Case Studies

Case study – Dan Herdman at Acton Farms, member of Regenerate Outcomes

Case study – Dan Herdman at Acton Farms, member of Regenerate Outcomes 1100 1277 Soilmentor

Case study – Dan Herdman of Acton Farms, member of Regenerate Outcomes

We recently caught up with Dan Herdman at Acton Farm, a hill farm in Northumberland, with over 1200 acres running around 600 breeding ewes and 30 cattle. 

Dan uses Soilmentor as part of Regenerate Outcomes, an organisation that helps farmers create revenue streams from the generation of carbon credits and payments for other environmental services on their farm. Regenerate Outcomes offers advice through a mentoring programme which promotes and supports the transition towards regenerative agriculture.

As part of their mentoring, Regenerate Outcomes works with advisory groups such as Understanding Ag and 3LM, a support network aiming to provide advice to farmers on how to reduce input costs, improve plant and animal health and increase profits through harnessing biodiversity on their farms.

Regenerate Outcomes helps their members to baseline, monitor and track changes in their soil health, carbon profile and other positive environmental impacts from their farming methods. To assist with this data collection, Regenerate Outcomes farmers such as Dan are offered access to Soilmentor, alongside their soil coaches, who can access each farmers’ account to give advice based on observations made and soil health results collected.

Historically, Acton had been farmed organically, however in 2013, after 15 years of organic treatment, the farm transitioned to more conventional methods of grassland management, using nitrogen fertiliser to accelerate sward growth, but struggled to make this profitable. Two years ago, inspired after visiting a friend’s farm, Dan decided to start experimenting  with more regenerative methods of grassland and livestock management on 100 acres of his land, including planting species-rich herbal leys and implementing mob grazing strategies. This involved moving livestock onto fresh pasture everyday, allowing a minimum of 30 days recovery and leaving one third of the grass standing to build soil health and improve pasture quality. Now in his second season of mob grazing Dan has really started to see the results!

“We’ve seen massive improvements, I wish I had photos of when the farm was run conventionally, we would make sure the animals had every piece of grass that was available – now moving the herd in a mob grazing system we have so much more grass!”

                          Sheep grazing on herbal leys taken from Acton Farms Soilmentor account

Dan tells us that the regenerative transition has had it’s challenges, but he can see the positives and is keen to carry on progressing:

“I wouldn’t say it’s the easiest thing to do! The old story of just letting your sheep into a field and checking them once a day was easy. Now there’s the added work of putting the fences up and moving their water, but we’re getting there”

“It’s been a slow process, hindsight is a wonderful thing, we should have put the infrastructure such as water in previously, but are looking at finding grants to put water systems in”

One of the biggest obstacles Dan faces at Acton is forming grazing plans around the prolific growth of rushes and heather that still cover around 800 acres of the land, and limits the amount of forage available to his livestock. To combat this, stocking rates are either reduced in these areas or intensified to trample the vegetation down and encourage competition from grasses and other flora.

“I try not to go past that 50-60%, but sometimes I get the parcel size wrong and the animals just decimate it – It’s all a massive learning curve but I see all the positives, that’s the main thing. I can see the grass growing, I can see the diversity coming back, we have so much more wildlife present this year – black grouse, curlews, pewit’s – there’s definite signs that things are happening”

Images taken from Acton Farms Soilmentor account – observing the new presence of insect and flora diversity

This year Dan has decided to convert the whole farm over to a rotational grazing system and is using Soilmentor to support this transition.

Acton farm uses the daily observation feature to keep track of changes in sward growth and record the various plant and animal species returning to the farm. This feature is also regularly used to assist livestock movements – recording how long the herd spent in each parcel and noting areas of soil disturbance caused by overgrazing or reduced ground cover. 

                     Screenshot of groundcover report taken from Acton farms Soilmentor account

Using Soilmentor in this way can help develop a farmer’s understanding of the changes that are happening on the land over an extended period of time. The grazing impact experienced on each parcel of land will affect the growth of grass in the following year, ultimately influencing the health of the soil and the resilience and functionality of the whole farm ecosystem.

“Soilmentor has helped us keep track of the 30 – 35 day rest period we allow for before the animals come back to the same area, it’s nice to look back at the photos and to keep track of the new diversity appearing”

General observations taken on Acton Farms Soilmentor account, noting different sward lengths and trampling effects in mob grazing parcels and areas of high compaction or soil disturbance

Dan is now keen to use Soilmentor to help him develop his understanding of soil health and how it affects pasture quality and livestock nutrition.

Another learning Dan has made through increased observation, is that although his grasslands look healthier after moving to mob grazing, his livestock have not performed so well this year. He has noticed problems with magnesium deficiencies in his cattle during calving time, an issue which he has not experienced before.

Interested in learning more about how soil health affects the quality of his grasslands, last month Dan took part in a webinar hosted by Regenerate Outcomes with live Soilmentor coaching from Nicole Masters, agro-ecologist extraordinaire & founder of Integrity Soils!

During the webinar Nicole and four Regenerate farmers, including Dan, discussed how the Regen Indicator results they gathered from their soil testing can be used to monitor soil health, and influence future management decisions on their farms.

