Almost 40% of the earth’s surface has been converted to agriculture, and that figure keeps on rising. (FAO) So the way we manage agricultural land has inevitable consequences for every single person.
Do we put cheap food and commodities before everything else, even if it means undermining climate, biodiversity, human wellbeing, water security, and the future of food? Or do we work alongside nature to farm in a way that brings hope and healing to people and the natural world?
Regenerative Agriculture is how we make the right choice.
Defining Regenerative Agriculture
According to Regeneration International regenerative agriculture “describes farming and grazing practices that, among other benefits, reverse climate change by rebuilding soil organic matter and restoring degraded soil biodiversity – resulting in both carbon drawdown and improving the water cycle.” (Regeneration International).
Regenerative farmers increase soil carbon, drawing atmospheric CO2 emissions into a safe organic form, while also improving soil health. Healthy soil can hold more water, providing nutrients and minerals to plants, so our landscapes become climate-resilient, and produces nutrient-dense food.
We improve soil carbon levels by:
- reducing chemical and physical disturbance (less synthetic inputs and less ploughing),
- keeping the earth covered with living plants year-round
- growing a diverse range of crops
Healing the Earth, Healing Ourselves
Regenerative agriculture is more than a list of techniques to produce food and materials. It is a bold and beautiful response to the 80% of deforestation and the 29% of global greenhouse gas emissions driven by conventional agriculture. (WWF)
Farming as we know it accounts for 70% of all freshwater use, and more than half of global farmland is degraded or underperforming. (WWF) Conventional agriculture, which arose in the volatile decades following the second world war, is driving the very biodiversity loss and climate change that threatens our food and water security.
If we are going to meet human needs within planetary boundaries, regenerative agriculture is the only way forward. It means putting nature at the centre of everything we do. In this way, we can provide an abundance of healthy food while protecting the living planet that we all rely upon for fresh air, clean water, and a stable climate.
“There is an additional and quite extraordinary bonus in shifting to regenerative agriculture, which is that healing the earth, we begin a process of also healing ourselves.” –Charles Massy, Australian farmer and pioneer of the regenerative movement.
The Benefits of Regenerative Agriculture
Working with peer-reviewed research and expert agronomists around the world, the Rodale Institute found that “global adoption of regenerative practices across both grasslands and arable acreage could sequester more than 100% of current anthropogenic emissions of CO2” (Rodale Institute). And what’s so exciting about regenerative agriculture is there is no forced choice between people, wildlife, or the earth’s natural systems.
Regenerative practices help heal broken water cycles (Natural Resources Conservation Services), boost biodiversity (Rodale Institute), and even improve the nutritional density of the food that we produce (Montgomery et al).
Farmers can reduce input costs thanks to fewer chemical inputs and less reliance on machinery. Reduced costs make farming more profitable, and the diversity inherent in regenerative practices protects farmers from financial shocks. After all, if one crop fails due to unpredictable weather, pests, or disease, having several other cash crops ready for harvest significantly cushions the blow. In one study, farmer profit was 78% higher in regenerative operations. These financial benefits ripple outwards from the farm, as increased crop security stabilises input costs across the many industries that rely upon natural materials.
It’s All About Soil
Soil is the foundation of regenerative agriculture. Carbon-rich soil is teeming with microscopic life that supports healthy plant growth. In fact, a single teaspoon of healthy soil is home to more microorganisms than people on earth (Natural Resources Conservation Service), and that microscopic life is the base of an interconnected food web, all the way up to insects, birds, grazing animals, and people.
Here at Soil Heroes, we quantify and verify the building of soil through our platform because we know that healthy soil is the foundation of a healthy planet and a stable society. (Montgomery).) for a managing the health of soil is a corner that can’t be cut. But we don’t stop at measuring soil carbon. We work with farmers to enhance biodiversity in the field and beyond – because nature does growing best. As life returns to the farm, hungry birds become natural pest control, and busy insects pollinate crops.
