FIRNS funding for whole farm approach to natural capital development

FIRNS funding for whole farm approach to natural capital development

After successful completion of a short desk-based feasibility assessment to explore options for small and medium size farms in Scotland to better participate in developing natural capitals projects, the Soil Association and partners at the Woodland Trust, Finance Earth and Soil Association Certification are delighted to have received funding to take this work forward on the ground.

This new work is once again funded by the Facility for Investment Ready Nature in Scotland (FIRNS), supported by NatureScot in collaboration with The Scottish Government and in partnership with the National Lottery Heritage Fund.

The initial project confirmed that the current mechanisms around natural capital projects are complex and generally only accessible to large landowners. This is resulting in missed opportunities for market participation by individual farmers, communities and civil society, as well as the missed opportunity to deliver more nature and natural capital from our farmed landscapes.

Project delivery

The new project will focus on two main delivery aspects. First of all, we will work in detail with five small and medium size farms to plan and develop a whole farm approach to natural capital development. What this means in practice, is working with the relevant farmers to help them plan their regenerative farming transition and developing a detailed understanding of the new natural capital that will be developed as a result. This may be biodiversity uplift, carbon storage, water improvements and other benefits. We will then explore whether considering this at a whole farm level, delivers better outcomes for the farming business and is more attractive to potential funders.

The second area we will focus on is the opportunity for small and medium size farms to work together in clusters and groups to aggregate small projects into something more attractive for funding and where these groups are easier to manage due to scale. A key learning from the desk-based project is that many farmers want to work with a trusted partner to facilitate this sort of approach, so we will be reaching out to existing initiatives who work in this way with farmers on other supply chain issues, to test the feasibility of taking on new roles and opportunities.

Project aims

Key aims for the project are to find ways for those small and medium size landowners managing Scotland farmed landscapes to participate in these types of projects, alongside maintaining food production and a viable farming model.

The project is funded until March 2025 and we aim to have a set of recommendations for the government and private sector actors as to the best way to take this forward. In addition the farms and farmers we will work with will have some practical proposals to implement and hopefully more confidence to engage with the complexity of this opportunity and deliver more for nature and the climate from their mainstream farming.