                  Screenshot of the The Regen Platform taken from Acton Farms Soilmentor account

When recording results for the Brix Barometer Dan shared with Nicole that the brix of his weeds was a lot higher than the brix of his grasses. Nicole re-iterated advice from the Regen Platform here – if your weeds have a higher brix than your desirables, this indicates your soil needs some support! If the weeds have a lower brix than your crops, you don’t need to intervene – your crops will outcompete the weeds in time.

Another observation made was the difference in infiltration rates between the fields. Two of Dan’s fields had very low infiltration rates taking over 20 minutes for the water to be fully absorbed, whilst another field with the same recent heavy rainfall took just under four minutes. Nicole explained that the secret to this difference is in soil structure – healthy soil acts as a sponge, absorbing the rain deeper into the profile.

Pictures of soil structure on a field with lower infiltration (left) and the field with high infiltration (right) taken from Acton Farms Soilmentor account, with the right hand field showing stronger signs of aggregation

Nicole then took a deeper dive into what may be causing this lack of stability. It was discussed that regularly fertilising the soil with urine, manure and green matter through mob grazing on a 30 day rotation will only feed the bacteria population in the soil. If a soil becomes bacteria dominated it will start to lose structure, restricting the movement of water through the soil profile.

Nicole went on to explain that although a grassland may have sufficient regrowth aboveground, and therefore look ready to graze, belowground the plant’s roots systems may not have fully recovered. Re-grazing without allowing sufficient rest periods will inhibit the growth of strong root structures reducing water cycling and the formation of aggregates.

As we can see from Dan’s Regen Dashboard the rooting depth of his grass swards are in either amber or red in our traffic light system meaning that they are averaging below what we consider a healthy level and in need of some attention! 

Dan and Nicole then compared two areas within the last sample field. One section within this field suffered with waterlogging, had a lack of soil structure and grew mostly Rushes which reduced its digestibility for livestock. In order to understand what is the limiting factor causing these issues Nicole encouraged Dan to review how the grassland is being managed and consider: is this a soil health issue due to a hardpan deeper in the soil level, high bacteria dominance or a mineral imbalance such as high magnesium and potassium or low calcium (which can cause soil structures to become tight). Or is this an issue caused by previous management decisions or other environmental factors like the presence of a natural spring.

Pictures of soil structure and water saturation in the main area (left) and wet area (right) of the field

Using the Regen Platform, simple on-farm soil tests and daily observation features in Soilmentor Dan can start to build up a picture of his soil’s health and determine what is the limiting factor causing these issues on his grasslands. Once the cause is established Dan will receive regenerative pointers from Nicole through the Regen Platform.

“There is a lot of guesswork as you transition to regen but it’s sort of the educated guesswork that is important.” – Dan Herdman

It was great to talk to Dan and hear how Soilmentor has supported his transition to regenerative agriculture and look forward to working with him on building his soil health at Acton Farm.

This is a brilliant example of the power of soil observation and how important it is to understand what is happening below ground when making management decisions on a farm. We love to be able to offer Soilmentor users a subscription option that incorporates tips from agroecological practitioners such as Nicole and feel these connections provide great value to our community!

If you want to learn more about Soilmentor, and how we might support your operation, get in touch with us on – we’re always happy to chat!

Using Soilmentor as an organisation to support farmers on their regenerative journey – Soils for Life Australia

Using Soilmentor as an organisation to support farmers on their regenerative journey – Soils for Life Australia 1108 490 Soilmentor

Soils for Life Australia use Soilmentor as a key tool in their regenerative transition programme

Soilmentor supporting remote coaching with Nicole Masters

Soils for Life is an independent, not-for-profit organisation that works across Australia to support farmers in regenerating soils and landscapes, to build natural and social capital, and transform food and fibre systems. As part of their farmer-led Paddock Labs initiative, the farmers and Soils for Life team had access to Soilmentor for a year to  monitor their soils, record day-to-day observations and to experiment and learn together from their results.

In Spring, the farmers joined an exclusive online mentoring session with Nicole Masters. Using Soilmentor they were able to each share results from their Regen Indicator tests in key paddocks and benchmark their results in the Regen Platform. It was brilliant to see such focused support, as Nicole was able to work directly with each farmer on the results they were seeing in their fields, giving them confidence and insights into where to go next in their specific context. This was taking the things to the next level from a more general learning webinar, as it helped farmers to build on their skills to think regeneratively and apply learnings based on what they were seeing.

Watch the video below to learn more about the Regen Indicators and to see how they work in this context, and how Soilmentor can be an important tool for organisations working with farmers on their regenerative journey and enable access to high quality support through remote coaching.

If you are part of a farming group, organisation or cluster, and are interested in buying a Soilmentor group package, please get in touch with us on!

Soils for Life training video – using the Regen Platform, with Nicole Masters

Why use Soilmentor as an organisation?

Empowering farmers in the field – allowing farmers to monitor their own soil health & record simple day to day observations to document the regenerative journey (e.g. wildlife observations, inputs added, and grazing patterns).

