Regenerative Farming

Roots to Regeneration – the course we’ve all been waiting for!

Roots to Regeneration – the course we’ve all been waiting for! 2079 2560 Soilmentor

Roots to Regeneration – the course we’ve all been waiting for

We have been following the work of Clare Hill and Caroline Grindrod for many years. They are both pioneers in enabling farmers in the UK to transition to a regenerative approach to farming. Both Clare and Caroline have also used Soilmentor to support their learning journeys and the learnings of those they are working with.

So, we were extremely excited to hear that these two have come together to create Roots to Regeneration: a comprehensive year-long transition programme for farmers, agricultural professionals and the food industry.

There is nothing like this course in the UK currently,and very little like it globally – the course draws on Clare Hill’s practical experience and approach to farming (first at FAI Farms and now at Planton Farm), combined with Caroline’s experience working with many different farmers, drawing on her ecological and holistic underpinnings. 

The other very unique aspect to Clare and Caroline’s approach is that they focus on helping people to shift their mindset and enable others to do the same – this is often the key part of regenerative management which is missing. There is no point in knowing everything about a different approach if the people involved aren’t on board. This is why the ongoing coaching and peer-to-peer mentorship is a vital part of this program.

We talk a lot about mindset at Vidacycle and in a way Soilmentor is a tool designed to support a mindset shift, using observation to guide you on a path to understanding the ecological web on each farm – and Soilmentor will play a key role in enabling those who are part of the Roots to Regeneration programme to learn.

As Caroline shared “What’s unique about this programme is that it’s not just about teaching a set of practices. We are catalysing a deep mindset shift and equipping participants with the vision and adaptability needed for genuine long-term transformation, as well as the practical tools too.” 

The Roots to Regeneration (R2R) Transition Programme will offer an unrivaled level of expertise and support. It includes farm based training as well as live discussions with leading regenerative farmers, vets and coaches including Joel Williams, Rob Havard, Nikki Yoxall, Russ Carrington, Claire Whittle, Tim Parton, Tim Coates, James Daniel; self-led online learning; as well as fortnightly coaching, and peer-to-peer mentorship. 

The programme is specifically for those who see the potential of regenerative agriculture and are committed to engaging in an in-depth transformation process for themselves and their farm, enterprise or supply chain. 

Caroline and Clare both have experience working with food companies and the wider food supply network, so they are well aware that regenerative agriculture is not only seen as a pathway to help farms become more profitable and resilient, but also for food companies to meet their targets and build robust supply chains which positively impact people and the planet.  

With that in mind, Roots to Regeneration is offering food companies or other relevant corporations the chance to sponsor places or select farmers from their supply chains to engage with the program. Companies can use Roots to Regeneration to understand better what solutions regenerative agriculture can provide for their sector. 

“The food sector is under unprecedented pressure from multiple, interrelated, systemic global problems. Our program will give food companies the best possible results for their supply farmers in the shortest time. When rolled out as a staged program, this could help transition supply chains to become more resilient whilst maintaining productivity and increasing quality.” – Clare Hill

Registrations are now open to apply for Roots To Regeneration Transition Programme. 

To find out more you can attend a taster day at Planton Farm on Tuesday 9th January 2023, or book a 20-minute call to see if this program might be a good fit for you:

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!

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.

The new science behind biodiversity, cover crops and building the soil sociobiome: learnings from Dr. Christine Jones

The new science behind biodiversity, cover crops and building the soil sociobiome: learnings from Dr. Christine Jones 1120 770 Soilmentor

The new science behind biodiversity, cover crops and building the soil sociobiome: learnings from Dr. Christine Jones

US-based cover crop supplier Green Cover Seed have recently hosted a fascinating 4-part webinar series with Dr. Christine Jones. We definitely encourage you to watch them, but to get you started we’ve pulled together some of the key insights from these videos, with a focus on what these teachings mean for farmers on a regenerative journey.

