Why agtech is critical for regenerative agriculture

September 17, 2020 by  
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Why agtech is critical for regenerative agriculture Heather Clancy Thu, 09/17/2020 – 01:30 Early this month, McDonald’s made headlines when it teamed with Cargill, Target and The Nature Conservancy to put $8.5 million toward helping Nebraska farmers cultivate regenerative agriculture practices over the next five years. The initiative, like others emerging in the past several years from Cargill , General Mills, Danone and other big companies in the food system, is aimed at promoting natural carbon sequestration practices — and it is piloting ways farmers can be rewarded for embracing them. As much as I’m encouraged by these efforts, I’ve often wondered: What metrics are being used to evaluate them? What does success look like? What will it take to scale these pilots? And how on earth is this all being measured? A new relationship between Microsoft and Land O’Lakes points to part of the answer. The multiyear alliance centers on the farmer cooperative’s agtech software portfolio, including its Winfield United forecasting tools and Truterra , a platform developed to manage sustainability programs such as no-till cultivation, precision nutrient management and cover crop planting. The deal calls for the Land O’Lakes apps to become part of Microsoft’s burgeoning cloud service focused on agriculture, Azure FarmBeats ; the two companies are developing a resource specifically for serving dairy farmers and are collaborating to deploy broadband in rural communities to help make the connections. It turns out that grain silos and elevators are pretty good hosts for wireless antennae. We’re moving away from intuition-based decisions. Your cost might stay the same, but your output will go up. … And food companies can trace it back to certain practices. What is particularly intriguing to me is the future of an app called Data Silo, which captures historical data. Microsoft and Land O’Lakes plan to create a cloud service that combines that data with artificial intelligence and other data streams, such as weather forecasts, to suggest better management practices. Considering more than 150 million acres of cropland are in the Land O’Lakes network — nearly half of the 349 million acres under crop production in the United States — that’s pretty valuable information. “We’re moving away from intuition-based decisions,” Teddy Bekele, senior vice president and chief technology officer of Land O’Lakes, told me when we spoke about the deal this summer. “Your cost might stay the same, but your output will go up. … And food companies can trace it back to certain practices.” One organization that’s already gathering this sort of insight is the U.S. division of Tate & Lyle, the 160-year-old U.K. food and beverage ingredients company. Two years ago, Tate & Lyle began enrolling corn suppliers in a sustainability program focused on emissions reductions, soil wellness and water conservation. The initiative covers 1.5 million acres of sustainably grown corn, which represents the yield Tate & Lyle buys globally on an annual basis, according to information it has published about the results . Corn was chosen because this crop represents the majority of the company’s emissions in the U.S. Using Truterra, the company has gathered some compelling insights from 148,000 acres it has been tracking since 2018, noted Anna Pierce, director of sustainability for Tate & Lyle. Among the 100 data points it is measuring are fertilizer applications, pest management practice, nitrogen levels, the use of cover crops and other practices advocated by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service. Here are four specific results for those fields: 10 percent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions 38 percent increase in nitrogen efficiency (applications are more targeted) 6 percent reduction in sheet and topsoil erosion 4 percent improvement in the “soil conditioning” index, which is an indicator of how well soil can absorb carbon dioxide Pierce took pains to note that Tate & Lyle doesn’t dictate what farmers should be doing on their land. “They match the right practice to the field,” she told me. But Tate & Lyle has signaled it intends to refine its procurement policies around certain priority ingredients as part of its science-based Scope 3 commitment to reduce absolute CO2 emissions in its supply chain by 15 percent by 2030. And it is sharing this information with its own customers, which could become a point of differentiation. “We provide environmental impact data to those customers who opt into the program equating to acres used to produce the ingredients they procure from Tate & Lyle,” she noted. Among the ingredients that will receive particular attention are corn, soybeans, wheat, rice and palm oil. Tate & Lyle is not paying farmers for participation; rather, the focus is on illustrating the linkage between certain soil wellness practices and their crop yields. “They’ve never connected some of this data before,” Pierce said. As the focus on regenerative ag scales, data will be central. Multiple projects for farm management software suggest a big increase in adoption by 2025, with Grand View Research projecting $4.2 billion in sales that year — in large part because of concerns over sustainability of the farm system. What makes the Microsoft-Truterra combination so compelling is that the data is being considered from the farmer’s point of view, not someone trying to sell seeds, fertilizer or farm equipment. You should also keep your eye on upstarts such as OpenTEAM, an open-source resource that Stonyfield Farm is championing, and Farmers Business Network , which raised $250 million in venture funding in August. It represents 12,000 members who farm 40 million acres in the U.S. and Canada. Tell me more about the other organizations I should track by emailing heather@greenbiz.com . Pull Quote We’re moving away from intuition-based decisions. Your cost might stay the same, but your output will go up. … And food companies can trace it back to certain practices. Topics Food & Agriculture Information Technology Agtech Climate Tech 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

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Why agtech is critical for regenerative agriculture

Episode 236: Banking for the planet and behind the scenes of Generation Green New Deal

