Climate Neutral Group appoints Pieter van Niekerk as  Sales & Customer Success Manager for AgriCarbon

Climate Neutral Group appoints Pieter van Niekerk as Sales & Customer Success Manager for AgriCarbon

19 July 2023

Climate Neutral Group (CNG), acquired by the Anthesis Group in 2022, is a leading international carbon consultancy and offset provider.

AgriCarbon is South Africa’s first carbon programme paying farmers for the carbon credits they generate from their sustainable land management practices. Rotational grazing, cover cropping, reduced tillage, and other practices improve soil quality and the farmer’s bottom line. By increasing soil organic carbon and reducing greenhouse gas emissions from these practices carbon credits of the highest quality are generated.

In this newly created role, Pieter is responsible for the development and implementation of the go-to-market strategy to sign-up new farmers and partner organisations into the AgriCarbon programme. Pieter will focus on our farmer clients – current and future – to understand their needs and build our business to meet those needs. He will collaborate closely with the Carbon, Research, Agronomy and Data teams to drive operational efficiency and data-driven decision-making through AgriCarbon’s Digital Data Collection Platform.

Pieter is a self-proclaimed ocean-loving cowboy at heart, building a career as an agricultural economist and agribusiness manager. His background has included commercial and operational experience in the beef, horticultural, banking and wine industries of South Africa.

I embrace the opportunity to focus on the Agri value chain, with a Farm-to-fork approach regarding agribusiness management, development and advice.”

He has spent the last several years actively managing his family’s farm in the Southern Cape. A commercial grass-fed beef operation based on regenerative principles, focusing on implementing ultra-high density grazing and holistic planned pasture management. He says that this was a privilege that shaped his view and belief on future opportunities within the agricultural sector and our country.

Pieter Van Niekerk, Sales and Customer Success Manager for AgriCarbon, says “I look forward to a purposeful journey with you all, ensuring a better future for all internal- and external role players.”

Honouring Nelson Mandela’s Timeless Legacy

Honouring Nelson Mandela’s Timeless Legacy

18 July 2023 


Personal accounts from three of our team members across the regions, based on our 2023 Mandela Day activities:


Bartho Vogel, Partnerships & Integrations Manager – AgriCarbon 

Today CNG-SA Johannesburg office spent our 67min making sandwiches for the Ladies of Love campaign.  Ladies of Love is about more than merely providing meals.  It’s about dignity, respect, and creating the kind of world we all want to live in. 

Being part of the Mandela day gives me hope for our world.  It shows you that people from different backgrounds can unite for a cause so much bigger than themselves.  It may only be 67 minutes out of a year (525 600 minutes) bit the affect it has is so much more. 

“It is in your hands, to make a better world for all who live in it” Nelson Mandela 


Nonkululeko Hadebe, AgriCarbon Sales Support 

On this year’s Mandela Day, our team in Cape Town took the initiative to make a positive impact by organizing a beach clean-up event at the stunning Sea Point promenade. Interestingly, it was also my first time visiting the promenade, and I had heard countless great things about it beforehand. However, as soon as I stepped onto the beach, I was shocked by the overwhelming amount of litter strewn across the shore. As I began the clean-up, a mix of emotions overwhelmed me. I was witnessing the sheer amount of small plastic and Styrofoam pieces scattered across the sand. The most shocking discovery was the careless dumping of needles on the beach. In just one hour, my colleagues and I diligently filled two bags of trash each. However, with 14 of us working together, we quickly realized that our efforts were only a small fraction of what was necessary to make a significant impact. 

Though the task of cleaning up proved to be tedious, the satisfaction of leaving the beach cleaner than we found it made every effort worthwhile. After the satisfying clean-up, we took some time to relax and reflect at a charming café on the promenade. Over coffee and a light breakfast, we shared captivating stories of the extraordinary items we had stumbled upon during our mission. From shoes abandoned by careless beach-goers to a fully loaded shopping trolley and even an entire restaurant menu, it was both amusing and disheartening to contemplate how these items ended up polluting the beach. Having previously worked for a hands-on non-profit organization, this Nelson Mandela Day beach clean-up ignited my strong passion to raise awareness and actively contribute to preserving the cleanliness and health of our environment. I believe the main takeaway for me is that together, we can make a difference. Nelson Mandela’s legacy reminded us that even the smallest actions can lead to significant change. 

