The world’s first arable carbon credits verified by BCarbon have been sold in a major new initiative that could reverse climate change by using farmland to pull harmful carbon from the atmosphere.

Unlike many carbon credit programmes, the project by UK-based Future Food Solutions sequesters carbon from the atmosphere and restores soil health by storing carbon in the ground, enabling farmers to combat climate change while continuing to feed the world.

Carbon credit trading is expected to hit $50bn dollars by 2030 and the Future Food Solutions scheme could unlock millions of tonnes of sequestered carbon credits by utilising farmland around the world.

The first tonnes of verified carbon credits have been sold to RELX, a global provider of information-based analytics and decision tools for professional and business customers, after being generated by a single farm on the Yorkshire Wolds in the UK.

Future Food Solutions has created the Sustainable Futures Carbon Bank to sell credits on the voluntary carbon market. Working with the British Consulate in Houston, Future Food Solutions also partnered with BCarbon, an independent verification body, which was formed by a stakeholder group out of the Baker Institute at Rice University.

Through the Sustainable Futures Carbon Bank, farmers are encouraged to grow cover crops that pull carbon from the atmosphere and store it in the soil. Cover crops are growing in popularity for many reasons in the UK and by planting between the regular food crop rotation, they don’t impact on the amount of food UK farmers can produce.

How does it work?

Future Food Solutions conducts soil analysis before the cover crop is sown and then uses a series of rigorous tests to determine exactly how many tonnes of carbon has been removed from the atmosphere.

Much of this field data has been acquired in conjunction with Yorkshire Water and Proagrica (a RELX company), who have partnered with Future Food Solutions on catchment scale farmer engagement programmes in the UK.

“We are delighted to have played a part in the Carbon Bank”, says Jamie O’Sullivan, Group Managing Director at Proagrica.  “We have adapted our farm management software, Gatekeeper, to enable the capture of essential field data needed to give confidence that the system works. This data is fully permissioned by the scheme participants through our software. The opportunity for farming to fulfil its potential as a positive force not only to address climate change but to continue to supply safe, nutritious food has been brought much closer with this project. And we are proud that our parent company, RELX, is the first to purchase this innovative carbon credit as part of our global effort to achieve Net Zero”.

Although sequestration will vary because of weather, cover crop and soil type, on average a hectare of cover crop will deliver 2-3 tonnes of carbon to trade.  Farmers then receive money through the sale of their carbon credits.

Who buys the carbon?

The carbon credits are sold to organisations looking to offset their carbon footprint. More than a third of the world’s largest publicly traded companies have already made Net Zero pledges and demand for quality carbon removal credits is increasing.

Steve Cann from Future Food Solutions says: “This is a step change in carbon removal providing a real opportunity for organisations to reduce their carbon footprint. The Carbon Bank offers global reach as soil stock in all farming environments around the world could provide significant capacity to become a huge carbon sink.

“ The Carbon Bank means farmers in the UK and beyond can provide a solution to one of the biggest climate change issues, highlighted at COP26 in Glasgow.

“Plus, if we do it right, food gets better. Water and flood management improves because the cover crops transform below ground soil structure, which in turn helps to reduce leaching and water run-off and because carbon is being sequestered back into the soil from the atmosphere, the planet starts to heal as well”.

“We can get everybody to contribute by eating smarter and actively choosing to buy food products sourced from land where this remedial process is being undertaken by farmers.”

First credits from Yorkshire

The first verified carbon credits have come from Tom Mellor’s farm High above Bridlington, in the North Yorkshire Wolds.

Tom says: “Farming is about achieving a balance, similar to the challenge the planet is facing, with regard to climate change. If we take out more than we put back in, future generations will pay the price”

Tom also commented “Knowing now that farming can be the solution, not the problem is encouraging us to rethink both our practices and mindset”

The Sustainable Futures Carbon Bank aims to bring 10,000 carbon credits to the voluntary market in the next 12 months from other farms involved in the scheme across the UK and EU.