Our main takeaway is that growing a diversity of living plants is the most important focus on any farm aiming to build healthy soil. This is a topic that has been discussed in the regenerative farming community for a while, but Christine shares how soil science is beginning to explain the mechanisms occurring between diverse living roots and the soil microbiome (the makeup of fungi and bacteria). 

It is clear that diversity aboveground is directly linked to diversity belowground, and diversity belowground is linked to the health and carbon storage capability of the soil as well as pest and disease resistance of any plants communing with that soil – there’s no doubt that these outcomes are of real significance for any farmer! 

So how does this all work, and what are the key messages for growers learning to regenerate their piece of earth? We’ve pulled out three main areas that Christine shared about:

  1. The fungal energy pathway and the microbiome

Christine cites some of the papers presented at the Wageningen Soil Conference we wrote about here, emphasising that the early model of the soil food web is beginning to be replaced by a new, more dynamic model. Previous models of the soil carbon pathway were fairly linear, with carbon entering the soil through breakdown of above ground matter and detritus by larger organisms and fungi, propelled by a chain of soil organisms eating another. It is now understood that this ‘decomposer’ food web pathway is only responsible for small amounts of carbon entering soils. We are beginning to replace this conventional soil food web diagram with a new model, with fungi at the forefront. 

It is now understood that the vast majority of carbon entering soils does so through the ‘fungal energy channel’, which Christine also refers to as the liquid carbon pathway. Essentially, living plants use sunlight and atmospheric CO2 to photosynthesise, creating sugars (carbon) which are channelled down into the roots and released in the form of root exudates to the surrounding soil. These exudates are consumed by a multitude of fungal and bacterial communities, which transport carbon compounds around the soil. 

A healthy microbiome (dominated by saprotrophic and symbiotic fungi) will stabilise the majority of this carbon within the soil. It is this process of moving carbon from the air into stable soil compounds which is referred to as the fungal energy channel (1). This fungal network is also responsible for supplying energy to bacterial communities producing plant-available phosphorus and fixing nitrogen into the soil. 

The health of your soil is a key determinant of how well the fungal energy channel works, and a simple way to observe this pathway in action is by looking for rhizosheaths, as evidence of fungal hyphae feeding off sugars exuded from plant roots (and fixing nitrogen). You can keep a record of your farm’s score for rhizosheaths at set sample locations in your Soilmentor app – this test is one of our Regen Indicators

The diversity of plants growing in the soil is core to improving your fungal pathway. This is true for a number of different reasons:

  1. Structure: A variety of different leaf structures increases opportunity for photosynthesis with more light interception, increasing the rate at which root exudates draw down carbon through the fungal pathway.
  2. Microbe sharing: Plants from different functional groups cooperate with each other, and are able to recruit microbes from each other’s microbiome, as long as the roots are able to mingle near each other. E.g. If you grow a grass alongside a drought-tolerant herb in a low rainfall scenario, the grass can signal to microbes alongside the roots of neighbouring plants that have drought-tolerant characteristics. The grass may then ingest these microbes as endophytes (so they become part of the plants internal microbiome), which ‘switch on’ certain genes in the plant to thicken cell walls for water retention, making the grass more drought tolerant. When drought pressure subsides, the grass can then expel the endophyte and the genes are switched off again (2).
  3. Fungi thrive: The microbial makeup of your soil more or less determines the likelihood that carbon levels will build up in the soil rather than being respired away. A higher proportion of carbon is stored in a stable form in fungally dominated soils, which allows for high activity in the fungal energy pathway. The fungi community thrive when there is greater diversity of plant functional groups present!

Green Cover Seed webinar 4/4
Christine sharing about a diverse companion cropped field

The message from Christine is to prioritise diversity, without necessarily focusing on mycorrhizae. Mycorrhizal associations are amazing – but they represent just one part of the fungal story, and as long as you include one mycorrhizal plant in a cover crop mix, you’ll allow for a mycorrhizal network to build below ground. Other cover crop species without mycorrhizal associations may be equally important in the fungal energy channel. 