“When we stand on soil, we stand on the rooftop of another world.”– Dr Jill Clapperton, soil and nutrition expert.
Farmers build soil by increasing the Soil Organic Matter. This includes plant and animal residues at various stages of decomposition, cells and tissues of soil microbes, and substances that soil microbes synthesise. It can mean applying compost or animal manure, leaving crop residues in place after harvest, and planting diverse crops that attract different microbes into the field.
Increased organic matter drives soil fertility, making more minerals and micronutrients available to plants. It also means the soil is less vulnerable to erosion and holds more water in the landscape. Plus, soil organic matter is rich in carbon, so it kicks off carbon sequestration and can help us mitigate anthropogenic climate change.
We’ve already explored why transitioning to regenerative agriculture brings financial security to farmers. But the economic benefits go further than the producer farms. Climate Change is set to affect the production of essential food crops like maise as early as 2030. (NASA) By 2050, the probability of crop failures is projected to be up to 25 times higher than today. (Caparas et al.)
If business continues as normal, the harvest will get less reliable and more expensive. It’s happening fast. Using this short time window to invest in regenerative agriculture makes sense on every level. It means building relationships with climate resilient suppliers, so your business can thrive today and in the future. It also means improving food and water security for the coming decades, which will help cushion the blow of a rapidly changing climate for people across the socio-economic spectrum and geographical boundaries. Put simply; you want to build your hay barn while the sun still shines.
“As inhabitants of Earth, it is our duty to take care of our environment so our children will inherit a healthy and safe place to live.”– Annelies Van der Vorm, Chairwoman, Soil Heroes Foundation.
Offsetting vs. Insetting
Through working with Soil Heroes, there are two key ways that companies can engage with regenerative agriculture: offsetting and insetting:
Offsetting seeks to balance any inevitable harm by paying someone else to do some good. If company A cannot reduce emissions any further, it might buy carbon credits from company B, which is in the business of carbon sequestration or emissions reductions. Company B might have no other links with Company A, and the credits could be purchased through an online platform with little transparency or accountability. But if designed carefully, offsetting programmes can provide a valuable and authentic service. Soil Heroes offers high-quality offsets as a stepping stone to mission-driven companies, but we strongly prefer insetting wherever possible.
Carbon insetting is the most powerful means for a company to address its Scope 3 emissions. Insetting is a long term approach to systemic change. It consists of purchasing credits from a farm within the company’s own supply chain. At Soil Heroes, we help companies inset unavoidable emissions at a supplier farm, so your investment stays within your value chain. This strengthens relationships with producers, as forward-thinking companies like your own incentivise the transition to a resilient and regenerative type of agriculture.
Choosing to inset means the nutrient dense produce that arises from healthier soil is being provided to the company that invested in that farm. And as suppliers and clients come together with common goals, it also increases the chance of soil carbon permanence. We encourage our clients to get their boots on and join us in a field to see how their investment in soil carbon benefits biodiversity, improves crop resilience, and draws CO2 into the earth.
“A sustainable food system is going to require action at all levels – agriculture, manufacture, retail, and consumers.”– Jessica Sansorn, Sustainability Director, Huel.
Conventional farming practices have done an awful lot of damage, particularly over the last few decades. But farming is also the answer. From cotton for clothing to hops for beer and food for the table, we can produce everything we need in a way that honours people and regenerates the earth.
Regenerative agriculture builds the soil, stabilises the climate, and protects the air and water we need to thrive. It supports the interconnected web of biodiversity that holds natural systems together, and it produces an abundance of nutrient-dense plants to nourish our bodies. It keeps toxic chemicals off our plates and a vibrant community of life in our soil. Regenerative agriculture is the future, and that future brings us an awful lot of hope.
Rubie Van Crevel
Account Manager – Corporate Clients
Let’s talk about Regenerative Agriculture.
You know you’ll dig it.