Scaling up Soil Carbon Markets - feat. guests from Cargill, Nori and more!

The race is on globally to scale carbon markets, where farmers can sell the carbon they sequester in their soil to buyers who want to offset emissions. But right now, the space is often confusing for buyers, sellers, and the intermediaries working between them. And further, both public and private market schemes have been criticized for inefficiencies and high costs to participate. 

But the game is changing as new technologies and business models seek to lower barriers to entry and improve transparency, and the demand side continues to explore, driven by consumer and regulatory pressures. But with all this activity, what will it take to scale up and deliver worthwhile returns for farmers?

In this panel discussion,  you’ll hear a variety of perspectives - from those developing new technologies and carbon market methodologies, to organizations helping farmers operate within existing emissions trading schemes. 

Podcast guests:

  • Aldyen Donnelly - Co-Founder and Director of Carbon Economics, Nori.

  • Sam Duncan - Founder, FarmLab

  • Matt Schmitt, Senior Director of Commercial Carbon, Cargill

  • Dave Moore - Chief Operating Officer, Green Collar

This episode is an edited version of a live AusAgritech event, organized by the AgThentic Group, Sprout X and Platfarm.

Watch the Meetup here:

Key Insights
The world of carbon credits, offsets and marketplaces can be very confusing - so we have mapped the current state-of-play below. Scroll down to see our key insights from the podcast.

Conceptualising carbon farming as a market opportunity

  • Many farmers already have a focus on improving soil health & fertility by building soil organic carbon, but working out how to get financially rewarded for those improvements can be a complex topic.

  • Carbon credits can be thought of as a “digital crop” (i.e. you need data as evidence). Like other crops, the amount of carbon produced on a farm will vary and the price at which carbon is ‘bought and sold’ will also vary according to the type of market entered and prices over time.

    Marketplaces

  • There are important differences between compliance markets (formally regulated) and voluntary markets, but it is likely that moving away from directly measuring carbon for individual projects toward operating networks of reference sites and calibrated models will be a critical factor in scaling up farmer participation.

  • Australia’s Government-run Climate Solutions Fund (formerly ERF) is one way farmers can be paid for formally measured and registered carbon credits. However the CSF can be too expensive for many farmers to participate in. It is costly to initiate projects and can take many years for projects to deliver any significant income to farmers.

  • The formal methodologies used in traditional marketplaces, such as Australia may not be meaningfully more accurate than modelled approaches but are far more expensive. Australia can learn from other countries about how to greatly lower the cost of verification, while still having high quality carbon credits.
    Possible benefits for farmers:

  • There are many aspects for farmers to consider when looking at the right way to benefit from carbon markets. They can provide diversification of income and offer price premiums for low/zero carbon produce. There can also be significant legal considerations relating to covenants, permanence of sequestration and data reporting obligations.

  • There are great opportunities for farmers and also the need for more information about how to choose the right programs and how to implement practice changes that will build soil organic carbon levels and see financial benefits flow.

    Useful Links:

  • COMET Farm

  • Verra

  • [Carbon Action Reserve - Soil Enrichment Protocol](http://www.climateactionreserve.org/how/protocols/soil-enrichment/#:~:text=The Soil Enrichment Protocol (SEP,enhance carbon storage in soils.)

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Key takeaways