Inside Cargill’s experiment to pay farmers for carbon sequestration

June 15, 2020 by  
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Inside Cargill’s experiment to pay farmers for carbon sequestration Heather Clancy Mon, 06/15/2020 – 00:15 Over the past year, agricultural commodities giant Cargill stepped up its global sustainability initiatives substantially, with a series of programs created to support its science-based target of reducing supply chain emissions by 30 percent by 2030.  Like many other food companies, it’s dedicating resources to promoting regenerative agricultural practices among the farmers and seeking ways that farms can profit from their efforts to sequester carbon dioxide. That’s the backstory behind its relationship with the Soil & Water Outcomes Fund , a program intended to support farmers who design and implement initiatives aimed at improving water quality and mitigating flooding and runoff, increasing carbon sequestration, reducing emissions from on-farm operations, and creating or protecting habitat. These include practices such as planting cover crops, reducing tillage and preserving edge-of-field wilderness buffers or wetland. The effort, which includes close to 10,000 acres in the pilot phase this year across 15 farms in Iowa, is administered by the Iowa Soybean Association , promoting the idea with members and advising them on best practices; and investment firm Quantified Ventures , helping with cost-benefit analyses and other operational aspects of the effort, including fundraising. The goal is to include up to 100,000 acres in Iowa next year and expand into at least two more states, according to the companies managing the program. They come to us with a program. We analyze and pay them on a tiered approach depending on what they do. Progress against a farm’s individual carbon removal or water stewardship efforts will be measured using COMET-FARM , a carbon reporting and accounting system developed by the United States Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Division and Colorado State University. “[Farmers] come to us with a program. We analyze and pay them on a tiered approach depending on what they do,” said Adam Kiel, director of conservation and external programs at Iowa Soybean. Farmers will be paid between $30 and $45 per acre this season, depending on the outcomes. The metrics for success are being defined by the fund in collaboration with local municipalities that feel the downstream effects of agricultural activities within their watersheds. To be clear, the program isn’t limited to soybean operations but it does require that the approaches being adopted are additive or new — farmers won’t be rewarded for regenerative practices that were already in place. The program started specifically to address water quality measures but evolved to embrace the broader carbon sequestration mandate.     Cargill’s role is twofold: Not only is it encouraging farmers to participate as way of helping address its Scope 3 emissions, it also will buy carbon credits through the fund on an annual basis. “The innovative nature of this program was compelling,” said Ryan Sirolli, director of row crop sustainability at Cargill. While Cargill is the only named company participating in the new fund, Mark Lambert, director of Quantified Ventures, said it is in discussion with other large companies. “We want a diversity of customers,” he said. “We see a variety of opportunities to support sustainability goals.” What does success look like? A program that touches “millions” of acres, he said. Given the disruptive effects of the COVID-19 pandemic across the global food system , it’s more important than ever to help farmers reap the financial benefits of investing in a more sustainable approach, Sirolli said. “Agriculture is getting absolutely hammered right now,” he said. Aside from this specific effort, Cargill is a founding member of the Ecosystem Services Market Consortium, which seeks to create a national marketplace by 2020. “We would love to see customers, competitors, others saying, ‘I would love to be in this space,’” Sirolli said. This isn’t the only carbon marketplace scheme in the works — and the model is raising questions about how actions are measured and verified. Startup Indigo Ag, backed by companies including recent investor FedEx , for example, is planning to pay farmers based on how much carbon they have stored in their soil — it collects soil samples to that end. Software company Nori, another rising player, is using blockchain to manage the transactions. An important actor Cargill’s influence on transforming to a more sustainable food system cannot be underestimated — it employs 160,000 people in 70 countries. The footprint of its sustainability activities, detailed in its latest sustainability report published in early June, is extensive. Among some notable highlights of its work: Using digital technologies and barcodes, the company can trace 50 percent of its “sustainable cocoa beans” supply from farm to factory; it’s also using mapping services, which will be important for identifying regions where forests are at risk. The company has reduced its “aggregated gross CO2 reduction” related to its maritime vessels — it owns an ocean fleet of over 600 vessels — by 800,000 metric tons. It’s also working closely with the Global Maritime Forum.  It’s “on track” to eliminate deforestation related to commercial palm concessions in its “third-party supply chain” by the end of 2020.  Cargill also has completed a Brazilian supply chain mapping exercise related to building “deforestation-free” supply chains for soybeans. Earlier this year at GreenBiz 20, Cargill CSO Ruth Kimmelshue acknowledged that progress to protect forests has been tougher within the soy supply chain than it has been for cocoa or palm oil. The company’s overall pledge has been to halve deforestation within its supply chains by the end of 2020 and to eliminate it entirely by 2030. Pull Quote They come to us with a program. We analyze and pay them on a tiered approach depending on what they do. Topics Carbon Removal Food & Agriculture Regenerative Agriculture Natural Climate Solutions Carbon Removal Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) Off Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off

