Partnership hoping to put monetary value on environmental assets

Beef Central, 19/10/2023

A PARTNERSHIP between La Trobe University and Downforce Technologies to provide “the final piece” of a research project that is putting a monetary value on economic or societal benefits that flow from farming.

The announcement coincides with a United States patent being awarded for Downforce’s methodology in remotely monitored natural capital measurement.

Accounting for “natural capital” assets on farms has become a popular area of research, with the Federal Government forming its nature repair market and several other organisations researching and finding ways to monetise the environmental benefits of farming.

The La Trobe University project was launched in 2020 and supported by the Odonata Foundation and the Australian Government’s Landcare Program, with the objective of developing an accounting system that could measure the value of nature at a farm scale.

Lead researcher and Associate Professor Dr Jim Radford said 50 farms from Northern New South Wales to Tasmania, covering about 100,000 hectares, have been involved.

“At the moment there are very few tools by which farmers can measure and demonstrate their environmental credentials,” Dr Radford said.

“They’re generally very high level and pitched at a national or regional scale where the estimates are of the extent of an ecosystem in the landscape or the amount of native vegetation that’s retained at very large areas.

Dr Jim Radford and Professor Jacquie McGlade.

“What we’re trying to do is come down a few scales and provide a tool to individual farmers.”

The Farm-scale Natural Capital Accounts are designed to be used alongside traditional financial accounts to determine the interplay between farm enterprise and ecosystem.

The research team has so far identified the stocks of natural assets, assessed their condition and assigned metrics that would allow a monetary value to be calculated for the economic or societal benefits that flow from them. Greenhouse gas emissions and sequestration in vegetation have also been calculated.

Remotely monitored soil carbon measurements provided

Downforce Technologies will now join the project to supply measurements of soil organic carbon (SOC).

“This is the final piece,” Dr Radford said.

“I’m really excited about being able to include this and I think it will really resonate with farmers because they’re working with soil all the time. It’s their currency. If there’s a group of people in society that appreciates soil, it’s farmers.”

Downforce Technologies co-founder and Chief Scientist, Prof Jacquie McGlade, said the company would provide SOC readings at the paddock and sub-paddock level, with the ability to see changes over time for the three years of the project.

“Outside the farming sector, many people are not aware just how important soils are to the climate and their potential to help the world transition to net zero,” Prof McGlade said.

“We are thrilled to be involved in this project to develop Farm-scale Natural Capital Accounts because verification is a critical part of the equation.”

The contribution to the project is underpinned by a methodology that this week was awarded a US patent (Patent No: 11790410).

Farms involved in the Farm-scale Natural Capital Accounts study.

“The US patent awarded to Downforce Technologies confirms its invention of a consistent system and methodology to measure natural capital at every scale from farm to continent,” Prof McGlade said.

“This is crucial as nations begin the transformational process of embedding the value of their natural capital assets into the system of national accounts.”

Technology progressing through approvals

The receipt of a US Patent follows the distinction of becoming the first company in the world which assesses SOC and land management practices remotely to gain International Organization for Standardization (ISO) certification for ISO 14064 Part 2.

While no formal moves have been made, the organisation is hoping to make its technology available to the Australian carbon farming framework.

ISO is a non-governmental organisation with a membership of 169 national standards bodies and oversees the internationally recognised 14060 family of standards relating to the measurement, reporting and verification of greenhouse gas emissions and removals.

Downforce’s ISO-certified methodology enables companies in the food and land sector to understand their soil carbon baseline across their portfolio, report their net zero position in a compliant way and establish carbon projects with their suppliers to generate carbon credits for

These credits for verified carbon removals can be used to inset against their supply chain emissions (Scope 3).

Source: Downforce/La Trobe



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