This was a motivation for Zwarthout Shou Sugi Ban, a Dutch producer of high-end charred timber cladding, to partner with Soil Heroes to further compensate their footprint while increasing their impact locally.
With sustainability already at the core of their business, e.g. they use only certified wood from sustainable forests and offset by planting trees, Zwarthout Shou Sugi Ban understands the only way forward for their business is to work in harmony with nature. In regenerative agriculture, they saw a meaningful way to offset while contributing to a resilient food system in the Netherlands.
In this ambitious project, Soil Heroes connects Zwarthout Shou Sugi Ban with Schevichoven, a Dutch farm which Soil Heroes helps to transition into regenerative farming, enabling them to unite in restoring nature through regenerative agriculture. By partnering with Soil Heroes, Zwarthout Shou Sugi Ban fast-tracks its climate ambitions and gains on-the-ground experience where the impact happens.
“Agriculture is at a crossroads; we want to make a positive contribution to a sustainable new form of agriculture where economy and ecology go hand in hand.”Maarten and Eliette van Dam, Schevichoven farm
Schevichoven farm believes that consumers are hungry for change
The second farm Soil Heroes partnered with in the Netherlands also happens to be Zwarthout Shou Sugi Ban’s neighbour – Schevichoven in Leersum, Utrecht, with a promising future as it transitions into a regenerative farm. Making the brave leap are the owners Maarten and Eliette van Dam who believe regenerative agriculture can transform the industrial food system and farmers can lead the way in restoring nature.
Inspired by Soil Heroes’ showcase farm, Maarten, an entrepreneur and impact investor in food and agriculture, and Eliette embarked on a new journey to start their own regenerative farm. Judging by their hugely successful crowdfunding campaign to get Schevichoven off the ground – one of the first campaigns for regenerative agriculture in the Netherlands – consumers are hungry for change.
“To convince other entrepreneurs that the transition to regenerative agriculture is a part of a sustainable future of the farming sector, we need to show that it’s (financially) viable. That way, we have a bigger chance of inspiring others to join us too.”
Maarten and Eliette van Dam, Schevichoven farm
To make this transition they’ll experiment with agro-forestry and permaculture techniques that restore the soil and biodiversity, and a diverse planting scheme including 75 types of fruit, nuts, vegetables and herbs; many are trees and perennials shrubs. Planting is underway and delicious, nutritious produce such as chestnuts, walnuts, berries and paw paw can be expected.
Their plan starts with converting 2 hectares, expanding gradually to 20 hectares by 2028. It’s an ambitious undertaking considering that intensive agriculture and high land prices are the norm in the Netherlands, and the (financial) risk which farmers take to make the transition.
By proving the financial viability of their farm, Maarten and Eliette hope to inspire other farmers to make the transition, but also show governments, entrepreneurs and investors that regenerative agriculture is worth investing in. If this test case works in the Netherlands, it’s likely to succeed elsewhere.
“To convince other entrepreneurs that the transition to regenerative agriculture is a part of a sustainable future of the farming sector, we need to show that it’s (financially) viable.”
“To convince other entrepreneurs that the transition to regenerative agriculture is a part of a sustainable future of the farming sector, we need to show that it’s (financially) viable.”Maarten and Eliette van Dam, Schevichoven farm
Soil Heroes and Zwarthout l Shou Sugi Ban jointly help Schevichoven to commercialise the environmental benefits of regenerative farming, thereby generating an additional source of revenue.
To support and accelerate the transition, is where Soil Heroes comes in. From the know-how side, Soil Heroes provides access to practical toolkits for regenerative farming, guidelines, networks and peer-to-peer learning. Income-wise, Soil Heroes helps Schevichoven to commercialise the environmental benefits of regenerative farming, thereby generating an additional source of revenue.
In this, Soil Heroes’ unique holistic approach analyses environmental benefits not only in terms of carbon but as ecosystem services as a whole, including; with biodiversity, water and nutrients. To quantify the benefits, which are needed to commercialise them, satellite, drone and ground data and farmers’ inputs are used to measure and verify improvements in the ecosystem services. The resulting soil improvement is expressed in scientifically verified carbon credits, biodiversity per m2 and water savings.
Via Soil Heroes’ digital platform and an impact report, Zwarthout Shou Sugi Ban can access this data to see their impact. In short, Shevichoven sells their ecosystem services to companies like Zwarthout Shou Sugi Ban who become part of the farmers’ journey as they make the change. While this compares to offsetting, regenerative agriculture goes further by restoring nature – in essence, leaving a positive footprint.
Through collaborating with pioneering companies and farmers such as Zwarthout Shou Sugi Ban and Schevichoven, Soil Heroes shows that mixing business with nature is the perfect driver of change.
Rubie Van Crevel
Business Development, NL
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