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February 2020

Recent research from Australia’s National University (ANU) has looked at whether regenerative certification schemes could change the behaviour of Australia’s food system for the better. Isabella Zohrab surveyed Australian regenerative farmers to understand their perspectives regarding farming and certification. Listen to Isabella share some of the key findings from her work (view video here) and read a summary of the results (view the report here).

Isabella Zohrab

Through the Fenner School of Environment and Society at ANU, Isabella’s research aimed to understand whether regenerative certification schemes could change the behaviour of Australia’s food system for the better. Emerging evidence suggests that food from regenerative farms could be more nutrient-dense. A scheme that allows consumers to identify more nutrient-dense food that is also environmentally beneficial could provide more motivation for all farmers to focus on environmental and food quality outcomes, rather than primarily on yields.

The research included understanding the range of definitions of regenerative farming, motivations for farming regeneratively, beliefs about why consumers choose food from regenerative farms, and incentives and barriers to joining a certification scheme.

Survey responses indicate that farmers are motivated to farm regeneratively for environmental and lifestyle reasons. They were all full-time farmers and thought that regenerative farming is more profitable. Nevertheless, financial motivations were considered less important. Consumers of regenerative food are also believed to care more about social, environmental, and food quality motivations than price.

Most respondents were optimistic about the potential of regenerative certification schemes to improve Australia’s food system. Again, financial motivations such as gaining access to a price premium were less important than environmental and social motivations. Despite the general optimism towards certification, many respondents still had concerns. The most important concerns were to do with government involvement and how to define “regenerative.” More details on the questionnaire design and results can be found in this report (view the report here).

Further research would be useful to build on this initial study. A survey of consumers to improve our understanding of their motivations to choose regenerative food would be beneficial. In the meantime, these results provide some preliminary insights into the opportunities and challenges ahead for regenerative certification.

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