Sharing results – data collected and observations made can be shared remotely to anyone in the team or group. The platform can be used as a knowledge exchange between the farmers, advisors and the organisation team.

Back up decisions & recommendations with robust data and monitor group progress made towards objectives.

Supporting farmers to experiment with innovative practices and build knowledge, allowing you to document what is and isn’t working on the farm.

Case Study: Garrettstown Farm, Ireland – Learning about soils with the power of observation

Case Study: Garrettstown Farm, Ireland – Learning about soils with the power of observation 1600 1200 Soilmentor

Learning about soils with the power of observation – Garrettstown Farm, Ireland

Our latest Soilmentor case study is with David Corrigan, a farmer and soil enthusiast learning more about his soils with the power of observation. David farms at Garrettstown, a 230 acre dairy farm in County Carlow, Ireland, which has been passed down through six or seven generations of farming families.

David told us he’s always had an interest in biology, but in recent years he’s begun to take a closer look at soil ecosystems, in his journey to move away from a reliance on agri-chemical companies and chemical inputs at Garrettstown. His online research led him to regenerative farming, and he stumbled upon soil health specialists such as John Kempf, Christine Jones, Walter Jehne and Nicole Masters. 

When looking for soil courses to join, David was drawn to Nicole Masters’ Soil Health Foundations course through Integrity Soils. Nicole’s experience working with pasture-based and intensive dairy farms in New Zealand felt relevant to his context, and her focus on exploring soil processes in more depth suited his needs.

Now, David is putting his learnings into practice and using Soilmentor to support the Soil Health Foundations course, recording his own soil health observations, checking the history of tests done at each field, and benchmarking his results on the Regen Platform dashboard:

I’m using Soilmentor more and more as I learn more, and realise the full potential of it. Some of the first things I realised was that the application of artificial fertiliser was detrimental to the health of the soil, and this is a gradual weaning process. It’s a matter of getting confidence that as you progress you can still produce. That’s where I am at the moment – learning the links between different soil processes and observing as I go…

Photos added by David Corrigan to Soilmentor, recording butterfly species spotted around the farm

One of the benefits of Soilmentor is you can record successes, and perhaps some failures or mistakes along the regenerative journey…

The power of observation has become more important. I find myself observing more than I would have done before when walking across the field or besides a hedgerow. Now I’m more inclined to look around and check things, seeing how much life is there. Now my sense of what a good field of grass is, is a lot different to what it would have been 12 years ago. I used to look for a field that’s nice and green with no weeds in it, now it’s totally different – brix readings are more important now, I’m looking for completely different things.

Some of the more in depth insights he learnt from Nicole’s course have guided what David is interested in monitoring and observing on Soilmentor…

I’m beginning to understand how trace elements may be affecting the legumes or soil structure. These tests are a good stepping stone to launch from – it’s very useful and stimulating. I have photographs of nodules on the roots of my crops [on Soilmentor]. It’s extremely valuable to be able to make and record these observations myself: what I found is, an awful lot of farmers don’t know if their clover is fixing nitrogen, or they don’t know what to look for, so it’s wonderful to be able to do that.

Photos added by David Corrigan to Soilmentor, referencing legume nodule scoring

Changes in the Irish climate in recent years have also catalysed David’s regenerative journey:

Since 2018 every summer here is getting drier – it’s becoming more and more important to understand how to deal with prolonged periods of dry weather, and the importance of building organic matter and deeper roots for this purpose…

My vision for the future would be to put in more multi-species swards, reduce artificial fertiliser, try to cut out virtually all chemical weed sprays and instead use seaweed, bio-stimulants, trace elements – possibly soft rock phosphate, everything to enhance the soil rather than trying to destroy something. Trying to get deeper roots, hopefully store some carbon, and cope with the drier months.

In order to improve the resilience of his grazing land, David told us he’s looking to shift his pasture to better cope with drier conditions, and has been experimenting with sowing multispecies crops, and integrating the grazing of his heifers on his arable land.

Reflecting on his regenerative experiments, David told us:

Farming in this way, you’re that much closer to nature, and you’re trying to see what you can improve the health of – you’re not thinking about ‘what you can kill today’ as Gabe Brown says. I feel closer to nature and part of an ecosystem, rather than being the owner and the driver of it – you realise that you’re only a part of that. You have to give due recognition to your fellow species.

Photos added by David Corrigan to Soilmentor, making observations at different sample sites

Some of David’s neighbouring farms have also begun to change their mindset over the last couple of years – 

It feels like there’s a growing movement – it’s nice to be part of something that’s growing traction… it’s good because you don’t feel quite so isolated, and you can give each other support

We love how David uses Soilmentor to record wildlife observations, inputs added, soil temperatures, and grazing patterns. We’re interested to see how David’s regenerative journey progresses at Garrettstown, and how his soil observations continue to guide his insights and farming practice.

Do get in touch with us at if you’d like to learn more about our collaboration with Nicole Masters and the Regen Platform – we’re always keen to hear from you. 

