Questions

Frequently Asked Questions

1. Soil Heroes Proposition

How does the Soil Heroes platform work?

The Soil Heroes platform serves two functions:

a) We measure, report and verify environmental impact on farms.
 
b) We connect farmers and buyers seeking to invest in impact 

We are uniquely positioned to quantify soil carbon sequestration, biodiversity and soil water storage capacity and broker the trading of this impact. 

We use the platform to track progress on farms through the yearly growing cycle whilst buyers can also see the regenerative activities that are underway on their invested plots. 

What impact does Soil Heroes measure?

We measure:

a)Soil Carbon Sequestration in tonnes of CO2

b) Biodiversity in m2 e.g. how much of a plot has been set aside for a biodiversity margin/lane/corridor etc.

c) Additional Water Storage Capacity in litres³

We are also developing a way to measure crop nutrient density which will be integrated into our platform by 2023. 

How does pricing work?

Soil Heroes offers two pricing structures depending if buyers are working with farmers outside their supply chain (offsetting) or inside their supply chain (insetting).

With offsetting, we pay farmers based on impact as follows:

£40 per tonne of carbon 
£0.30 per m2 of biodiversity 

With insetting, companies pay based on the number of regenerative practices being implemented per hectare as follows:

£325 per ha (Bronze level 3-4 practices)
£350 per ha (Silver level – 5-9 practices)
£400 per ha (Gold level – 10+ practices)

Farmers receive the following payments:

£260 per ha (Bronze level 3-4 practices)
£280 per ha (Silver level – 5-9 practices)
£320 per ha (Gold level – 10+ practices)

2. The Marketplace

How do you prove additionality?

We incentivise farmers to adopt regenerative practices that wouldn’t have ordinarily occurred. Therefore any payment is triggering a change in farming practice which is additional. Furthermore, we take physical soil tests every 3-5 years to understand the actual changes in soil organic carbon so the additional impact is measured.

How do you prove permanence?

We sign agreements based on 1-year growing cycles to give farmers the flexibility to adapt their practices in case of dramatic events like floods, fires, drought or crop disease. Farmers are not bound into long-term agreements which prevent them from managing their farm as they sit fit beyond the terms of the 1-year agreement. 

However once farmers begin restoring their soil health, they will start to realise the benefits in terms of better margins, more resilient and healthy crops and favourable financial terms with banks and insurers. Therefore it is highly unlikely they will revert to industrial farming practices once their regenerative journey has begun. 

How do you avoid double payment?

Any impact that is sold via the Soil Heroes platform has a unique registration which prevents it being re-sold to another buyer. 

3. The Science

Is a soil test required?

Yes, we conduct a series of soil tests on each plot that is registered on the Soil Heroes platform and these tests are reconducted 3-5 years later to analyse the physical, chemical and microbial changes. We call this test a Timestamp Zero and you can find out more here.

What carbon methodology is used to model carbon sequestration?

We use the Rothamstead C carbon model which uses data sets from arable crops to forecast the amount of biomass that is left in the soil as soil organic matter (SOM) post-harvest.

4. Operations

What practices/changes are expected during the contract?

A farmer can select from four regenerative practices that are appropriate for their particular circumstances. These include:
 
– Minimum/zero tillage (prerequisite)
– Planting of cover crops 
– Application of organic amendments
– Biodiversity lanes/margins 
 
The Soil Heroes Foundation has written our own Guidebook of 20 Regenerative Practices and over time, we will implement more of these in our platform so there is greater flexibility for farmers to adapt to their particular circumstances.

What is the length of the contract?

1 year with a view to form longer-term partnerships with your buyer.

What are my commitments after the contract ends and for how long?

There are no commitments. After 3-4 years of farming a plot regeneratively, a farmer should recognise the benefits in terms of improved soil function and better financial margins so will likely not revert to conventional farming but there are no contractual obligations.

5. General Questions

Are you third-party certified?

Not at the moment. At Soil Heroes we aim for a systemic change via (re-)building soil health. We have a holistic view on things, rather than a single focus on the reduction of carbon emissions. However we do recognize the carbon market being the most developed market for ecosystem services and acknowledge that in certain markets and in certain countries/regions companies/organisations require third party certification of the carbon credits that they purchase.

