It is unmistakable that we are living in a climate and biodiversity emergency. Most people agree, that it is past the time for half-measures. If we are going to tackle the climate emergency, we need to go way beyond current practice for sustainable building design. Sustainable development is not just about ‘green’ building, but about having a positive overall impact on the building users and surrounding areas.  It is time for something to be done.

Increasing food demands paired with global intensive farming practices means that cultivated arable soils have lost organic matter and become less inherently productive in the last century. However, one teaspoon of healthy soil has more living organisms in it than there are people on earth.

The UK farming industry is now leading a revolution in the development of new soil and crop management techniques and technologies which have the ability to restore soils. Soils are the most bio-diverse habitats on earth. By improving their biological, physical and chemical status through technologies like the Garford Robocrop, light robotic vehicles like those from the Small Robot Company and AI supported spraying systems like Farfaza to reduce chemical use, as well as other regenerative practices, soil structure and natural biodiversity can be enhanced and renewed.

Improving soil structure in turn improves water infiltration, builds soil carbon, helps deliver natural control of pests and supports a healthy ecosystem which benefits both crop plants and the environment. Many of the companies in the AgriTech cluster, who will be supported by ARC, are working to develop new technologies to help improve soil quality at both a micro and macro level.

Our plans for ARC include protection and conservation of the historic parkland, which will not only preserve it for the future, but open this space for the benefit of ARC users and the local community. Conservation of grassland like the ARC parkland create wider community benefits. The rewilding project at Knepp Castle in West Sussex has shown the benefits to carbon capture that can be achieved when “rewilding” historic parkland.

“According to the Royal Society, carbon capture by the world’s farmlands, if they were better managed, could total as much as ten billion tonnes of carbon dioxide a year – more than the annual carbon dioxide accumulation in the atmosphere. Increasing the quantity of carbon contained in soils by just 0.4% a year – through restoring and improving degraded agricultural lands – would halt the annual increase of CO2 in the atmosphere. This would go a considerable way to achieving the Climate Change objective of limiting the global temperature increase to +1.5/2˚C, while at the same time increasing global food security by improving soil fertility and stability.”[1]

These types of regenerative agricultural practices “seek to add to the soil through a self-nourishing ecological system that benefits the environment in the process. A closed-loop system that doesn’t halt humans’ impact on the environment, but reverses it.”2 AgriTech companies are starting to realise the potential in carbon capture as a business model, with Indigo Agriculture launching a carbon market to incentivise farmers to move toward regenerative land practices. Land management of this type not only increases carbon capture, but has a hugely positive impact on biodiversity, from invertebrates all the way through to birds of prey.

Many sustainable practices are beginning to flourish, for example when Gabe Brown introduced regenerative practices on his ranch in the US, he found that the increase in organic matter in the soil not only increased the number of cattle they were able to farm, but also reduced flooding. Even more sustainable results like this are required if we are going to meet targets to reduce climate change and improve biodiversity.

Our plans for ARC also include innovative water management, including the use of ponds & reed beds for flood prevention and water cleaning, with the added benefit of providing a swimming pond for ARC users.

Soil health is obviously of interest to farmers and the agricultural sector, but its impact is considerably wider than just those involved in producing food. The long-term impact of soil-positive practices, including flood reduction, biodiversity improvements and increased productivity, will affect us all.

 

Read more in our Green Futures series.

 

Find more information about our proposed ARC project here.

[1] https://knepp.co.uk/carbon-sequestration