< Programmes and Campaigns

Farming for Carbon and Nature

Using university and college farmland to capture carbon and restore nature
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Many colleges and universities have large agricultural landholdings, totalling more than 35,000 hectares in the UK, most is used for commercial purposes, including being let out to tenant farmers that are using conventional farming practices. UK universities are also passing progressive net-zero carbon reduction targets but in most cases not yet including their farmland. Despite these ambitious targets universities will still need to continue to attract international students and conducting overseas research leaving residual scope 3 emissions.

We hope this sector changing scheme will be of real value in addressing the climate emergency and biodiversity crisis as well as increasing farm resilience and food security.

How it works

Farming for Carbon & Nature aims to set up an innovative model where we incentivise universities to make payments to farms so they can transition to more nature friendly farming practices to sequester carbon. Nature friendly farming methods will be adopted such as minimum or no till, direct drilling, cover crops, perennials and green manures. These methods maximise carbon sequestration, biodiversity and soil health.

Our incentive is that we will provide opportunities for students to take annual soil samples from farms and test them for carbon in university labs so there will be clear data showing how much carbon has been sequestered as a result of farms farming more nature friendly farming practices. The carbon sequestered will help universities reach their net-zero targets. We will also involve students in biodiversity monitoring on the farms as well as nutrient density testing of food produced on the farms. This meets the triple challenges of the climate, nature and health crises we face.

Progress to date

See our latest FCN progress report to read about our progress towards the following goals: improving farm soil health & increasing soil carbon, improving farm wildlife & biodiversity, increasing student access to the natural world, and creating a credible and viable financial model for delivery post pilot.


This work is funded by the Esmée Fairbairn Foundation and the Natural Environment Investment Readiness Fund (NEIRF).

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If you would like to be kept up to date on the progress of Farming for Carbon & Nature, or have any questions, please email us.