Farming for the Future is seeking to create more sustainable farm businesses, improve environmental outcomes and support a thriving rural and regional Australia as we target net-zero.

Objectives

A major enabler of the transition towards a more financially prosperous, resilient and sustainable agricultural sector is an improved understanding of the role natural capital plays in generating benefits for agricultural businesses and farming families, and increased capability to incorporate natural capital into farm business management decisions.

Farming for the Future aims to support the agricultural sector to optimise the natural capital that underpins core agricultural production. We believe this will improve economic and environmental outcomes for producers, the food and fibre supply chain and the community – at scale.

We will support producers, their advisory network, NGOs, industry bodies, retailers, food companies, brands, financial institutions, banks, and insurers to work together to enhance farm profitability, resilience and sustainability by embedding natural capital as a factor of production in farm business decision-making. 

Create the national-scale evidence that connects natural capital management and farm profitability

Develop practical, accessible information and a benchmarking platform for producers and their advisors to help them make the informed decisions about their own natural capital to run more resilient and profitable businesses, and to achieve their other farm business goals

Normalise the inclusion of natural capital in farm performance measurement and management in Australia

Work with the industry and agricultural supply chain to achieve their net-zero goals through the testing and implementation of mechanisms to reward improved natural capital outcomes on farms

Accelerate the improvement of the condition of Australia’s natural resources and landscapes, including their capacity to mitigate greenhouse gas emissions

Frame agriculture as a nature-based solution to climate-change

Contribute to the economic development of Australia’s rural and regional communities

Developing a diagnostic tool for Natural Capital investments

The ultimate vision of Farming for the Future is of a user-friendly Natural Capital Investment Diagnostic or Benefits Benchmarking Platform that producers and their advisors would use to identify potential profitability and other benefits that could be available for their business via targeted investment in the natural capital of their farms. By using the benchmarking platform, producers and their advisors will be able to assess the positive business outcomes they could achieve if they make changes. 

The platform will be designed to:

Make clear the relationship between improvements in natural capital and on-farm profitability
Accelerate the development of practical, accessible ways for producers to measure natural capital
Provide benefits and insights for the supply chain and broader agricultural ecosystem
Provide information for policy makers to develop evidence-based interventions to reward farmers for natural capital management.
Enable supply chains for food and fibre to meet their ESG targets
Be a springboard for traceability systems, certification, and other innovations from the public and private sector

Our aim is that the benchmarking platform will be made available to all producers and their advisors across Australia. It will be housed with a safe, trusted & independent institutional owner that will maintain and manage the platform in the public interest. Sign up to our mailing list for updates.

Methodology

The Farming for the Future research methodology consists of three programs that will support the development of the benchmarking platform:

Measurement and Calibration (MAC):
Generating natural capital data & indices

Leverage existing and emerging methods of measuring natural capital to create indices for use in the benchmarking platform. Test and calibrate these with farmers and advisors.

Performance and Pathways (PAP):
Establishing the relationships between farm natural capital and farm enterprise performance

Generate core quantitative knowledge on natural capital measures and their relationship to farm enterprise performance and other (personal, family, social and environmental) objectives. Generate information on the perspectives of farm enterprise managers about constraints and objectives.

Markets, Institutions & Development (MIND):
Building demand and exploring investment pathways

Take a systems practice approach to the work, ensuring that the research and other activities are guided by a thorough understanding of the broader system context for natural capital management in agriculture. Connect findings to opportunities as they arise to bridge theory and practice.

Visit the resources & publications page for more information about the Farming for the Future methodology & the research plan for each project stream.

Target outcomes

To achieve a more financially prosperous & climate-resilient agricultural sector in Australia, Farming for the Future will focus on four key project outcomes:

  1. A transformed agricultural sector

    Encouraging widespread understanding at all levels of the agricultural sector of the role natural capital plays as part of a farming system, producers are supported to strategically invest to improve both economic and environmental outcomes on their farms. As a result, farm operations become more profitable and sustainable and rural communities are revitalised for future generations.

  2. Reformed food and fibre supply chains

    The alignment of agricultural natural capital outcomes with corporate ESG, product quality and resilience targets may recalibrate how the supply chain chooses the farms it partners with to strengthen their narrative with customers and investors. The evidence of relationships between natural capital and farm profits will enable supply chains to identify where trade-offs and synergies exist between farm profits and meeting supply chain ESG targets and where revised terms of trade may be reasonable.

  3. An enabling policy landscape

    Greater government understanding of the public value of healthy agricultural ecosystems spurs multilateral support for farmers to measure, optimise and sustain natural capital being used for core production. With a greater understanding of the benefits of improving natural capital and whether these accrue to farmers or to businesses beyond the farm gate, policy makers can select the most efficient policy instruments.

  4. Aligned finance, capital, and resource flows

    A Natural Capital Benefits platform which reveals the relationship between natural capital and financial benefits and risks to producers will enable the financial services sector to support farmers to optimise natural capital to meet their business goals and financial commitments

Research timeline

Research and Benchmarking Platform development

  • Co-design session with producers, farm advisers, industry bodies, NGO’s, government to test the hypotheses & shape the draft research plan
  • Develop a detailed, peer-reviewed research plan

Enabling systemic solutions

  • Develop an initial Discussion Paper outlining the potential of the opportunities
  • Co-design research
  • Develop theory of change

Communications and stakeholder management

  • Map stakeholders and develop approach
  • Develop program narrative

Infrastructure and project enablement

  • Secure co-funding and research partners
  • Establish team and technolog

Research and Benchmarking Platform development

  • Recruit at least  120150 farm businesses
  • Collect and analyse data
  • Develop Benchmarking Platform prototype
  • Release initial data

Enabling systemic solutions

  • Develop and update position papers
  • Consult with farmers, industry and cross-sector representatives
  • Identify industry solutions

Communications and stakeholder management

  • Build awareness and develop channels
  • Manage regular communications

Infrastructure and project enablement

  • Enable and coordinate networks
  • Develop governance and sustainable funding model

Research and Benchmarking Platform development

  • Recruit at least 1,000 businesses
  • Collect and analyse new data
  • Scale the platform up
  • Release new data

Enabling systemic solutions

  • Develop and update position papers
  • Consult with farmers, industry and cross-sector representatives
  • Build and release stackable solutions

Communications and stakeholder management

  • Leverage brand and channels
  • Manage regular communications

Infrastructure and project enablement

  • Enable and coordinate networks