Natural capital for climate resilient farm systems

Building the business case for natural capital.
Project complete

In Partnership With:

National Australia Bank Limited
Insurance Australia Group Limited
Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology

Natural capital for climate resilient farm systems

Building the business case for natural capital

A 'constellation' is a cluster of projects grouped around a key theme. The Natural Capital Constellation for Climate Resilient Farm Systems is building the case for natural capital through a series of projects that help:

  • Farmers to adapt and improve their natural capital management according to their individual needs and financial and production goals.  
  • Financial institutions to understand, analyse and incorporate natural capital into their decision-making processes to lower their exposure to natural capital risk and improve their own resilience. This requires robust quantitative demonstrations of the link between natural capital indicators and financial performance.
  • Farmers to unlock new revenue streams, for example, by sharing their natural capital data in a way that allows them to access new markets or other financial benefits. This will require effective, trusted governance frameworks as well as new technology.
  • Reducing the cost of monitoring and reporting natural capital outcomes to make it easier for everyone to understand and manage natural capital.

What is natural capital in agrifood?

Natural capital is the foundation of profitable and resilient farm systems. It describes the stocks of renewable and non-renewable resources (e.g. plants, animals, air, water, soils and minerals) that produce flows of benefits to people (e.g. clean air, food, water, fibre, energy, shelter, medicine, flood defence, climate regulation, pollination and recreation).

Agriculture is the sector of the economy with the highest material dependency on natural capital. Adapting to a changing climate while feeding a global population of over 9 billion by 2050 without substantially depleting the global stock of natural capital will require significant investment in smarter, more resilient farming. Australia’s farmers are well positioned to take a leading role in this next agricultural transformation, with support from the research, financial and technology sectors.

Investing in natural capital is likely to increase farm businesses’ profitability and resilience in four ways:

  1. Increasing income by improving yield, quality and/or market value of products and potentially accessing additional revenue streams, such as soil carbon credits or biodiversity offsets.  
  1. Decreasing costs by using inputs more efficiently, reducing waste and natural asset depreciation.
  1. Increasing resilience to climatic and other stressors. For example, better soil health, including water holding capacity, makes crops and pasture more resilient to drought.
  1. Increasing and protecting the long-term value of the land and thus farm assets.

Building the business case

Realising the potential of natural capital to increase profitability and resilience requires efficient, cost-effective and reliable monitoring of natural capital indicators to enable direct links to financial decision-making. At present, a lack of consistent and cost-effective indicators and methods remains a key barrier to farmers, financial institutions and other key stakeholders incorporating natural capital into operational and financial decision-making. The Natural Capital Constellation focuses on addressing these major constraints in order to build the business case for investment in natural capital.

Our theory of change

How to get involved

Please get in touch if you are interesting with working with Food Agility CRC to deliver or support innovative research programs:

meet the team

Dr Madeline Mitchell

Science Lead, Carbon & Natural Capital Pillar ( - Madeline is a plant scientist with broad interests in the social, economic and environmental sustainability of agriculture. While at CSIRO and the University of Cambridge, she collaborated with industry and community partners as well as diverse researchers to understand plant growth and to develop novel food, fuel and fibre crops for the benefit of farmers, consumers and the environment.

Madeline is a member of the Riverine Plains farming system group’s Research Advisory Council and the Cambridge Australia Scholarships PhD selection committee. She is an advocate for gender equity, diversity and inclusion in STEM and an alumna of the global leadership initiative, Homeward Bound. Her skills in science communication have been recognised by an ACT Young Tall Poppy Award and selection in the Superstars of STEM program.

At Food Agility, she uses these diverse skills and interests to develop, contribute to and lead research projects to demonstrate the value of natural capital and carbon in farm systems for productive, profitable and climate resilient farm systems.

Madeline holds a joint role with Food Agility and the School of Global, Urban and Social Studies at RMIT University.

Dr Francisco Ascui

Food Agility Natural Capital Advisor Francisco Ascui is an internationally recognised expert in natural capital accounting, finance and risk management, with over 20 years’ experience across business, government and academia. He has a PhD in Management (Edinburgh), an MBA (Cambridge),and an MSc in Environmental Change and Management (Oxford). His work on carbon accounting was identified by the UK Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) as one of 50 landmark research contributions over the last 50 years and in recent years he has pioneered a new approach to evaluating natural capital credit risk in agricultural lending, now published as an official guide by the Natural Capital Finance Alliance.

Prof Lauren Rickards

Food Agility Natural Capital Advisor ( - Lauren Rickards is a Professor in the Sustainability and Urban Planning group of the School of Global, Urban and Social Studies at RMIT University. She is co-leader of the Climate Change Transformations research program in the Centre for Urban Research at RMIT and leader of the Nature, Risk and Resilience study group of the Institute of Australian Geographers.


Mitchell, M.C., Pritchard, J., Okada, S., Zhang, J., Venables, I., Vanhercke, T. and Ral, J.P., 2020. Increasing growth and yield by altering carbon metabolism in a transgenic leaf oil crop. Plant Biotechnology Journal,

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