The Measuring On-Farm Natural Capital Program has been working on farming properties across Western Australia, exploring new methodologies to account for the value of natural resources. New reports share some early learnings.
NCA Learning Case Studies
As part of the pilot for Natural Capital Accounting (NCA) in WA, five learning case studies were developed in 2021. These learning case studies set out to identify how farmers can measure Natural Capital and how they can utilise that information in their decision making and communicate their environmental performance to their stakeholders.
The process for the learning case studies began with a series of online co-design workshops, working with key stakeholders to guide the approach for NCA. These workshops were critical in ensuring that the accounts reflect what is important in the farming enterprises, ie production systems and ecological assets and also covering the points of interest.
Following on from the co-design process, 5 farms volunteered to participate in NCA for Western Australia. These properties were situated in the South-west and Wheatbelt regions.
As part of this process, the NCA team had the opportunity to undertake and ‘test drive’ emerging NCA methodologies specifically designed for ecological assessments on some of the learning case study properties.
As the reports contain confidential information supplied by the farms, Perth NRM and project partner Integrated Futures have created a report on the final design for the learning case studies and an example case study demonstrating the methodology and results for a hypothetical agricultural enterprise, ECOFarmCo.
The Measuring On-Farm Natural Capital Program, commonly referred to as Natural Capital Accounting (NCA) has quickly moved from an emerging concept to a hot topic in the agricultural sector.
Since the project began in 2021, Perth NRM has undertaken work on 7 properties across the Perth, South-west, Wheatbelt and Great Southern regions. The farming cohorts consists of 16 properties signed up to the NCA project, including vineyards, mixed cropping, livestock (beef) and horticulture properties.
As an early proponent of developing an NCA framework, Perth NRM has been fortunate to help in the process of trying out new methodologies for the development of the accounts, sharing information and techniques with an NCA project led by La Trobe University [read more here], working across New South Wales, Victoria and Tasmania.
- The NCA process begins with the NCA team sitting down with the farmer, gathering ecological and production information of the property. This includes documenting threatened flora and fauna, critical habitats, threatened ecological/priority communities, introduced weeds and all aspects of the farms production system ie management of production areas, inputs etc.
- Survey work/assessments are seasonally dependant to capture the right data at the appropriate time. Leaf samples (petiole) and produce samples from properties are gathered as deemed necessary.
- The NCA team undertakes a formal ecological assessment of the property (Autumn/Spring).
- The NCA team returns to undertake two soil assessments (Summer).
- One of these assessments is an NCA-specific rapid soil assessment, which is a series of ‘farmer friendly’ physical soil assessments.
- The second soil assessment is standard chemical soil sampling, includes microbial analysis and residual chemical analysis, conducted in a laboratory.
The Measuring On-Farm Natural Capital program is delivered in partnership with Integrated Futures, with funding and support from Commonland and the State Natural Resources Management Program.