Soil&Co empowers farmers and consumers to reverse climate change by providing access to more sustainable practices of farming and consuming
Carbon Farming is practices and methods, that regenerate soil and sequester CO2 from the atmosphere back into the soil. According to studies, if done comprehensively (14% of all arable land), Carbon Farming does not only slow down climate change, but reverses it. In addition it results in bigger and more nutritious yields – free from synthetic chemicals.
We empower farmers to take the business into their own hands and take pride of their trade. We achieve this by creating incentives for farmers to move from conventional (carbon releasing farming) to Carbon Farming (carbon sequestering farming). The impact we create is two-fold: we provide education and peer-to-peer support about Carbon Farming, as well as create the opportunity to reach the markets easily without the distributor through an online channel.
Currently the farmers’ biggest pain is low profitability due to the costly distribution channels that hammer down the price of the produce. We cut out the ‘middle man’ by providing an online channel that connects the Carbon Farmers to high end producers. This changes the cost structure and increases farmers’ profitability.
The end producers compete of the high quality raw materials, which are hard to find from the markets. Another major struggle is securing a consistent supply of raw materials. For the end producers we provide a service to reach the farmers and a quality guarantee – of high end and more nutritious produce, as well as more consistent supply of raw materials, without the use of synthetic fertilizers and pesticides.
The markets create a pull to change from conventional farming to Carbon Farming, and as a result increase the amount of arable land harnessed for carbon sequestration and increased climate impact.
The farming methods are easily approachable by any farmer, as they do not require large investments. Furthermore, we tap on a necessity – food – that moves everyone. Through this we reach large audience and are able to scale fast.
What actions do you propose?
We are in the middle of the process of engaging farmers to join Carbon Farming, and producers and consumer to buy Carbon Farmed food. The steps on the road to providing a channel for farmers to sell their Carbon Farmed food, and for consumers and producers to easily find the produce they require, is described below:
1. Engaging & building a network of farmers
In addition to the 6 farms within Finland we are already working with 2 farms in the US and one in Costa Rica. We have already received inquiries from 5 other farms to join educational events to learn more about Carbon Farming and to receive peer-to-peer support and advice. Additionally our partners have a database of over 10,000 farms worldwide (that have been collected over several years), that are willing to learn more about Carbon Farming. We are currently in the process of accommodating more educational events as well as contacting farms to increase and build the network.
The next educational event for farmers will be held in June, in Uusimaa, Finland. The ambitious objective is to sign 20 farms for each educational event held.
Due to the transformation of soil being highly dependent on the surrounding conditions, context & crops grown, we are acutely aware of the need for a strong and self-sustained peer-to-peer network of farmers to spread relevant knowledge by identifying challenges, sharing insights and methods to overcome those challenges, identify opportunities etc.
2. Developing a support network to encourage farmers to take concrete actions
to be able to carry out & host educational events about carbon farming
bringing awareness and a shared dialogue
building a peer-to-peer network
engaging farmers to join formal process of transformation to carbon farmers
Collecting agronomists, Carbon Farming specialists & ‘ambassador farmers’ to constantly build the knowledge base & to establish trust & credibility amongst farmers and supporters of the cause. Planning and developing scalable best practises together with leading scientists and specialists, in order to create a viable system for farmers to adopt the Carbon Farming methods.
We have already planned at least two educational events in Finland coming up in 2016, with 10 more events planned for 2017. After validating the concept in Finland, we are planning to hold our first farmer education overseas, in an easily approachable early-adopter markets such as Australia.
3. Building on concrete action for long-term commitment to Carbon Farming through building a platform & online channel for farmers to join as well as developing and formalising a model for the transformation process to Carbon Farming.
We are currently building the website for signing up more farms. We are also currently formalising a process model for transformation to Carbon Farming, with which we can help frame the commitment it takes to achieve Carbon Farming and Carbon Farmed Produce for one farm.The rough process model includes the following:
- Commit to becoming a Carbon Farmer
- Adopting concrete measures to start transformation
- Measuring effects
- Iteration of methods (if applicable)
- Final transformation & Sale of Carbon Farmed Food
The formalization of a transformation model helps not only to commit farmers to a long-term goal but also helps communicate to end users and producers what transformational stage each farm is in, communicating their commitment beyond a simple agreement. It allows for the cause to gain momentum and traction.
By developing this transformation process model we can categorize the farms by their respective level of advancement in Carbon Farming. Some farms are starting out, others are already using Carbon Farming methods but may not yet have overcome the starting phase and the resulting slump in production/soil recovering, whereas others are already well on their way: profitable and selling Carbon Farmed food.
4. Developing a network of producers & ‘end customers’ in order to provide Carbon Farmed food to consumers, thereby creating a need for Carbon Farmed food.
We aim at creating ‘a production loop’ of Carbon Farmed food, from growing and producing it to final consumption. We will do this together with selected customers (producers) of high-end products in order to attract end-consumers. Thereby we are also creating a demand for Carbon Farmed food, which will additionally increase the pressure and interest for farmers to adopt Carbon Farming. The high-end products associated with Carbon Farming increase the awareness of the benefits among the end-users, that will start looking for more Carbon Farmed products as a result, and creating another level of pressure the producers to use Carbon Food and to create new products.
