Regenerative AgSoil Carbon

Regenerative Agriculture will be for farming, what renewables has been for energy

By 10 August 2019 August 13th, 2019 No Comments
Crowd in audience at the National Carbon Farming conference at Albury

Published on Platfarm Co-founder and CEO, Oli Madgett’s LinkedIn is this look at Regenerative Ag and the future of soil carbon.

From the post:

“Regenerative Agriculture will be for farming, what renewables has been for energy”

This quote from Matthew Warnken at Corporate Carbon captures the potential that a different approach to farming has to transform agriculture, and the fortunes of farmers

Platfarm presented at the National Carbon Farming conference at Albury (despite managing to fly to completely the wrong city the night before!) on our project with Meat & Livestock Australia to use simple and intuitive tools to help farmers compliantly understand what their soil carbon levels are today, support their decision making on the land strategies to increase them, record the activities that they carry out, and the results they achieve.

The conference was packed with farmers (not often the case) which is a really positive sign, but also a stark and timely reminder that producers are looking for new approaches to their land management strategies, as their current practices of monoculture, chemical weed control, and high levels of inorganic inputs are seeing farm productivity levels stagnate and decline.

The diverse attendees also encouragingly included analysts from ASX 100 listed energy companies, and global leading AgTech companies such as Indigo Ag with their Terraton Initiative to use agriculture to remove 1 trillion tonnes of CO2 out of the atmosphere. After watching the 2040 film https://www.madmanfilms.com.au/2040film/ on the way over, which has broken box office records for an Australian documentary film, you can feel a real groundswell of momentum building.

Presenters showcased what they’re achieving through a regenerative ag approach, utilising techniques such as cell grazing, cover cropping, planting pastures with multi species using innovative implements such as the Soilkee https://soilkee.com.au/. There were inspirational presentations such as the award winning SoilCQuest project https://www.soilcquest.org.au/and the grassroots Carbon8 initiative that supports farmers to transition to regenerative agriculture https://carbon8.raisely.com/

There is considerable interest in Carbon Credits as a new source of income for farmers, and as a way of funding the transition to a more regenerative approach, but the frustrations I came away from Albury with were that:

  • For me, nobody made it pragmatically clear to the farmers in the room what the overall current financial model is around adopting land management strategies to build soil carbon.
  • If the cost/benefit for farmers simply around carbon credits doesn’t stack up (e.g. the significant costs of compliantly baselining, re-testing soil organic carbon levels, and the auditing and administrative burden Vs only receiving e.g. $12-14 per tonne of soil carbon sequestered) then that needs to be transparently conveyed to farmers.
  • There are much bigger and pressing reasons for farmers to adopt regenerative agriculture in terms of increasing their stocking rates and yields, increasing the resilience and reliability of their operations, which over the longer term all lead to increasing the value of their land.

If it makes financial sense for farmers to go down the soil carbon credits path, it should be positioned very much as the icing on the cake, rather than the main driver. The production benefits, as well as decreasing operational risk make the potential switch to regenerative agriculture a compelling one, and it might well be private carbon markets such as https://nori.com/ which are the right pathways for many farmers looking to also earn carbon credits as part of the upside.

Farmers have shown that they will invest in innovation if they can be shown the clear commercial benefits (soil moisture probes, auto-steering, farm wifi so they can make calls from their cabs in areas that didn’t previously have reception etc), but the clearly conveyed business case around regenerative ag mixed with soil carbon credits still feels too murky…

View the post on LinkedIn to comment and to see the videos Oli embedded into his article.