2. The importance of signalling chemicals – the language of the microbiome

You can think of soil as a complex network of microbial life. This microbial community is fed by the aboveground world through plant roots and their exudates, and these microbes send out signalling chemicals to interact with each other, and with roots in the soil (3). Christine refers to this complex network of connections as the ‘soil sociobiome’. 

One way to activate certain elements of this soil sociobiome is by adding signalling chemicals to the soil ecosystem. Christine defines a biostimulant as a substance that activates dormant microbes in the soil. We learn that the majority of soil microbes exist in a dormant state until they are activated by biochemical signalling.

Christine’s advice is that it is best to apply biostimulants to the seed before sowing (which we’ve heard re-iterated by Nicole Masters and John Kempf), as the most important feature of biostimulants is the signalling chemicals they contain. Ideally, a germinating seed should be forming a strong relationship with soil microbes from the beginning of its life, and establish a healthy endosphere – the microbiome within the plant itself. Adding biostimulants as inoculants for crop planting will maximise these associations at the beginning from crop germination.

We also learn that biostimulants produced through a fermentation method will contain many more signalling chemicals than one from aerobic production methods (e.g. vermicompost, korean natural farming, bokashi). These chemicals have been observed to persist in the soil across multiple generations of plants, so the effects on the soil microbiome can last across multiple harvests (4). 

N.B. Vermicompost is considered a fermented product due to processes in the worm’s gut causing fermentation.

Green Cover Seed webinar 1/4
Christine sharing a microscopic image of fungal hypae on roots

3. Reduced pest & disease pressure

Increased plant diversity also increases crop resistance to pests and diseases. Christine refers to expanses of monoculture as a “recipe for disaster” in terms of pest pressure. 

The buffer against pest pressure is not always about eliminating the pest or disease, but about supporting the crop to be more resilient, and equipped to fight infection and remain productive. There are more microbial cells in plants than there are plant cells, and this ‘endosphere’ of bacteria, archaea & fungi moving around among the cells of the plants are capable of supporting the plant to resist pest and disease damage. 

Plants ‘call for help’ when they are under attack from pests or diseases, and free living microbes in the soil can be ingested to support a defence against this attack (2). This call for help will go unanswered if the soil microbiome lacks sufficient health to respond. The solution is to ensure diverse cover crop species are planted alongside crops to support proper functioning of the soil microbiome, so soil microbes can be internalised by distressed crops through roots when needed. 

Green Cover Seed webinar 1/4
Figure from a paper (Gopal & Gupta) – the sociobiome

Key actions to take from these webinars

  • Keep ground covered with diverse living roots for as much of the year as possible. If your soil is left bare, your soil microbiome will deteriorate and carbon will be released from your soil. 
  • Try to include at least 4 different functional groups in cover crop mixes & maximise the opportunity for these crop mixes to interact with each other and with your main crop below ground. One case study mix that Christine mentions is of four species – radish (brassica), oats (grass family), sunflower (aster family) and phacelia (borage family). The key here is that each of these plants belong to different functional groups, allowing for maximum benefit in the soil sociobiome. Despite the fact that none of these plants are legumes, this mix still allows for nitrogen fixing and availability, and outperformed mixes of only legume species in field trials. 
  • Application of biostimulants to seeds before planting will support the fungal pathway (e.g Johnson-Su compost, vermicompost or bokashi). 
  • Fungicides are the most detrimental agrichemical to the fungal energy pathway. Experiment with reducing / removing fungicide spray rounds across your farm, alongside biostimulant application & diverse cropping. 

Farmerama #73: Nicole Masters on the Regen Platform

Farmerama #73: Nicole Masters on the Regen Platform 1000 668 Soilmentor

Nicole Masters interview on Farmerama:
The Regen Platform

Episode #73 of Farmerama Radio featured Abby interviewing Nicole Masters on the power of digging a hole, the inspiration behind the Regen Indicators, and how the Soilmentor Regen Platform can support a regenerative transition.