5. Building a strong partnership with CarbonToSoil (non-profit), that drives 2 main objectives: connecting consumers & carbon farmer, as well as providing educational programs for educators & students about reversing climate change and Carbon Farming as a concrete solution.
CarbonToSoil is connecting consumers & farmers in order to raise awareness of Carbon Farming in general as there is a lack in understanding of it on both the farmers’ and consumers’ side and to affect consumer behavior and farming methods alike.
The education program is designed around phenomenon-based learning (about climate change). Students learn about making an impact, regenerative Carbon Farming and the role of local food through simultaneous use of multiple skills and topics. A structural change of how food is grown, produced and consumed is required in order to create a more sustainable food system, that won’t harm the environment and holds the power to reverse climate change.
Who will take these actions?
We are creating awareness about carbon farming and its positive impact on the environment and people’s lives. We achieve that by helping farmers take steps to reduce the huge climate impacts, that conventional agriculture has. In order to help people understand that Climate Change impacts are local, personal, and immediate, empowering them to be part of the solution we need to educate & create awareness, which eventually results in creating a natural demand for Carbon Farmed food. The efforts to create change will need to be collaborative, a cross-sector effort including:
Farmers, agronomists and scientists
We built a network of farmers, agronomists and scientists
Farmers join the network
Scientists & specialists farmers help educate around Carbon Farming
We create the process of transforming from conventional farming to carbon farming
Farmers further spread the word among other farmers
Food producers/business sector
Food producers supply Carbon Farmed food for the end consumers
Productize Carbon Food, which we will help with
Businesses can engage stakeholders & customers directly
Create & build up pressure on producers and farmers to offer Carbon Farmed food by building channels to directly demand those
Engage producers & farmers
Carry out education about the carbon and nutrient cycles and their role & importance in people’s lives - economically and holistically - in the short and long term
Will have to change their agricultural subsidies to adjust to carbon sequestration in the short term in order to adapt to climate change, and in the long term to stop over use of resources
Should lobby for carbon sequestering legislation
Support research about regenerating soils and sequestering carbon with land use
Non-profits, NGOs & other interest groups
- Help spread the word and awareness about Carbon Farming and its benefits, in order to create pressure on the above mentioned entities to take action for regenerating soil and sequestering carbon
Where will these actions be taken?
We are currently operating out of Finland where we started our efforts. We are planning on concentrating on the European Union in the beginning however due to the global impact, we need to take our initiative to other markets as we progress.
Australia and the US are particularly interesting to us and are on our roadmap for 2017. As our operations grow, and when we have the ability to, we will instantly expand to developing countries where the need is much greater, as they are often struggling the most with droughts and floods. The climate impact is also greater in countries with hotter climates, and the greater the depletion of the soil - the greater the potential of regenerating it.
How will these actions have a high impact in addressing climate change?
Studies have shown, that by restoring industrially degraded soil we can sequester 1-8 ton of carbon per hectare per year (Rattan Lal, Machmuller et al.) depending on the studies. 30 ton per hectare per year have been shown in outlier studies (Richard Teague). We use 3 tons per hectare per year (Rodale Institute).
3t C/ ha/ yr x 5 bill ha = 15 Gt C
x 20 yrs = 300 Gt C
1ppm CO2 = 2 Gt C
300Gt C/2 = 150 ppm CO2
402ppm–150ppm = 252ppm (or 13ppm below pre-Industrial Age levels)
C=Carbon Ha=Hectare Gt=Gigatons PPM= Parts Per Million
Restoring the 1 billion hectare of farmland in the US would result in an annual sequestration of 3 Gt carbon, and with 5 billion hectares of farming land globally there is a potential to sequester 15 Gt carbon every year. The UN & the Paris COP21 agreement highlight a 20 year horizon, multiplying that gives 300 Gt carbon. Reducing that from current ppm-levels would give the potential to return to pre-industrial levels of 252ppm.
Reference: Carbon Underground.
What are other key benefits?
Other key benefits are manifold and are listed below:
Better food security and increased food quality meaning more nutritious soils and more nutritious food
Increased yields and more consistent output for farmers
Potentially increased time-savings for farmers’ daily operations
Increase in pride and joy for the trade of farming
Increased confidence in farming methods due to increased knowledge
Easier and more direct access to sales for farmers
Increased customer audience, as the ‘middle man’ is cut, for the farmers
Increased control over farmers’ business and direct feedback loops
End-to-end turnkey solution for farmers
Peer support from farmer to farmer
Support from large partner network of for instance scientists and agronomists
Development of science-based methodologies (UN, World Bank references
Contribution to the metrification of Carbon Farming Methods and Impact
- Better resistance to climate change & weather phenomena such as floods, droughts and other extreme conditions
What are the proposal’s costs?