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How Stripe’s ‘negative emissions’ team picked its first four carbon removal projects

May 28, 2020 by  
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How Stripe’s ‘negative emissions’ team picked its first four carbon removal projects Heather Clancy Thu, 05/28/2020 – 01:14 Among the many notes to myself about potential follow-up stories lies my scribbled reminder to check in on online payment tech company Stripe’s pledge last year to put at least $1 million annually toward carbon removal activities. Last week, the company knocked that item off my checklist. After a “rigorous” search, Stripe disclosed that it will support four “high potential” carbon capture and storage projects — picked from 24 applications. The action was detailed in a blog by Ryan Orbuch, a member of the internal climate strategy team leading the push. “Our initial priority was working out how we could use our funds to have the biggest impact … Next, we want to make it ‘much’ easier for businesses to make these kinds of purchases, which, we hope, will begin to grow the market for carbon removal far beyond Stripe’s contribution,” Orbuch wrote in response to questions I submitted for this article. We want to make it ‘much’ easier for businesses to make these kinds of purchases. Here’s a rundown of the organizations that Stripe plans to support (presented alphabetically). If you do the math, you’ll see these projects (in aggregate) account for all of the company’s annual commitment. CarbonCure : The Canadian firm is using mineralized CO2 — aka calcium carbonate — in concrete. The CO2 is captured from industrial processes at plants creating things such as ethanol, fertilizer or cement. Stripe is supporting 2,500 tons at a price of $100 per ton. Charm Industrial : The San Francisco-based startup is working on an approach that injects bio-oil captured from biomass into geologic storage. Stripe is the company’s first customer; the project will support the capture of 416 tons at $600 per ton. Climeworks : The Swiss company, which uses renewable energy to capture carbon dioxide from the air, offers a sequestration approach called Carbfix that injects concentrated CO2 into basaltic rock formations. Stripe’s commitment is 322.5 tons, for which it will pay a price of $775 per ton. Ultimately, though, Climeworks has said it is working toward a long-term price of $100 to $200 per ton. Project Vesta : This organization, which hails from San Francisco, is focused on capturing CO2 within the ocean and storing it using olivine, a natural mineral. The idea is to embed the captured carbon dioxide with limestone on the seafloor. This is an extremely early-stage approach, and the company needs to test it for both safety and viability. Stripe’s commitment to help it capture 3,333.33 tons at $75 per ton will help it with both lab experiments and pilot beach projects. The criteria that Stripe used to assess its various options were pretty specific — they’re summarized below in the graphic.  In response to my question about which were the most important considerations, Orbuch said no project was a perfect match nor did the Stripe team expect any to be. It didn’t specifically set out to pick four (although the math worked out well, with roughly $250,000 committed to each.) What stood out was the projects’ particularly high potential as well as the fact that they work toward closing the gap of what’s available for companies to use as part of their carbon removal strategy. He wrote: “One thing that really stood out to us was how few existing projects even attempt to sequester carbon outside of the biosphere. There’s a particularly large gap in non-biospheric solutions (such a large gap, in fact, that we decided that we’d also support R&D for these kinds of projects going forward — to help increase ‘top of funnel’). While sequestration beyond the biosphere certainly wasn’t the only criteria we considered, this one became increasingly important to us.” We’ve been encouraged by how many businesses, including many Stripe users, have expressed interest in purchasing alongside us. Stripe didn’t make the decision about which projects to choose on its own. It consulted a number of advisers from academia (including scholars from Worcester Polytechnic, Heriot-Watt, Harvard and the University of Utah) and NGOs (Environmental Defense Fund and Carbon180).  One thing that intrigues me about Stripe’s interest in funding carbon removal is its potential to help other companies act. How cool would it be, for example, if Stripe could include an option in its online payment service that allows businesses to fund these sorts of projects directly, perhaps as a percentage of a transaction or as a flat rate that customers could add to a purchase? Shopify, another e-commerce merchant platform, has said that it eventually will allow its business customers to do this although it hasn’t offered much detail. When I asked Orbuch how Stripe customers might benefit from the projects announced last week, he basically said to stay tuned. “We’ve been encouraged by how many businesses, including many Stripe users, have expressed interest in purchasing alongside us, and we want to make it as frictionless as possible for them to do so,” he wrote. “More details to come at a later time.” In the call to action in its blog, Orbuch indicated that Stripe would like to create an ecosystem of “funders and founders” that can help it create an ecosystem of carbon removal opportunities to support that vision. Pull Quote We want to make it ‘much’ easier for businesses to make these kinds of purchases. We’ve been encouraged by how many businesses, including many Stripe users, have expressed interest in purchasing alongside us. Topics Carbon Removal Carbon Removal Carbon Capture Featured Column Practical Magic Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) Off Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off Project Vesta is focused on capturing CO2 within the ocean. Courtesy of Project Vesta Close Authorship

