, they took the decision to invest in a new potato storage building, bringing storage back onto the farm. The specification was to an exact standard, with almost double the insulation the installer had originally suggested, additional wall insulation and modern construction materials and techniques; the key was ensuring sufficient insulation. The modern construction technique enabled the building to be completed in less than three weeks. The new store has saved 1000’s kWh of electricity in direct energy costs and reduced transport expenses. 

Gareth has installed solar hot water panels and 80kw of solar PV on the farm, recently increasing the solar hot water installation, meaning the farm will receive some free electricity and an income from both the Feed in Tariff and Renewable Heat Incentive. In fact Gareth is so passionate about renewables that he set up his own renewable installation company, Caplor Energy, which now installs solar and other technologies around the country and is a multi award winning market leader.

Engaging People in Local Food Production 

Caplor farm works in partnership with others to also include a small vegetable and free range egg business, started as a way of reducing food miles and encouraging the consumption of local food. Families and young people have been invited to help out in exchange for free food in an effort to encourage a connection with where their food comes from and local production. This is a project looking to the long term, with potential benefits beyond day to day operations, and underscores the farm’s ‘triple bottom line accounting’ principles. 

Carbon Footprint

Caplor Farm’s main source of emissions in the past year were the agro-chemicals, principally fertilisers, used on arable crops, which represented 61.5% of total emissions. Fuels accounted for 22% of emissions, showing the importance of steps to reduce fuel use on any farm. This would undoubtedly be higher were it not for the focus on reducing this. There were smaller emissions from livestock (8.5%) and fertility, as well as a result of materials used on the farm. Hedges and field margins sequester significant amounts of carbon on the farm (around 8% of the total), and there could be scope to increase sequestration from soils. 


The experience of Caplor Farm indicates the benefits of regular carbon footprinting exercises using a calculator tool or in depth study. Having a complete picture of the farm’s emissions and therefore costs in each area has informed business decisions saving considerable amounts. Rethinking existing techniques and practices has paid dividends and allowed the business to adapt. The results really help Caplor to deliver on it’s vision and values – ‘’Where rural based business can develop, diversify and positively contribute towards a sustainable community.’’ Through – improvement, inspiration and sustainability 

Case Study: East Hendred Estate

Date of Case Study: 2012

Farm Name: East Hendred Estate

Location: Oxfordshire

Enterprise: Mixed Arable and Sheep

Farm Size: 607 hectares

Sustainable Practices: Controlled traffic farming and considering renewable energy options

Business Benefits: Considerable savings in regular fuel and time costs. In the longer term, improved soil health and reduced inputs/yield increases are expected.

Sustainable Farming Approaches

Farm Manager Julian Gold has adopted Controlled Traffic Farming (CTF) and minimum tillage to reduce emissions, but also as a wise business decision. The technique involves using only the same necessary tracks across fields for land work, planting and harvesting, never driving on the spaces between these tracks. Driving over and deep cultivating fields compacts and disturbs soils, causing Carbon stored in the growing cycle, and crucial nutrients, to be released, depleting the Soil Organic Matter. In total, only 20% of the farm’s field area is driven over. Specialist equipment such as direct drilling and adapted automatic bale collectors are utilised. 

Combining cultivating and drilling using one implement for both has saved over £50,000 in capital costs. Meanwhile the reduced fuel use saves around 10 litres per hectare in a typical crop cultivation sequence. The minimum tillage system improves worm count and water drainage, and improves soil structure, and in conjunction with the robust rotations and stale seedbed techniques helps control problem weeds such as Blackgrass. The relatively large average field size has been advantageous for this approach, to set up a 10 metre CTF approach, and smaller farms could set up smaller (6 or 8 metre) widths to benefit from the same advantages. The management of trash and wheelways as a CTF system progresses over time does need an element of hands-on management and this may mean re-examining equipment in the future. 

The estate has also adopted robust, wide rotations, which include legumes, to reduce nitrogen use and reduce pests and diseases. 

Future Plans: Cover Crops and Renewables

The intention is to bring in cover crops between winter and spring crops – this recycles nutrients, improves soil structure, retains living roots and allows soil biota to thrive, benefitting soil health and resilience. Plans under discussion include examining the numerous coniferous windbreaks on the estate as potential sources for biomass energy supplies in the future. 

A re-roofing project on an agricultural building will provide the opportunity to install solar panels, which they plan to install at the same time as the roofing work – a good example of combining necessary work already planned on the farm with opportunities for low carbon diversification. 