Tune into the full episode below (or on your preferred podcast platform):

Do you dig holes on your farm? Does the Regen Platform sound interesting to you? Get in touch with us at – we’d love to hear from you 🙂

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.

The Soilmentor Regen Platform is here!

The Soilmentor Regen Platform is here! 2665 1961 Soilmentor

🌱 The Soilmentor Regen Platform is live 🌱

The Soilmentor Regen Platform is here! We’re so excited to be launching this addition to Soilmentor, created in collaboration with Nicole Masters and the brilliant team at Integrity Soils.

The Soilmentor Regen Platform gives you access to clear benchmarking of the Regen Indicators – 10 soil metrics compiled with Nicole, which represent key aspects of soil health. Your results for each of these Regen Indicators will appear as a traffic light in the Regen Platform – either red (critical measure), amber (early warning alert), or green (great result).

From the regen scorecard you can quickly identify potential problem areas and click into the relevant Regen Indicators to explore them further. Every result you log in the Soilmentor Regen Platform comes with regenerative pointers from Nicole, providing explanations for each result, and things to consider for your future management. These considerations are bespoke to your field’s soil type, rainfall level and biome (learn more about these classifiers here). 

We are proud to include leading organisations such as Yeo Valley and their supplier network, and EIT’s Regenerative Agriculture Transition Program in Southern Europe as early adopters of the Soilmentor Regen Platform. We created this toolkit with Nicole to empower farmers to monitor and build on a variety of soil metrics that reflect the importance of taking a diverse & holistic approach to soil and farm management. We’re excited to support farmers and organisations to learn from Nicole’s insights and knowledge in the Regen Platform.

Working with Nicole on the Regen Platform was the perfect fit – her insights are deeply rooted in the importance of observation, supporting mindset shifts, and building diversity and microbiome health in soils. We couldn’t be more excited to support this approach. Nicole’s book ‘For the Love of Soil’ is a firm favourite of ours, and we can also highly recommend her online course as an excellent companion to the outcomes-based learning supported by the Soilmentor Regen Platform!

Soilmentor X The Regenerative Platform

Soilmentor X The Regenerative Platform 2330 1260 Soilmentor

Soilmentor & The Regen Platform

We’ve made a video to share a quick look at what Soilmentor currently offers, and a sneak peak of what the Regen Platform will look like as it’s implemented over the next few months. Watch below to find out more!

Explore our website to find out more about Soilmentor, and head to the Integrity Soils website to learn more about their offerings.

In Collaboration with Nicole Masters: Soilmentor Regenerative Platform

In Collaboration with Nicole Masters: Soilmentor Regenerative Platform 1000 668 Soilmentor

In Collaboration with Nicole Masters: Soilmentor Regenerative Platform

We’re thrilled to announce our collaboration with world-renowned soil health specialist and author, Nicole Masters and the team at Integrity Soils. We have read Nicole’s book ‘For the Love of Soil’ and we are in the process of completing her online course – both highly recommended. Nicole shares many of her key insights around moving your mindset, microbes and SOM into a place of resilience and shares the best ways (both observational and lab-based tests) to understand how farm health is changing. Working together feels like a perfect fit to share the power of observational monitoring as farmers move to a regenerative approach – helping to build ecology, profitability and beauty on farms around the world.

Integrity Soils use Soilmentor with their clients across the United States, Canada, New Zealand, and Australia, allowing land managers to compare year-on-year how earthworm counts, slake tests, ‘weed’* pressure and much more is changing in each field. It is their key tool for monitoring farm health and providing their regenerative consultancy work on farms. Together we will take Soilmentor to the next level, making it an essential tool for organisations, consultants and farms to practically and simply “measure their soils like a pro!”.

We have joined forces to share our experience of working with farmers, ranchers and scientists, bringing together our knowledge of monitoring, management and observation. Together we are developing the Soilmentor Regenerative Platform, a new and effective method to monitor land health from a regenerative perspective. It is a bespoke dashboard designed to visualise key soil health metrics and biodiversity indicators, and encourage farmers to ask questions about how to manage their land more regeneratively; How biologically active are my soils? How healthy is a crop? Is my farm supporting wildlife? How do I compare with my neighbours?

