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What are Ecological Assets?

What are Ecological Assets?

Economies may be driven by human activity, but they are ultimately grounded in ecological resources and processes.

Economies may be driven by human activity, but they are ultimately grounded in ecological resources and processes.

Economies may be driven by human activity, but they are ultimately grounded in ecological resources and processes.

Our failure to recognize this fundamental reality is most evident in how we have constructed our food systems. While farmers get paid (albeit poorly, in many cases) for what they produce in terms of food, they receive little to no value for the ecosystem services that are generated by properly stewarding farms, forests, and waterways.

Ideally, farmers would be paid for their good stewardship, as well as their products, to accelerate a scientifically validated virtuous circle. Rewarding stewardship would incentivize practices that can enhance not only overall food production but also the nutritional quality of the food outcomes is quantified, through our MRV (Measurement, Reporting, & Verification) approach, ecosystem services become assets that have real economic value.

How do we unlock their value?

Regenerative Food Network (RFN) is dedicated to unlocking the ecological asset potential of working landscapes.

Regenerative Food Network (RFN) is dedicated to unlocking the ecological asset potential of working landscapes.

Ecological Asset Trusts enable farmers to aggregate their ecological rights together into a structure where they can partner with investors to share in the income and upside potential of ecological assets while providing a sustainable financing solution to develop the shared infrastructure and regional markets needed to drive a regenerative and equitable food system.

How do we scale?

“Ecological Asset Trusts” (EATs) offer a new opportunity to aggregate farmers’ collective economic power based on region and common values.

“Ecological Asset Trusts” (EATs) offer a new opportunity to aggregate farmers’ collective economic power based on region and common values.

The total value of ecosystems services provided by each participating farm would be assessed and verified so that each farm’s “Ecological Assets” would have a base value that will go up or down on an annual basis, depending upon how management practices and ecological conditions impact annual outcomes, determined by the EAT’s annual MRV processes. The EAT essentially transforms the farmer’s ecosystem services asset from something that currently has zero value into a viable financial resource that will provide both asset value and new annual dividends to the farm’s bottom line. RFN’s role as the manager of multiple EATs (20 planned over the next 5 years) provides a framework and a pathway to scaling regenerative food systems.

The choice is clear

Do we continue to design, manage, and fund our food systems at the expense of nature?

Do we continue to design, manage, and fund our food systems at the expense of nature?

Our partners are committed to embracing natural processes to reclaim degraded lands and rebuild ecological, social, and economic health. Carbon is a key building block in agroecosystems. However, ecological asset investment strategies for food systems transformation must go beyond carbon and encompass all aspects of healthy soil, water, air, and biodiversity. We leverage the expertise and passion of our partners into our MRV (Measurement, Reporting, & Verification) approach to determining the value of ecosystem services.

Benjamin Rutledge

Author Benjamin Rutledge

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