September 11, 2020 by  
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Episode 236: Banking for the planet and behind the scenes of Generation Green New Deal Deonna Anderson Fri, 09/11/2020 – 09:21 Week in Review Stories discussed this week (9:30). Why every C-suite officer should care about plastic waste To reduce deforestation, we must get serious about environmental crime Why “regeneration” is generating business buzz Features Bank of the West’s checking account for climate (23:40)   In July, Bank of the West, part of BNP Paribas, announced a partnership with 1% for the Planet to launch a checking account designed for climate action. Joel Makower, chairman and executive editor at GreenBiz, speaks with Ben Stuart, Bank of the West’s chief marketing officer, about how the account works and the company’s motivations and goals for the effort. Behind the scenes of Generation Green New Deal (32:35) The upcoming feature documentary Generation Green New Deal tells the story of how young people are pushing climate change to the center of American politics. Julian Brave NoiseCat, vice president of policy and strategy for Data for Progress, is one of the young people who has played a critical role in shaping the Green New Deal. Shana Rappaport, vice president and executive director of VERGE at GreenBiz, sat down with NoiseCat. They discussed the biggest misunderstandings about the Green New Deal that are important to demystify and role companies can play in taking climate action. You can read a longer excerpt from their conversation here . *Music in this episode: “Curiousity” by Lee Rosevere;  “Guitalele’s Happy Place” and “Arc de Triomphe” by Stefan Kartenberg; “Two Guitars” and “Confederation Line” by AdmiralBob77 Resources galore ESG values and a sustainable future.  Why placing environment, social and governance principles at the center of COVID-19 recovery places makes sense for resilience and the bottom line. Sign up for the interactive session at 1 p.m. EDT Sept. 15. Action plus ambition. How leading companies, including Microsoft, approach audacious sustainability goals. Register for the discussion at 1 p.m. EDT Sept. 17.  Safety and performance in recycled plastics. UL and HP Inc. share strategies and insights in this conversation at 1 p.m. EDT Sept. 22. Inside The Climate Pledge. Senior executives from Amazon, Global Optimism and Verizon share insights on why collaborative corporate action on the climate crisis is more critical than ever. Join us during Climate Week at noon EDT Sept. 24. Clean air in California?  It’s easier than you think. Hear from the California Air Resources Board, the city of Oakland and Neste in this session at 1 p.m. EDT Oct. 1. State of the Profession. Our sixth report examining the evolving role of corporate sustainability leaders. Download it here . The State of Green Business 2020. Our 13th annual analysis of key metrics and trends published here . Do we have a newsletter for you! We produce six weekly newsletters: GreenBuzz by Executive Editor Joel Makower (Monday); Transport Weekly by Senior Writer and Analyst Katie Fehrenbacher (Tuesday); VERGE Weekly by Executive Director Shana Rappaport and Editorial Director Heather Clancy (Wednesday); Energy Weekly by Senior Energy Analyst Sarah Golden (Thursday); Food Weekly by Carbon and Food Analyst Jim Giles (Thursday); and Circular Weekly by Director and Senior Analyst Lauren Phipps (Friday). You must subscribe to each newsletter in order to receive it. Please visit this page to choose which you want to receive. The GreenBiz Intelligence Panel is the survey body we poll regularly throughout the year on key trends and developments in sustainability. To become part of the panel, click here . Enrolling is free and should take two minutes. Stay connected To make sure you don’t miss the newest episodes of GreenBiz 350, subscribe on iTunes . Have a question or suggestion for a future segment? E-mail us at 350@greenbiz.com . Contributors Joel Makower Shana Rappaport Topics Podcast Banking Green New Deal Plastic Waste Deforestation Collective Insight GreenBiz 350 Podcast Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) Off Duration 38:36 Sponsored Article Off GreenBiz Close Authorship

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Episode 236: Banking for the planet and behind the scenes of Generation Green New Deal

Episode 235: The value of informal waste collectors, reusable packaging prevails

September 4, 2020 by  
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Episode 235: The value of informal waste collectors, reusable packaging prevails Heather Clancy Fri, 09/04/2020 – 02:00 Week in Review Stories discussed this week (4:08). It’s time to value waste collectors for their pivotal role in the plastic supply chain What does “climate risk” actually mean ? 7 tips for companies developing reusable packaging Features Mainstage highlights from Circularity 20 (15:30) Last week, GreenBiz hosted Circularity 20, the largest North American conference focused on circular economy issues. We’ll be posting videos for many sessions in mid-September. Meanwhile, here are highlights from five mainstage speakers.  Circularity and equity in cities:  Mark Chambers, director of the mayor’s office of sustainability for New York, and Jose Manuel Moller Dominguez, founder and CEO of Algramo, comment on how brands can participate in motivating systemic change. The human dimension of waste collection: Bharati Chaturvedi, founder and director of the Chintan Environmental Research and Action Group in India, and Kieran Smith, co-founder and CEO of Mr. Green Africa, discuss why informal collectors of plastics and recyclables should embrace within formal supply chains — and how to do it. Creative disruption:  Design thinker TIm Brown, chair of IDEA, discusses the two major models that catalyze systems change. Thoughts on leadership (25:37) Trista Bridges and Donald Eubank, co-founders and principals of consultancy Read the Air, chat about their new book, “Leading Sustainably: The Path to Sustainable Business and how the SDGs Change Everything.” You can read an excerpt here .  The state of composting (37:38) What is so much food still sent to landfills when it could be used for energy or to fertilize crops? Nora Goldstein, editor of Biocycle, chats about the U.S. composting infrastructure.  *Music in this episode by Lee Rosevere: “As I Was Saying,” “Southside,” “And So Then,” “Here’s the Thing,” “Curiosity” and “More On That Later” *This episode was sponsored by Amazon Resources galore Greentech on the red sea. How do we innovate our way out of the climate crisis? Three professors from Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah University of Science and Technology discussing promising solutions in energy and water. Join the webcast at 1 p.m. EDT Sept. 8. Today’s carbon-negative fuel. Exploring the potential for fleet emissions reductions through renewable natural gas. Register here for the discussion at 1 p.m. EDT Sept. 10. ESG values and a sustainable future.  Why placing environment, social and governance principles at the center of COVID-19 recovery places makes sense for resilience and the bottom line. Sign up for the interactive session at 1 p.m. EDT Sept. 15. Action plus ambition. How leading companies, including Microsoft, approach audacious sustainability goals. Register for the discussion at 1 p.m. EDT Sept. 17.  Safety and performance in recycled plastics. UL and HP Inc. share strategies and insights in this conversation at 1 p.m. EDT Sept. 22. Inside The Climate Pledge. Senior executives from Amazon, Global Optimism and Verizon share insights on why collaborative corporate action on the climate crisis is more critical than ever. Join us during Climate Week at noon EDT Sept. 24. Clean air in California?  It’s easier than you think. Hear from the California Air Resources Board, the city of Oakland and Neste in this session at 1 p.m. EDT Oct. 1. State of the Profession. Our sixth report examining the evolving role of corporate sustainability leaders. Download it here . The State of Green Business 2020. Our 13th annual analysis of key metrics and trends published here . Do we have a newsletter for you! We produce six weekly newsletters: GreenBuzz by Executive Editor Joel Makower (Monday); Transport Weekly by Senior Writer and Analyst Katie Fehrenbacher (Tuesday); VERGE Weekly by Executive Director Shana Rappaport and Editorial Director Heather Clancy (Wednesday); Energy Weekly by Senior Energy Analyst Sarah Golden (Thursday); Food Weekly by Carbon and Food Analyst Jim Giles (Thursday); and Circular Weekly by Director and Senior Analyst Lauren Phipps (Friday). You must subscribe to each newsletter in order to receive it. Please visit this page to choose which you want to receive. The GreenBiz Intelligence Panel is the survey body we poll regularly throughout the year on key trends and developments in sustainability. To become part of the panel, click here . Enrolling is free and should take two minutes. Stay connected To make sure you don’t miss the newest episodes of GreenBiz 350, subscribe on iTunes . Have a question or suggestion for a future segment? E-mail us at 350@greenbiz.com . Contributors Joel Makower Jim Giles Deonna Anderson Topics Podcast Circular Economy Corporate Strategy Circularity 20 Risk Finance Collective Insight GreenBiz 350 Podcast Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) Off Duration 46:31 Sponsored Article Off GreenBiz Close Authorship

