Regional regeneration of Western Australia

Transforming Western Australia’s food and agriculture system through business and a wider network of changemakers.

In Australia’s West near Perth there is a threatened global biodiversity hotspot - The Western Australian wheatbelt. Farming takes place in semi-arid conditions with less than 400 mm rainfall per year. Young people are leaving town for school and university, but not returning due to a lack of jobs, resulting in a decline in communities.

To help turn the tide, some great organisations in Western Australia are starting to collaborate towards realising 4 returns potential in the region.

One of them is Wide Open Agriculture (WOA), a regenerative food and farming company based in Western Australia. WOA’s purpose is to build a new food and farming system to make a healthier world.

Through developing a globally-trusted food brand and a portfolio of farmland assets, WOA seeks to demonstrate how the 4 returns framework can be applied in a commercial context. In 2018, WOA became the world’s first 4 returns publicly-listed company in the world.

As Western Australia is a large and vast area, WOA’s founding partner Commonland supports their work to regenerate the landscape by amplifying it through a wider network of changemakers. Key informal partners include RegenWA, The Regional Regeneration Alliance (RRA) and the University of Western Australia’s Centre for Social Impact (UWA-CSI) and Sustain: the Australian Food Network.

  • The Western Australian Wheatbelt is an open, wide landscape characterised by golden agricultural fields on which cereals are grown and livestock graze. The Wheatbelt is more than 150,000 square kilometres in area, or twice the size of Tasmania.
  • The southern wheatbelt region in Australia is a threatened global biodiversity hotspot as almost 90% of the land has been cleared since 1890.
  • Consolidation of existing farms means there are fewer opportunities for new and existing farmers to enter diversified or regenerative farming systems. High debt leveraging prevents current farmers from transitioning towards diversified and regenerative farming systems.
  • WOA’s 4 returns business approach is vertically integrated in the agricultural market value chain.
  • WOA is the first 4 Returns public company listed in the world.
  • Through its farmland portfolio, Wide Open Land and food brand, Dirty Clean Food™, WOA is supplied with markets and distributes delicious, healthy food.
  • Together with WOA and other partners such as RegenWA, RRA and UWA-CSI, Commonland is supporting the transformation of Western Australia’s food and agriculture system to build a healthier world and bring positive 4 returns impacts to the region.

What we do

The strongest attribute for me around what we’re creating here, is that it’s a global network -  Ben Cole, managing director Wide Open Agriculture

Using the 4 Returns framework and business activities, WOA aims to create new business opportunities whilst partnering with farmers who follow principles to enhance biodiversity, build soil health and steward water.

In July 2018, WOA became the first 4 Returns public company listed in the world. With over 450 investors and AUD $5m in capital raised from West Australians, farmers, Wheatbelt residents and Commonland’s network. WOA is demonstrating how to shift a 4 Returns framework into a viable business model in the Wheatbelt and beyond.

The stock listing process gave hands and feet to the vision of creating a landscape level movement through listing a start-up 4 Returns food and agriculture company on the Australian Stock Exchange. Through their stake, these shareholders support – and together shape - the 4 returns movement in the Australian Wheatbelt.

Engagement with wider network partners in Western Australia perfectly fits this ambition to continue to build momentum and, ultimately, transform Western Australia’s food and agriculture system.

Role of business

Two of WOA’s core business projects include a regenerative farmland asset management business, Wide Open Land and a food brand Dirty Clean Food.

Food brand & regenerative produce

  • WOA’s food brand, Dirty Clean Food. aims to offer regeneratively grown animal and plant-based products to Australian and global markets.
  • The brand connects online, retail and restaurant consumers to farmers who are committed to regenerative practices that rehabilitate the entire ecosystem of the land, so customers have a direct line of sight from healthy farm to the food on their fork.
  • Mid-2019, WOA established a direct distribution platform for a range of regeneratively grown, grass-fed beef and lamb to restaurants and food outlets throughout Perth and South Western Australia.
  • Online distribution was launched in August 2019 with home delivery to suburbs throughout Perth, WA.

Farmers and farmland

  • Transitioning farmers to regenerative farming systems requires a local support network of practicing farmers.
  • WOA partners with farmers committed to rebuilding healthy soil, enhancing biodiversity and restoring waterways.
  • The company works with farmers who are committed to a regenerative journey to rehabilitate and enhance the entire ecosystem of the land.
  • Wide Open Land” manages WOA’s portfolio of Western Australian farmland. They manage farmland in alignment with Regenerative Agriculture Principles and the 4 Returns, 3 Zones landscape restoration framework, developed by WOA’s founding partner Commonland.

