First Milk invests in Agricarbon
Group of black and white cows in a pasture. Waltshire, England
First Milk has announced that it has invested in soil carbon measurement company, Agricarbon, acquiring a 5% stake in the business.
Agricarbon is a Dundee-based start-up founded by Scottish farming entrepreneur, Stewart Arbuckle; Annie Leeson, data services entrepreneur and decarbonisation expert; and Alan Strong, technology commercialisation expert. Agricarbon’s mission is to accelerate a widespread transition to more proactive soil stewardship, by unlocking the value of soil carbon sequestration as a major carbon sink and make a material contribution – this decade – to averting climate catastrophe.
Agricarbon addresses the main barrier to evidencing and valuing soil carbon sequestration: the need to quantify soil carbon stock, at low cost, but with high integrity. It offers a unique soil carbon measurement service using proprietary technology to automate the most robust scientific methodologies for intensive, direct soil sample collection and analysis, at a fraction of the usual cost.
To date, Agricarbon has been operating a large-scale pilot in partnership with First Milk and Nestlé, building an extensive and robust soil carbon baseline for the First Milk farms involved. The pilot covers over 7,000 hectares of land and incorporates data from 40,000 soil samples, making this one of the largest datasets of real-world soil carbon measurements in the world.
Agricarbon’s customers will use this data to confirm soil carbon baselines and evidence the capture and storage of atmospheric carbon dioxide into regeneratively farmed soils. First Milk is launching a programme of practice changes aimed at increasing soil carbon capture, helping farms and food companies to achieve Net Zero targets and contribute to national emissions reduction targets.
Commenting on the results to date, Mark Brooking, First Milk sustainability director, said: “The data represents a breakthrough in the visibility of carbon in farm soils. As well as establishing average soil carbon levels, the pilot has also shown that there are wide variations between the levels of carbon in different fields and at different depths. This demonstrates the real opportunity to sequester significant additional carbon in soil through the adoption of regenerative agricultural practices.”
With interest in its services building rapidly, Agricarbon will utilise investmentto scale its operation quickly, making high integrity, affordable soil carbon quantification accessible to farm and land businesses everywhere.
Commenting on the announcement, Shelagh Hancock, First Milk chief executive, said: “As part of our First4Milk sustainability programme we have committed to achieving net zero by 2040 at the latest and to sequestering an additional 100,000 tonnes of carbon per year through the adoption of regenerative agricultural practices by our members. Having robust, scientifically validated data to establish an accurate soil carbon baseline, and monitor future changes, is essential to the delivery of this strategy and by working with Agricarbon we are already leading the way globally in this area.
“Our investment in Agricarbon will help it scale faster, allowing it to rapidly accelerate its ambitious growth plans. It will also further strengthen our position in dairy sustainability, helping us to demonstrate that our dairy farmer members can be part of the solution to the climate crisis through good soil management.”
Annie Leeson, co-founder and CEO, Agricarbon, added: “First Milk understood, early on, the vital role that high integrity soil carbon measurement will play in achieving net zero targets for agriculture. Having the support of forward-thinking customers like First Milk is invaluable for innovators like Agricarbon. Their investment will allow us to expand our service to the wider farming industry and meet rapidly building demand for affordable, decision-grade data on carbon stock and soil carbon sequestration, unlocking the potential for sustainably managed soils to offer a major new natural climate solution.”