Along with a group of other guests from industry, retail, regulators and the third sector, today I joined one of Business in the Community’s ‘Seeing is Believing’ visits, themed around natural capital. We started with a visit to a farm near Cambridge which has recently been converted to a no-till system. With lower input costs (diesel usage down by 70%, for instance) and yields that have barely been affected, it is a very convincing argument for no-till. One of the major benefits of no-till is improvement in soil quality, evidenced by an increase in earthworm numbers and water capacity. With water held in the soil, run-off is much reduced resulting in less contamination of water courses and lower flood risk. As well as the economic benefit to the farming business, the farm is home to increased numbers of a range of endangered species including water voles.
The second stage of the visit was to an Anglian Water reservoir which also serves as a nature reserve and recreation site. Preserving the natural capital value at the site manages all of those benefits, but is clearly not without its challenges. AW have recently embarked on a consultation programme to ensure that how they juggle these various considerations properly reflects their customers’ priorities as well as those of other stakeholders. It is encouraging that natural capital features so strongly in their forward plans. With the significance of water to a healthy landscape, this was an inspiring day and I look forward to working with the other attendees again.