6th May 2014

The future is bright, the future is CARBON!

Jonathan Field

Todays guest blog is by Richard Page, of Carbon Prophet, one of our winners from our Challenge in May 2013: ‘How do we help British business improve environmental performance’ – supported by the Environment Agency. Carbon Prophet were awarded £29,000 and also won the Community Award of £1,000.

AR Carbon received the final tranche of its GeoVation grant funding. As we are seven months into our project ‘Carbon Prophet’ and looking to launch ourselves into the open market, it seems the ideal time to see how things are progressing.

Our project is all about encouraging farmers to rebuild the natural fertility of their soils. One of the most obvious ways of achieving this is to encourage the use of compost as a source of nutrients and as a way of improving soil structure. Obviously we don’t want to use peat-based composts, so we need to find significant supplies of an alternative and that means using green waste compost. Unfortunately, this is not as straightforward as you might think; most green waste compost needs significant work to improve it before it is suitable for use on commercial farms. So, in order to ensure sufficient supplies of a quality product, we have opened negotiations with a number of local authorities to work with them to improve the product that they produce and we aim to have high quality green waste compost available for the start of spring 2015.

At the same time, we are continuing to measure increases in soil-sequestered carbon and to develop our trading scheme that will enable farmers to derive an income from trading this carbon. It is here that Ordnance Survey mapping is at its most important to us. All our testing will be geographically represented on an interactive map. To add to this, eventually a school, an individual or an institution wishing to buy locally produced food will be able to search the map for a local supplier or grower. Ordnance Survey data will also be a vital support in proving due diligence and support our claim for accreditation.

Alongside our work with farmers and local authorities, we are extremely keen to bring our work into schools. One of our ideas is to combine Ordnance Survey mapping with our expertise to produce a teacher resource, covering everything to do with food production and how geography affects what crops can be grown in a given area. We could also expand this to include a discussion about food imports from across the world and our future food security. Another idea is to link a number of schools with a local farm providing opportunities for educational visits to real, working farms and for the farmers to market their produce directly to a school and for the school to benefit from cost savings by buying in bulk, direct from the producer.

These plans will develop over the coming months and years and it will inevitably mean bigger offices, more staff and further collaborations. However, as farmers start to feel the economic benefits of cheaper crop production, they too have said that they will be more likely to take on extra staff. We expect to create at least 20 new jobs within our business in the next year but this could easily be eclipsed by a general increase in employment opportunities within farming as a result of the creation of new revenue streams and a much-improved economic outlook for rural communities.

Richard Page
Carbon Prophet