Carbon Footprint

Due to the size of the arable crop under cultivation, nearly 90% of the farm’s emissions are a result of the agro-chemicals used on crops, the majority (83%) coming from fertilisers. Due to the reduced distance driven each year and working wider and shallower in terms of cultivation as a result of CTF techniques, fuel use is lower than would be expected otherwise, accounting for only around 6% of total emissions. 

Livestock emissions are also relatively low at just under 3%, but as the farm has a relatively significant amount of machinery, farm machinery represents nearly half of these emissions (1.4%), with the embodied emissions from materials used on the farm only 0.03%. 

In sequestration terms, there are some good size blocks of woodland around the farm, and together these are removing almost four times the annual emissions of the farm’s livestock from the atmosphere each year. The minimum tillage approach will store carbon in future years, contributing to net sequestration. Regular Soil Organic Matter testing is important for monitoring this.


As part of a pragmatic overall approach, the Estate seeks to minimise artificial, especially finite fossil fuel-based inputs. Soil is also crucial to the approach as any improvements in soil health will further reduce the inputs required, and improve soil robustness and resilience in both wet and dry years. This focus on soil health is crucial for reducing emissions through lower inputs and sequestering carbon through improved soil health and structure. The farm crucially needs to stay profitable and this approach allows for continued profitability while adopting innovative techniques; the considerable savings alone illustrate the strong economic case. 

Case Study: Shimpling Park

Shimpling Park Farm

Date of Case Study: 2012

Farm Name: Shimpling Park Farm

Location: Bury St Edmunds, Suffolk

Enterprise: Arable (Wheat, Barley, Oats, Spelt and Quinoa) and Sheep

Farm Size: 645 hectares

Soil Type: Chalky Boulder Clay

Key Statistics

Total annual carbon emissions 1,150 tonnes CO2e Total annual carbon sequestration 454 tonnes CO2 Total carbon balance (emissions) 696 tonnes CO2e Emissions per hectare 1.08 tonnes CO2e Emissions per tonne of product 0.45 tonnes CO2e. 

Note: CO2 stands for Carbon Dioxide, CO2e stands for carbon dioxide equivalence – i.e. other greenhouse gases are included, but converted to a standard unit to  represent the global warming impact of carbon dioxide

Emissions Sources

Total carbon emissions amounted to 1,150 tonnes CO2e.  

The main sources of emissions came from Fuels (33.5%) – mostly diesel use, and Fertility (54%) –  including nitrous oxide emissions from crop residues and green manures. 


This mostly came from diesel use in tractors and combines (29%). There is also diesel used in  road vehicles for the farm business. This is to be expected in a mechanised arable system. 

Electricity on the farm amounted to 4% of total emission, mostly used for grain drying. It’s also  worth noting that a 50kW array of solar PV panels exports around electricity offsetting 16 tonnes of  CO2, as well as providing some ‘free’ electricity to the farm. 


It’s worth noting that materials used on the farm, including wood, water, metal, paper and tyres  amounted to just 0.1% of total emissions.  

Nonetheless it is worth recording these items because embodied energy in concrete and steel in  particular can have large carbon impacts on large projects – for instance a new barn, shed or farm  roads. 

Capital Items 

As mentioned above, there is a lot of embodied energy in steel, which is exposed in calculating the  impact of farm machinery. In the Farm Carbon Calculator, any machine under 10 years old is  accounted for, and depreciated over 10 years.  

The manufacture of tractors and telehandlers on this farm amount to 3.7% of total emissions.  However if these were all bought in one year and accounted for in one year (not depreciated over  ten) then the impact would be 37% of total emissions.  


Nitrous oxide emissions from crop residues of arable crops (beans, peas, wheat and oats)  contribute to a large percentage of total emissions at 29%. This is due to nitrogen in the crop  residue being oxidised in the soil and being released as nitrous oxide.  

Leguminous green manures (red clover) contribute a further 17% of emissions through nitrous  oxide released during nitrogen fixation. This appears to be a very negative attribute of green  manures, however they can also contribute to a substantial increase in organic matter levels, which  sequesters atmospheric carbon. In effect this at least ‘balances out’ the nitrous oxide emissions. 

Also worth mentioning is the 2.8% of emissions from the application of rock phosphate. 


The farm has a herd of 250 sheep, which contribute 6.6% of emissions from methane through the  process of enteric fermentation (common to all bovines). 


Transport of arable crops to a local mill accounts for 1.3% of emissions. Whilst this is not delivered  to the final customer it demonstrates that ‘food miles’ can be only a small part of the issues relating  to climate change and food. 

Sequestration Sources 

Carbon is sequestered in perennial biomass and soils on farms. On this farm 60% of carbon is  sequestered in woodlands, whilst permanent field margins (21%) and hedges (18%) are the  other main carbon sinks. 

