The world faces complex sustainability challenges requiring immediate attention, where food system transformation can offer one of the key solutions. Soil represents the basis of our food production. This makes it necessary to put it at the centre of sustainable food system transformations. To achieve a more sustainable primary production, there is a need for adopting soil management practices that improve its health and productivity. Sequestering more carbon in soils appears to be a highly promising management practice in this regard, as it has been shown to have multiple benefits on soil productivity.
Despite the existence of multiple sustainable soil management practices increasing carbon in soils, their adoption remains low in Norway and elsewhere. One of the reasons is high costs of such practices for farmers, while common policy approaches for overcoming financial barriers – subsidies, grants, and tax incentives – have experienced limited success.
Hence, there is a pressing need for a new innovative approach to ensure that farmers are sufficiently paid for their effort. In KARBONMAT we argue that this can be done through the development of sustainable business model (SBM) concepts for carbon sequestering soil management practices. KARBONMAT will do this by working together closely with relevant stakeholders and by involving a highly interdisciplinary research team from both social and natural sciences. In co-production with relevant stakeholders, KARBONMAT designs SBM concepts for carbon sequestering soils in Norwegian agriculture. Identifying ways to exploit and maximise the potential of this opportunity, to foster healthy soils, capture GHG emissions, improve biodiversity and transform the sustainability of primary production is at the heart of the KARBONMAT project.
Food system transformation is key to addressing multiple interlocking sustainability challenges, whilst continuing to provide safe food and rural economic opportunities. However, at present, food systems contribute to exacerbating these challenges. There is a crucial need for innovation in the food systems to enable transition towards more sustainable practices. However, one key dimension, which has largely been neglected, is soil. Soil with its multitude of organisms provides ecosystem services and sustains food production systems, which makes it necessary to put soil at the centre of sustainable food system transformations. There is a need for adopting soil management practices that improve the carbon capture, microbial biodiversity and thus productivity of soils for more sustainable primary production. Sequestering more carbon in soils appears to be a highly promising management practice. It has been shown to have multiple benefits on soil productivity.
There are a wide range of soil management practices that can increase carbon in soils. Nevertheless, these have proven to be costly for famers. As a result, adoption of sustainable soil health management practices remains low in Norway and elsewhere. Hence, there is a pressing need for new regulatory frameworks, and innovative business models to ensure that farmers are paid for their effort. In KARBONMAT we argue that this can be done through the development of sustainable business models (SBMs) for carbon sequestering soil management practices that are co-developed with stakeholders. The project applies a highly interdisciplinary approach encompassing both social and natural sciences. In co-production with relevant stakeholders, KARBONMAT designs SBM concepts for carbon sequestering soils in Norwegian agriculture as a novel socio-technical practice that promotes the transition towards more sustainable food systems.