Verna: a GeoTech startup story


Nature is failing, and this will likely lead to catastrophic consequences.

For example, there has been a 69% decrease in wildlife populations between 1970 and 2018, and this materially reduces the Earth’s ability to support life, including for people. As Zurich Insurance recently observed, this deterioration ‘means less of the plants, animals and microorganisms that are critical to pollination, cleaning water and keeping soil fertile’ – in other words, the provision of food and water that sustains our lives is at risk.

However, societies demonstrate a desire for economic growth, which typically leads to further damage to nature. To help square (part of) this circle, England will be introducing legislation later this year requiring any development of land to leave the natural environment in a measurably better state than it was beforehand. The legislation is called Biodiversity Net Gain (BNG).

Whilst BNG is exciting, ambitious and well-meaning legislation, there are challenges relating to its implementation, which relies heavily on Local Planning Authorities (LPAs). LPAs are already chronically overworked and understaffed, and BNG will significantly increase the workload on their ecologists.

The Solution

A central pillar of Verna’s work is to understand our users’ needs and to focus on addressing them. Over the past year, Verna has performed in-depth research into the challenges around the implementation of BNG from LPAs’ perspectives. Based on our conversations with over 40 LPAs and regular engagement with all the sector bodies involved in supporting them, we identified a range of pain points that can be addressed with software.

We then worked closely with a ‘pilot group’ of 7 LPAs to develop Mycelia, a tool that addresses all their desk-based challenges relating to BNG and ecology, from the assessment of applications, to monitoring (a 30 year requirement), to reporting.

What’s Next?

Verna are now showing Mycelia to as many LPAs as possible, to get more user feedback and offer them the opportunity of signing up for the launch group who will receive the tool first when it launches prior to BNG becoming mandatory in November.

The reception so far has been excellent: we’ve really done our homework on LPAs’ needs, and we’re delighted that they agree the tool will be materially useful for them.

As we build the Mycelia user base up to a critical mass, we’re excited about helping both BNG and the planning process to work better. We want to help drive environmental benefits across the board – enabling development projects that will enable the energy transition, whilst safeguarding and enhancing the natural environment.

You can find out more about our work and get in touch here.