(Published October 6, 2020)
We believe in a carbon neutral and climate change resilient future for agriculture. To get there, we need to recognize the role that farmers play in managing natural resources, and ensure that incentives are aligned to reward sustainable practices.
Our third investment, Nori, is a blockchain-based carbon marketplace that does just this- makes it easier for farmers to get rewarded for farming practices that drawdown carbon. Nori also creates incentives for the development of more technologies that can cost effectively verify and validate soil carbon sequestration, as well as the deployment of more capital toward carbon drawdown.
We invested in a US$4M round led by Placeholder, alongside North Island Ventures and an unnamed agribusiness giant. Here are our investment notes.
Nori, based in Seattle, has created a marketplace for carbon removal. Their first market is soil carbon removal, where farmers removing CO2e from the atmosphere through their farming practices are the supply side of the marketplace, and buyers are companies or individuals who want to purchase carbon removal certificates (e.g., to meet their corporate social responsibility targets).
While the market will eventually expand to other types of carbon drawdown, Nori is starting with sequestering carbon in soil via agricultural practices because it is the cheapest demonstrated way to remove CO2, and other greenhouse gases, from the atmosphere.
While some farmers already use practices that effectively drawdown and sequester carbon in soil (e.g., no-till farming, cover cropping, etc.) because it can be good business, others do not as they are, or are perceived to be, too expensive and/or lacking an ROI.
By creating a functioning marketplace that rewards practices that drawdown carbon, Nori gives farmers a clear incentive to adopt these practices. Rather than require farmers to undertake costly assessments or adopt new tools, Nori's approach makes it easy for farmers to participate in this market because it leverages the farm management software tools already in use. The initial methodology underpinning the measurement (there will be more) is COMET-Farm, a USDA-developed whole farm carbon accounting system. These two things combined- a clear reward and a low cost to participate- means a high ROI for farmers.
Finally, by providing a transparent and 3rd party verified rating of the quality of each ‘product’ in the marketplace, Nori also creates incentives to use (and even build) better technologies to do measurement, verification, and reporting. This is critical to increasing both buyers and sellers confidence to participate, and ultimately get more tonnes of carbon drawdown.
We've been highly skeptical of blockchain applications- too often, blockchain is used because people think it’s sexy, rather than because it is solving a real problem.
In this case, however, Nori’s use of blockchain provides an elegant solution to two critical issues: double counting and the tenure of credits. If you want to dig into this, check out CEO Paul Gambill’s post: How to save the planet and make climate change “just go away” using blockchain and cryptocurrency.
Though Nori is based in the US (Seattle), we see applicability both for farmers to participate internationally, and for Nori’s solution to catalyze the development of new technologies and methodologies that make verification and validation cost effective and enable farmers globally to participate.
Carbon sequestration is front and center in Australia right now- just last month the Federal Government announced a Low Emissions Technology Statement, as part of Australia’s Technology Investment Roadmap, and soil carbon sequestration is mentioned explicitly. As markets evolve, we see great opportunity for lowering the cost of participating in regulated schemes like the CSF, as well as emerging opportunities in voluntary schemes - more choices and greater transparency will drive uptake and create better climate solutions.
Australia is of strategic interest for future expansion for Nori, and as a high conviction & high support investor, we're excited to be hands on in helping with Nori's expansion when the time is right.
Are you a startup helping agriculture transition to a carbon neutral and climate change resilient future? Get in touch.