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Episode 235: The value of informal waste collectors, reusable packaging prevails

The open source movement takes on climate data

September 3, 2020 by  
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The open source movement takes on climate data Heather Clancy Thu, 09/03/2020 – 00:15 As GreenBiz co-founder and Executive Editor Joel Makower wrote earlier this week, many companies are moving to disclose ” climate risk ,” although far fewer are moving to actually minimize it. And as those tasked with preparing those reports can attest, the process of gathering the data for them is frustrating and complex, especially as the level of detail desired and required by investors becomes deeper. That pain point was the inspiration for a new climate data project launched this week that will be spearheaded by the Linux Foundation, the nonprofit host organization for thousands of the most influential open source software and data initiatives in the world such as GitHub. The foundation is central to the evolution of the Linux software that runs in the back offices of most major financial services firms.  There are four powerful founding members for the new group, the LF Climate Finance Foundation (LFCF): Insurance and asset management company Allianz, cloud software giants Amazon and Microsoft, and data intelligence powerhouse S&P Global. The foundation’s “planning team” includes World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF), Ceres and the Sustainability Account Standards Board (SASB). The group’s intention is to collaborate on an open source project called the OS-Climate platform, which will include economic and physical risk scenarios that investors, regulators, companies, financial analysts and others can use for their analysis.  The idea is to create a “public service utility” where certain types of climate data can be accessed easily, then combined with other, more proprietary information that someone might be using for risk analysis, according to Truman Semans, CEO of OS-Climate, who was instrumental in getting the effort off the ground. “There are a whole lot of initiatives out there that address pieces of the puzzle, but no unified platform to allow those to interoperate,” he told me.  There are a whole lot of initiatives out there that address pieces of the puzzle, but no unified platform to allow those to interoperate. Why does this matter? It helps to understand the history of open source software, which was once a thing that many powerful software companies, notably Microsoft, abhorred because they were worried about the financial hit on their intellectual property. Flash forward to today and the open source software movement, “staffed” by literally millions of software developers, is credited with accelerating the creation of common system-level elements so that companies can focus their own resources on solving problems directly related to their business. In short, this budding effort could make the right data available more quickly, so that businesses — particularly financial institutions — can make better informed decisions. Or, as Microsoft’s chief intellectual property counsel, Jennifer Yokoyama, observed in the announcement press release: “Addressing climate issues in a meaningful way requires people and organizations to have access to data to better understand the impact of their actions. Opening up and sharing our contribution of significant and relevant sustainability data through the LF Climate Finance Foundation will help advance the financial modeling and understanding of climate change impact — an important step in affecting political change. We’re excited to collaborate with the other founding members and hope additional organizations will join.” An investor might use the platform, for example, to run projections focus on portfolios or specific investment opportunities. Governments might consult the resource while evaluating resilient infrastructure projects and policies. The main buckets of historical and forward-looking information that the LFCF group hopes to make available include research and development spending, policy response scenarios, or historical data about fires, floods and droughts. One example of a tool that data hounds will find there is a Finance Tool related to the Science-Based Targets Initiative. There also will be industry-specific data, likely starting with the energy, transport and industrial sectors, Semans said. Early beta versions of various pieces of the platform will be available this fall, with certain elements of the data commons available first, followed by modeling and analytics resources. Just because the data is “open” doesn’t mean it’s entirely free. Companies need to be a member of the foundation to participate in the governance process (although there will be seats on the board for non-fee paying members from academia, NGOs and intergovernmental organizations). Talk to your CIO about the power of open source, and consider this your call to action. Pull Quote There are a whole lot of initiatives out there that address pieces of the puzzle, but no unified platform to allow those to interoperate. Topics Reporting Data Technology 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

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The open source movement takes on climate data