Case study: KUHproKLIMA group in Germany

Case study: KUHproKLIMA group in Germany 2560 1920 Soilmentor

Case study: Francisco Telles Varela & the KUHproKLIMA Germany group

We’re really proud to have supported the KUHproKLIMA group in Germany with their farming research project over the last couple of years.

We recently caught up with Francisco Telles Varela about how their research is going, and how soil monitoring and observation supports their project aims.

Could you give us a summary of the KUHproKLIMA project and what you’re hoping to achieve? 

The KUHproKLIMA (or Cow for the Climate) project is an on-farm practice-oriented research project, created by farmers for farmers in the pre-alpine region of Allgäu in South Germany, where seven dairy / meat farms dared to take new steps in the direction of environmentally friendly and regenerative farming.

Christine Bajohr, one of the seven farmers, has created the project that is funded by the EU program EIP-AGRI, in which science and practice jointly research how nature-based grassland management can improve ecosystem processes and services, which will contribute to climate and resource protection. Our goal is to treat the results in such a way that they can be implemented in everyday practice and are comparable with other studies.

For this, in the KUHproKLIMA project, the use of cows is of central importance, as their co-evolutionary development with grasslands makes them suitable for improving the synergies between soil, plants and animals.

The knowledge and experience obtained during the project have been shared through workshops and field days. An online platform for ongoing documentation as well as exchange between farmers was also created, and the outcomes, jointly developed by scientists and the farmers, will be presented in a practical guideline available as a free download on our website at the end of the project. 

Could you also give us an explanation of how you have designed the project to test the effects of different grazing techniques?

The aim of the project lies in holistic grazing management adapted to the location as well as the precise promotion of active soil life. That includes initial analyses of each site, herd, type of vegetation (biodiversity), carbon and infrastructure.  After these initial baseline assessments, the “Holistic Planned Grazing” pasture management (following the methods of Allan Savory) combined with improvement of soil life (liquid compost extract applications) were introduced during the project on all farms. Based on the inventory of the participating farms, individual land planning concepts were developed to improve the pasture areas mainly by planting hedges and trees.

Workshops were hosted in order to introduce the concepts of Holistic Management and Holistic Planned Grazing multi-paddock system to all seven farmers. Also, an app was provided to each farmer where the initial grazing paddocks were designed and inserted, and data regarding pasture dry matter before and after grazing has been recorded. This monitoring tool provides useful data to inform farmers to better adapt their management regarding pasture productivity, grazing times/periods, number of animals, paddock design, etc.

What have been the biggest challenges to you as a group?

Perhaps the most challenging but also the most rewarding and valuable, has been to try to match scientifically sound research with the daily-life activities of the farm and farmer. The conventional scientific method wants dozens of replicates with very controlled conditions. This is not possible in an on-farm research environment and we had to take this into consideration in the design, and adapt along the way. Things change all the time on a farm, but we know this is the sort of complementary science we also need; science that studies complexity

Embracing the complexity of nature and research directly into the ecosystem is more difficult, adding to the social unpredictability of farming daily operations, but we believe this is a type of work and research that should be done more to find urgent solutions for our current challenges

The on-farm experimentation & research approach that we are taking, and already looking for new coming projects, is fundamental to bridging the gap between fundamental scientific research and farming practical challenges, and we aim to develop these concepts to help others create similar projects in different contexts.

How has using Soilmentor supported you to achieve your project goals? Could you give an example of a way that Soilmentor has benefited you?

In order to measure the progress and effects on plant and soil health by the grazing methods and the microbial inoculations, twice a year (Spring & Fall), more than 15 different measurements are carried out on the test areas of all seven farms, which allow statements to be made about various developments, such as soil structure, erosion and compaction, water infiltration, the development of plant species, Brix values and biodiversity levels in flora and fauna. This monitoring work has been fundamental in understanding the immense complexity of these ecosystems and for this, using the Soilmentor app has been key

Soilmentor makes our fieldwork very efficient and quick, recording all the data points directly in the field and smoothly transferring all the data to the online platform automatically where we can work later on treating the data for research purposes. We can not really imagine doing the field work without Soilmentor anymore, as using paper forms and pens in the very wet Allgäu region would be a disaster besides the immense time we would have to be introducing data later on spreadsheets.

What do you feel have been the biggest successes so far as a project, & are you able to share any early outcomes?

We are still collecting and treating our data points for the project until March 2023, and we are now planning the extension of the project for a further 3 years in order to obtain more long-term data, therefore there are not many relevant numbers to share so far. But one success we can highlight already is the farmers’ quality of life. 

Several of the project farmers’ that started adopting the Holistic Management framework expressed that they have reduced their work-load and have more free time, leading to a more balanced and happier life. This makes us already quite happy as a team, knowing that just by changing management it is possible to improve farmers’ quality of life, in a profession with the highest rate of suicide globally.

How important is observation to you to support the KUHproKLIMA project?

Our project supports a more agro-ecological and regenerative way of farming, and we know that if we want to improve our lands in a regenerative trend there are no recipes, every farm context is different. We heard this before many times but actually, we proved it during the project, based on our monitoring results where very similar practices applied in the seven farms produce very different results. So, observing, measuring and reading each context well over time is absolutely key for good management decision making on the land.

