A pilot programme from Frontier Agriculture is exploring an alternative method of natural capital funding, built to help both farmers and consumer organisations meet sustainability goals together.

The scheme is being designed, led and trialled by Frontier’s sustainable crop production team, with the aim of eventually providing a platform for growers to be financially rewarded by consumer businesses for adopting more sustainable farming practices.

The initiative would allow all parties to contribute to more resilient supply networks through improvements to natural capital assets such as soil, water, farm biodiversity and carbon management.

“The way that food is produced is being scrutinised more than ever which, rightly so, is pushing for better food production models,” explains Frontier’s lead on sustainability, Jim Stotzka. “Buyers are increasingly looking to enhance their sustainability credentials as a result, but this impacts the whole supply chain and farmers are at the centre.”

Initial pilot

The pilot has been set up with a small group of regional growers so that the programme can be adapted and changed where required, he adds. “The growers involved are obtaining funding as part of their supply chain agreement to increase the biodiversity on their farms or take on practices which result in carbon reduction and sequestration.

“This opens up additional revenue streams for them and helps to mitigate the risks often associated with adopting new or different practices, contributing to the longevity of their farm businesses as a whole.”

Improving the supply chain

At the same time, Frontier says the programme helps the end consumer demonstrate a commitment to improving the supply chain – making their own operations more sustainable while supporting farmers to make positive, practical changes.

“In terms of Frontier’s involvement, our role in the supply chain and our end-to-end services means we can connect individual growers to large consumers to help facilitate these relationships, encouraging a more collaborative approach to sustainability on farm. Meeting our collective objectives can bring positive results for our wider ecosystem services and the farmed environment, and that’s key for resilient, secure, safe supply chains and sustainable produce,” explains Jim.

The sustainable crop production team and Frontier’s farm advisors are also responsible for monitoring, recording and verifying any projects taking place.

Funding and the future

The funding associated with the programme is designed to be flexible so growers can select the options and projects best suited to their farm and individual supply chain contracts. There is a requirement to evidence the delivery of any sustainable measures to qualify for payment, much like the criteria for publicly funded schemes.

If the programme were to roll out wider, the intention is to make the process around recording and monitoring more streamlined, concludes Jim. “We want to make this seamless for growers. We have some digital tools that can support elements of this already but as the trial continues, we’ll be looking at how we can expand these.”