Amid devastating forest fires, One Trillion Trees movement puts down U.S. roots

August 27, 2020 by  
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Amid devastating forest fires, One Trillion Trees movement puts down U.S. roots Heather Clancy Thu, 08/27/2020 – 00:02 This week marks the launch of the first regional chapter of the ambitious global movement to plant 1 trillion trees  — a natural climate solution seen as critical for helping draw down the earth’s carbon debt, and an idea that has been spreading like wildfire since it was planted in January in Davos, Switzerland. There are more than two dozen launch partners for the new U.S. branch of 1t.org, spearheaded by the World Economic Forum and American Forests. Collectively, the group — which includes tech giants Microsoft and Salesforce, consumer products companies Timberland and Clif Bar, financial services powerhouses Bank of America and Mastercard and the cities of Detroit and Dallas — hopes to grow more than 855 million trees covering 2.8 million acres. It’s a bold goal, especially poignant in the context of the devastating forest fires raging in California, which have claimed more than 1.2 million acres (and counting) as of Tuesday afternoon. “That is a reforestation debt that is now due and owing,” said Jad Daley, president and CEO of American Forests, when we chatted earlier this week. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, American forests and forest products are responsible for capturing 15 percent of the carbon dioxide emissions captured from burning fossil fuels. By conserving, restoring and growing trees, the country has the potential to capture double the emissions, estimates a study advanced by The Nature Conservancy. The 1t.org organization, which includes a bipartisan stakeholder council with representatives from governments, businesses, nonprofits and academia, was created to scale the collective resources of those making tree-related commitments, Daley said. As an example, a tool for calculating the carbon emissions that could be reduced through specific reforestation efforts is under development. It’s also working on scaling financing mechanisms. A controlled burn to stop incoming wildfire in Mendocino, California. Courtesy of the U.S. Forest Service.   The chapter is also prioritizing efforts that can “remedy gross inequities” by bringing trees back to urban neighborhoods and by placing the potential for job creation at the center of plans, Daley said. The World Economic Forum estimates that sustainable forestry management has the potential to create up to 16 million jobs by 2030 — and more than $230 billion in new economic opportunities.  There’s also a very clear environmental justice issue to address. The map of tree canopies across the United States closely mirrors income, race and health issues — with low-income communities sorely lacking. “We are not going to plant as many trees in cities, but every one of them will have an impact,” Daley said. “It is central to our vision.” The city of Dallas , for example, is pledging to conserve and restore close to 14.8 million trees as part of its urban forestry management plan. Tucson, Arizona, is planning to plant 1 million over the next decade. Detroit and Boise, Idaho, are pledging fewer, but they’re also part of the launch. Salesforce wrote headlines in January for its commitment to restoring and planting 100 million trees; Mastercard is looking to restore or protect the same number over the next five years through its Priceless Planet Coalition . The effort links the activities of cardholders to forest conservation initiatives. For example, corporate cardholder accounts can influence donations to the fund with through spending. Mastercard’s partners in the effort include Citibank, Santander UK, Saks Fifth Avenue and American Airlines. Kristina Kloberdanz, chief sustainability officer for Mastercard, said her company became involved with 1t.org because of its expertise in forestry issues. “We know the business we are in,” she said. “We are not the experts in tree planting. It’s really important to us that we do this right. That we galvanize and motivate. This is bigger than any one of us.” When I asked Kloberdanz what sorts of initiatives Mastercard plans to prioritize, she said agroforestry — where tree preservation is incorporated into broader agricultural strategies — is part of the plan. “We are most interested in planting where there is going to be a benefit to the climate, but we’re also interested in the community and biodiversity benefits as well,” she said. Topics Forestry Carbon Removal Social Justice Natural Climate Solutions Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) Off Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off Kuldeep Singh, nursery manager for the L.A. Moran Reforestation Center in Davis, California. Courtesy of American Forests Close Authorship

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Amid devastating forest fires, One Trillion Trees movement puts down U.S. roots

