Biodiversity has been declining at an unprecedented rate across the globe, especially in the UK, where we’ve lost 50% since the start of the industrial revolution. This goes hand-in-hand with rising levels of atmospheric carbon dioxide, at their highest in 800 000 years.
By burning fossil fuels that were once stored in the ground by plants over millions of years, humans will have released more carbon in 200 years than the natural processes can remove from the air.
Since 2019, Soil Heroes has been incentivising farmers to manage their land so that it can sequester more carbon, increase biodiversity, improve nutrition, and retain water, contributing to healthier soil, food, and ecosystems.
Showsley Farm, Northamptonshire
As part of Soil Heroes’ first UK-based pilot project to protect biodiversity, Showsley Farm in Northamptonshire received funding from three leading companies; bestselling ‘complete nutrition brand’, Huel; front-running plant-based ready meal delivery service, allplants; and the brewery that turns leftover bread into beer – Toast Ale.
That capital has contributed to developing regenerative farming practices on 100 of Showsley Farm’s 400 hectares. Practises include reduced tillage and the growth of cover crops to protect and enhance the microbiology of soil and increase fertility by building up soil organic matter. Field margins have also been replanted as biodiversity lanes to attract birds and pollinating insects that support the local ecosystem and reduce pests.
So far; the funding has enabled the sequestration of 200 tonnes of carbon, increased areas of biodiversity by 64000m², and added 614m³ of water holding capacity.
The Soil Heroes Platform and Impact
The impact of the project has been monitored by Soil Heroes’ comprehensive, transparent and soil-focused system. In-depth analysis of soil density, biodiversity and water is conducted alongside carbon impact models, capturing the farm’s output beyond mere crop production.
So far; the funding has enabled the sequestration of 200 tonnes of carbon, increased areas of biodiversity by 64 000m², and added 614m³ of water holding capacity.
Fred Krefting of Showsley Farm explains, “soil is the base of everything we produce and grow here, it’s the only really fundamental asset we have on the farm that we need to look after. More traditionally, we were looking at yields on a year-on-year basis to see what we can get out of the ground”
“Looking more at the crops we now understand that’s a very short-term perspective. Instead we need to be looking at the long-term, building up that soil health… to make sure we can continue to grow healthy crops and reduce chemical inputs.”
Soil Heroes founder Jeroen Klompe successfully ran his farm in the Netherlands using regenerative practices. He now aims to connect companies and farmers who wish to make their work more sustainable and have a positive impact on the planet.
The vision reaches beyond offsetting and ‘net zero’ to de-commoditise carbon and actively remove it from the atmosphere, all whilst supporting biodiversity. ‘It’s what I call carbon plus plus,” says Klompe.
“All three companies are young, innovative and conscious of their footprint. They want to offset their carbon footprint through the Soil Heroes platform, and are willing to pay a little more to stimulate biodiversity and water retention on top.”
Ellie Harrison, Sustainability Partner at allplants, says “We are thrilled to be partnering with Soil Heroes who are doing such important work, helping growers overcome initial hurdles in changing the way they farm and communicating the substantial environmental impacts of doing so. People and the planet are calling out for an agricultural transition and Soil Heroes are setting it in motion.”
Whilst contributing to their shared goal of making the food system more sustainable for the future, the companies’ direct relationships with the farms create new opportunities for knowledge to be shared and potential routes to market opened up.
Jessica Sansom, Sustainability Director of Huel, agrees “a sustainable food system is going to require action at all levels – agriculture, manufacture, retail and consumers. Soil Heroes are building a much needed pathway to prove and accelerate a transition to long-term sustainable agricultural practices.
We already offer low carbon products, but there is so much potential to improve further and this partnership offers us the opportunity to build our knowledge and explore what is possible in our own supply chain.”
One of Soil Heroes’ first beneficiaries in the UK (following projects in Netherlands, Germany, Belgium and Austria) Showsley Farm’s Fred Krefting describes the programme as “very concrete. Soil Heroes offers us revenue streams based on nature restoration, and innovative tools and techniques for on-going [regenerative] farm improvements.”
By funding regenerative farming, Soil Heroes aims to help farmers confront the challenges of volatile markets and changing climates. According to the Soil Heroes founder, Jeroen Klompe, the competitive system of financial incentives “motivates and empowers farmers to get the best out of their soil health”.
If you’d like to learn more about the work we are doing to regenerate agricultural land and secure supply chains, you can get in touch with Tom using the link below. He looks forward to hearing from you!
Business Development, UK
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