Case Study: Philip Fernandez & EIT Food

Case Study: Philip Fernandez & EIT Food 1600 900 Soilmentor

Case study – Soilmentor organisations:
Philip Fernandez at EIT Food (part 1)

EIT (European Institute of Innovation & Technology) is a body of the EU, working to drive innovation in business, education and research across Europe. We’re proud to be supporting EIT Food with Soilmentor, on one of their projects monitoring the impact of regenerative farming on soil health

EIT Food has created the Regenerative Agriculture Revolution project, aiming to support farmers to learn how to transition to more sustainable methods of farming. This began with a focus on the Mediterranean, as farmers in this region have been disproportionately affected by climate change, and conventional agriculture practices have exacerbated soil degradation and erosion, water scarcity, biodiversity loss and low yields in these areas. These environmental issues, as well as high input costs, have left many farmers struggling for financial survival. Aiming to revert these trends, EIT Food is supporting Southern European farmers to introduce regenerative methods, while measuring ecosystem improvements and spreading public awareness about the benefits of these methods. 

We are proud to have worked with the EIT Food team over the last year to create a bespoke soil monitoring protocol that is currently used across 75 farms in Spain and Portugal. 

We recently caught up with Philip Fernandez, Agriculture Project Manager at EIT Food, for the first part of a case study to learn more about EIT, and how they use Soilmentor.

EIT soil testing under ovine observation

Could you describe the project you are using Soilmentor to support?

Soilmentor is key to the project we’ve been developing at EIT, which is looking at how regenerative agriculture practices impact soil health. We’re advising and supporting 75 farmers currently, all of whom are being advised by regenerative agriculture experts. We need Soilmentor as a tool to allow us to monitor and record environmental and soil health improvements on these farms.

Soilmentor is key to us for three reasons:

  1. First and foremost, it’s a tool that helps farmers appreciate the importance of the soil in regenerative agriculture. This is a big mindset change – instead of focusing solely on crops and what goes on above the ground, it helps them to realise and appreciate what is going on below our feet, and to focus on what they can do to improve soil health.
  2. It’s also key for agronomists advising the farmers – another tool (in addition to physical, chemical and soil lab analysis) that they have to monitor progress. As it’s cheaper to use, and farmers can use it themselves, it gives a broader picture of the farm. Our EIT Food budget allows us to send one soil sample to the lab per year, per farm. Obviously these are diversified farms with different plots, so Soilmentor helps us to track progress on different plots on the same farm. This is especially important because by definition regenerative agriculture involves diversity – so we can’t treat a farm as just one soil sample.
  3. Third, at the level of EIT Food, Soilmentor helps to see if we are meeting our objective to make Europe’s food systems healthier and more sustainable. The tool also helps us to monitor whether what we are doing makes sense – whether the practice fits the theory, and to prove to EU tax payers that this is money well spent.
Soil testing with the EIT team

How does your project fit into the wider space that you’re seeing out there – and how are people responding to it?

In Southern Europe it’s a unique project. There are similar projects in other parts of the world, but it feels like we’re doing something that is pioneering and unique in Southern and Eastern Europe where we operate. 

I know there have been scientific studies done with a similar focus, and we do not claim to be carrying out a scientific study, but we know this project will be valuable. We’re trying to connect regenerative practices to improvements in soil health on many different sizes and types of farmland and ecosystems

It will be interesting to see if we can draw some valid conclusions – we’re not comparing side by side test plots, but if we can see across 75 farms, that in 60 there’s been a significant improvement in soil health and soil organic matter, I think that’s really valuable!

We’re aiming to build a community this year – there’s an enormous desire in these farmers who are transitioning to reach out and understand what other farmers are doing. Often regenerative farmers are viewed by their peers as ‘the crazy person in the village’, with messy fields and weeds everywhere. So they come to our training courses, and meet other farmers doing the same thing in different places. Emotionally this can be very supportive, and we’re keen on creating this community. Soilmentor also links to this with the new benchmarking function – even though it’s anonymous, it gives a sense that they are not alone, and it’s useful to be able to compare and look at how others are doing. 

Who has been using the app so far, and why, and what did they think about it? 

The main users have been the agronomists and soil experts so far. We’ve had a soil advisor travelling round to visit 65 farms across Spain and Portugal, conducting tests and using the same methodology and criteria for each, and adding all of this information to the Soilmentor app. 

There’s a lot of data on the individual farm accounts already, and as soon as we fully launch we’ll have farmers using it with their own logins. We’re about to release videos to be available on Youtube, which we filmed to show how to do each of the tests. We’re going to translate these into Portuguese, Spanish, Italian and Polish. 

EIT soil advisor Iris taking baseline measurements

What are you most excited about with this project right now? 

We’re excited to see the potential of this tool. There have been two important milestones for us recently. 

The first was when we finished collecting our baseline measurements across all of the farms, and our soil health expert had inputted this information into each of the Soilmentor accounts. 

The second was when we started to look at all of this information, combining it with physical and chemical data from soil samples sent to the lab, and economic information we had for each of the farms, alongside visual soil assessments. Seeing all of these metrics in one place was really exciting for us

EIT baseline soil tests – root legume nodules & rhizosheaths

What are the next steps? Is there anything else you would like to share? 