Grant Little, Senior Carbon Developer 

The KZN team had explored a few options – and wanted to do something that was aligned with our farmers and in the farming community. Matt had some contacts at the 110 year old Weston Agricultural College on the banks of the Mooi River in the KZN Midlands. The school is a secondary school and educates just short of 200 boys on a 1200 ha operational farm. All the scholars take 2 to 3 pure agricultural subjects as part f their schooling. 

The marketing department asked us to address the scholars and share with them an overview of the carbon market, how regenerative agricultural practices can help alleviate the effects of climate change and what job opportunities there are in the field. A 20 minute session gained so much interest and questions from the student body, that it extended to almost an hour, made all the more relevant as a national electricity outage (loadshedding) occurred and no presentations or sound systems could be used. 

This followed with an inspection of the monument on the school premises to the 30,000 plus horse and draft animals that perished in the colonial wars of the late 19th and early 20th century, when the site was a British Army staging post and supply depot for animals. The base of the monument is made with horseshoes recovered from mass animal graves that are discovered on the adjacent farmlands. A check that all was in order, a few weeds removed, confirmation that no cleaning or major repairs were required, and a nearby geocache was repaired.  

The day ended with the team paying respects to our nations father – Madiba – at the site that he was arrested in 1962 and is celebrated with an exhibition and a walk to an innovative artwork depicting the face of Nelson Mandela after a symbolic “Long walk to freedom” commemorating various milestones in his life.  

The day was particularly inspiring to me, as the young men who are all focussed on agriculture through their secondary education, were very engaging and asked some very interesting and insightful questions regarding soil carbon, microbial activity, farming practices, questioning the need for a carbon market from the global north and potential career choices. It left me with hope that these young men were generally aware of regenerative agricultural practices and showed a level of energy to implement these into the future and change from conventional agricultural practices. This was particularly poignant when one considers that the theme for Mandela Day 2023 was, “ The Legacy Lives on Through You: Climate, Food and Solidarity”. 

Out & About in the Central KZN Midlands

Out & About in the Central KZN Midlands

14 July 2023

By Matt Ford, Account Manager – AgriCarbon (KZN)


I recently had the privilege of visiting one of our AgriCarbon Farmers in the central KZN midlands. I was inspired to witness firsthand the positive impact on the soil health this farm has achieved within a single season of establishing a cover cropping system on maize.   

By introducing cover cropping and increasing overall soil cover throughout the year. Not only was the productivity of the land increased, but the increase in coverage and introduction of extra variety into the cropping rotation has had visible benefits on the soil health and biology.   

Introducing practices such as cover cropping not only contributes to mitigating climate change but also opens doors to additional benefits for farmers. It’s a win-win situation as the adoption of sustainable practices not only leads to healthier and more productive soils but also provides opportunities to earn carbon credits.  

By embracing sustainable practices, farmers can unlock the hidden potential of their land, improve soil health, and contribute to a more resilient agricultural system. Moreover, participating in the AgriCarbon Programme offers a possible financial incentive to offset both the costs involved and uncertainty associated with the uptake of sustainability.   

I strongly encourage fellow farmers to explore the vast benefits of sustainable agriculture. Working together we can embark on a transformative journey towards a more sustainable future and drive impact at scale. By working hand in hand, we can cultivate thriving ecosystems, bolster food security, and address the urgent challenges posed by climate change. 