Therefore we are exploring and working towards third party certification based on the Verra (VCS) standard. Many of our peers in the market offer (third party certified) solutions based on whole farm emissions (i.e. Cool Farm Tool) whereas we are focused solely on soil organic carbon. Where we differ is that we offer:

a) Full transparency throughout the end-to-end process for farmers, companies purchasing carbon credits (quantified impact) and their stakeholders;

b) Actual verification of the implementation by the farmer of regenerative practices as planned

c) Physical soil testing at start and 3-5 years later

What is the length of the contract?

1 year with a view to form longer-term partnerships with your buyer.

What happens if farmers have to change their practices? How is my carbon credit protected?

Farmers commit to a performance agreement when they partner with you. As part of this, farmers have to leave some of their plots as a contingency in the case that there’s some kind of change to practices. In the eventuality that there is a change to practices, the purchased impact will be made available from the contingency plots or from another farmer instead. Either way, any environmental claims that you make will be protected.

Can Soil Heroes work with farmers overseas in different climates?

At the moment, our platform is currently designed for arable farmers in NW Europe taking into account the specific climate, soil type and land use in this region. Our goal is to prove that regenerative farming is profitable and sustainable in this region before we expand our modelling and operations to other regions/different farming contexts. 

5. Questions by Farmers

Are you able to backsell for carbon already sequestered?

Yes, for one year. We can calculate the impact of historic practices using satellite imagery, farm management history and details like cover crops planted.

Can I still receive my government scheme payment? 

Yes, but only for plots and practices where Soil Heroes payment isn’t being received. 

How much and when will I be paid?

A farmer will be paid between £35-£40 per tonne of carbon sequestered. If farmers are planting biodiversity lanes/margins, they will receive 25-30p per m2. The payment will be made at the end of the yearly growing cycle once the practices have been verified and impact has been calculated. 

How does payment work?

We are working on 1-year agreements between companies and farmers. Impact will be forecast based on practices implemented over a certain hectarage. After year 1 the outcome is verified and payment is made to the farmer. Payment in year 2 is re-calculated based on the next year’s cycle and so on.

What soil sampling methodology do you use?

For Timestamp Zero, we analyse four key categories: physics, chemistry, biology and soil management. We look at parameters including soil organic matter, bulk density, penetrometry, earthworms and in-depth soil moisture. These tests are designed to be practical and cost effective for farmers to conduct themselves with some samples being sent to labs. Soil Heroes can provide support for the first Timestamp Zero but farmers should be able to conduct future assessments themselves. 

What are the costs to farmers?

There are 3 costs for farmers: 

1) £500 onboarding fee to join the Soil Heroes platform and connect with our network of buyers 

2) Timestamp Zero costs around £500 per plot (assuming an average plot size of 30ha). This includes all soil analysis via a soil pit and transect across that 30ha + lab results. These tests need to be conducted on each plot uploaded to the Soil Heroes platform and then re-conducted 3-5 years later. 

3) Annual membership fee of £2.50 per ha to make your impact available to buyers

How much additional paperwork will be required to be kept by the farmer for compliance with this scheme?

A farmer will first need to complete a digital questionnaire and provide images of the farm so we can create your profile on our platform. You will then need to register your plots and your farm management plan for each plot i.e. commercial crop to be planted, cover crop to be plated, any amendments being used etc. This should take no longer than 1-2 hours. Once you have matched with a buyer, we ask for a performance agreement to be signed and for you to upload evidence to the platform on a yearly basis to show that the practices have been implemented i.e. pictures of the cover crops in situ, spreading of organic amendments etc. 

Who owns the data and how will it be used?

The farmer owns the data and we do not share this with any third parties. We use the data to forecast impact and to inform the development of our modelling in the future.

Who signs the contract in case of landlord/tenant relationships?

The tenant can sign the agreement as long as they have the landlord’s permission.

Who will develop a carbon plan for the farm?

We do not calculate GHG emissions elsewhere on the farm so cannot provide a carbon plan. Soil Heroes calculates carbon sequestration exclusively through soil management. Our carbon calculations use the Rothamsted C model to measure the buildup of biomass in soils. 

What is the financial benefit for Soil Heroes?

We take a 20% commission on impact transactions between a buyer and farmer.

How is the farmer protected from market volatility?

We calculate impact payments yearly based on the changing price of carbon therefore farmers will always receive the most up-to-date price
 

Can organic farmers participate?

Yes but they need to be demonstrating that they are moving towards reduced (15cm max depth) or zero tillage. Whilst organic farmers are building healthy soils, they are releasing carbon to the atmosphere when tilling. In the long-term, we would like to see a farming system that is regenerative-organic but we understand this takes time to reach.