The world has turned its attention to carbon emissions, and it appears agriculture might be a solution. And while the idea of your farm being a carbon sink with some added income potential, the path to that approach may take time. A new group — the Agoro Carbon Alliance — aims to help farmers take advantage of the opportunities available.
Launched in early June, the group was started by Yara, a global crop nutrition solutions supplier that has been building a digital presence in agriculture. The company bought the Adapt-N platform a few years ago for more targeted nitrogen use. The Agoro Carbon Alliance has been set up as a separate entity to work on ways to help farmers benefit from the global move to decarbonize. The alliance is starting out in Brazil, the United States and parts of Europe, and will expand globally.
Alex Bell, CEO of the new busines, noted that the aim is to work in “solving a global problem through collaboration. Supporting millions of farmers around the world to change the way they grow food, improve the health of their soils, fight climate change and improve their financial health.”
Yara, which Bell called a founding member of the alliance, will be part of the effort. And while the company does make and sell fertilizer and other products, he was clear that farmers who join the alliance won’t be held to buying Yara products.
As for that “separate entity” status for the carbon alliance? Terje Knutsen, executive vice president for farming solutions at Yara, explained: “We wanted to set up the Agoro Carbon Alliance as an independent unit, a focused unit that is dedicated and independent. This goes back to the task we have ahead of us. It’s a task where we need to act fast, with scale, with what we are doing. We want to onboard as many farmers as possible, as quickly as possible, and we think the combination of having Yara, but then to have an agile entity… is a good recipe for the future.”
Creating urgency for action
Bell moderated a global virtual event to announce the alliance’s creation, claiming 1,400 people were watching. During the talk, he spoke to two other partners involved with the business — Minnesota-based imagery firm Sentera and Colorado-based Cloud Agronomics, which uses imagery to measure carbon capture.
Kris Poulson, co-founder of Sentera, noted that it was a “pretty easy decision” to join the alliance. “We felt that strategically, as an organization, joining the carbon alliance, providing real optionality and [helping farmers] be more sustainable provided an economic benefit. We want to help keep those acres in the family for generations to come.”
Added Jack Roswell, co-founder of Cloud Agronomics: “At Cloud Agronomics, we believe every farm can be a solution to climate change. The Agoro collaborative approach with rigorous and accurate monitoring can generate trust for carbon credit buyers.”
These two partners will be instrumental in an area that is important to the “decarbonization’ opportunity in agriculture — measurement and verification. “In order to enable [carbon capture] to be a solution to climate change …, remote sensing and artificial intelligence will be important to set baselines and measure the change in soil carbon every year,” Roswell said.
The key is knowing that what a farm does is working and measuring that result. And the Agoro Carbon Alliance isn’t going to reinvent the wheel regarding carbon measurement. Sean Donovan, carbon market expert for Agoro, noted that the company won’t be using a new standard. “We’ll use existing standards. We want to be credible in the carbon market and provide high-quality information,” he said.
Yebin Zhao, global agronomist for Agoro Carbon Alliance, added that the carbon credit measured on a farm has potential. “We work with farmers on a daily basis, and the farmer’s success is our success,” he said. ‘They will get a benefit out of new farming practices. For them to partner with Agoro, they choose knowledge, first-class service and global solutions for global warming.”
Changing how you farm?
Part of the challenge of engaging what may be a potential carbon market is the need to add new practices on your farm, from tillage practices to crop nutrient use. The alliance aims to provide expertise and support for those changes.
Anastasia Pavlovic, managing director in the U.S. for Agoro, explained that there are new practices that are not as commonplace today. She noted that initial practice changes offer the potential for income but that new revenue streams could be created with new practices in the future. It’s an evolving marketplace.
One question posed often in the climate discussion is what to do for farmers who engaged in no-till and other carbon-sequestering practices years ago. “I’m asked about that most frequently,” Pavlovic said. “I think the best way to think about this question is that you’re going to have a series of programs coming online in the market early.”
She sees a role for those veteran carbon sequesters to be part of the transition for others, guiding them in ways that help them succeed in the market.
Added CEO Bell: “We’re working on not just finding ways to work with those farmers who have done this for years, but to work with those who have yet to make the change. We’re also leveraging Yara’s deep relations with food companies to see if we can find ways to incentivize and reward farms that have already made the change.”
Fertilizer and your carbon footprint
More attention is turning to the use of nitrogen fertilizer and the release of nitrous oxide into the atmosphere. This is a gas that has a greater impact than carbon dioxide as a greenhouse gas. Yara is a fertilizer maker, but Zhao added that the company cares about its environmental footprint. “We have the Adapt-N program to help farmers manage their applications of nitrogen right away and improve yields. And we’re looking at nitrogen-use efficiency overall.”
Yara is also working on what it calls a “clean ammonia” product to offer the market in the future. “Yara is working on that, and through the Agoro Carbon Alliance, we are working to decarbonize in the field. We’re taking strong action on both sides,” Bell added.
The complexity of decarbonization and the potential opportunities for agriculture are evolving. The Agoro Carbon Alliance is the newest player, joining a host of efforts announced by major companies. To learn more, visit agorocarbonalliance.com.