Case Study: The Duchy of Cornwall

Downforce Technologies’ insights on Soil Organic Carbon are supporting sustainable change across a widespread and diverse estate.

The Duchy of Cornwall’s agricultural, residential and commercial properties cover 52,789 hectares across 21 counties. They includes arable and livestock farms, housing, business parks, forests, rivers, quarries, islands and coastlines.

Under the guidance of King Charles III, when he was Duke of Cornwall, and now his son Prince William, the Duchy has blazed a trail for Sustainable Stewardship. It aims to reach net zero by the early 2030s, years ahead of national and international targets, but gathering the accurate information it needs to drive change across such a disparate estate is a massive undertaking.

Downforce Technologies is working with the Duchy to address this challenge by providing data on its diverse landholdings. By equipping it with accurate baselines and benchmarks, we are helping tenants improve soil health, increase productivity and adopt sustainable farming practices.

The project was in three stages, starting with a pilot concentrating on the Duchy’s seven natural capital ‘Focus Farms’. We used Downforce Technologies’ six years of records to provide data on historic soil organic carbon and establish how successful different management practices have been in delivering soil health and carbon sequestration on the Duchy’s land.

After the successful pilot project, we embarked on a larger-scale analysis of the Isles of Scilly, an archipelago off the coast of southwest England mostly owned by the Duchy. This comprehensive survey covered approximately 1,600 hectares, including 37 tenant farms, as well as non-farmed areas and hard-to-access uninhabited islands.

The remote accessibility of Downforce Technologies' source data meant such complex terrain could be studied as speedily and effectively as any inland site, without the need for expensive, time consuming and hazardous visits to take samples from each of the archipelago’s 200 islands and outcrops.

The project has given the Duchy and its tenants a new level of insight into soil health and potential, providing detail of what is working where and helping drive management programmes to improve the soil and deliver more sustainable food production.

The next step is a three-year programme across the whole 52,000-hectare estate, providing carbon metrics for each of the Duchy’s 270 farms along with analysis and data to help monitor and drive progress on direct, indirect and supplier emissions.

“A large part of the Duchy of Cornwall’s plan to reach net zero involves harnessing the power of nature, and the insights from Downforce Technologies help us to do exactly that. Removing the need for on-site soil testing is also invaluable for measuring and monitoring such a dispersed estate”

- Matthew Morris, Land Steward, Duchy of Cornwall

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“Downforce Technologies' ground-breaking capability for measuring and predicting soil carbon is a game changer for planning and demonstrating how to impact the natural capital value of the land.”
Deborah Kiers, Board Chair, Tiverton Agriculture Impact Fund