Farmers' co-operative First Milk has 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, many of which are in Wales, will use state-of-the-art equipment  to carry out intensive soil carbon analysis at a fraction of the usual cost.

First Milk in West Wales buys milk from around 300 farmers within a 35-mile radius of its creamery in Haverfordwest. The project is being rolled out to support what the company describes as "the net zero ambitions of farmers and customers".

The company has more than 4,000 members across the UK and produces about 2.5bn litres of milk every year - more than 20 per cent of the total milk produced in Britain.

The ground-breaking project is being conducted in partnership with Swiss-based global food giant Nestlé, which is supporting it as part of its "climate journey roadmap" that sets out to build "robust scientific data with partners to effectively drive meaningful progress in carbon reduction through its supply chain".

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The project is being being led by the UK's James Hutton Institute, an organisation that helps farmers tap into the carbon credits market. The institute's 'Agricarbon' initiative aims to assist companies who are looking to become carbon neutral.

Mark Brooking, sustainability director for First Milk, 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.”