The debate on the impacts of Agricultural Limestone application

The debate on the impacts of Agricultural Limestone application

4 July 2023


by Siviwe Malongweni, Research Coordinator: Agriculture & Soil Carbon 


Soil pH helps to determine the kinds of chemical reactions that are taking place in the soil. It affects nutrient availability and toxicity, microbial activity, and plant growth. Most plants grow well at a pH range of 5.5 to 6.5. When soil pH is below this range, the soil is said to be acidic. Soil acidity is a major problem for many farmers worldwide because it can lead to decline or complete failure of crop production. For example, if soil pH is not within the optimum range it can lead to other nutrients, such as phosphorous (P) and potassium (K) being fixed and unavailable for crops. Research has shown that up to 52% of soil P is lost if the pH is below 6. To counteract this, farmers often apply lime. Lime is a soil conditioner applied to acidic soils to raise alkalinity and neutralize toxic elements in the soil. Application of lime enhances the chemical properties of soil by reducing soil acidity and through its indirect effects on the immobilization of toxic heavy metals, mobilization of plant nutrients, development of soil structure, and improvement of hydraulic properties. As a result, liming of acidic soils helps to produce more biomass, and can result in increased carbon sequestration. Addition of plant residues in soil can also have a liming effect, depending on the chemistry of the plant residue and how it interacts with the soil environment.

A field experiment conducted by Desalegn et al. in 2017 revealed that 4 years of liming at rates ranging between 0,5 and 2 tons per hectare significantly boosted the availability of plant nutrients, plant growth and most importantly, final crop yields. This reflects improved biomass production which in turn delivers increased carbon levels in the soil when biomass residues are left in field. Not all researchers agree with these outcomes as a general rule however, as some argue that liming accelerates soil biological activity, which favours the mineralization of organic matter and causes significant CO2 losses and decreased soil organic carbon (SOC) stocks. Certainly, when lime is incorporated into the soil through methods like mouldboard ploughing or rotary spading, it can disrupt soil structure and cause biological disturbance, resulting in an elevated rate of CO2 emissions released from the soil into the atmosphere. It can also reduce the protection of organic matter, making it more susceptible to decomposition with reduced SOC levels. Lastly, when lime is applied on acidic soils it undergoes a chemical reaction with soil acidity, leading to the formation and atmospheric release of CO2 gas (Figure 2). Through the data provided by farmers into the AgriCarbon programme, Climate Neutral Group will be testing the claims of both sides in this debate.  This is especially important in the South African agricultural environment as the industry is highly subject to extreme and prolonged droughts. Through research conducted by our partners at Trace & Save, CNG can report that soils with SOC levels of 2,3% and above are on average 20% more efficient with respect to irrigation than soils with SOC levels of 1,7% and below.

Our initial findings are that while liming improves soil structure by acting as a cementing agent that tightly binds clay particles into stable aggregates through the process of flocculation, bringing an increase in SOC physico-chemical protection, the effect of soil liming on soil carbon in agricultural soils is complex and depends on various interacting factors. The impact of soil liming on soil carbon levels in agricultural soils can vary depending on various factors, including the initial soil pH, lime application rate, and the specific management practices employed. CNG recognises that lime application must be evaluated on a case-by-case basis, but our findings show that limiting soil disturbance during lime application results in the least risk of SOC losses.

Since evidence exists on both sides of the debate on the effects of liming on SOC, Climate Neutral Group is encouraging VERRA, as the end issuer of the carbon credits from the AgriCarbon programme to employ a comprehensive monitoring and accounting framework that captures the impacts of lime on SOC stocks. This could be achieved by including liming as part of the eligible project activities alongside: changing/expanding crop rotations and crop intensity, introducing cover crops, shifting from annual to perennials, reducing tillage intensity, adopting new residue management and irrigation techniques, substituting synthetic fertilizers with organic matter additions.



Figure 1: (A) Aboveground biomass production in a maize field applied with (200-400 kg/ha) and without lime.

Figure 1: (B) effect of liming on soil organic carbon (SOC).  

Source A: 

Source B: 

Figure 2: Chemical reaction between lime and soil acidity – the reaction continues until all the lime has fully reacted with the soil acidity (Anderson et al. 2013)


Anderson N.P., Hart J.M., Sullivan D.M., Christensen N.W., Horneck D.A., Pirelli G.J. (2013) Applying Lime to Raise Soil pH for Crop Production (Western Oregon), 1-21.


