Grazing management software platform PastureMap and carbon credit facilitator Soil Value Exchange have merged to form a new entity called Grassroots Carbon. The new company will link the PastureMap database of landowners and graziers to carbon credit opportunities. Grassroots Carbon will pay landowners who capture and store carbon on their land.
“One morning, I was reading a Texas Monthly article about Lew Moorman running Soil Works in San Antonio and I said, ‘Whoa, that is exactly what our mission is. I need to connect,’” Henk Mooiweer, executive vice president of Soil Value Exchange and now CEO of Grassroots Carbon, tells AFN. “So, I simply sent them an email and in a matter of four months the companies merged.”
“Our goal is to accelerate the move to regenerative farming and the addition of certified carbon credits will be a game-changer for ranchers. The opportunity to create the leading carbon marketplace to accelerate this move was a no-brainer. We expect in 20 years we will look back at this as a key moment of change in the food and climate industries,” Lew Moorman, board chair of Grassroots Carbon and co-founder of Soilworks, said in a statement announcing the merger.
The key goal for Grassroots Carbon is to remove as much friction as possible from the carbon credit generation process for landowners, farmers, and ranchers.
Grassroots Carbon is working with a carbon storage standard called BCarbon developed by the Rice University Baker Institute, which handles the credits, certification, and independent valuation for the credit generation process.
“The standard is very open and friendly to landowners,” Mooiweer explains. “Basically, the only rules are that you cannot destroy soil health. It works with a 10-year permanence requirement while most standards work with 40-year or 100-year requirements. It is very difficult to find a ranching family who can sign a 40-year requirement. That’s ridiculous.”
Each year, participants in Grassroots Carbon’s market can sell their carbon credits. They are required to maintain soil health practices on the property for at least 10 years. The credits are calculated based on soil sample measurements that penetrate three feet into the soil.
The methodology also allows for interim payments based on “very, very careful, conservative assessments” that are also certified, according to Mooiweer. Offering payments on a more frequent schedule not only offers a better incentive for landowners but takes some of the risk out of participating in the program.
Grassroots Carbon also ensured that the paperwork and recordkeeping requirements for participants is low.
“It will be a combination of a survey and a testimonial. We have to try and have minimum bureaucracy,” Mooiweer says. “And we pay landowners 80% of the carbon profits period.”
Carbon credit competition or chaos?
The carbon credit market for agriculture is developing rapidly. A number of companies are coming up with ways to attempt to get farmers paid for pursuing carbon-sequestering practices on their land. Farmers Business Network recently launched a new offering aimed at helping its members qualify for carbon credits while Farmers Edge partnered with Radicle in October 2020 to launch a “data-fueled” carbon credit program.
Indigo Ag signed up more carbon credit buyers in February 2021. Microsoft agreed to purchase up to $2 million in carbon credits from dairy cooperative Land O’Lakes while Nori announced its first round of credit buyers in late 2020.
The government is also showing interest in getting involved in the movement (for better or worse) and President Biden’s climate change solutions plan includes a nod to the potential for agriculture to create a carbon sink.
With so much momentum and interest behind carbon credits, some are cautioning the industry to pump the breaks. They raise issues like the accuracy of sequestration measurement methodologies, the permanence of sequestration, and whether offsetting emissions through credits is a bandaid or solution.
“There’s a bit of a carbon Wild West going on. There’s enormous pressure for companies to do something about their carbon footprint and nature-based soil carbon storage can be one of those solutions,” Mooiweer says.
“When we talk to landowners, most of them have been in contact with several providers of carbon credits. There’s a bit of hesitation when it comes to knowing whether they are picking the winning horse. We try to make it all more transparent and simpler. That’s what this is all about,” Mooiweer says.
One way Grassroots Carbon plans to garner landowner trust is by tapping PastureMap’s existing database of graziers who are already likely using regenerative grazing practices.
“We can come to them and say that we have these data, we know they are doing the practices, and that we can plug them into these markets. It’s less about them having to make a decision about another random company reaching out to them and more about offering an additional opportunity as a company they have already been using,” Nick Honegger, general manager at PastureMap, tells AFN.
“It’s all about taking barriers away. How can we make this as simple as possible?” Mooiweer adds.