AI doesn’t have to be a power hog

July 30, 2020 by  
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AI doesn’t have to be a power hog Heather Clancy Thu, 07/30/2020 – 02:15 Plenty of prognostications, including this one from the World Economic Forum, tout the integral role artificial intelligence could play in “saving the planet.”  Indeed, AI is integral to all manner of technologies, ranging from autonomous vehicles to more informed disaster response systems to smart buildings and data collection networks monitoring everything from energy consumption to deforestation.  The flip side to this rosy view is that there are plenty of ethical concerns to consider. What’s more, the climate impact of AI — both in terms of power consumption and all the electronic waste that gadgets create — is a legitimate, growing concern. Research from the University of Massachusetts Amherst suggests the process of “training” neural networks to make decisions or searching them to find answers uses five times the lifetime emissions of the average U.S. car. Not an insignificant amount.  What does that mean if things continue on their current trajectory? Right now, data centers use about 2 percent of the world’s electricity. At the current rate of AI adoption — with no changes in the underlying computer server hardware and software — the data centers needed to run those applications could claim 15 percent of that power load, semiconductor firm Applied Materials CEO Gary Dickerson predicted in August 2019 . Although progress is being made, he reiterated that warning last week. At the current rate of AI adoption — with no changes in the underlying computer server hardware and software — the data centers needed to run those applications could claim 15 percent of that power load. “Customized design will be critical,” he told attendees of a longstanding industry conference, SemiconWest . “New system architectures, new application-specific chip designs, new ways to connect memory and logic, new memories and in-memory compute can all drive significant improvements in compute performance per watt.” So, what’s being done to “bend the curve,” so to speak? Technologists from Applied Materials, Arm, Google, Intel, Microsoft and VMware last week shared insights about advances that could help us avoid the most extreme future scenarios, if the businesses investing in AI technologies start thinking differently. While much of the panel (which I helped organize) was highly technical, here are four of my high-level takeaways for those thinking about harnessing AI for climate solutions. Get acquainted with the concept of “die stacking” in computing hardware design. There is concern that Moore’s Law , the idea that the number of transistors on integrated circuit will double every two years, is slowing down. That’s why more semiconductor engineers are talking up designs that stack multiple chips on top of each other within a system, allowing more processing capability to fit in a given space.  Rob Aitken, a research fellow with microprocessor firm Arm, predicts these designs will show up first in computing infrastructure that couples high-performance processing with very localized memory. “The vertical stacking essentially allows you to get more connectivity bandwidth, and it allows you to get that bandwidth at lower capacitance for lower power use, and also a lower delay, which means improved performance,” he said during the panel. So, definitely look for far more specialized hardware. Remember this acronym, MRAM. It stands for magnetic random-access memory , a format that uses far less power in standby mode than existing technologies, which require energy to maintain the “state” of their information and respond quickly to processing requests when they pop up. Among the big-name players eyeing this market: Intel; Micron; Qualcomm; Samsung; and Toshiba. Plenty of R&D power there. Consider running AI applications in cloud data centers using carbon-free energy. That could mean deferring the processing power needed for certain workloads to times of day when a facility is more likely to be using renewable energy. “If we were able to run these workloads when we had this excess of green, clean, energy, right now we have these really high compute workloads running clean, which is exactly what we want,” said Samantha Alt, cloud solution architect at Intel. “But what if we take this a step further, and we only had the data center running when this clean energy was available? We have a data center that’s awake when we have this excess amount of green, clean energy, and then asleep when it’s not.” This is a technique that Google talked up in April, but it’s not yet widely used, and it will require attention to new cooling designs to keep the facilities from running too hot as well as memory components that can respond dynamically when a facility goes in and out of sleep mode. New system architectures, new application-specific chip designs, new ways to connect memory and logic, new memories and in-memory compute can all drive significant improvements in compute performance per watt.   Live on the edge. That could mean using specialized AI-savvy processors in some gadgets or systems you’re trying to make smarter such as automotive systems or smart phones or a building system. Rather than sending all the data to a massive, centralized cloud service, the processing (at least some of it) happens locally. Hey, if energy systems can be distributed, why not data centers?  “We have a lot of potential to move forward, especially when we bring AI to the edge,” said Moe Tanabian, general manager for intelligent devices at Microsoft. “Why is edge important? There are lots of AI-driven tasks and benefits that we derive from AI that are local in nature. You want to know how many people are in a room: people counting. This is very valuable because when the whole HVAC system of the whole building can be more efficient, you can significantly lower the balance of energy consumption in major buildings.” The point to all this is that getting to a nirvana in which AI can handle many things we’d love it to handle to help with the climate crisis will require some pretty substantial upgrades to the computing infrastructure that underlies it. The environmental implications of those system overhauls need to be part of data center procurement criteria immediately, and the semiconductor industry needs to step up with the right answers. Intel and AMD have been leading the way, and Applied Materials last week threw down the gauntlet , but more of the industry needs to wake up. This article first appeared in GreenBiz’s weekly newsletter, VERGE Weekly, running Wednesdays. Subscribe here . Follow me on Twitter: @greentechlady. Pull Quote At the current rate of AI adoption — with no changes in the underlying computer server hardware and software — the data centers needed to run those applications could claim 15 percent of that power load. New system architectures, new application-specific chip designs, new ways to connect memory and logic, new memories and in-memory compute can all drive significant improvements in compute performance per watt. 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Apple embeds racial justice into new supply-chain carbon neutrality pledge

July 21, 2020 by  
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Apple embeds racial justice into new supply-chain carbon neutrality pledge Heather Clancy Tue, 07/21/2020 – 04:13 Apple already has ventured far beyond most other companies when it comes to pushing for climate action within its supply chain.  Consider that it has convinced more than 70 Apple suppliers to use renewable energy to produce products on its behalf , an effort funded in part by close to $5 billion in green bonds issued by the technology giant as well as a dedicated pool of money in China.  Now, it’s wandering farther into uncharted territory. With its latest set of combined sustainability commitments, Apple is pushing for carbon neutrality across its entire business by the end of this decade, including its supply chain and the life cycle for its products. Its own operations have been carbon neutral for some time, thanks in large part to its extensive investments in renewable energy projects. While every large company focuses to some extent on motivating suppliers to embrace sustainability principles such as reduced emissions or zero waste, few have aggressively and officially extended their corporate carbon neutrality pledges into the Scope 3 realm and into to their entire value chain. IKEA, L’Oreal, Microsoft and Unilever stand out as the notable recent exceptions in my sphere of knowledge. (I’d love to hear about more.) “By driving this scale of climate ambition through its supply chain, Apple is making a big, global contribution to the move to clean energy, transport and manufacturing. It will have a particularly big impact in some of the most critical markets for tackling greenhouse gases. The 2030 timing is as important as the scale of this move. By then, the whole world needs to halve carbon emissions,” said Sam Kimmins, head of the RE100 initiative at the Climate Group, in a statement. As of this update — and thanks to new projects in Arizon, Oregon, and Illinois — Apple has supported the development of more than 1 gigawatt of clean energy to support its own corporate campus footprint. Apple’s new carbon neutrality strategy will be supported by a number of investments, including a carbon solutions fund to protect and restore forests (something that Microsoft and Amazon are also prioritizing). Its first projects, in partnership with Conservation International, include a unique focus on restoring mangroves — which can store up to 10 times more carbon than forests on land. The overall aim of this nature-based carbon solutions fund is to remove 1 million to 2 million metric tons of carbon dioxide annually, with the aim of scaling over time. “This approach is more than buying carbon credits — it is an investment in nature that provides meaningful returns for both the planet and the people who invest in it,” Apple notes in 2020 annual environmental progress report . Speaking of investments in people, Apple has created an Impact Accelerator meant specifically to invest in minority-owned businesses focused on “positive outcomes” in its supply chain or addressing communities disproportionately affected by environmental hazards. “Systemic racism and climate change are not separate issues, and they will not abide separate solutions,” said Lisa Jackson, vice president of environment, policy and social initiatives for Apple, in a statement. “We have a generational opportunity to help build a greener and more just economy, one where we develop whole new industries in the pursuit of giving the next generation a planet worth calling home.” Apple hasn’t said how much the accelerator will allocate in funding toward addressing the climate crisis, but the effort is part of Apple’s larger $100 million Racial Equity and Justice Initiative announced in June. We’ll be watching this initiative closely. Plenty of other updates are included in Apple’s progress report. I’ll leave you with a few highlights:  7 gigawatts and counting. That’s how much clean energy companies within Apple supply chain have committed to using. In China and Japan, Apple also has stepped in to help facilitate the development of close to 500 megawatts of solar and wind projects. Incidentally, while many of these initiatives are international, close to a dozen involve facilities in the United States. A new materials diet. Apple is using the first batch of the low-carbon aluminum it has been developing in production related to the 16-inch MacBook Pro notebook computer. Liam and Daisy, meet Dave. The company has added another disassembly robot within its materials recovering and circular production lab in Austin, Texas. This one takes out the Taptic Engine from iPhones, which is the haptics technology component. (You can catch a video here .) Recycled and rare. All rare elements included in the aforementioned Taptic Engine were reclaimed from recycling. 35 percent. That’s how much Apple reduced its actual carbon footprint since it peaked in 2015. This story was updated at noon EDT July 21 to remove the Greenpeace USA comment, as it did not properly reflect certain publicly stated elements of Apple’s strategy. Topics Information Technology Corporate Strategy Supply Chain Social Justice Energy Efficiency Racial Justice Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) On Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off Apple partnered with Conservation International and regional partners in 2018 to protect and restore a 27,000-acre mangrove forest in Colombia. It will apply those learnings to addition projects. Courtesy of Apple Close Authorship

