Big data in Arla - how to achieve climate neutrality?

Arla Foods is a cooperative owned by farmers in the dairy industry. The cooperative ethos means that we are all working together to continue to create a stronger and better organization for the benefit of farm owners and consumers. This principle has always been at the heart of everything we do, which is why we continue to operate and grow stronger for over 100 years since Arla was founded.

Arla Foods is the first dairy company in Europe to launch an initiative to triple the rate of CO2e reduction on farms. Additionally, the company will bring together one of the world’s largest sets of externally verified dairy farming climate data.

Climate change and Arla

In recent years, the fight against climate change has been the focus of attention of the world’s media, consumers, governments and the European Union. As a company that is committed to sustainability, Arla is also trying to contribute to the fight against global warming. Since 1990, farmers supplying milk to Arla have cut their greenhouse gas emissions by as much as 24%! However, the company is aware that these are still not enough values, which is why the management board has set two very ambitious goals for the company for the coming years:

  • further reduction of greenhouse gas emissions by 30% by 2030;
  • achieving climate neutrality by 2050.

Arla’s goals

In order to achieve these ambitious goals, Arla has decided to extend the Arlagården® farmer survey program, which has been operating since 2003. It aims to verify the quality and management of the farm, with information related to greenhouse gas emissions. It is the first such pan-European climate protection project called „Climate Check”. It is attended by over 90% of the farmers who deliver milk to Arla, who are responsible for 95% of the company’s milk production.

This program is designed to help farmers understand how their farms emit greenhouse gases and to outline actions that will help reduce these emissions. Each farmer will be asked to complete a questionnaire with questions about herd size, milk production, feed production and purchase, energy consumption and fuel type, and renewable energy production. In the next step, the data of an individual farmer will be analyzed by an external auditor, whose task is to create an up-to-date map of greenhouse gas emissions of a given farm and propose places where it is possible to reduce them. Then, each farmer will be visited by an auditor and will analyze the report together with him and will plan the next steps that can be taken in the short and long term.

How to do it?

However, the basic question is how are we able to calculate what the CO2e emissions on the farm look like? Well, since 2013, we have been working on an algorithm that, based on the data collected about the farm and many other factors, is able to count how many greenhouse gases are emitted by individual components of the milk production process. The first results were based on a small sample of about 100 farmers, but over the years we gained the appropriate knowledge, which allowed us to refine the algorithm and start researching the entire population of farmers (approximately 9700). Based on these data, the world’s largest database on the milk production process will be created and it will be used to create benchmarks, share knowledge in the dairy industry and broadly understood analysis.


The article was written as part of the #MakeAnImpact program by Mateusz Bogdański – Senior Data Scientist, Arla GSS Gdańsk