The platform brings new functionality to our current Soilmentor offering, which already empowers farmers and advisors to easily record results of observational tests in the field. Farmers can compare year on year how earthworm counts, slake tests, pest pressure and much more is changing in each field.

With the Soilmentor Regenerative Platform, organisations will be able to create combined data sets, learning from each other using the metrics they monitor, and creating a picture of landscape level change in these metrics. The Platform will enable farmers to compare their results against scientific benchmarks and other farms in their group. Biological, chemical and physical metrics sit side by side, each playing their part in this more holistic understanding of the farm. Each metric will have a ‘traffic light’ and action, to give a sense of how the farm is performing against benchmarks and encourage farmers to ask questions and take the next steps in their transition to regenerative farming.

The prototype of this new technology was initially developed by Vidacycle working with Elizabeth Stockdale at NIAB, and the Great Soils project in the UK, thanks to SARIC funding. It was a great success, wow-ing farmers, consultants and scientists with its easy interface and clear pathway for understanding soil health monitoring. Collaborating with Integrity Soils builds on the prototype and takes it in a groundbreaking direction by focusing on the mindset and thinking required to farm regeneratively.

The features of the Regenerative Platform will be available over the course of this year to all organisational Soilmentor customers – many of the tools are suited to enabling farmers to learn together and so we are making it available to organisations first. If you are already a Soilmentor, Soilmentor+ or Soilmentor for Groups customer then you will see relevant aspects of the Regenerative Platform becoming available to you over the course of this year. By working together with Integrity Soils every single one of our customers will benefit as their knowledge helps inform how our Soilmentor offering develops.

This is a very exciting step forward and we’d love to hear what you think – get in touch at

*An important distinction in the shift to a regenerative mindset is rethinking what we mean by a weed, and what plants might be telling us when they grow in undesirable places.

Soil learnings from ORFC Global

Soil learnings from ORFC Global 960 1280 Soilmentor

Soil Health Learnings from ORFC Global

Our team had a great time attending ORFC Global last month – it was a real honour to be involved in a truly global event on such a scale, and the diversity of insight and knowledge was so inspiring. We expect it will take quite some time (and several re-watches) to digest all that went on.

We wanted to pull together some of our favourite soil-related moments and learnings from the conference. This is by no means an exhaustive list – the quantity of inspiring sessions from the conference could never be condensed into one blog!

‘Life in the soil under pasture’ – Fidelity Weston, Andrew Neal, Felicity Crotty

This session is full of interesting soil science. Fidelity Weston kicked things off sharing her experience of recently discovering the importance of soil biology on her farm, with the learning that over 95% of life on her livestock farm exists under the soil! We’re really proud to be supporting Fidelity’s soil monitoring with Soilmentor at her farm.

Professor Andrew Neal is a microbiologist at Rothamsted Research, and shared his fascinating soil research. We loved Andrew’s explanation of soil as an “extended composite phenotype of the microbial metagenome” – the concept that soil is nothing without the expression of the collective microbial genome that exists within it is a great expression of why soil health matters. It was so encouraging to witness such elaborate discussion of the importance of soil biology – Andrew talked at fascinating length about the importance of understanding soil as a process with biology at the heart of it. He also shared an amazing video of how a soil aggregate would look if you were a microbe – worth a watch!

We also learnt from Dr. Felicity Crotty, soil science and ecology lecturer at the RAU, about the function of larger soil organisms – the meso & macro fauna. Felicity discussed the stability of soil carbon, sharing that half of UK soil carbon is in the top 30cm of the soil. Felicity reiterated that working with the biology in soil is the best way to keep this carbon locked up. It was great to hear soil health reframed by Felicity as soil life in this way, and to learn more about larger soil organisms, such as mites, springtails and earthworms, that we know play a hugely important role in the soil food web.