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Apple embeds racial justice into new supply-chain carbon neutrality pledge

How tree-planting startup Propagate Ventures monetizes land conservation

July 9, 2020 by  
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How tree-planting startup Propagate Ventures monetizes land conservation Heather Clancy Thu, 07/09/2020 – 01:30 Earlier this year, when I was chatting with venture capitalist Nancy Pfund of DBL Partners about which new areas of climate solutions were intriguing to her, she pointed to business models that had the potential to monetize land conservation. The example we discussed that day wasn’t one I would think of immediately: Better Place Forests, which is creating what it calls “conservation memorial forests.” It’s a different model for saving trees that takes a cue from the end-of-life industry.  Instead of buying a cemetery or mausoleum plot for cremated ashes, you or your family can pay toward the preservation of a tree —  the fee starts at $2,900. The ashes are mixed with soil at the base, along with a memorial marker. Currently, the company is protecting forests in Northern California and Arizona. But that’s not all: For every person and tree it memorializes, it plants at least 25 impact trees in collaboration with the nonprofit One Tree Planted . And as of July 2019, the company had raised $12 million in early-stage venture funding (led by True Ventures ) to help with its mission. When I started poking around to identify other for-profit ventures in the business of land conservation, two other organizations that have been working with Microsoft jumped to mind, both of which provide technology for mapping and measuring forests : Pachama and Silvia Terra .  In May, I spoke with another intriguing agroforestry startup, Propagate Ventures , part of the fall 2018 cohort at Elemental Excelerator. The company, which recently raised $1.5 million in seed funding from the Grantham Environmental Trust, is focused on helping agricultural operations figure out how to profit from planting trees.  How do we improve the pasture but make sure it isn’t a sink on the wallet? Like Pachama and Silvia Terra, Propagate’s competitive edge is analytics and information. It analyzes the costs of the investment, the potential revenue, the labor implications and the anticipated yield. Co-founder and CEO Ethan Steinberg said the concept is similar to the analysis tool a developer might use to assess the viability of a solar energy project.  “It’s focused on both the economics and the ecological value that is driven,” he told me. That includes formulating plans specific to keeping ownership of the investable assets (trees) separate from the real estate; that’s an important consideration for farmers who lease the land they are working. The idea is to help agricultural operations use land that is otherwise fallow or unused to plant trees, usually intended for fruit, nut or timber cultivation.  When I spoke with Steinberg, the company had more than 20 projects on the books — ranging from livestock producers looking for a source of shade for animals to those growing specialty grain crops who are looking to diversify their income. Most of these organizations so far are in the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic regions of the United States, where Propagate is proposing the most ecologically approach options for their particular region. “Farmers shouldn’t transition to something that isn’t viable for their land,” Steinberg said. What’s more, these arrangements generally are structured with a buyer or cultivation partners in place. “We are not having to recreate those relationships from scratch,” he noted. One organization testing out this model is Handsome Brook Farms , a network of pasture-raised egg farms in states including Arkansas, Indiana, Kentucky, New York, Oklahoma and Tennessee. Chickens raised in this manner are free to roam in pastures — generally there are 400 birds to an acre. The farmers sell their eggs to Handsome Brook, which handles the processing and distribution. They have the autonomy to run their own operations, provided they meet the requirements for the pasture-raised model — the network farms are both certified and humane organic. Kristen Wharton, director of strategic planning and development for Handsome Brook, said the idea of incorporating nut trees on certain properties is appealing and it’s testing the idea over the next year with a limited number of farms, starting in Kentucky. The main concern is cost, but many farmers are also leery of managing a secondary project. “How do we improve the pasture but make sure it isn’t a sink on the wallet?” she mused. One possible option is a cost-sharing model, in which Handsome Brook would share some investment or investigate participation in grant programs that support soil health and water quality improvement projects, Wharton said. The top goal is to get the chickens to roam across a larger portion of the property, a habit that would counteract compacted soil and erosion around the barns where the hens take shelter. One question Handsome Brook hopes to answer: “How might this model set us apart?” What other for-profit agroforestry ventures have caught your attention? Share ideas with me at heather@greenbiz.com . This article first appeared in GreenBiz’s weekly newsletter, VERGE Weekly, running Wednesdays. Subscribe  here . Follow me on Twitter: @greentechlady. Pull Quote How do we improve the pasture but make sure it isn’t a sink on the wallet? Topics Food & Agriculture Conservation 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 Fruit nut alley cropping in New York. Courtesy of Propagate Ventures Close Authorship