The projected costs for the first year of operation amount to about 587.000 €. The projected costs for year five of operation amount to about 9.532.000 €, as the following estimations show:
1. Staff – 2.100.000 €
2. Technology – 790.000 €
satellites, platform, data
3. Expert consultancy – 650.000 €
Agrologists, scientists, carbon farmers
4. Transport – 200.000 €
Vehicles, transportation costs
5. Equipment – 212.000 €
Tools for farmers, turnkey solution
6. Research – 1.080.000 €
Measure & guarantee quality of produce
Develop carbon sequestration methods & systems
7. Training and capacity building – 455.000 €
8. Investments – 1.600.000 €
Expansion to developing countries
Strategic business investments
9. Other direct costs – 520.000 €
10. Overhead costs – 1.925.000 €
The award of $10k would help jumpstart the next phase not only of the website but also the platform. A fully functional website is the basis for developing the two-sided channel we are aiming at as well as developing partnerships. It would allow the team to furthermore pursue additional sources of funding such as crowdfunding.
The only known challenge to us is a slump in the productivity at the start for the farmer, when methods are being changed from conventional agriculture to Carbon Farming. Normally the slump period is 1-3 years, depending on the conditions and methods used. The productivity will eventually rise above the initial stage, when the soil recovers and returns to a healthier stage, where it is able to produce greater yields, as well as more nutritious food. We hope to minimize and address those by creating a system, that categorizes farmers according to the stage they’re at in the transformation process, enabling end-consumers to find them and support them, and lift them up in the channel from the pool of farmers for the consumers to find.
By the end of June 2016 we will deliver the MVP of the service and aim to recruit 20 more farms to our database of interested farms. By the end of 2016 we have set up an early version of the channel, recruited 100 farms altogether, and closed the first sales.
Within one year we furthermore aim at establishing a spearhead contact in a beachhead market in order to validate and scale ourmodel early on. At the end of the first year we have already established contacts in another country, where we are planning to expand our operations next.
Developing the science and proof. Investing in expansion to 10 new countries.
Have the first farms transformed from initial conventional farming to Carbon Farming, on the road to producing Carbon Farmed food.
5 - 15 years
Within the next 5 -15 years we will be expanding heavily to developing countries together with intergovernmental organizations such as the UN, the World Bank and governments in order to prevent large scale crises. Furthermore we will be collaborating with other businesses in order to transition economies towards more sustainable ways. We’re operating in 29 countries in 15 years time.
15 - 50 years
In the next 15 - 50 years we aim for a transformation of 60% of all farming to Carbon Farming, within the limitations of political forces and challenges such as property right issues and volatile governments. The threat of climate change has been avoided due to changes in agricultural practices and with a move to a low-emission economy along with changes in consumption behaviors and use of resources. Soil&Co is a recognized standard for Carbon Farmed food. Soil&Co is recognized for spearheading the conversation and driving the science around Carbon Farming, guiding the conversation and actions towards a global change.
50 - 100 years
In the next 50 - 100 years all farming is Carbon Farming and climate change has been reversed.
Liquid Nanoclay (LNC) retains water and fertilizer better than impoverished soil. In sandy deserts it is said to result in the same yield as in good USA farm soil. We see potential in collaborating with this initiative i.e. in locations with bad droughts. One application of LNC lasts for 5 years. If we apply Carbon Farming simultaneously with first LNC application, after five years (length of the LNC cycle) we hope to result in nutritious and resilient soil that is able to hold water without any external synthetic agents. This potential collaboration requires more research, and is dependent on the methods that LNC uses.
The proposal tackles the same challenge as we do – but in the mangrove forests. They suggest a “ridge to reef” approach. By combining these two initiatives we could gain synergies and approach the challenge holistically.
Rattan Lal, study Ohio State https://sustainability.water.ca.gov/documents/18/3407623/Soil+carbon+sequestration+to+mitigate+climate+change.pdf
Rodale Institute White Paper ‘Regenerative Organic Agriculture and Climate Change: A Down-to-Earth Solution to Global Warming’ http://02f.e55.myftpupload.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/03/Rodale-Institute-White-Paper-1.pdf
Rodale Institute ‘The Farming Systems Trial’
The Carbon Underground ‘The Formula is easier than you think’ https://thecarbonunderground.org/the-formula-is-easier-than-you-think/
Carbon Underground ‘Science’
New York Times ‘A Boon for Soil, and for the Environment’
French Goverment ‘4 Pour 1000’ Initiative
United Nations Conference on Trade and Development ‘Trade and Environment Review 2013’
The World Bank’s ‘Carbon Sequestration in Agricultural Soils’
Acres USA’s Interview with Dr. Christine Jones
Centre for Food Safety’s ‘Soil Solutions to Climate Change’
Kiss the Ground’s ‘The Soil Story’ narrated by Larry Kopald
Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations’ ‘Soils: Our ally against climate change’
Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations’ ‘Let’s talk about soil’
Peter Byck’s ‘Soil Carbon Cowboys’
TedXGrandForks by Gabe Brown ‘Regeneration of Our Lands: A Producer’s Perspective’
Ted Talk by Allan Savory ‘How to fight desertification and reverse climate change’
The Carbon Farming Solution - A Global Toolkit of Perennial Crops and Regenerative Agriculture Practices for Climate Change Mitigation and Food Security By Eric Toensmeier