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DEFRA tests & trials

In the UK 70% of land is devoted to agriculture, and how that land is managed plays a significant role in whether carbon is sequestered or released into the atmosphere. Additionally, biodiversity has significantly declined in the UK in the last 50 years. Farmland management therefore needs to be factored into our net zero plans. If we hope to address our climate and biodiversity impacts, we must value the role that land managers play and develop business models that support the investment in these lands for both the environment and for livelihoods.


The solution

There is a need for schemes which incentivise farmers and other stakeholders throughout the supply chain to invest in replenishing UK lands. DEFRA is changing the way they run their public funding programme and they are funding a number of projects to help shape this. 


The projects DEFRA is developing fall under the following three land management schemes: 

  • The Landscape Recovery Scheme for landowners and managers wanting to take a  large-scale approach to land use change and habitat restoration 

  • The Sustainable Farming Initiative for farm level action to make farming more sustainable

  • The Local Nature Recovery for local level action to create space for nature alongside food production

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Landscape Recovery Scheme

Pilio is leading a DEFRA Test & Trials Landscape Recovery Scheme project to explore an end-to-end solution to improve the carbon and biodiversity inset/offset market for investors and farmers. This project is in partnership with River Thame and Pasture Fed Livestock Association (PFLA) in collaboration with Blenheim and Waddesdon estates and involves major landowners and farmers within the water catchment areas of Evenlode, Oxfordshire and River Thame, Buckinghamshire.

Connecting investors & farmers

The project will test the concept of a matchmaking solution connecting investors and farmers wanting to implement nature-based solutions to sequester carbon and improve nature. The solution is underpinned by Pilio’s Nature tool, which assesses and monitors carbon and nature on farms, enabling land managers at an individual and coordinated landscape scale to develop a connected and cohesive sustainability approach. The tool draws on science-based methodologies to baseline activities, and facilitate and evaluate environmental net gain (ENG) from regenerative agriculture projects and nature-positive ecosystem services. 

Project objectives


  • Understand what data farmers currently collect and the potential for insetting/offsetting projects 

  • Map farm supply chains and connections within the Evenlode and River Thame water catchments – to identify and explore potential partnerships.

Advice and Guidance

  • Run two workshops for 50 farmers in total to understand their interest and views on inset/offset opportunities, priorities, and concerns

  • 1-2-1 consultation with 10 farmers on the use of the Odacea tool, and support to gather baseline data to understand what information farmers need to collect to allow them to enter the market



  • 1-2-1 consultations with 10 potential investors to explore needs, priorities and opportunities and barriers for participating in schemes to invest in insetting/offsetting projects 

  • Through the consultations and workshop explore how to structure long-term agreements for payments and monitoring e.g: different sized investors, pooling farmers

Aims & outcomes

The aim of the project will be to gather insights and feedback from stakeholder participants about the design of the end-to-end solution that will matchmake landowners and investors, assess and calculate carbon and biodiversity offset opportunities, organise the contracts and implementing partners, and monitor and evaluate offset project outcomes. The findings and learnings from this project will be published in a publicly available report. 



In 2019 Rose Dale converted her farm in Buckinghamshire to organic, transitioning to a new farming system drawing on regenerative practices aimed at capturing carbon, restoring soil health and enhancing biodiversity. Rose's farm is home to Oxford Down, Greyface Dartmoor and Gotland sheep, and she is working to produce wool and sheepskin alongside her organic meat. Her farm is a member of Pasture for Life.


Learn more

Are you a landowner or stakeholder with an interest in steering meaningful investment to replenish working lands? Contact us for more information.

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