Oxbury and the Natural Environment Investment Readiness Fund (NEIRF) grant

  • by Kareema Ali
  • Features

Oxbury and the Natural Environment Investment Readiness Fund (NEIRF) grant

Last year in conjunction with the North-East Cotswold Farmer Cluster (NECFC), Community Interest Company (CIC) and Rothamsted Research, we were awarded an 18-month grant by the Natural Environment Investment Readiness Fund (NEIRF). The North East Cotswold Farmer Cluster (NECFC) is one of England’s largest farmer groups with over 140 members and more than 42,000 ha under management.

As part of the project there are two main focuses:

  • Developing financial products and services that allows farmers to invest individually and collectively in natural capital projects; and
  • Rothamsted to test their Roth-C commercial tool (Carbon Quester) to prove that a globally recognised soil standard can be used effectively on UK farms to measure the benefits of soil carbon sequestration and enable farmer access to the verified carbon offset market.

How this project can help

Farmers who are willing to take forward natural capital improvement projects, likely require funding to progress with the initial development. This is where a grant or private funding becomes available by providing funds for those costs initially.   As a result, and in many cases this pushes farmers to find potential buyers for future benefits like carbon sequestrated or biodiversity net gain prior to implementation which constrains the project scope and potential income over the long-term. Because of how the process works, the projects that require the funding upfront can cause long-term restraints for the farmers which then causes them to struggle to fund the gap. The NEIRF project allows Oxbury to partner with the farmers in the NECFC and co-design financial products that allow farmers to retain access to ecosystem payments while funding upfront costs.

Farmer information day

Back in March 2023, Oxbury co-founder, Tim Coates, hosted an on-farm walk with the other project partners at his family farm near Chipping Norton to explain how he is changing his operation to be regenerative, and the types of natural capital projects he has already undertaken to date and those in the planning stage and how these are funded to provide future diverse income streams.

The day included 2 separate Woodland Carbon Code verified sites, a new agroforestry planting, a proposed wetland area to be included in the Landscape Recovery project, a proposed arable reversion to priority habit grassland for the Biodiversity Net Gain market and a demonstration of the on-farm soil carbon testing as well as discussions on regenerative agriculture.

To find out more about this day, please watch our video.

What Oxbury aims to do by the end of the project

Our Relationship Managers have been meeting with farmers both within and outside of the farmer cluster to discuss natural capital projects in the planning stage and identify potential financing needs.

We have recently formalised product rules to enable farmers, where grants have been approved, to obtain finance to bridge the gap between starting the project and receiving the grant payments whilst continuing to develop further rules to address lending requirements for natural capital.

Our aim is to finance 10 farmers by the end of the year to undertake natural capital projects under a new set of products and services.

A full report on the NEIRF project will be published once the project completes in December 2023.