Beef + Lamb New Zealand (B+LNZ) is an industry organisation that represents sheep and beef farmers in New Zealand. It invests in, and supports profitable and thriving farmers and farming communities producing red meat products in New Zealand.
As part of their commitment to support farmers and their businesses, B+LNZ has developed a new free tool to help farmers navigate new legislation and regulatory changes around farming practices, greenhouse gases (GHG) and their environmental impacts – the GHG Calculator.
Built online by Catalyst, B+LNZ’s new GHG Calculator is created to meet requirements of He Waka Eke Noa (HWEN), which is a five-year programme that will “equip farmers and growers with the information, tools and support they need to reduce emissions and build resilience to climate change.” This tool provides a free and practical solution to inform farmers and meet their obligations.
B+LNZ engaged Catalyst to take their free and easy-to-use GHG Calculator from a spreadsheet calculator to an accessible online tool. A key driver was for B+LNZ to be able to report back to HWEN the number of farmers that knew their GHG emission profile. This required a balance of accurately representing the farm’s emission profile with ease of use for a wide range of user abilities, to ensure sheep, beef and deer farmers measure and report on-farm GHG emissions and sequestration and help New Zealand meet its climate change commitments. Large and complex formulas were created by B+LNZ to take the simplest inputs possible by the farmer and, drawing on other data sources and research, to create the appropriate outputs.
Previously, B+LNZ had a stand alone spreadsheet to calculate GHG emissions. A distributed file wasn’t easy for B+LNZ to manage the process, for example updating and maintaining the complex formulas, getting results back from farmers, and verifying that what they entered was correct. There was no validation process or central storage of the results. A spreadsheet was also limited in terms of creating a user friendly, step-through interface for farmers of varying IT competency.
Catalyst analysed the spreadsheet and reverse-engineered the formulas, to come up with a plan to build an easy-to-use web interface. Analysing the formulas and figuring out what was involved was the most challenging part of the project.
One of our expert business analysts visualised all the components in a chart, making it easier for everyone to see the interactions of all the moving parts. During that process, the developers detected some bugs in the spreadsheet and let the client know so they could be fixed.
The team used React and TypeScript for the frontend because it is a proven technology stack at Catalyst, and is well known for its simplicity and flexibility.
The final product is a multi-tab form, with a user friendly interface. The codebase is well written and very few bugs came out of user testing. The GHG calculator is free, and uses information a farmer enters about their farm, including fertiliser use and stock numbers, and calculates on-farm emissions by applying data about average emissions at regional, national, and farm system levels.
The calculator is a stand alone app, but needed to be integrated with existing B+LNZ infrastructure with regards to authentication. This means farmers access the GHG Calculator by logging into their existing dashboard on the B+LNZ website. Data is securely saved for farmers so they can find it in the future, and also go back and add further information or make changes at any point. To enable this feature, Catalyst carried out work with existing B+LNZ software providers, which went smoothly.
B+LNZ’s GHG Calculator needed to be deployed on Microsoft's Azure cloud platform, due to existing B+LNZ infrastructure. It was a straightforward task for Catalyst to get that deployed and running, because of our expertise in working with multiple cloud providers.
The project was delivered within a tight time frame, with very few bugs, and a positive working relationship with the client. Any updates to the formulas are now available to farmers immediately. It is now a much easier task for farmers and B+LNZ to analyse the results and plan how to manage farm emissions. It has been well received by farmers and has encouraged further conversation from them on the topic.