The company is seeking strong, sustainable financial returns and are committed to making a positive, measurable impact on the ecosystems and communities in which they operate.

Four Returns

From a 4 returns holistic perspective, what could be potential outcomes at a landscape level in 20 years?

This Landscape has the potential to turn the losses from degradation into 4 Returns. The ENABLE team identified potential 4 return outcomes at a landscape level over period of 15 to 20 years.

inspiration

Return of inspiration

WOA is working to achieve the following outcomes for each return

Consumers and farmers participate in our new food and farm system to make a healthier world.

social-capital

Return of Social Capital

Facilitate opportunities for regenerative entrepreneurship and skill development in our target landscape through trainings or farmer exchange events in collaboration with long-term network partners.

natural-capital

Return of Natural Capital

Help facilitate ecosystem health regeneration including increased number of hectares under improved management (in WOA’s land portfolio) and beyond through collaboration with others in the landscape.

financial-capital

Return of Financial Capital

In the long term, WOA has been able to consistently grow as a business while (re)investing in further innovation and diversification of its different regenerative business streams and ventures.

3 Zones

Natural zone

Farmer mobilization and engagement through RegenWA program and WOA outreach activities; remnant vegetation and native habitat protection on existing farms; broader community and stakeholder mobilization through bringing food, landscape and community restoration onto the broader social change agenda via the Social Impact Festival (UWA SCI) and Food for Thought Festival (Sustain).

Combined zone

Supporting the next generation of regenerative farmers through a pilot scholarship program; community regeneration through business case development and local / state government involvement with the Regional Regeneration Alliance.

Economic zone

Developing 4 returns business cases under the WOA banner, including a regenerative beef distribution business, farmland portfolio fund; investment fundraising and management under WOA listed structure and farmland portfolio fund; research & development, particularly focused around long term impacts of regenerative agriculture.

More about the landscape

Hectares: 300000 ha

The Landscape

  • The Western Australian Wheatbelt climate ranges from warm-summer Mediterranean in the south to hot-summer Mediterranean or even arid climate to the north of the area. Overall, average annual rainfall is very low (below 400mm).
  • Depopulation is occurring at rates of up to 2% per annum resulting in closure of primary schools, health centres and retail outlets.
  • Young people are leaving town for school and university, but not returning due to a lack of jobs, resulting in a decline in communities.

Regenerative business

  • WOA’s 4 returns business approach is vertically integrated in the agricultural market value chain.
  • WOA is the first 4 Returns public company listed in the world.
  • Through its farmland portfolio, Wide Open Land and food brand, Dirty Clean Food™, WOA is supplied with markets and distributes delicious, healthy food.

Regeneration network

  • Together with WOA and other partners such as RegenWA, RRA and UWA-CSI, Commonland is supporting the transformation of Western Australia’s food and agriculture system to build a healthier world and bring positive 4 returns impacts to the region.
  • RegenWA is a network of farmers and industry stakeholders applying and promoting regenerative agriculture techniques in Western Australia.
  • The University of Western Australia’s Centre for Social Impact and Sustain: The Australian Food Network bring in indigenous Aboriginal leadership, food, landscape restoration and community regeneration onto the broader social change agenda using the principles of Theory U.
  • The Regional Regeneration Alliance engages local and regional government to support the development of business-driven initiatives to reverse depopulation in rural Western Australia.

Regenerative Agriculture Conference

On September 11th, 2019, Western Australia held its first Regenerative Agriculture Conference titled: “Investing in our Food Future”. The purpose of this event is to bring together farmers and key industry stakeholders to hear from renowned change leaders and participate in developing a strategic plan for investing in our food future.

Check out these key resources:

  • Regenerative Agriculture Conference, Australia;
  • Presentation from world-renowned author and farmer Charles Massy is good for understanding the regenerative agriculture context;
  • Inspiring presentation from Noongar Land Enterprise Group Chairman, Oral McGuire. Especially the photos at the end of the presentation that show what is possible with Aboriginal land management techniques are incredible;
  • Presentation from regenerative agriculture farmers Stuart McAlpine and Di Haggerty is also excellent, because they shared their observations of applied regenerative agricultural practices and how local actions deliver global outcomes.

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Location

Get in touch

Website: https://www.wideopenagriculture.com.au/

Address: 5 Brooking St, Williams WA 6391, Australië

Wide Open Agriculture's team