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How tree-planting startup Propagate Ventures monetizes land conservation

Behind New Jersey’s ambitions for clean energy equity and offshore wind

July 9, 2020 by  
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Behind New Jersey’s ambitions for clean energy equity and offshore wind Sarah Golden Thu, 07/09/2020 – 01:00 If you want to know what state-level clean energy leadership looks like, look no further than New Jersey.  Since the beginning of the year, the Garden State has made headlines for three initiatives: its plans to transition to 100 percent clean energy by 2050 ; its investment in offshore wind ; and its proposal to create an Office of Clean Energy and Equity .   All three are commendable in their own right. They show how a state can signal the opportunities inherent in the clean energy economy, and the importance that it works for everyone.  One person at the center of these initiatives is Joseph Fiordaliso, president of the New Jersey Board of Public Utilities. At the end of June, I talked to Fiordaliso to better understand his perspective on the potential of clean energy, the importance of equity within all initiatives and how states can lead the way forward. The interview is edited for length and clarity.  Sarah Golden: I wanted to talk to you about the Office of Clean Energy and Equity. Am I right in thinking this is the first office of this type in the United States?  Joe Fiordaliso: I don’t want to say “yes” to that because I honestly don’t know. What I do know is that it’s the first office for the Board of Public Utilities (BPU). The purpose is to ensure the fact that every community, regardless of income, regardless of where they live, is afforded the opportunity to participate in the green revolution that is occurring in the state of New Jersey. And we cannot be successful, looking at a very selfish perspective, if everyone is not involved. And everyone should be involved because everyone pays into it. And to say it’s only for the super-rich doesn’t sit well with me or Gov. [Phil] Murphy.  Golden: I was taking a look at the timeline. I know [State Sen. Troy]  Singleton introduced the bill in mid-May; you vowed to create this office in June. Is this in any way inspired, or is it rising in prominence, because of the Black Lives Matters movement?  Fiordaliso : No. This has always been our goal. And Black lives do matter, by the way. And this has always been our goal. It’s always been on the governor’s agenda. Environmental justice and, what I get out of the environmental justice theme of the governor, is what I said before — that everyone has the opportunity to participate regardless of their economic standing.  We just passed a very, I think, most impressive energy efficiency ruling here in the state of New Jersey. The BPU did that just a couple of weeks ago now, and I believe it’s the most progressive. This is the one thing that is going to help low and moderate-income folks to participate in the green revolution. So I’m very excited about that. It is really an agenda that is all-inclusive. And I’m so proud of what we’re doing here. So many programs are geared towards those folks that can afford to participate. This is not. This is to afford the opportunity to everybody. And I’m thrilled that we’re taking this approach. I’m thrilled that the governor is one of the most progressive in the country, and we’re following his lead and the lead of many of our legislators. And it really is gratifying.  Golden: Why is it important to establish an Office of Clean Energy Equity in addition to having such a progressive energy efficiency initiative? Fiordaliso : To monitor and ensure that everyone has the opportunity. Many clean energy programs throughout the United States, including originally here in New Jersey, we’re so excited about initiating programs but less excited about tracking those programs. Less excited about ensuring that everyone has the ability to participate. That is extremely important. This office will, I hope, ensure the fact that we are monitoring this closely, and if certain programs are not reaching the general population, then we have to tweak them. Then we have to revise them. Then we have to alter them. But I think this is extremely important to point out, not only our successes but our failures. If we don’t know what our failures are, we can’t fix it.  It’s important for us to seize the moment; carpe diem. Seize the day. That’s our obligation in government right now, seize that day. One of the core missions of this office is going to be to point out the deficiencies and say, “Hey, we’re falling short here. Let’s find out why we’re falling short. Let’s find out why more people aren’t participating. Are there barriers there that we didn’t realize are there?” And fix it. Remove those barriers and continue to move forward. And I think that’s our obligation. We’re not only seeing certain people, we’re serving everybody.  Golden: I’m struck by the opportunities that COVID represents to rebuild the economy. I was looking at an op-ed Singleton wrote; one line that stuck out to me is, “As New Jersey works to establish a path to economic recovery, as elected public servants, we must seize the moment to work toward a future that is affordable, equitable, accessible and sustainable.” There are so many different realms right now where we get to reimagine because everything is starting from ground zero. I’m curious about the moment we’re in to be able to rethink and rebuild things, but also need to justify investments when state budgets are so strained.  Fiordaliso : Very good question. We are in the process of establishing a massive evaluation program to ensure the fact that we’re getting the best bang for the buck, so to speak, out of all of the programs we have in the state of New Jersey because the taxpayers, one way or another, are paying for this. And they have the right to know whether or not we’re spending their money in a good fashion and if we’re not, we’d better adjust the programs and eliminate those that are not giving us the best bang for the bucks. So we’re in this massive program to evaluate every single program. This has given us an opportunity, this crisis that we’re in, because out of crisis, many times, comes good things. We don’t see them initially, but it makes us rethink certain things, and makes us see what we’re doing. These are all things that we evaluate and continue to evaluate more and more as we go down this road to a clean energy economy. We failed to mention, many, many times, that there is economic opportunity in the clean energy revolution. And the clean energy revolution can ignite a massive economic renewal. And every state, I would assume, is looking at an economic renewal after, or during, this pandemic. The programs we’re initiating, they will create jobs.  Let’s take offshore wind as an example. We’ve positioned ourselves with the wind port that was approved [in June] to be the focal point for the supply chain for the entire Northeast and Mid-Atlantic states. New Jersey is well-positioned to do that. That brings along 1,500 jobs, that alone, not including the jobs of the wind industry that are in the thousands.  So economic opportunity exists. And it’s important for us to seize the moment; carpe diem. Seize the day. That’s our obligation in government right now, seize that day. Because that opportunity may evade us tomorrow.  Golden: While we’re on the subject of offshore wind, can you talk about the potential for clean energy to jumpstart the economy?  Fiordaliso : I’m going to go back just a little bit, if I may, to solar energy.  In the early 2000s, we started the solar energy initiative here in the state of New Jersey. It has been a very successful program. Like every program, it needed a little boost to get started, and we provided that boost here in New Jersey with grants and incentives and so on. Today, we have over 140,000 solar installations. It has created over 7,000 jobs here in New Jersey, has contributed to the economic diversity here in New Jersey, and we expect the same to occur in the wind industry — but even on a bigger scale.  When we’re finished with our offshore wind, millions of New Jersey residents will get energy that’s generated by windmills. Keep in mind, and California knows this better than anybody, most of the clean energy initiatives have emanated from the states on up. We have gotten very little encouragement from the federal government, and over the past 3.5 years we’ve gotten even less encouragement from the federal government.  Golden: One of the things that I found amazing about the investment in offshore wind and the ambitious targets of 7.5 gigawatts of offshore wind by 2035 is you’re talking about investing in a whole new industry, a new technology and bringing it to the United States. Why is it significant to be embracing a new technology at this moment?  Fiordaliso: It’s significant because it’s going to help us get to our goal. It’s significant because of the economic advancements it’s going to bring to our state. It’s significant because of the jobs that it will bring to our state. And, when we’re finished with our offshore wind, millions of New Jersey residents will get energy that’s generated by windmills.  The jobs that that brings, the investments that that brings, are probably much more than we’re anticipating today. So it is exciting, but it is also something that’s going to transition our economy to a large extent to a whole new, different industry.  So these are the things we’re looking at. It’s the idea that we have to bring our fellow citizens along and help to educate them and the benefits of renewable energy. Not only is it the fact that it might save our planet, not only the fact that we have a moral obligation, I believe, for our children, grandchildren and subsequent generation to improve this earth and try and mitigate the traumatic effects of climate change. Because whether we want to admit it or note, whether the federal government wants to admit there’s climate change or not, it’s here.  Pull Quote It’s important for us to seize the moment; carpe diem. Seize the day. That’s our obligation in government right now, seize that day. When we’re finished with our offshore wind, millions of New Jersey residents will get energy that’s generated by windmills. Topics Energy & Climate Renewable Energy Equity & Inclusion Environmental Justice Featured Column Power Points 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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BofA, Goldman, JPMorgan, Wells Fargo launch center for climate-aligned finance

