This post explains more about our enterprise, how it’s been designed and why.
Like all good organisations we have a VISION and one that is informed by all of the life threatening effects of the climate crisis and our agrifood system, some of which we have written about in this blog post. We are starting by fundraising to acquire 1000 acres of UK farmland to transition it to a regenerative farm, with food processing and retail onsite, so proving the value and impact of regenerative approaches at scale.
Our vision is not unique, but how we have designed our enterprise to realise it, is. We believe we have put together capabilities and approaches in a way that is more holistic and purpose-led than is typical for the agrifood sector. It starts with THE CHALLENGES that need addressing.
The agrifood sector is currently dominated by global corporates and this means there is a stranglehold on high input costs and a supply chain that is long, complex and costly. This is driving an increase in the processed food we are consuming and in the UK, our shopping basket is on average filled with more than 50% ultra-processed food. It’s not a surprise that globally the largest food sector is confectionary and snacks.
While this is the global view, it is translating into specific challenges here in the UK, compounded by Brexit and the Covid-19 pandemic.
Many people probably don’t realise just how much of our island nation is used for agriculture purposes. It’s 72% and so matters economically, culturally, socially and of course ecologically. Conventional agricultural practices have led to us losing 80% of our topsoil in the last 150 years and so much of farming has been reduced to the measure of quantity – how much can be produced from the land. In part due to the increased input costs, 58% of farms in England are now only profitable due to the subsidies they receive, this business model is not sustainable.
Yet there are a lot of emerging OPPORTUNITIES. A younger generation are more aware of the role of their diets in their overall health, with half claiming they eat healthier to help their lifestyle and another trend, which has definitely increased in the Covid-19 pandemic, is that half of UK shoppers claim to prefer buying local especially for fresh food. It is reported our consumption rose by 33% and 31% for fruit and vegetables during the Covid-19 pandemic in 2020 and within the first month of lockdown 3million people had bought fruit and vegetables direct from a local farm for the first time.
The UK is ready and in need of disruptive change to our agrifood system and people seem increasingly ready to support change will provide healthier, more local and more environmentally positive outputs.
OUR APPROACH at New Foundation Farms is to develop a fully regenerative agrifood enterprise, which starts with a regenerative framework within which we operate from field to fork to produce, process and sell food. We have spent two years in R&D understanding the potential behind the international evidence.
We have found that vertically integrating a regenerative agrifood business also vertically integrates regenerative impacts from soil health through human health, economic health, and social health, to systems change so this insight also traverses our framework, farming and food.
With THE FRAMEWORK the intention is to ensure wealth and abundance are shared fairly, with equity split between employees, investors, society and founders. We have taken guidance from well founded responsible frameworks such as B Corporation and the Commons Society and have a design for how all shareholders and customer stakeholders can give input on meaningful decisions in the enterprise.
Within this framework the FARMING we do will be regenerative and so will transition the first 1000 acres we acquire from being farmed in a conventional way that likely degrades the soil and surrounding environment, relies on costly inputs such as pesticides and antibiotics and produces a narrow range of produce. Instead we will take a regenerative approach that focuses on the soil, does not use pesticides, antibiotics and capital intense machinery so ultimately creates abundant and diverse produce, at a lower cost. This also means we will put importance on profit per acre, which supports the business model of our enterprise.
The next aspect of our vertically integrated approach is that rather than sell our produce wholesale, we will generate more value from it by having our own processing capability and retail business. It allows us to create the kind of FOOD culture that recognises the full benefit of a regenerative approach to farming and food, as well as retain a greater share of every £1 spent both for ourselves, our shareholders and our stakeholders – the local community.
This is planned to progress from onsite retail grocery sales, to online and delivery.
Our enterprise is genuinely field to fork and truly regenerative and with the sense of urgency we have to create change, we want to be more than just a food or farming business. We want to make a significant impact socially, economically and ecologically, by helping reconnect us all to our role in nature.
Through radically natural farming, we will produce radically natural food which can help rewild ourselves and restore the balance that’s so needed.
You can read more about the impacts we will have in this blog post .