Identifying, mapping and accounting regenerative agriculture

For eaters, investors, regulators, supply chain partners (processing; distribution) and farmers to make decisions to maximise ecological function we need to be able to make informed decisions and get feedback on those decisions. There are myriad other processes and outcomes (and standards for measurement) that could be used to identify and communicate regenerative farming applications and benefits for land managers themselves, for investors, for supply chain partners and for eaters. Accreditations in the organics industry in Australia, for example, are in the most part very comprehensive and rigorous examples of regenerative farming standards. It is not our purpose here to critically review the proliferation of accreditation systems globally that are relevant to regenerative farming systems. We do, however, see an urgent need for a common assessment framework and open data standards on which we can build this interoperability and thus connect the different initiatives. An open and consistent taxonomy of standards would enable robust benchmarking of diverse farming and accreditation systems and sharing of knowledge.

Analysis

Source

A common assessment framework for mapping and accounting agriculture and food systems. It argues for the need for a 'systems thinking' approach, presents a Framework for evaluation and identifies theories and pathways for transformational change in agri-food systems. The primary goal is to support decision-makers in establishing “what should be evaluated” in a given assessment, and consequently, to bring transparency and context to all assessments, by highlighting elements which may have been overlooked (see in particular assessment checklist at 6a.1).

TEEBAgrI-Food ‘Scientific and Economic Foundations’ report (2018)

A common accounting standard is under collaborative development through SEEA (System of Environmental-Economic Accounting) which is being developed through a global collaboration and is consistent with TEEB. A profit and loss or balance sheet have the same information, measured the same way - providing a consistent framework for comparison between different entities and aggregation of data. The SEEA framework is robust for measuring and communicating the impact of different agricultural practices/systems in a method analogous to financial accounting.

System of environmental economic accounting (UN)

Provides a standardised method for accounting for land degradation as a liability.

Ogilvy et al 2018

Provides an example of approaching interoperability through open data standards.

OpenTEAM

Informing the development of SEEA accounts are various innovations in standardised farm scale ecological function analysis. Dr Sue Ogilvy has experience in ecological assessment of regenerative agriculture and advises on the range of methods and sources, particularly as they relate to Grassy Woodland Biomes.

Analysis

Source

Grassland Regeneration and Sustainability Standard (GRASS)

Nature Conservancy (2013)

Checking for change: A practical guide to checking whether sites newly managed for conservation are on track to improve. This guide is more appropriate for cheaper or self assessments (eg to inform land management decisions).

Stol et al (2016)

Ecological Health Index: A Short Term Monitoring Method for Land Managers to Assess Grazing Lands Ecological Health (comprehensive and expensive - suitable for baselining for impact investors).

Xu et al (2019)

This report "Graziers with better profitability, biodiversity and wellbeing" adapts principles from McIntyre (2012) for sustainable grassy woodlands and native pastures and uses bare ground estimates from satellite imagery as a proxy for landscape function.

Ogilvy 2018

This report "Assessment of vegetation condition - Mulloon Creek Catchment and Mulloon Community Landscape Rehydration Project" provides another example of a baseline assessment of vegetation.

Thackaway (2018)

As a future extension to this section we would like to provide:

1) Example farm-scale natural capital accounts

2) Analysis of measurement used by different sorts of accreditation systems (eg Ecological Outcome Verification or Soil Carbon Initiative) against and to inform a standard farm scale natural capital account.