Helping growers see natural capital as an asset class

22/05/2024 | 2 mins

How do we prepare Western Australian growers for a new type of asset class in agricultural systems, in which production agriculture and nature work together?

A collaborative group of researchers, based at The University of Western Australia, this month launched an ambitious project to prepare growers for an upcoming ‘paradigm shift’ in natural resource management within agricultural systems.

The project is one of six 18-month transformational agricultural projects, which were recently awarded a combined $1 million in grants from the South‐West WA Drought Resilience Adoption and Innovation Hub (SW WA Hub).

Associate Professor Ram Pandit Dr Ana Manero Ruiz and Tom PictonWarlow pictured at UWAImage: Associate Professor Ram Pandit Dr Ana Manero Ruiz and Tom Picton-Warlow.

The SW WA Hub, led by the Grower Group Alliance and funded by the Australian Government’s $5 billion Future Drought Fund program, aims to improve the drought resilience and preparedness of local farmers and their communities, and foster agricultural innovation.

Led by UWA Associate Professor Ram Pandit, the research team includes Dr Fiona Dempster from the UWA Centre for Environmental Economics and Policy, Edith Cowan University research fellow Dr Lizzy Lowe, Yaraguia Enterprises Director Oral McGuire, MobileGlobal Managing Director Tom Picton-Warlow, and external advisor Dr Ana Manero Ruiz.

They will work with grower groups Mingenew Irwin Group, Southern Forests Food Council, Southern Rangelands Pastoral Alliance, Stirlings to Coast, and ASHEEP & BEEF, as well as Natural Resource Management (NRM) groups Wheatbelt NRM, South Coast NRM and South-West NRM.

The project aims to determine a baseline understanding of stakeholders’ attitudes towards considering nature and agriculture together as an asset.

They want to know what growers think about collaborating across a regional scale using Natural Capital Accounting and natural asset companies to conserve biodiversity, build resilience, strengthen regional communities, increase productivity, diversify income, and be rewarded by financial markets and investors for supporting nature through their enterprises.

Associate Professor Pandit said incorporating natural capital into economic and financial decisions needed to be urgently addressed by both public and private sectors to halt the degradation and loss of nature.

"This project will help identify the current state of knowledge, perceived benefits and barriers among farmers, investors, and other stakeholders to develop natural capital as an asset class."

Associate Professor Pandit
UWA Associate Professor Ram Pandit  

Dr Lowe said the findings would help policymakers understand the expectations among stakeholders, and in turn develop effective user-focused strategies to put nature on the balance sheet.

Mr Picton-Warlow said the insights gained from the project would support the industry to adopt the natural capital accounting polices being rolled out at a state and national scale.

“We are currently in the project planning and design stage, and are actively seeking interest from investment partners,” he said.

Next steps will include exploratory interviews with investment partners and farmers to set up the baseline information for future works before the project is completed in June 2025.

Media references

Rosanna Candler (Communications Officer, The UWA Institute of Agriculture) +61 08 6488 1650

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