Big news in the agriculture world last week: Indigo Ag announced its acquisition of Soil Metrics, an industry-leading technology company that has developed a comprehensive soil carbon and greenhouse gas (GHG) assessment platform for agricultural soils. Together, Indigo Ag and Soil Metrics will model carbon sequestration across more regions and crop types. This passes increasing value on to farmers and makes carbon markets more accessible and rewarding. Why does this matter for farmers? New tools will help maximize their credit production while reducing the burden. It also creates more carbon credit buyer confidence, which will continue to improve the price farmers receive for credits.
This effort aims to scale commercially-available solutions that incentivize farmers to access new revenue streams and improve their soils, while meeting the urgent demand from companies for climate solutions. “We have a great and unmet challenge of urgently catching up to our greenhouse gas problem, drawing carbon down, and reducing emissions,” said Keith Paustian, founder of Soil Metrics. “We must accelerate our work as quickly as possible, and this partnership helps both Indigo Ag and Soil Metrics do just that.”
“This allows growers to fully realize their profitability potential in all facets—not only for the improvements to their soil and production system, but also for the additional income that can come from farming carbon,” said Indigo’s Global Head of Carbon, Chris Harbourt. “The more that’s known about their current soil carbon and opportunities for carbon sequestration, the more our team at Indigo can support them to advance their efforts and maximize their soil health and carbon payments.”
Here, Keith and Chris discuss how Indigo and Soil Metrics will enable farmers to maximize the soil and financial benefits that come from continuing to advance carbon assessment tools.
What brought Indigo Ag and Soil Metrics together?
“Indigo’s clear emphasis on science-based approaches and quantification is so important,” said Keith, who led development of the industry standard and peer-reviewed DayCent model for modeling agricultural soil carbon. He also made key contributions on formulating greenhouse gas inventory methods for land-use practices as part of the national inventory task force of theIntergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), which received the Nobel Peace Prize in 2007.
The companies had already been working together to meet the carbon registries’ high scientific standards via the registry-approved soil carbon methodologies in use by the Carbon by Indigo program. “Keith and his team at Colorado State are regarded as global thought leaders in soil carbon quantification. Governments, corporations, NGOs, and academics rely on the DayCent model to power their carbon accounting estimates every day,” said Chris.
Chris adds: “The long research publication record is the strength of this technology. If someone came up with a new model today from scratch, they would not have this long history of being adjudicated in the scientific community and would not have the resulting trust with the industry and growers.”
Indigo’s acquisition provides significant engineering and scientific resources along with access to partners and growers, enhancing the reach and impact of Soil Metrics’ models. “This relationship will rapidly accelerate our work,” said Keith. “For us to partner with a bigger company that has resources and relationships, and a whole structure from farmers through financial institutions, allows us to realize a larger impact sooner,” Keith said.
What does this mean for farmers?
Having Soil Metrics’ world-class tools power Carbon by Indigo’s quantification methods ensures that farmers enrolled in Carbon by Indigo maximize their opportunity to get paid for carbon.
“Creating access and opportunities for growers to increase their income and profitability has been at the bedrock of our work at Indigo and something we look for in everything we do,” said Chris.
Keith saw Indigo’s grower-commitment clearly. “Indigo wants to be part of the solution and is focused on farmers first. Indigo understands that increasing profitability and encouraging carbon farming practices that enhance soil health can be pursued hand-in-hand. They’re very committed to that notion,” said Keith.
“Farmers are savvy,” said Chris. “They understand that this is a science-based program where their payments and participation are being measured by science. They’re making practice changes in their businesses, which takes work. With Indigo and Soil Metrics now together, they know that we’re accelerating the benefits they will receive. We’re making investments, pursuing strategic partnerships, and building the right tools to ensure we’re maximizing the return for their work.”
How will the carbon marketplace benefit from the Indigo Ag and Soil Metrics working together?
“As a scientist, I hope that the sector is successful overall and that we can really bring soil health, carbon sequestration, and the mitigation of greenhouse gases to scale everywhere in the world eventually,” said Keith.
Chris adds that the partnership will create scalability across the industry: “This model allows us to reach critical scale faster and realize the potential for agriculture to be a part of the solution to climate change,” he said.
How does this impact openness and transparency in the market?
Chris notes that the partnership enables transparency in a world that likes to keep innovation and advancements behind the curtain.
“In many startups, people hide their technology, like it’s a secret sauce,” says Chris. “But in this world of carbon, the advantage is actually being very transparent to the buyers of carbon and others in the system, to show that what you’re pulling out of the atmosphere or abating through practice changes, while invisible to some, is quantifiable by science. That’s what builds trust among the scientists creating the tools, the growers using them to produce credits, and the credit buyers who want to make claims about their climate actions.”
How do Indigo Ag and Soil Metrics work together to create climate solutions?
“Keith and his team have developed tools that are miles ahead of what others have done in terms of both capabilities and the level of scientific rigor and trust,” said Chris.
“The biggest part of this is urgency,” Keith says. “We’re all going to need, as a society, as an industry, as academic research institutions, to partner effectively to have the strength and wherewithal to get this massive task accomplished. That’s the distinct advantage of this partnership,” he added.
How does this kind of scientific rigor impact demand for agricultural carbon credits?
“I see this as a deep partnership between us, not only on the commercial side, but with the research community and the university,” said Chris. He went on to add that the better the research and the tighter the science, the higher the quality of credits that are created.
“The buyers of carbon credits can make sure they justify their purchase,” said Chris. “We have the chance to pull everything together to create the greatest opportunity for the farmer to generate real and highly valuable credits that stand up to the test of time and stand up to the test of public opinion.”