Europe’s first B Corp family office, VP Capital, surpasses their ambitions by investing in the transition towards regenerative agriculture within one of their participations: VP Landbouw. With the help of Soil Heroes, VP Landbouw takes the extra step toward regenerative farming. This transition benefits both the farm and VP Capital, economically- and environmentally. Soil Heroes tracks and measures the positive environmental impact. The result of these companies joining forces is a beautiful example of a chain cooperation.
A pressing call to action within agriculture
Farming is at a crossroads. Generations long farmers have answered our high demands for food production with the lowest possible prices. Now that environmental, social and economic pressures are increasing, we are confronted by its costs as a society. A transition is necessary, however it is not solely the responsibility of the farmer. The entire sector is faced with the task of transforming itself to realise future-proof agriculture and food systems.
An answer to this quest is regenerative agriculture. Recent academic studies show that regenerative agriculture reduces input costs by phasing out chemical pesticides and fertilisers, and restoring ecosystem services, while yields per hectare are comparable to conventional farming methods.
Yet the transition to regenerative agriculture sounds easier in theory than it sometimes feels in practice. It takes an average of 5 to 7 years before the harvest equals its normal production capacity. Financial support is needed to bridge this transition period, in which chain partners can and must play an essential role. In addition, farmers need guidance to master the knowledge about regenerative agriculture relevant to their type of farm. Collaborations within the supply chain are necessary through which the farmer receives guidance and investment. In the end, this will result in environmental benefits, resilience against climate change, and increased financial health.
A collaborative transition
One of the first B Corp family offices in Europe; VP Capital, decided to invest in the transition of regenerative agriculture with one of its participations; VP Landbouw. Thanks to VP Capital, VP Landbouw can convert 73 hectares into regenerative agriculture. Soil Heroes supervises this collaboration.
This collaboration benefits all parties. Soil Heroes helps VP Landbouw by providing insight into the current state of the soil through an extensive soil measurement analysis. On top of that, Soil Heroes helps make the transition to regenerative agriculture manageable by providing the farmer with a step-by-step plan and a peer-to-peer learning group with other farmers.
Soil Heroes monitors the application of regenerative farming methods and assesses what environmental benefits this yields annually. VP Capital pays VP Landbouw for the quantified environmental gain. With this, VP Capital reduces the impact of one of its participations and makes an important contribution to resilience against climate change for itself and our society.
The emergence and growth of a future-proof company
VP Capital was born from the clothing company of the Van Puijenbroek family. Six generations ago, Hendrik van Puijenbroek started ‘BV Textielfabrieken H. van Puijenbroek’, which is now called HAVEP. Today the brand can be found on many farms, where overalls with the neck label “You’ll never work alone” are still worn. As of 2019, the investment company of the Van Puijenbroek family exists under the name VP Capital and has been investing in more and more domains in recent years, including ‘agrifood’; a domain they find themselves in the middle of.
In the 1940s, the family started the VP Landbouw farm on 400 hectares of agricultural land in the middle of 800 hectares of forestry. On a composition of forest and agricultural land, which is rare for the Netherlands, this farm started with the provision of manure as its main purpose. As of today, they produce arable crops, milk, and grass.
For several years now, VP Capital has been compensating for the CO2 emissions of itself (tier 1+2) and its direct participation, including VP Landbouw (tier 3 of VP Capital = tier 1+2 of participations). As a result, both VP Capital and VP Landbouw are now to be called climate neutral. By committing to Science Based Targets, VP Capital has gone one step further by committing itself to significant CO2 reduction targets. This also includes supporting VP Landbouw in reducing its carbon footprint.
It is VP Capital’s ambition to complement their offsetting strategy, which gave the company their climate-neutral status, with insetting, which will go beyond, by improving the environmental impact within their own value chain. Soil Heroes helps with insetting by quantifying and verifying the environmental benefits generated by VP Landbouw.
The sum of these actions contributes to the vision of the nowadays B Corp family office: making the various investment domains and their production chains more sustainable. VP Capital aims to develop a well-functioning and scalable agricultural model that not only benefits the next generations of the family, but serves as an example for the entire agri-food sector.
Can my company join the transition?
Soil Heroes provides farmers with a network to exchange knowledge. Through peer-to-peer knowledge exchange, farmers can learn about the practical application of regenerative agriculture from each other. Regenerative methods may present unknown challenges.
Take, for example, ceasing ploughing. Ploughing can be very effective against weed control, but it causes large amounts of CO2 emissions, damages the soil biology, and reduces the nutritional value of the soil. A regenerative alternative to ploughing is to adjust the sowing dates, plant companion crops, and/or implement crop rotations. The challenge, however, is that land needs to be sacrificed for crops that initially seem to have no function.
That is why Soil Heroes offers, in addition to a network, insight into the quality of agricultural land using a holistic soil measurement; the results of which are expressed in a so-called Soil Health Index. The Soil Health Index shows the fertility of the soil on an annual basis by mapping the current biological, chemical and physical state of the soil. By verifying and quantifying environmental effects, both farmers and investors can see what regenerative agriculture is, how it works and what the positive effects are.
This collaboration illustrates the impact-driven, phased approach of Soil Heroes. Under the guidance of Soil Heroes, any company can start with a small-scale pilot. Through a pilot with Soil Heroes, a farm can experience how regenerative agriculture works in practice and, at the same time, learn from other farmers who went before them. Like VP Landbouw, each farm can then move on to an “insetting” program, in which collaboration is sought between farmers within companies value chains, where all parties can achieve both financial and climate gains.
The charm of soil heroes is that (1) you can reduce emissions within your supply chain, (2) store your CO2 emissions in your soil, and (3) invest in soil improvement. We have a long way in front of us, but eventually, we hope to lead by example within our sector. We must make this much-needed transition together. This much-needed transition can’t be powered by a one-man show. The collaborative efforts will enable VP Capital to face a sustainable future.Jobien Laurijssen, Sustainability Manager at VP Capital
Join the Farm Tour of Soil Heroes
Want to learn more about regenerative agriculture, compensation, and reduction of environmental impact? Sign up for the Farm Tour of Soil Heroes on the farm of Klompe Landbouw on October 20th. Soil Heroes will explain its digital platform and method, but above all show what regenerative agriculture looks like on a large farm. For any questions, please email Rubie van Crevel, the Business Development Manager for Europe using the link below.
Rubie Van Crevel
Account Manager – Corporate Clients
Let’s talk about Regenerative Agriculture
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