The next step for us is getting these videos published, as well as collating information on each of the farm’s biomes and rainfall metrics so we can get started with using the Regen Platform benchmarking. 

We’re also excited to plan a webinar for all the farmers, to explain how Soilmentor works, alongside learnings from physical and chemical analysis provided by a member of our team.

We’re really proud to be supporting this inspiring project, with such wide-reaching aims and impacts. We admire EIT’s genuine focus on supporting the farmers on the ground with this project. The individual farmers are, as Philip put it, EIT’s “key stakeholders”.

We’re excited to continue our collaboration with EIT, and to see how the farmers get on with using Soilmentor after the official launch. Watch this space… we’re planning on publishing a second part to this case study as the project develops further!

The Journey to a Regenerative Mindset – ORFC 2022

The Journey to a Regenerative Mindset – ORFC 2022 2796 1478 Soilmentor

The Journey to a Regenerative Mindset

At ORFC 2022, we hosted a session digging into the mindset shift required to transition to regenerative farming. What changes are required as we shift our relationship to the land and landscapes and what does that feel like? What are the uncomfortable bits?

Inevitably in farming so many questions arise, how do you navigate this day to day? The regenerative journey takes many forms. It’s one of experimentation, adaptation, and openness to making mistakes. It is important to build frameworks that support feelings, to find freedom in uncertainty and learn how this change in mindset can lead to further thinking, such as on land justice, economic decisions, and societal equity.

Tune into our talk with Caroline Grindrod of Roots of Nature, Clare Hill of FAI Farms, and Sam and Claire Beaumont of Gowbarrow Farm below, to learn from their experiences in supporting this shift, and how this new mindset is relevant to life beyond farming.

Case Study: Clare Hill at FAI Farms

Case Study: Clare Hill at FAI Farms 1144 1322 Soilmentor

Case Study: Clare Hill at FAI Farms

Since 2001, FAI have farmed 1200 acres of Oxford University owned land in Oxfordshire, running a ewe flock, a suckler herd, egg laying hens and forage making land as well as hosting trial facilities for on-farm research. Clare Hill is the farm manager at FAI.

After noticing cracked ground in spring on fields that had suffered flooding in winter, Clare began focusing her attention on building more resilience in their soils, and decided to transition to a regenerative system.

Clare and the team at FAI have been using Soilmentor to collect a baseline of soil health measurements and biodiversity observations, so that they can monitor their progress over time, and see the benefits of their regenerative management decisions in real time.

FAI are collecting a lot of data in Soilmentor, and are able to send their soil health data to their clients, to demonstrate the benefits of their regenerative system. They have found Soilmentor is much easier than using spreadsheets as they did before.

Photo Credit: Ben Pike

Soilmentor is helping us to really see what’s going on with our soils, and it’s been amazing to have that instant feedback – no labs – just getting back in touch with the land. It’s given us an insight we didn’t have before, and it’s so simple with all the information in one place.”

“The first year of data collection is all about understanding the data and the processes, then we will be able to train others to monitor the benefits of the regenerative transition, starting with soils. Since changing our grazing we are starting to see many more butterflies, bees and birds, and we’re excited to see how this builds over time with Soilmentor”

Caroline Grindrod of Wilderculture helped to advise the new grazing system at FAI, which now involves much longer rest periods, with larger herds of animals grazed rotationally, to allow the grasses to grow longer and create better root systems in the ground.

Clare’s noticed that the cattle are now browsing much more, and will eat everything in their cell – nettles, buttercups, and the herbal leys: “set stocked animals become lazy and don’t try eating anything other than grass”.

We’re excited to support FAI’s soil monitoring journey going forward, and to see how their new grazing system changes their soil health results over time.

Case study: Peter & Henri Greig at Pipers Farm

Case study: Peter & Henri Greig at Pipers Farm 545 565 Soilmentor

Case Study: Peter & Henri Greig at Pipers Farm

Pipers Farm is a 50 acre permanent pasture family farm in Devon, with native-breed cattle and sheep herds. Peter and Henri Greig are the founders and farmers at Pipers Farm, and they also work to support an additional 25 family farms, to connect their customers with healthy produce that has been farmed with a focus on traditional, sustainable values.

Peter and Henri began mob-grazing three years ago to improve their soil health and increase the productivity of their grassland. When they first started mob grazing they noticed they were grazing the pasture too hard, so they’re now in the process of learning to optimise their grazing technique to leave more forage and allow a better root structure to develop.

Recording photos at specific sample sites on Soilmentor helps Peter and Henri to keep track of changes to their soil over time.