July 9, 2020 by  
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BofA, Goldman, JPMorgan, Wells Fargo launch center for climate-aligned finance Jesse Klein Thu, 07/09/2020 – 00:01 The Rocky Mountain Institute (RMI) is banking on banks to get us over the carbon-neutral finish line by 2050.  The nonprofit announced Wednesday that it’s partnering with four of the world’s largest financial institutions — Wells Fargo, Goldman Sachs, JPMorgan Chase and Bank of America — to launch the Center for Climate-Aligned Finance . The center will serve as a hub for cross-sector collaboration, bringing traditional financial instruments to innovative ideas to decarbonize the planet.  “It’s not the responsibility of any single country or single sector,” said Paul Bodnar, managing director for climate finance at RMI. “But one sector provides the lifeblood that powers all the others and that’s finance.”  A new buzzword, climate-aligned finance, is RMI’s answer to the uneven responsibility put on the financial sector. Its goal is to integrate the financial sector’s attempts at going green, including green business investments, exclusionary policies for certain fossil fuels and the industry’s ESG policies, into one complete strategy.  The Center for Climate-Aligned Finance will focus on four areas using RMI’s knowledge of sustainability in a variety of sectors and its deep understanding of the financial world. First, it will create specific, personalized initiatives for high-emitting sectors such as steel and cement production, utilities and the energy supply. Secondly, it will generate global frameworks on climate-aligned finance to guide other financial institutions around the world.  It’s important that the tools we develop be as practical and commercial as possible. “We really need tools now to take us from theory to practice,” said Marisa Buchanan, head of sustainability at JPMorgan Chase. “It’s important that the tools we develop be as practical and commercial as possible.”  The center also will support individual institutions and shape public discourse in the financial sector as the two other main areas of focus.  According to Bodnar, while the strategy starts with advocating a vision of carbon neutrality for the highest energy-using corporations, it will need to be stewarded by the loans, grants and investments doled out by these large financial partners . Wells Fargo has pledged to lend or invest $200 billion to sustainable businesses and projects by 2030. Goldman Sachs plans to help its clients transition into a climate-resilient model with $750 billion by 2030, and Bank of America is directing $300 billion towards these efforts as well.   “To serve our clients requires really analytical tools,” said John Goldstein, head of the sustainable Finance Group at Goldman Sachs. “Real technical chops required to do this work thoughtfully for analyzing, advising, financing and navigating.” While the banking industry has invested a lot into a green future where it sees an opportunity for job creation, profitable returns on innovative new companies and risk mitigation, it hasn’t seemed ready to walk away from the fossil fuels that built the sector’s wealth.  But pressure is mounting for the banks to overhaul their lending practices holistically. This includes a focus on solutions that will benefit vulnerable communities on the front lines of climate change that often have been overlooked by the environmental movement.  “The communities that are disproportionately affected by pollution from heavy industry, it is pretty well documented that communities of color and low-income communities tend to suffer the most,” Bodnar said. “That is an urgent call for us to accelerate the transition out of the assets that are generating the most pollution.”   Pull Quote It’s important that the tools we develop be as practical and commercial as possible. Topics Finance & Investing Banking 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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