The total carbon sequestered on the farm (454 tonnes of CO2) offsets 40% of all carbon emitted by  the farm business. 

Note that soil organic matter levels have not been sampled – see discussion below. 


The major omission to this calculation, due to lack of data, is that soil organic matter levels have  not been measured. See below for discussion of this issue. A comprehensive calculation of materials used (e.g. wood, steel, concrete, etc.) was not undertaken  due to time limitations. However this was not expected to be a significant source of emissions as a  percentage of total farm emissions. An analysis of embodied energy in farm buildings was not carried out, also due to time limitations.  This would be worth looking at in future calculations, but it is not considered that emissions from  embodied energy in buildings would skew the figures dramatically.  


In organic systems a major aim is to cultivate soils in a manner that builds fertility continuously.  This should go hand in hand with raising organic matter levels, which also means atmospheric  carbon is being sequestered in the soil. 

For example a 0.1% increase in SOM on clay soils, per hectare per year, can sequester nearly 7  tonnes of CO2. If this applied to the whole of Shimpling Park Farm then the annual carbon  sequestration from soil alone would amount to almost 4500 tonnes of CO2, four times greater  than total carbon emissions! 

Is this achievable? In the Soil Association paper Soil Carbon and Organic Farming (2009) a  comprehensive analysis of studies is made that examines soil organic matter (SOM) levels in  farming systems across the world. There was a huge range of results in temperate organic arable  systems, from SOM increases of 0.5% per year through to annual SOM losses. However it  confirmed that annual SOM gains of 0.1% are perfectly achievable. 

Even if annual SOM gains were just 0.025% then on this farm the carbon sequestration in soil  would equal all the carbon emissions from the business. Add to this the sequestration from  biomass and the farm would have net carbon sequestration. 

Case Study: Tolhurst Organic Produce

Date of case study: 2012

Farm Name: Tolhurst Organic Produce

Location: Berkshire

Enterprise: Field Scale Vegetables with a Veg Box Business

Farm Size: 8 hectares

Sustainable Practices: Wildlife habitat creation, recycling and green manures

Business Benefits: Improved soils for increased productivity 

Carbon Balance: Positive impact as a results of sequestration activities

Tolhurst Organic Produce

Tolhurst Organic Produce is one of the UK’s longest established organic vegetable growing business. Based on the Hardwick Estate west of Reading in the Thames Valley, they have 7ha of field scale veg and a 1ha walled garden, growing more of the labour-intensive crops. The main income source is a veg box scheme supplying families in Reading and Oxford. Environmental awareness is at the core of the business and Iain ‘Tolly’ Tolhurst is widely regarded amongst peers as being a grower who pushes the boundaries and sets high standards. Tolly has long been interested in supplying vegetables to his customers with a low carbon footprint, and in 2001 commissioned the University of Surrey to examine his business operations from an environmental perspective. Completing the Farm Carbon Calculator in 2012 has been a natural step for the business. 

Carbon Emissions

Farm operations are quite simple, with most diesel used in tractors for cultivation and carting (two thirds) and pumping water for irrigation (one third). This accounts for just under 19% of total emissions. Distribution to customers is done by van to drop-off points in nearby Oxford and Reading, every week of the year. Total emissions, from using the farm’s own van and a local courier, account for 33% of emissions. Box scheme businesses are disadvantaged from other businesses in terms of carbon emissions because they deliver to the customers’ door, whereas for many farms point of sale occurs at the farm gate. 

Electricity is a significant contributor to emissions at just under 17% of total emissions; about half of this is used in propagation for heat-loving crops like tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers, etc. Materials use and emissions (2.5%) is very low, due to a policy of re-use and tight financial controls on consumables. Even packaging for deliveries is reused many times, much reducing resource use. For instance paper delivery bags are re-used 5 or 6 times, reducing use from 1 tonne to 200kg of new bags per year! There has been a conscious decision to decrease the amount of plastic used. Embodied energy in the business’ van, being less than 10 years old, contributes 6.3% of total emissions. 

The farm has no livestock, using green manures to build fertility in the soil. These green manures, including red, white and crimson clover, vetch and lucerne, account for 11% of total emissions through N₂O they release as part of the Nitrogen-fixing process. However this pays handsome dividends in both Nitrogen and Soil Organic Matter (see later). Tolly also uses woodchip derived, locally sourced organic compost, which improves Soil Organic Matter. Waste management is taken very seriously and all waste is recycled. This gives an emissions offset equivalent to 10% of total emissions.