Soilmentor has given Peter and Henri a toolkit to stay in touch with their management journey, allowing them to monitor their soil health progress as they go:
“Soilmentor is an exciting revelation to us. It feels like we’ve opened a whole encyclopedia of wisdom, and we’re unravelling the ancient story of our land. Soilmentor has become our eyes and ears to monitor our regenerative farming journey, learning from nature as we go…
We got a good base line of soil health measurements last winter, and we’re excited to see how these might change after our efforts to increase resting periods in our grazing. The first holes we dug we realised our roots were very small, and we’re hoping to see our grass roots lengthen into the soil and improve our VESS scores”

The Greigs have been doing regular sward stick readings and recording their results in Soilmentor in order to optimise their mob grazing.
By tracking their forage with sward readings, they can monitor their DM/ha, and make sure they aren’t grazing their pasture too hard before moving their livestock on:

We can’t wait to see how the years ahead progress at Pipers Farm. Hopefully we’ll see the soils gain an improved structure and resilience as Peter and Henri perfect their grazing technique! 

Want to know more about Regenerative Farming? Here are our top resources!

Want to know more about Regenerative Farming? Here are our top resources! 595 596 Soilmentor

New to all this? These resources are a great place to start:
(scroll down for more in-depth info)

What is regenerative agriculture? 

Still not sure exactly what it means to be a regenerative farmer? This is a great Groundswell short video to get you up to speed;  the key messages of regenerative farming are laid out with interviews and animations.

Talk: Charles Massy – TEDx

Now you know what regenerative farming is, but how do you apply it? Charles Massy’s talk at TEDxCanberra “How regenerative farming can help heal the planet and human health” is an inspiring resource that discusses the wider impacts of an ecological approach to farming.

Talk & in the field: Nicole Masters – renowned agroecologist

Meet Nicole, who shares insights in this video on the regenerative agriculture movement in New Zealand. Find out about the importance of soil biology and the profitability of regenerative practises. Watch more of Nicole’s videos here.

Talk: Gabe Brown – Keys to Building a Healthy Soil

Gabe Brown’s lecture at the Idaho Sustainable Agriculture symposium is a great in-depth explanation of how regenerative agriculture methods keep soil healthy.

Youtube: Groundswell Agriculture

Our next stop is the Groundswell youtube channel, sharing recordings of facsinating talks from their past events. Word on the street is there will be new videos posted in lieu of this year’s cancelled show – so worth a subscribe to stay in the loop!

Podcast: Farmerama Radio

Our sister podcast – Farmerama shares new regenerative farming stories every month. The recent five-part series ‘Cereal’ is worth checking out – taking a deep dive on cereals, milling, baking, supply chains, and the importance of regenerating this system.

Youtube: Cotswold Seeds

The Cotswold Seeds Youtube channel has some great resources on the benefits of diversifying your rotation, and the amazing benefits cover crops and herbal leys can provide for soil health.

Ready to dive deeper into regenerative farming? Let’s go!

Articles, Audio & Video: Integrated Soils

There’s a great list of resources on Joel Wiliams’s Integrated Soils website – including audio clips, videos, and articles worth exploring to learn from Joel’s experience in soil health, plant nutrition and sustainable food production.

Farmer profiles, Research, Blogs: Agricology

Thirsty for more? Agricology is a knowledge exchange network, providing an interface between farmers, researchers and organisations. The Agricology site is bursting with innovative resources, with a focus on agroecological methods that are practical and sustainable.

Articles, Research & Podcasts: Sustainable Food Trust

Regenerative farming is all about healthy food. The Sustainable Food Trust website is home to a plethora of great articles and informative resources which aim “to accelerate the transition to more sustainable food systems”. The SFT podcast is also well worth checking out – including interviews with some key figures in sustainable farming and policy.

Podcast: Regenerative Agriculture with John Kempf

This is a brilliant podcast for anyone who wants to learn about the science and principles behind regenerative farming. A regenerative feast for the ears!

Research, Videos & Community: The Savory Institute

The Savory Institute is a great resource for those interested in mob grazing of livestock for the regeneration of grasslands. There are plenty of informative videos and information on regional holistic grazing hubs to connect with.

Innovative thinking: The College for Real Farming and Food Culture

The College for Real Farming and Food Culture aim to establish Enlightened Agriculture as the global norm, and to encourage complementary food cultures. Their website is full of interesting information about the college and its ideas.

Blog & Courses: Niels Corfield, Soils Advisor

Our resident soils advisor has a great selection of informative regenerative agriculture blogs on Medium – it’s well worth digging into this archive!

Courses: FarmEd

FarmEd is the centre for Farming & Food Education, with a mission “to accelerate the transition towards regenerative farming and sustainable food systems”. The website has some great resources to read up on, we particularly enjoy their seasonal wildlife updates!

Handbook: Regrarians

The Regrarians handbook is a positive, practical and pragmatic guide to regenerating human, plant and animal lives along with productive landscapes. The full text is paid for, but worth it!

Innovation for Agriculture

Innovation for Agriculture have a fab mix of resources covering regenerative farming, livestock, soil and water. In particular they share information from their Animals to Arable conference, which was all about integrating livestock into arable rotations to improve soil health.

