Person holding clump of soil in their hands teeming with worms

Australia’s AAM Investment Group has released its inaugural sustainability report, outlining its ambition to improve sustainable practices across its portfolio of agricultural assets.

With operations across cattle, sheep, poultry, cropping and timber, the company has A$967 million ($631 million; €587 million) in assets under management including one of Australia’s largest free-range chicken farms, Riverlands.

The report builds on a sustainability framework AAM developed in 2022 which divides its goals between three Ps: planet, people, and prosperity. The framework references 13 of the United Nations’ 17 Sustainable Development Goals.

AAM has stated its intention to report activities and progress towards these SDGs in future reports, using the figures from its inaugural report as a benchmark.

Executive director of timber, poultry and sustainability Ben Edser told Agri Investor the time felt right to pull AAM’s sustainability objectives together into something more structured.

“AAM has a huge range of stakeholders and we’re finding sustainability has become something that we are getting asked about more and more,” Edser said.

“It’s becoming more important and front-of-mind for our stakeholders from the capital perspective – both for investors and some of our debt providers – but also a number of stakeholders in the supply chain.”

Edser said many investors were taking an active approach to sustainability, visiting AAM’s poultry or beef sites in person and taking note of efforts to reduce emissions or waste.

He said AAM was working to prove the worth of these efforts by building a foundation of data they could build upon in years to come.

“Sustainability is under a bit of a microscope, so you want to make sure you’re accurate in articulating your story,” said Edser. One of AAM’s key goals under the ‘planet’ banner is to “reduce waste through the optimization and implementation of waste management practices.”

In 2022-23, the firm’s operations produced 41,896 tonnes of chicken meat – about 420 million servings of chicken.

AAM had converted a by-product of all that meat – poultry manure – into enough compost to produce 408,000 25kg bags of home fertilizer.

Edser said this was a new way of looking at a waste product.

“We put it through a process incorporating vermiculture [worm composting] and we’re getting a high-nutrient organic output from that which is going into other parts of agriculture, for example farming or high-value cropping like vineyards. It’s taking something that was low-value or was considered waste and adding value to it.”

AAM is currently trialing its compost product on a cultivation paddock near Blackall in western Queensland and will measure any changes to soil health with a plan to expand its use if results are positive.

Similarly, in a bid to reduce waste from its softwood timber plantations, the firm is converting timber residue into mulch which winds up in more than 1,000 playgrounds each year.

Under the ‘people’ banner, AAM invested A$481,000 in initiatives within the regional communities where it operated, including A$177,000 for health and wellbeing services.

As a measure of its prosperity, the firm analyzed the economic impact it had made in Australia through its businesses and investments – an estimated A$463 million based on modelling by economic data specialists Remplan.

“That’s something we’re pretty proud of,” Edser said. “You can spend a bit of money in the city, and it disappears pretty quickly in terms of being able to see the actual impact, but when you make investment regionally, you can see the impact that it has on the local community that you operate in. That’s pretty meaningful.”