‘Species-rich Grassland Restoration’ –  Honor May Eldridge, Precious Phiri, Emma Rothoro, Diana Donlon

This panel discussion chaired by Honor May Eldridge from Plantlife brought together insights from a range of different grasslands around the world. All of the panellists spoke to the importance of grassland habitats for plant and animal diversity, and how human interaction is an important part of stewarding these landscapes for the benefit of the ecosystems they support.

Precious Phiri, of Regeneration International, is a holistic management educator and specialist in regenerative agriculture in Zimbabwe. She shared her learnings from managing and regenerating African arid rangeland, showing some amazing before & after photos of the restoration of desertified land using rotational holistic grazing. Precious also spoke to the positive impacts that grassland regeneration has had on surrounding pastoral communities.

Diana Donlon is co-founder of Soil-Centric, a Californian non-profit created to increase engagement in regenerative agriculture. She explained the impact that recent wildfires have had on the public feeling around a need for regeneration, and how grasslands are a more reliable store of carbon than forest in areas that are prone to fire.

Emma Rothoro is outreach coordinator for the Floodplain Meadows Partnership. Emma discussed the importance of restoring and maintaining ancient floodplain meadow habitats, which make up around 7% of European land (although many are degraded). Emma explained how haycutting is an important part of floodplain meadow management, and how cutting does not interfere with the abundance of diverse perennial herbs, which efficiently share space above and below ground. We learnt that floodplain meadow plants have roots that grow up to several metres deep, which allows for even carbon distribution in these habitats.

The Healing Role of Farming in Rebuilding Rural Lives After Conflict – Mambud Samai, John Meadley

This session, led by John Meadley of the PFLA, told the inspiring stories of farming ventures in Liberia and Sierra Leone. These projects show the power of farming in addressing trauma after conflict, to build hope and dignity in communities that have been affected by war. John spoke about his work to save seeds from deforested areas, facilitating tree nurseries and providing saplings to thousands of farmers in war torn areas.

Mambud Samai is the founder of a 10 acre amputee football permaculture garden (SLASA) that is regenerating soil, producing nutritious food, and creating employment in rural Sierra Leone. We are honoured to be supporting this SLASA project with Soilmentor as they build their soil health with crop rotation and compost application. It was inspiring hearing about Mambud’s seed saving projects, and to see photos of the SLASA garden’s education and outreach, spreading knowledge and learnings to surrounding farmers and families.

Entangled Lives: Fungal Networks, Ecology, and Us – Merlin Sheldrake, Charles Foster

Merlin Sheldrake is a biologist and author of ‘Entangled Life: How Fungi Make Our Worlds, Change Our Minds, and Shape Our Futures.’ This session was a deep dive into the hugely diverse and ubiquitous kingdom of fungi: from their evolution, to how they influence the world we live in. This talk again reinforced the importance of soil biology in building resilience in an ecosystem – Merlin referred to fungi as the immune system of the plants they support, building disease resistance, and ensuring roots are nourished.

One theme that seemed to regularly emerge during ORFC Global was the importance of indigenous wisdom in farming. This was a real reminder of the role of humans in regeneration, and the importance of considering farmers a member of the ecosystem they are farming, rather than seeing ourselves as outsiders. In Rebecca Hosking’s talk, ‘Sharing the Land with All Life’, she shared that land managed by indigenous communities has been found to be consistently more biodiverse than land set aside as ‘nature reserves’ away from human stewardship.

It’s interesting to consider that the culturally ingrained sense that humans are ‘other’ from their environment may legitimise extractive land management, and that a greater sense of connectedness to fellow animals and the environment is perhaps needed to heal our relationship with land, and bring about regeneration. The interconnectedness of soil life also came up in several sessions during ORFC Global. We are excited to keep learning from the beautiful complexity of life in the soil, and continue to support farmers to steward the soil, nourish plants and animals, and build resilience on the land with Soilmentor.

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