Measuring On-Farm Natural Capital

Industries around the world are adopting new performance standards such as triple-bottom line reporting. Perth NRM is investigating tools for applying environmental reporting in agriculture.

Investigating Natural Capital

Natural Capital (NC) is the stock of natural resources like vegetation (including exotic vegetation), water, minerals, soils and biodiversity that generate ecosystem services. This project aims to help identify how farmers can measure NC and how they can utilise that information in their decision making, and to communicate their environmental performance to their stakeholders.

We don’t know to what extent our conventional farming practices are depleting NC, or if any of the emerging practices are building NC.

We don’t know the effect that changes to NC have on farm profitability.

We don’t know where we need to invest in ‘public good’ natural capital to improve the resilience and health of farms in a landscape and to assure healthy landscapes for future generations.

Natural capital accounting (NCA) is emerging as a mechanism to provide this information. NCA is aligned to the United Nations System of Environmental-Economic accounting that is used by governments for policy design, but which is not designed for or applied to individual entities.

NCA provides a robust measurement and verification framework that informs the investment that is needed for identifying and supporting the adoption of the farming practices that build NC in our farming landscapes. It also provides the information and comparability that is needed to access the ‘ethical consumer’ market, which rewards producers that are improving their ecosystems.

While progress over the last few years to build the technical foundation of NCA has been rapid, NCA should be tested and further developed by Australian farmers who are regenerating their landscapes to make sure it meets their needs and those of the markets they serve.

For over two centuries, Australian landholders have invested in and managed properties for production and sale of agricultural commodities within various market arrangements that have ultimately focused on production with less consideration of the value of natural capital used in producing those goods, and, unfortunately, this natural capital has depreciated over time”

 

National Farmers’ Federation
Natural Capital Statement

This statement recognises that we are all (consumers, retailers, suppliers, shareholders) complicit in an extractive food production system that forces farmers to make a living through drawing down NC, and in Australia there wasn’t much to start with. It is the NC in our farmland that underpins our food security, and now is the time to start measuring NC, change in NC, and the change in food quality that results from adopting different farming practices.

The aim of this project is to apply, test and review NCA methods with different farming enterprises while also collaborating with other stakeholders who are working towards an agreed to method for applying NCA.

 

Approach – Methodology

The partnership approach to this project includes:

Sue Ogilvy from Integrated Futures.
Sue is one of the leading experts of NCA in Australia and well connected with CSIRO and La Trobe University, which also have NC projects. Sue’s team will do some of the mapping interpretation

Voyager Estate represented by Michelle McMannus.
Voyager Estate are one of Western Australia’s leading wine producers and own the Voyager vineyards plus 600ha of grazing land around the Margaret River region and the Bullo River station.

Perth NRM are developing and managing this project with funding support from Commonland.

The plan is to develop NCA learning case studies while also collaborating and sharing information with other stakeholders. We expect to produce at least four case studies that demonstrate the application of on-farm NCA by July 2021.

 

This project is supported by Perth NRM, through funding from Commonland

 

Partners

We acknowledge and appreciate the support of all our partners, supporters, funding bodies and sponsors.

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