Highlands Rewilding eyeing further shoots of growth with latest funding push

An organisation focused on rewilding in the Highlands has announced plans to raise more capital via the likes of crowdfunding and banking finance, while it has hired three “world-class” scientists to help accelerate its goals.

Highlands Rewilding says it owns 682 hectares in Inverness-shire and Aberdeenshire, and aims to scale nature recovery and community prosperity by acquiring further land for rewilding, and by using its scientific and data “firepower” to help other landowners profit from new nature-recovery land-management practices.

It says its 50 current co-owners are preparing to expand ownership, hoping to add hundreds of retail investors in a fundraising campaign to run from December 2022 to February 2023. That follows it securing £7.5 million earlier this year in its opening funding round that enabled a major land purchase.

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The company has also unveiled the triple hire of top scientists to lead the management and counting of the carbon it aims to sequester and the biodiversity it aims to increase to “fight climate meltdown and biodiversity collapse”.

Highlands Rewilding says newly-appointed co-chief scientists Dr Penelope Whitehorn and Dr Calum Brown earned their PhDs at Scottish universities, have extensive experience of Highland ecology, and have collectively authored or co-authored 90 peer-reviewed scientific papers.

Also joining the team is chief data scientist Cathy Atkinson, who is described as having led data-gathering and processing projects for several ministries in the UK civil service, for which she was awarded an OBE.

They will be supported by a team of 17, many of them trained ecologists, while the firm’s six directors include Neil Sutherland, founder of the Inverness firm Makar, and Archie Fraser, former long-term head of corporate finance at Solarcentury.

Dr Jeremy Leggett, Highlands Rewilding's founder, and veteran climate campaigner and green social entrepreneur. Picture: contributed.Dr Jeremy Leggett, Highlands Rewilding's founder, and veteran climate campaigner and green social entrepreneur. Picture: contributed.
Dr Jeremy Leggett, Highlands Rewilding's founder, and veteran climate campaigner and green social entrepreneur. Picture: contributed.

Highlands Rewilding states that to fund its scaling, it will be seeking capital from three sources, the first being equity from impact investors beyond its 50 founding funders, with the majority of the latter individuals. The firm hopes other institutions will join in at this second stage, joining MFS Investment Management, the rewilding firm’s only existing investor that is a financial institution.

The second source is equity from citizen rewilders investing via a crowdfunding platform to be operated by Edinburgh firm ShareIn. The minimum investment will be £50, and outreach will be international but targeted at Scots. The third targeted source is debt, with Highlands Rewilding saying banks are yet to lend to commercial rewilding companies.

Revenue streams

It adds that it is aiming for “ethical” levels of profitability, and so “useful” returns to its investor owners, via multiple revenue streams. These will include natural-capital uplift income, residential courses for corporate and other groups, regenerative agriculture, eco-tourism, eco-building including affordable homes, and possibly green energy. It also said top universities are partnering in the research it will undertake, in particular the University of Edinburgh, and the University of Oxford.

Dr Jeremy Leggett, the founder of Highlands Rewilding and a veteran climate campaigner and green social entrepreneur, said: “In the first two years of this project, we have made a good start in rewilding science, land-management for nature recovery, and community involvement.

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“By ramping up all these in our third year, we are aiming for a meaningful contribution to the Scottish Government’s effort to hit its ambitious climate and biodiversity targets, while also helping with the dire land inequality problem in Scotland.”

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