The agriculture challenge
Agriculture represents the most significant land use in the UK, with over 70% of the country classed as farmland in 2021 (Defra). It provides us with the food we eat and sustains rural and urban livelihoods, enabling domestic food security and international exports.
A growing population has fueled the modernisation and intensification of farming practices to increase productivity. This has led to a food system that whilst producing food, accounts for 11% of the UK's annual emissions (UK Gov) and causes environmental damage including poor soil health, significant biodiversity loss, and pollution of land and water.
We will not solve the climate and ecological crisis unless we decarbonise farming practices, restore carbon sinks, and reverse biodiversity loss on farmland.
If we get it right, farming can be beneficial to nature and climate. A change is underway, exemplified by those spearheading the green farming movement, adopting and accelerating nature friendly farming practices which rebuild soil health, reduce carbon emissions, improve livelihoods within the supply chain, and restore nature.
Helping to galvanise this shift in the UK is a new policy landscape which includes Environmental Land Management schemes (ELMs) designed to ensure payments to farmers for sustainable land practices.
These schemes present an opportunity for investment from companies with ESG commitments looking for land-based solutions aligned to their net zero and biodiversity targets. There is a portfolio of nature-based solution projects for companies to choose from:
Species habitat creation.
The choice of solutions will depend on the corporate priorities, costs, and supply of projects.
At Pilio we have developed the 'windows of vitality' framework which we are applying to help create a sustainable agriculture system which is holistic in valuing natural, economic, political, social, and cultural capital.
As a starting point, we are working to build understanding and insights on the needs, barriers, and opportunities for nature and climate recovery of the many different stakeholders.
From that understanding the windows of opportunity are identified and we go through a process of working with partners to test and create collaborative models and tools that could help bring about a
systemic transformation of agriculture.
Windows of vitality in action
To inform the design of the new ELMs schemes, DEFRA has been funding a broad range of projects to gather learning and experiments for supporting sustainable agriculture.
Pilio led one of the DEFRA Test & Trials for landscape recovery in
2021-22 that was exploring the opportunities and barriers for landowners and investors to collaborate in landscape recovery projects.
We ran consultations with landowners, companies, and organisations to gather insights into the different stakeholder perspectives and priorities, the financial mechanisms and agreements, the implementation of interventions and reporting of outcomes. The consultations used two water catchments in Buckinghamshire and Oxfordshire for practically anchoring and illustrating the concepts with stakeholders.
As part of this project we looked at the role that tools such as
Pilio Nature could play in baselining data, identifying opportunities, and monitoring interventions.
Opening the windows
Building on our previous work, DEFRA has commissioned Pilio to lead a follow-on project to further conceptualise a county-scale delivery model for matchmaking landowners and private investors together with project developers and implementors for nature and climate recovery projects. The project is using Buckinghamshire to help conceptualise what working at a county-level might look like.
What we are doing:
Stakeholder mapping of the potential landowners, investors, intermediaries, and nature and climate recovery projects.
Examination of the role tools can play to create assurance and transparency in this process.
Exploration of environmental payment models to make these interventions come alive.
Consideration of how to ensure there is facilitation and join-up of the different activities.
To help open up these windows of possibility we will be using 5 case study projects in Buckinghamshire to illustrate and test out how this all might work in practical terms.
Join the project
Are you a business wanting to learn how to be involved in nature-based solutions that would align to your ESG commitments? Please get in touch, we would value hearing about your needs and exploring how you might want to support in bringing about this transition in agriculture and land management.