What do you think, feeling up to speed now? Let us know if you have any resources to add – contact us

Will Godwin – Hampton Estate

Will Godwin – Hampton Estate 1440 1079 Soilmentor

The beautiful family run Hampton Estate is nestled in the sandy soils of Seale, near Farnham in Surrey. Most of the farmland is in woodland or grass and twenty years ago Guernsey dairy cattle grazed the estate. The family have since switched to a Sussex cattle herd and started producing grass fed beef to sell direct to their local customer base. Their cattle are raised on tasty grass and lovely Surrey sunshine! Hampton Estate are members of the Pasture Fed Livestock Association and in the process of having their beef pasture for life certified. Pasture fed systems with good grazing management can be very regenerative for soil health. Hampton have started using Soilmentor to monitor and understand how soil health is changing across their farmland.

The estate has some very special gardens filled with hops! This speciality crop has been grown in the local area for hundreds of years, despite a lot of production being wiped out by a fungal disease called verticillium wilt. Many other farms gave up their hop gardens, but Hampton has maintained growing this traditional crop with high biosecurity measures. Their hops are used in three major breweries across the country. The infrastructure required to grow hops is extensive and to fit in with the natural landscape Hampton uses tall poles made of chestnut from their own woodland.

Hampton are developing their farm strategy around building soil health and improving their sward. Using Soilmentor they can create a baseline for where their soil health is at now and give them an idea of where they want to go. Growing good grass is essential for their pasture fed cattle and so one approach they will take is to increase species diversity and deeper rooting plants in the sward. This will increase their resilience in times of drought as deep roots can reach water and nutrients further down in their sandy free draining soil. A more diverse range of broadleaf plants and root systems will increase the potential to sequester carbon from the atmosphere and put it into the ground. Hampton is monitoring the % of different plant species and their density to see how this changes over time in their pasture fields. As they collect more information about their pasture with Soilmentor they will be able to compare plant species readings with soil structure and earthworm readings to see if there are any trends and links in their improvement.

“I’d been looking for a tool to monitor soil health just like this, I’d tried other tests but they were always so complex and involved lab testing. It’s great to have a set of simple tests that I can do easily myself.” – Will Godwin, Hampton Estate

We spent the day soil monitoring pasture fields under different management approaches with Will Godwin. Will is part of the estate management team and works very closely with Bridget and Bill Biddell who own and manage the Estate on behalf of the wider family. Heading out to the field with Will and Bridget was great fun and the excitement about digging holes and hunting for worms was palpable! Will had expertly crafted an infiltration rate pipe from a piece of drainpipe, sharpening one end to make it easier to get into the ground. He used an old water bottle with 444ml of water marked on it to ensure the exact same amount of water was used each time. An old dustbin lid made an excellent examination tray for the soil block and Bridgett didn’t seem to mind us using her freezer bags to collect samples for the slake test!

We started on a very sandy permanent pasture field grazed throughout winter by their steers and very poached up in places. On this field we found no worms at all! This meant Will recorded an earthworm count of 0 in Soilmentor and we all agreed this is definitely an opportunity to improve how the soil on this field is managed to increase earthworms for the next time it is monitored. Next we headed to a permanent pasture field being rested after grazing last year which had an abundance of wigglers, seventeen in one soil pit, and even a dung beetle popped its antlers up. At the time we didn’t realise it was a dung beetle, but took a photo of it using Soilmentor so Will could look back at a later date to identify the beetle. This field had a dense thatch of grass on the surface which slowed the infiltration rate down considerably. The third field we tested was a grass field cut every year for hay which had a few worms but an exceptionally fast infiltration rate. In addition to these fields Will plans to monitor two more pasture fields and one hop garden.

Going forward Hampton plans to start a new grazing system, to improve sward quality and soil health across the estate. Changes in the way the herd is managed and trying mob grazing to encourage tall grass and deep root growth are central to the strategy. Over in the hop gardens, although they cannot return the biomass from the hop plants back to the soil due to the verticillium wilt disease risk, there are plans afoot with Rob, their Agronomist, to plant green manure cover crops in between the rows of hop plants. Verticillium wilt only affects broadleaved plants and to avoid attracting it to the garden the cover needs to be a cereal to mitigate this risk, so rye and oats are good options. The cover crop will anchor the soil, protecting it from erosion, photosynthesising and putting nutrients into the soil.

Soilmentor will help Hampton monitor how their soil is changing as they experiment with new farm management approaches to improve soil health. For example, with a new approach to grazing the fields over winter, such as mob grazing, Hampton will hope to see an improvement in earthworms, sward density and soil structure. All of these are what we call ‘soil health indicators’ and are easily monitored using soil tests with Soilmentor. All the information Hampton collects using the Soilmentor app is visually displayed on their online account making it easy to look back at their soil health records and analyse how things have changed over time.

What are Will’s management objectives:

  • Improve soil health across the estate
  • Increase grass and broadleaf species
  • Understand best grazing technique to optimise grass growth

What is Will monitoring:

  • Earthworms
  • Infiltration
  • Slake (Wet aggregate stability)
  • VESS (1-5)
  • % of undesirables % of bare soil
  • % of grasses, broadleaves, no. of species of each


Interested in using Soilmentor to monitor soil health and manage your farm both above and below ground?

Buy the app here and sign up for our newsletter

Are you a Pasture Fed Livestock Association member? Get a discount on Soilmentor, contact us or the PFLA for more info.