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Photo credit: Micheile Henderson / Unsplash

Carbon harvest: Indigo Ag, Nori announce first corporate carbon credit buyers

October 15, 2020

Indigo Ag has revealed a long list of corporate buyers for its carbon credits, including finance giants Barclays and JPMorgan Chase, e-commerce enabler Shopify, and tech veteran IBM.

Boston Consulting Group, Dogfish Head Craft Brewery, Givewith, and New Belgium Brewing are also among the companies committed to purchasing the Boston-based startup’s “verified agricultural carbon credits.”

Each credit is priced at $20 per tonne of carbon dioxide equivalent sequestered in the 2020 growing season. To generate credits, Indigo is implementing what it describes as two novel methods for measuring and verifying the net on-farm GHG emissions impact of management practice changes. 

“The credits have not yet been generated, but the carbon sequestration and emissions reductions we will measure to generate those credits are happening as part of the current growing season,” Kari Hernandez, director of carbon operations at Indigo, tells AFN

“The critical step in between raising the ‘carbon crop’ and issuing the credits is quantification and verification. At the end of each season, farmers will submit management data that we will then use to quantify demonstrable changes in net greenhouse gas emissions.” 

Indigo claims these methodologies were developed through “rigorous, transparent processes” alongside Climate Action Reserve and Verra, nonprofit organizations that manage greenhouse gas (GHG) crediting programs.

“They have slightly different jurisdictions. Climate Action Reserve is a US-based protocol and Verra is [global],” Hernandez explains. “Climate Action Reserve it’s a great place to start but we couldn’t take it overseas and we do have aspirations to take this program around the world.”

Global aspirations

Choosing two protocols also had to do with a few technical distinctions in how each considers certain technicalities. 

Indigo claims both standards are the first to allow for comprehensive yet scalable long-term monitoring of on-farm emissions, abatement, and carbon removal. Climate Action Reserve’s Soil Enrichment Protocol, which is available today to any carbon project developer in the US, was developed through a 21-member working group of organizations including Woods Hole Research Center, Native Energy, the Nature Conservancy, and the World Resources Institute

Verra’s ‘methodology for improved agricultural land management’ was reviewed by the organization’s multi-stakeholder working group and was subject to independent, third-party validation, according to Indigo. Approval is still pending.

Both protocols were opened up to public comments and revised in response to these.

Indigo describes the standards as taking a unique approach to measuring on-farm GHG emissions at scale. They do this by aggregating farmers together into groups, leveraging new tech, and using a combination of direct soil carbon measurements and advanced biochemical process models.

“Historical efforts in the agricultural space to generate carbon credits historically have been heavily based on one or the other,” Hernandez says.

“If you have just a model, you are estimating credits and certainty is much lower. There are changes in soil carbon that you just may not be capturing accurately. The flipside is that soil sample-heavy operations give very accurate data [but] are very expensive. Making those economics work and servicing a large area is [therefore] very limited.”

Indigo estimates carbon credits generated based on data that the growers provide and then uses a sampling method to ground-truth the models and calibrate them at the same time.

With big-name buyers on board, the next milestone for the project will be generating its first crop of verified carbon credits. Soil sampling is underway and growers are gearing up to submit their data.

On the horizon, Indigo is looking towards signing up more growers for the 2021 growing season while continuing to work with “a large pipeline of additional buyers” who are interested in purchasing credits, according to Hernandez. 

Row crop grower generates $341,000 carbon credits

Nori, another US-based carbon marketplace developer, is finalizing the first high-volume purchase of credits through its platform. They come from Midwestern row crop grower Kelly Garrett, who is enrolled in the CarbonNOW program operated by Locus Ag to guide farmers through the carbon credit process. The program also provides enrolees with access to Locus Ag’s Rhizolizer soil probiotic technology.

“Kelly’s total validated amount of sequestered carbon was 22,745 metric tons across his acres,” Grant Aldridge, CEO at Locus Ag, tells AFN. “To help put that into perspective, the average passenger vehicle emits about 4.6 metric tons of carbon annually. The carbon credits are currently being sold at $15 per metric ton, making his credits worth $341,175.”

E-commerce enabler Shopify has ordered 5,000 credits so far. Another 15,000 of those credits are on hold for a potential corporate buyer, according to Locus. The remaining credits will be offered through the Nori marketplace for purchase by other parties.

Nori uses the US Department of Agriculture’s COMET-Farm tool to calculate the amount of carbon sequestered over a five-year period and requires practices to be verified by an approved third-party prior to issuing carbon credits.

“The challenge is that most of these initiatives are futuristic and still in the initial development stages in the US. Other parts of the world, like Europe, are light years ahead,” Aldridge says.

“Monetizing a high-volume purchase of carbon credits by a corporate buyer from a US CarbonNOW farmer in the Nori marketplace will validate the economic potential of agricultural carbon credits, and hopefully help drive the growth of the US carbon market.”

Earlier this month, Canada’s FarmersEdge announced that it is launching a “data-fueled” carbon credit program that will assist growers in using their data to qualify for carbon credits, while US-based Farmers Business Network launched its own scheme — called Gradable — that is focusing on carbon abatement.

The US government is also getting involved through a proposed bill called the Growing Climate Solutions Act, which calls for the certification for technical service providers in the space and has been met with a wide array of reactions.

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