Early memories of nature
I grew up on our family farm in the Cotswolds, spending many a day helping my father with jobs across the farm. My mother’s side of the family grew up in South Africa, and I was fortunate to spend much of my childhood in Namibia. Whether it was climbing kopjes in the Namibian bush, walking across heather moorlands in Scotland, or playing in the woods and valleys on the farm, I fell in love with the natural environment. If it's anything that involves habitat restoration or being out in the countryside, I’m sold.
Roots in rural land management
After leaving school, I spent a year in Kenya and Namibia helping tracking and anti-poaching teams. I then studied Geography and Environmental Management at the University of Exeter. After graduating in 2008, I joined the army and trained at Sandhurst, before going on deployments to Germany, Canada, Cyprus, and Afghanistan.
After six years, I was keen to return to the family farm. I completed a Masters in Rural Estate Management at the Royal Agricultural University and joined Savills, becoming a Chartered Surveyor. Around this time, I became more interested and aware of the emergence of natural capital. The draft Agriculture Act Agriculture and Environment Bill had just been released post-Brexit, signalling what I believed to be the start of the biggest change in land use across the UK since World War Two.
Developing a Natural Capital grade
In 2019, I co-founded Nature Capital and devised the Natural Capital Grade to help articulate the performance of a landholding’s natural capital to its owners and stakeholders, so we could help them demonstrate tangible progress and good practice.
We helped landowners identify the highest impact opportunity and quantified the amount of carbon or Biodiversity Net Gain (BNG) units a project might generate – working across everything from small hilltop farms on Exmoor to large estates like Badminton and Sandringham.
Very occasionally, you meet a team that combines the tech expertise, data capabilities, communication, project management and specialist skills to take a vision and deliver it with integrity. When I met the Zulu team, that was exactly what I found.
The multi-disciplinary team is one of Zulu’s strongest attributes, with each person bringing a complimentary skillset to the broader mission. After working together on several projects, we decided to merge Zulu and Nature Capital, and I’ve been with Zulu ever since.
Role at Zulu Ecosystems
My role at Zulu is primarily focused on building relationships and developing habitat creation projects with landowners, landscape clusters, and environmental groups. I work with them to help them understand their natural capital and identify potential habitat restoration sites, while helping the Zulu team deliver projects and build upon the capabilities of our platform.
A key part of what we do at Zulu is to assess and then deliver projects at a landscape scale. By aggregating clusters of smaller projects and enabling the integration of private finance, we can support even small-scale individual nature restoration as part of a larger whole. This maximises a project’s benefits to local biodiversity, allows us to enhance habitat connectivity, all while creating a highly investable book of carbon in the local area.
Understanding how natural capital can affect land use and food production
Historically, there were very few ways to make money from land that weren’t tied to timber or food production. I was always taken by examples in Namibia and South Africa, where more naturalised habitats and wildlife have a clear value and generate revenue, typically from sources like ecotourism or hunting. Without having to rely on intensive farming, the impact on the land is much lower.
Unless the landowner and local community can see demonstrable value from a habitat, it will often go overlooked and unappreciated. I believe that nature and the benefits it provides must have a value. If it doesn’t, it all too easily gets ignored then taken for granted.