14 February 2018
Pentland Centre researchers, Dr Jess Davies and Dr Victoria Janes Bassett, have been awarded funding to pursue Natural Capital research with a leading global agribusiness.

Funded by the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) and their Valuing Nature Programme, and working with project partners Olam International, the project will evaluate soil natural capital valuation needs for agri-food businesses.

The environment provides us with many benefits – natural capital is a way of valuing these benefits and taking them into account. Soils provide us with many services, such as food production, water regulation, and carbon storage – making them a key natural asset. Yet we have a poor understanding of the true value of soil.

Researcher Victoria Janes Bassett says, “One of the obvious values that soils deliver is food production, and agri-food businesses need good approaches for getting soils on the balance sheet to ensure sustainable food production”.

Jess Davies says, “It’s like a bank account, we’re drawing on our soil savings when we’re farming – potentially extracting fertility and degrading the soil’s ability to support future crops – but we have no idea of how much soil we’ve got in the bank or the rate of our withdrawals”. “Our project will look at the approaches that are out there to change this situation and improve the sustainability of this key natural asset”.

This project will address this need for soil natural capital guidance in the agri-food sector by mapping the links between soil and the benefits derived. In collaboration with Olam the team will identify what is needed to manage soil natural capital throughout the agri-food value chain (from farm to shelf). The project will review how existing methods can be used to value soil natural capital, and define key gaps in knowledge to be addressed by further research. This synthesis will help realise the comprehensive valuation of soil natural capital needed to create sustainable and resilient food production.