The Incentives, Barriers, and Willingness to Pay for Carbon Programs in Agriculture, with Emma Fuller, Corteva Agriscience

When it comes to designing carbon programs in agriculture, there is a very real tension between the science and the commercial realities of drawing down carbon at scale. Particularly, the question of how to incentivize on-farm practice changes is one that many companies in ag carbon have failed to answer.

Working at the intersection of these tensions is our guest this week, Emma Fuller, Carbon and Ecosystem Services Portfolio Leader at Corteva Agriscience. An accomplished data scientist and ecologist, Emma began her career in agrifood systems publishing research on West Coast fisheries in the US, before jumping into the world of startups at Granular. After their $300M acquisition by what is now Corteva Agriscience, today Emma designs programs that credit farmers for reducing greenhouse gas emissions or sequestering carbon in their soils. 

In this episode, Emma talks about:

  • How it felt to move from academia into industry, and how Emma realized that the barriers to scaling carbon programs had little to do with science
  • Why Corteva decided to partner with carbon marketplaces, and how this strategy is unlocking more scale and delivering value to both parties  
  • Conflicts of interest in carbon markets, and whether one company can both measure an intangible commodity and sell it

Useful Resources:

Key takeaways

  • Despite there being lots left to understand about the science, the biggest barriers to scaling carbon programs are finding out who in the market is willing to pay & reaching them as efficiently as possible
  • Newer startups in ag carbon markets are partnering with established players (eg Corteva) given the larger companies are already talking to farmers and have a much lower CAC
  • There are three key barriers to scaling carbon markets in ag - the low price of carbon, the lack of universally adopted, third-party quality standards for carbon assets, and how slow and complicated it is for corporates to calculate the impact of scope three reductions