Desalegn T., Alemu G., Adella A., Debele T., Gonzalo J., J. (2017). Effect of lime and phosphorus fertilizer on acid soils and barley (Hordeum vulgare L.) performance in the central highlands of Ethiopia. Experimental Agriculture, 53(3), 432-444. 


 Paradelo R., Virto I., Chenu C. (2015). Net effect of liming on soil organic carbon stocks: A review. Agriculture, Ecosystems and Environment, 202: 98-107.]


Out & About in Argentina

Out & About in Argentina

16 March 2023


By Russell Holmes, Head of Data & Analytics


In March this year I had the privilege of joining my colleagues, Daan van der Kamp and Geert Eenhoorn, in Argentina at the kick-off of Climate Neutral Group’s South America Regenerative Agriculture (SARA) programme – a collaboration between CNG and RUUTs) aimed at rewarding regenerative grazing farmers for farming more sustainably.  

Arriving in Buenos Aires I was (literally) hit by a heatwave that had been plaguing the county since November the year before. Record breaking temperatures soured to 45 degrees, 8 degrees above the normal in east-central Argentina. Basic functioning like walking was difficult and being a fit person feeling heat fatigue was difficult to comprehend and navigate. The scorching summer was accounted to the impacts of the La Nina climate pattern, exacerbated but climate change and the deforestation of Argentina’s natural inland forests which, would normally introduce cooling winds and trap moisture to create rain clouds.   

One sweltering morning we boarded busses and took a day trip out to La Emma, one of the RUUTs flagship grazing farms.  Our trip out to the area was alarming to say the least. Field after field of degraded and scorched land were evidence from months of low rainfall. We were told that many of the grazing famers were selling cattle or were closing-up shop due to the drought and the once thriving industry of the Argentinian steak was under threat of collapsing.   

Our inspirational passionate guide, Pablo Borelli, (co-founder, and CEO of Ovis 21) explained that there has always been a symbiotic relationship between soil, the grass that grows on it and the animals that graze its pastures. For millennia grass planes have been grazed by antelope and, as such, have built a genetic dependency on grazing to regrow (like pruning a fruit tree). The issue with current grazing practices is due to overgrazing and not allowing enough time for the grass to recover, resulting in lower yields over time and the slow degradation of the soil. He proposed that by optimising the timing of grazing (as the migration of animals in the past would have done naturally) would benefit the grass, increase its yield and eventually improve soil conditions. This is a revolutionary concept.   

The picture below of neighbouring farms, clearly demonstrate the difference between conventional grazing and regenerative grazing practices. With very little relative capital outlay one could completely transform from one’s operation, even during a drought. The main issue, however, is social reform and the resistance to change. Farmers are slow to adopt change and in fact show little faith in science. Could carbon credit be used as an additional incentive to push grazing farmers in the right direction?   

Needless to say, the relentless heat wave has been a stark reminder of why programmes like SARA should be expedited as a matter of urgency and why Carbon Development programmes like AgriCarbon, are the catalysts that are needed to ensure we meet out 2050 net zero target.   

Out & About in Darling, Western Cape

Out & About in Darling, Western Cape

28 June 2023


By Kyra Pienaar, AgriCarbon Account Manager


On 28th June, I embarked on a trip to Darling in the Western Cape to visit Paul Basson in order to gain deeper insights into the regenerative practices being implemented on Uilenkraal. The purpose was to observe and understand various practices that are currently not reflected in our data entries. This visit provided me with a comprehensive understanding of the farm, its management, and Paul’s visionary approach, as well as the proactive steps he is taking to realize his vision.  

Paul graciously showcased all of the aforementioned aspects during the tour. I had the opportunity to witness ongoing field trials exploring the viability of reduced fertilizer usage and wider-scale inoculation. Additionally, I observed the innovative biogas production system that utilizes methane emitted during the creation of slurry for field fertilization. The introduction of new composting projects and the stimulating response of plant roots to mycorrhizal inoculation were also part of the experience. This trip highlighted the necessity of expanding our data capture to encompass these additional practices. It was truly inspiring to witness how one farmer successfully convinced his entire family to embrace regenerative methods.