A policy of creating habitat for wildlife in the fields also has given opportunities for a lot of carbon sequestration. Hedgerows are allowed to grow tall and wide, accounting for 17% of total sequestration. A small area of woodland, along with an area of willow coppice in a damp corner of one of the fields, account for over 24% of all sequestration. 

One of the most surprising figures perhaps was for the amount sequestrated in the field margins. This permanent pasture around fields and beetle banks within fields is actually quite a large area, nearly 1 hectare in total, and accounts for nearly 9% of total sequestration. 

The biggest challenge for growers is how to build Soil Organic Matter, because cultivating soil is the best way to lose it! Over the course of the last 25 years, Tolly has managed to continually build organic matter levels without the use of external inputs. This has been achieved through extensive use of green manures and a tillage policy of shallow and timely cultivations. This is a remarkable feat, and the positive contribution of rising organic matter levels across cropped areas accounts for an impressive 49% of all sequestration.

The Overall Balance

Total emissions come to 16.6 tonnes of CO₂e (a measure of all greenhouse gases expressed as the equivalent in CO₂) per year, a remarkably low figure for a business producing veg for 150 families. But most excitingly, total sequestration comes to around 21 tonnes of CO₂e per year, meaning the whole farm is ‘carbon positive’ by over 4t CO₂e per year. This shows that there are methods of growing vegetables with minimal inputs, producing good yields and still sequestering far more carbon than is emitted. 


All Tolhurst Organic Produce customers receive vegetables every week that technically lowers their carbon footprint. This is an exciting concept and demonstrates the power of farmland to turn agriculture and horticulture into a carbon positive activity that can help to bring down atmospheric CO₂ levels and reduce the impacts of climate change.

Case Study: Woodland Valley Farm

Date of Case Study: 2012

Farm Name: Woodland Valley Farm

Location: Ladock, Cornwall

Enterprise: Beef and Sheep

Farm Size: 70 hectares

Sustainable Practices: Wildlife habitat creation, renewables and education activities

Business Benefits: Maximised nutritional benefits 

Carbon Balance: Livestock impact balanced by sequestration activities

Situated in a quiet valley near Ladock in Cornwall, this 70ha organic farm has a beef herd with a small sheep flock that graze outdoors nearly all year. The farm has consciously investigated and established species-rich swards that enable animals to achieve maximum nutrition from the pasture and minimise poaching in wet conditions.

Owners Chris and Janet Jones are also passionate about education and have built a small conference centre, kitchen and accommodation, hosting anything from school groups to corporate events, ensuring that farm education is key to the experience. They have also invested in solar PV and a wind turbine, and are active in local sustainability (Low Carbon and Transition) groups.. 

Carbon Emissions

Due to the lack of soil cultivations and low-maintenance pastures, tractor operations are quite limited and hence red diesel use accounts for less than 4% of total emissions. However use of road vehicles accounts for around 11% of emissions. Exported electricity, mostly from a 50kW wind turbine, is quite significant and nearly offsets electricity bought in. However export is set to rise substantially by the next Calculation because the turbine had only been operational for 50 days at the time of the 2011-12 Calculation. This should far outweigh any electricity bought in and give significant carbon savings. 

Materials use was generally very low, the main emissions coming from the embodied energy in the solar panels, and the steel and concrete for the wind turbine. The main source of emissions, as with most livestock farms, was from the animals themselves at around 70% – nitrous oxide and methane in the manures, and methane from enteric fermentation. 

The beef herd, being the main commercial enterprise, contributed the vast majority of these emissions, followed by horses, sheep and pigs. A small amount of feed is bought in, accounting for just 2% of emissions. Therefore one way livestock farmers can reduce their emissions is to maximise feed grown on the farm wherever possible. 


Chris Jones has long been excited by the possibility of using soils to sequester carbon. Soil analysis has been completed across the farm in order to monitor the changes to Soil Organic Matter. Woodland Valley, as the name suggests, has significant areas of woodland, of varying age structures, contributing 76% of total sequestration. Hedgerows are extensive and mature, accounting for 14% of sequestration, whilst a young nut orchard contributes around 10% of sequestration.

The Overall Balance

What Woodland Valley shows is that, whilst livestock are a significant source of greenhouse gas emissions, if farm habitats are well managed and soils managed to build organic matter, carbon sequestered can far outweigh greenhouse gas emissions from all other farm activities. 

Future Developments

Chris is keen on an electric vehicle, so that personal transport can be carried out by electricity produced on the farm. He is also keen to investigate a small-scale Anaerobic Digestion plant so that wastes from the farm and local community are turned into energy, creating jobs at the same time. 


Well managed habitats and soil balancing emissions from high impact livestock. The farm has an exciting mix of farming, education and energy production, living proof that farms can be about much more than just food.