Farmers should be able to increase their revenues by selling carbon credits to entities that need them to offset the CO2 emissions from power plants or other manufacturing processes.
That’s what the experts say, but how do you know what you have in your soils and how much it might be worth to an outside buyer if a market for carbon credits began to gain traction?
Mitchell Hora, a fourth-generation farmer from Washington, Iowa, and a group of partners are working to develop a new company called Continuum Ag which could provide farmers with the tools they need to quantify soil health characteristics on their farms and convert them into cash.
“There are plenty of different tools and data options for us to use as farmers,” said Hora, CEO and founder of Continuum Ag. “However, all these platforms only evaluate the chemical components of soil, and they send back to us linear equations, one-size-fits-all systems for fertility management.
“We know that the soils are not just chemicals; the soil is physical and the soil is biological. All these other platforms are really treating the soil like dirt; they’re treating the soil as a dead, static growing medium. Our evaluation is that the soil is alive – it is a living, dynamic continuum.”
Hora was speaking at the end of a week-long session aimed at preparing his and eight other startups to compete in the AgLaunch Row Crop Challenge at the Ag Tech Expo in Indianapolis. Continuum Ag and five other new companies were selected to move to the next round of developing companies that could have a major impact on agriculture.
Continuum Ag was formed as a consulting company four years ago, he said. Since then they have worked with growers in 40 states and eight foreign countries to help them have a better picture of the health of their soils.
“We need a platform that helps us quantify what the heck is soil health, bringing in the chemical, physical components to allow us to make holistic decisions about our operations,” Hora said during his presentation at the AgLaunch offices in Memphis, Tenn.
“All these other platforms drive only yield as the desired outcome while we really need to be looking at profit at the end of the day.”
Continuum Ag is developing a Topsoil Tool, which he said will “integrate soil health data into one consistent platform that farmers, their advisers and supply-chain companies can tap into via desktop applications, their iPads or smartphones while they are in the field.”
Using the Continuum Ag Topsoil Tool on his own farm the last four years, Hora said he’s been able to reduce synthetic fertilizer use by 50% and pesticide use by 25%.
“Although we had terrible weather this year in Iowa, we’re maintaining some of our best yields ever,” he said. “In one example, we had 125 units of nitrogen applied to our field, which is 50 percent less than normal, and we were averaging over 225-bushel corn in the test area.”