September 11, 202311 Minutes

Regenerative farming can’t afford to fail

Most of us in the regenerative farming and food production industries have heard the UN claims or have seen documentaries like Kiss The Ground, which warn us all that, unless we turn from our wicked ways and adopt more climate-friendly farming practices, we’re on a collision course with catastrophe.

Though this may sound like a bit of an exaggeration the current World Bank statistics confirm this dire prediction, stating that the agriculture sector accounts for nearly 30% of all global greenhouse gas emissions. And with other sectors already devoted to abating their emissions, that percentage could increase in the near future. So who’s responsible for the climate threat agriculture is yielding? Well, the easy answer is of course farmers, whose activities have been singled out as having detrimental effects on the environment. Prolonged and persistent droughts, loss of biodiversity and soil health, global food insecurities and the 250,000 deaths per year expected to follow as a result of climate change – it all contributes to a worldwide blame game that often places farmers in the sights of those demanding something be done to curtail these cataclysmic projections.

The need for a regenerative farming double yield

For decades farmers were, and still are, encouraged to produce greater yields in order to feed the planet. Now, in addition to that, they’re being required to green up their act in order to combat climate change. But these dual demands present a myriad of risks for farmers, who already face low profit margins and limited room to invest due to factors such as price volatility, increased input costs (e.g. buying new equipment, rising fertiliser and fuel prices) and extreme weather. These factors all contribute to a higher yield risk and, when combined with peer pride and a lack of know-how, not only make transitioning an economic burden, but tether farmers to the barriers of the status quo.

The pressure to become both food saviour and climate hero finds many farmers searching for a double-yield solution that ensures both environmental and economic concerns are assuaged.

Farmers often need help and incentive to make a green transition.
The dual demand to feed the planet while simultaneously making a green transition present several risks for farmers.

Soil carbon programmes are part of a green transition, not a silver bullet

Due to agriculture’s massive, natural carbon sequestration potential, transitioning to more climate-friendly practices is key to unlocking a climate-neutral future. Offering sustainable farming incentives for this green transition can provide significant mitigation potential that delivers substantial co-benefits to both farmers and society.

Soil carbon programmes, which encourage the employment of several regenerative practices, are a way to provide a double-yield solution. A recent report from Europe’s National Academies of Sciences shows evidence that a transition to more regenerative practices holds promising keys to reducing climate risks and increasing biodiversity, while at the same time sustaining the growing global population with food.

But that’s only part of the solution. Because, while regenerative farming practices do in fact enhance mid- to long-term operational excellence, climate resilience and farm profitability, farmers still need a financial hand to help them initially transition away from conventional agriculture to the regenerative practices that play a significant role in improving yields while driving carbon reductions and removals. Because, while it’s estimated that this transition can result in a 15-25% 10-year ROI, there’s likely a transition period of 3-5 years or more where farmers will experience a decline in profits due to the risk of lower-than-expected yields.

Carbon sequestration produces a double yield – environmentally and economically – for farmers.
Farmers need a financial hand to help them transition away from conventional agriculture to more regenerative farming practices.

“Soil carbon programmes shouldn’t be seen as a silver bullet,” says Simon Haldrup, CEO of Agreena. “Nor should they be seen as created equal. They should be considered on the merit of their interoperability with other support schemes, such as financial and insurance institutions, food companies and distributors as well as the effectiveness of their digital tool offerings.” 

When combined with other support schemes, soil carbon programmes can indeed be a vital part of the solution to reduce world hunger, carbon emissions and farmer scepticism. But farmers need more than just promises from these programmes before they move.

Cover crops – good. Crop waste – bad.

Regenerative farming practices – reduced soil disturbance, use of organic fertilisers, and optimal use of cover crops and residue management – that encourage carbon sequestration are a step in the right direction. But it must be emphasised that even though carbon sequestration is the only way to reverse historical carbon emissions, we also need to cut carbon emissions, otherwise regenerative farming will be a fruitless endeavour.

In addition, we need to dramatically reduce our crop waste. It’s estimated that roughly a third of all the world’s food is lost or wasted – that’s a staggering statistic. Of that total, about 35% is simply tossed in the bin by supermarkets, shops and households – much of which is still perfectly fit for consumption.

Regenerative farming helps reverse historical carbon emissions, but we also need to cut carbon emissions
Soil carbon programmes should be considered on the merit of their interoperability with other support schemes.

It goes without saying that all this food has a carbon footprint, so wasting it has an enormous impact on the climate. Transforming manufacturing byproducts and repurposing imperfect produce for human consumption, prolonging the shelf life of grocery products, reclaiming surplus restaurant food for those experiencing food insecurity and composting consumer food waste are all viable solutions that can help further combat the global food crisis.

Measured proof more than mere promises

Soil carbon programmes entering the voluntary carbon market offer enormous opportunity, but they also have a serious obligation to increase market transparency and maturity of carbon removal and climate-based assets. “This means delivering a high level of scientific rigour and reliability that creates trustworthiness and value for farmers to offset their transition costs,” Simon explains. “It means abolishing greenwashed claims by properly vetting corporates looking to pay a premium for carbon credits in order to achieve their sustainability goals and increase their brand value.”

One programme that takes these obligations seriously is Agreena – one of the world’s first internationally accredited soil carbon certification programmes. Agreena takes a farmers-first approach to the food and climate crisis by helping farmers finance their transition to more climate-friendly practices. The programme insists on robust third-party verification to ensure optimal transparency, is aligned to the United Nations IPCC guidelines, and quantifies emission reductions and removals according to Verra’s VCS methodology VM0042.

Agreena takes a farmers-first approach to regenerative farming by providing sustainable farming incentives to those looking to make a green transition.
Soil carbon reduction plans can play a vital role in reducing world hunger, carbon emissions and farmer scepticism.

All data is quality assured via physical farm visits, algorithmic analysis and satellite technology to confirm that real-world, nature-positive outcomes are realised to the highest environmental integrity. Based on this, Agreena can deliver nature-based carbon removal certificates that are fully traceable and of the highest quality.

Sustainable farming incentives flexible enough to not fail

“Each farmer has a different way of working, and no one knows what their fields need to grow and thrive better than they do,” notes Simon. “So when it comes to soil carbon programmes, it’s crucial that participants are offered the flexibility and incentives to transition at their own pace. Whether you’re a farmer looking to grow your profits or a company looking to achieve your net-zero goals, it all comes down to making it as easy and as beneficial as possible to do business with Agreena. Because, at the end of the day, we’re all in this transition together – farmers, companies and society. We really can’t afford to fail.”

There are currently over one million hectares across 17 markets contracted to the Agreena soil carbon programme, which has successfully paid out its farmers over the past two years. There’s no hassle to join, no binding commitment and participants pay nothing until they’ve received their carbon certificates. Companies wishing to support farmers’ green transition and reach their own net-zero goals can be certain that the certificates issued have had the claimed effect, meaning that there can be no double claiming of the emission removal/reduction nor can the certificate be sold more than once. All issued certificates are retired upon purchase.

Sign-up is now open to all farmers for the 2024 harvest season. Learn how you can join Europe’s most reliable soil carbon programme by calculating your earning potential today.

September 11, 2023By Wesley Mitchell Spyke11 Minutes