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£1.3m of projects now tackling carbon emissions

Our Carbon Innovation Fund is a £3m partnership, part-funded through the sale of compostable carrier bags in Co-op stores 

Children holding environmental placards

A rain and fog harvesting project in the Galapagos and five new net-zero farms are just two partners supported with grants from the first round of our Carbon Innovation Fund

A total of 14 projects have been awarded a combined £1.3m from the new fund in partnership with Co-op, which aims to reduce carbon emissions in the food, farming and aquaculture sectors through innovative methods. With the longest project running for three years, and the shortest for a few months, this fund will make a steady impact for the foreseeable future. 

Funding for the total £3m Carbon Innovation Fund has been donated by Co-op from the sale of compostable carrier bags in the UK, with the remainder coming from our own funds. It is the largest partnership we have with Co-op.  

Innovation in this context means going against the status quo, so projects can work with new technology or bring back ancient and indigenous ways of looking after land. 

Other projects funded today across the UK and the world include: 

  • Cornwall-based Fal Fishery, which will increase production of oyster larvae at its hatchery. It will also collect data to create an evidence base that it hopes will result in increasing the minimum landing size of native oysters. This would allow them to mature properly, take in more carbon, and reproduce.   
  • South West Mull and Iona Development  that will “kelp” the environment by doubling their harvest of sugar kelp. This kelp can be used to reduce the methane emissions of cattle when integrated into their feed, help to develop bio-degradable plastics and reduce the need for mineral synthesis in fertilizers. 
  • The Fairtrade Foundation in Mbarara and Masaka, which will revolutionise the daily grind in Uganda by scaling-up the production of briquettes (used as fuel for cookstoves) made from coffee farm waste. Making use of this waste reduces methane emissions, and the need to collect wild wood for fuel.  

We’re Co-op’s charity. Our flexible funding helps to build fairer and more co-operative communities. This new fund is our first focused on innovative approaches to reducing carbon emissions. 

Nick Crofts, CEO of the Co-op Foundation, said: 

“We created the Carbon Innovation Fund to encourage innovation and help tackle emissions in the food and farming industries – and what an incredible first 14 projects we’re funding! From Cornwall to Malawi, we’re working with our new partners to create sustainable change and develop inventive solutions to complex issues. We cannot wait to see what our partners achieve as they co-operate to make our world a better place to live.” 

The Carbon Innovation Fund follows Co-op’s own commitment to become a Net Zero business by 2040. It is dedicated to improving the sustainability of its products, reducing food waste and decreasing plastic packaging. It works alongside nationwide partners such as Fare Share to make sure that surplus food doesn’t go to waste. This funding is an extension of Co-op’s work around lowering its own carbon emissions which is an integral part of its 10-point climate plan. 

Verity Warnecke, Head of Climate Change, Co-op, said: 

“We are facing into a climate and environment crisis and we have to recognise that we all need to do more, and quicker. The Carbon Innovation Fund forms part of the action we are taking, it supports doing something different and encourages innovation that can be shared to benefit society in general – and the first round of funding does exactly that. It’s this type of co-operation which is needed across the world to help accelerate our response to the climate crisis if we are going to have a natural environment which we are proud to pass on to future generations.” 

The £3m Carbon Innovation Fund will run over the next three years. Subscribe to our blog to be the first to find out when later rounds of funding will open.

For more information, please contact Sairah Rehman on sairah.rehman@coop.co.uk or 0758 101 1201. 

Carbon Innovation Fund partners:  

  • Coed Talylan, Wales (£95,000): Trialling peat-free mushroom cultivation for small to medium-scale farming enterprises, which will help them to diversify what they grow, whilst creating a new income stream. They will also experiment with alternative growing techniques, potentially increasing resistance to pests and disease, drought tolerance, and locking carbon in the soil.  
  • Ecodyfi, Wales (£89,996): Conducting farm trials of experimental perennial green manures (PGMs). These have been shown to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from soil compared to fertilising crops with traditional fertilisers. 
  • Edinburgh Agroecology Co-operative CIC, Edinburgh (£100,000): Creating a localised community farm to demonstrate how land in and around urban centres can be used for the benefit of people and the environment. The team will also gather data about the soil health and improvements to biodiversity resulting from their work.  
  • Fal Fishery, Cornwall (£99,983): Increasing production of oyster larvae at its hatchery. It will also collect data to create an evidence base, which they hope will result in increasing the minimum landing size of native oysters. This would allow them to mature properly, take in more carbon, and reproduce. They are also reducing oysters going to waste in the food industry by preserving and canning them to extend shelf life.      
  • Forum for the Future, UK-wide (£100,000): Developing a cross-sector network to demonstrate how farmers in mainstream food retail supply chains can move to regenerative agriculture methods. 
  • The Fairtrade Foundation, Mbarara and Masaka in Central and Western Uganda (£99,220): Scaling up the production of briquettes (used as fuel for cookstoves) made from coffee farm waste. The use of farm waste reduces methane emissions and the need to burn wild wood as fuel. 
  • The Galapagos Conservation Trust Santa Cruz Island (£77,220): Running trials of rain and fog harvesting technology to reduce the need for tankers delivering freshwater to farmers and residents on the island daily. This project will also provide local farmers with a community educational programme focused on best practice.  
  • Linking Environment and Farming, UK-wide (£99,397): Developing five net-zero farms across the four nations and overseas to demonstrate practical knowledge and help farmers achieve the National Farmers’ Union target to be net-zero carbon by 2040.  
  • Malawi Fruits, Northern Malawi (£85,500): Scaling up a pilot of polytunnel farming in Northern Malawi, which significantly improves yield and predictability of crop growth. The polytunnels will focus on supporting women to enter the agri-economy, and help young graduates to gain jobs and become agricultural entrepreneurs. 
  • Regather Ltd, Sheffield (£100,000): Create a demonstrator site at the Regather Farm, which will provide a learning environment for others in the farming industry to view the benefits of agroforestry. It will also support the planting and maintaining of fruit trees across Sheffield. 
  • Shropshire Good Food Partnership CIC , Shropshire (£96,500): Create a county-wide network to support the development of farming practices that regenerate land in Shropshire. This will build on the experiences of local producers who are leaders in sustainable food production.  
  • South West Mull and Iona Development, (£82,990): Will double their harvest of kelp at their community-owned seaweed farm. Its carbon-absorbing kelp can be used to reduce methane emissions in livestock feed, help to develop bio-degradable plastics and reduce the need for mineral synthesis in fertilizer applications. 
  • Size of Wales, Wales (£96,990): Build on the success of the Deforestation-Free Nation campaign: a campaign to empower Welsh communities to tackle overseas deforestation through collective action, collaboration and changing behaviour. 
  • The Wildlife Trust BCN, Cambridgeshire (£96,567): Will collect and analyse data from a two-year project, which established local wet farming plots on peatlands in the Cambridgeshire Fens. This will restore the land back into a carbon sink, protect biodiversity and help with flood management, demonstrating alternative and sustainable farming methods.  

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