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How Stripe’s ‘negative emissions’ team picked its first four carbon removal projects

Why Amazon’s commitment to working forests matters

April 30, 2020 by  
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It’s not just about carbon removal, it’s about creating or preserving economic opportunities in rural communities.

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Why Amazon’s commitment to working forests matters

5 ways we can innovate to solve two crises at once

April 30, 2020 by  
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It would be devastating if the COVID-19 crisis killed off climate tech startups. We only have a few months to get it right.

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5 ways we can innovate to solve two crises at once

SDG No. 17, coronavirus and the battle for a collaborative future

April 30, 2020 by  
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Here’s why a key Sustainable Development Goal is back in style, and why it may be the SDG “for our times.”

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SDG No. 17, coronavirus and the battle for a collaborative future

Rethinking the Trillion Trees Act could help the US economy

April 28, 2020 by  
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Coronavirus has caused unemployment to skyrocket. Tree restoration could be a cost-effective way to put Americans back to work.

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Rethinking the Trillion Trees Act could help the US economy

Rethinking the Trillion Trees Act could help the US economy

April 28, 2020 by  
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Coronavirus has caused unemployment to skyrocket. Tree restoration could be a cost-effective way to put Americans back to work.

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Rethinking the Trillion Trees Act could help the US economy

Crops could face double trouble from insects and a warming climate

April 28, 2020 by  
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Watch the very hungry caterpillar.

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Crops could face double trouble from insects and a warming climate

Indigo Ag’s plan to compensate farmers for carbon removal is attracting funders such as FedEx

April 23, 2020 by  
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The startup initially planned to have 3 million acres signed up for its Indigo Carbon program in the first year. It sextupled that goal.

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Indigo Ag’s plan to compensate farmers for carbon removal is attracting funders such as FedEx

Small plant, big protein

April 23, 2020 by  
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Mankai is the world’s tiniest leaf vegetable. Israeli startup Hinoman wants to build it into a widely available food brand by 2025.

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Small plant, big protein

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