Advancing Soil
    Carbon Science

    To unlock agriculture as a climate solution, we’ve set out to create the highest quality ag carbon program, backed by rigorous science and certification.

    High-Quality Ag Soil Carbon Credits are Being Generated by Following Rigorous, Scientifically Robust Protocols

    Carbon by Indigo leverages third-party protocols from leading global registries – the Climate Action Reserve and Verra – enabling global scale.

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    The Road to a New Crop: Indigo’s Monitoring Plan for Generating Carbon Credits

    September 21, 2021: Carbon by Indigo is helping achieve long-term climate impact by directly supporting farmer adoption of sustainable practices that remove carbon from and abate GHG emissions to the atmosphere. As of July 15, 2021, the initial filing period for grower data has officially closed; we have the fields that will generate carbon credits for the program's inaugural reporting period (covering the 2019 and 2020 cultivation years) in view. Now, we are turning to the verification phase: an independent, third-party validation and verification body (VVB) will assess our project performance and credit quantification against registry rules. For a clearer picture of the tools and methods Indigo is deploying to bring payments to farmers, we are offering the below outline of our initial monitoring plan.

    The first carbon project created under Carbon by Indigo is listed with the Climate Action Reserve. The Project ID is CAR1459 and the project name is “Indigo U.S. Project No. 1.” Carbon by Indigo will also include projects listed in the VCS Program, at Verra. However, the details below are largely similar between the two programs.

    Chapter 1: Project Details

    Our program promotes agricultural management practices that can reduce net emissions of carbon dioxide, methane, and nitrous oxide and encourage increased soil organic carbon storage. During each reporting period, we measure, monitor, and model thousands of fields to harvest this new crop. The details of this chapter are to summarize the project, the participating companies and consultants who contributed to the generation of emissions reductions, and who maintains definitive ownership over the carbon credits.

    1.1. Relevant Standards
    1.2. Summary Description of the Project
    1.3. Project Developer
    1.4. Other Entities Involved in the Project
    1.5. Project Ownership

    Chapter 2: Environmental Safeguards and Non-GHG Impacts of the Project Activities

    While climate impacts are the primary focus of the carbon project, it is important that climate benefits do not come at the expense of other environmental metrics. At an operational level, our program must understand participating acres’ land management changes with field-level precision; only then can we ensure climate change mitigation activities enacted as part of our program follow environmental regulations and applicable laws without generating environmental or social harm. Further, our project activities generate co-benefits such as reduced soil erosion, improved water quality, increased rural incomes, and enhanced resilience to extreme weather events. 

    2.1. No Net Harm 

    2.2. Local Stakeholder Consultation 

    2.3. Sustainable Development Impacts of Project Activities 

    Chapter 3: Application of Protocol and Project Eligibility

    To qualify for Carbon by Indigo, growers need to implement new land management practice changes that reduce emissions and increase soil organic carbon storage and meet the eligibility requirements of the Soil Enrichment Protocol (SEP). Qualifying practice categories include crop planting and harvesting, tillage and residue management, and nitrogen application. Growers are paid for the net tonnes of carbon sequestered or emissions abated from these practices over a 10-year period, with an option for renewal up to two times for a total potential of 30-years, as defined by the SEP.  

    Once the qualifying practice has been established, ongoing monitoring and data collection ensures each field generating credits under Carbon by Indigo adheres to the requirements defined by the SEP. These requirements include reviewing the fields’ historical practices with respect to the current practices to ensure that an accurate and conservative emission reduction can be quantified within the appropriate time periods and geographic locations.  

    Credits are defined as permanent if the atmospheric benefits of the emission reductions are protected by the GHG crediting program for the equivalent of 100 years. This is achieved through both the protection of the physical carbon storage within the project area and programmatic safeguards to compensate the system for any potential reversals. To ensure the permanence of carbon stored in the soil Indigo employs a combination of remote and on-site data collection, registry-held internal buffer pool (insurance against “natural catastrophes”), compensation obligations, vested payment schedules, net basis accounting, reversal reporting, and internal mechanisms (e.g., an internal buffer pool). 

    3.1 Project Definition 

    3.1.1 Project Activities 
    3.1.2 Project Area 
    3.1.1 Project Aggregation
    3.2 Project Outreach 

    3.3 Project Location 

    3.4 Project Start Date 

    3.5 Project Crediting Period 

    3.6 Reporting Period 

    3.7 Defining Baseline Scenarios 

    3.8 Additionality 

    3.8.1 Performance Standard Test 
    3.8.2 Legal Requirement Test 
    3.8.3 Payment Stacking 

    3.9 Permanence 

    3.9.1 Overview of Approach to Permanence 
     3.9.2 Project Implementation Agreement (PIA) 

    3.10 Regulator Compliance 

    Chapter 4: Project GHG Boundary

    The greenhouse gas assessment boundary defines the sources, sinks, and reservoirs (SSRs) of GHGs affected by the project activitiesCarbon by Indigo focuses primarily on the soil organic carbon impacts, as well as significant changes to emissions of N2O and CH4. This chapter details which SSRs are included within the project boundary, and the methods used for monitoring and quantification of each SSR during the reporting period.

    Chapter 5: Quantification of GHG Emission Reductions and Removals

    When seeking to scale the crediting of real climate impact, scientifically defensible and operationally feasible quantification is key. This chapter describes in detail the methods used to quantify greenhouse gas emission reductions and removals, including the use of direct soil measurement, default equations, and biogeochemical modeling. 

    As this is an aggregated project, the method of quantification leverages a sample-based approach where a subset of the project fields are directly measured and modeled to quantify the emission reductions and soil organic carbon sequestration. The results of the models and default equations attribute an average emission reduction per acre to groupings of fields in the project based on agronomic and geographic characteristics via stratification. Furthermore, assessments such as leakage are conducted to ensure the emission reductions generated in the project were solely due to the implementation of a qualifying practice defined in Chapter 3. Within each quantification step, Indigo ensures conservativeness is strictly applied in alignment with the international standards for environmental accounting (ex. ISO 14064-2).  

    5.1 Quantification Approaches Applied 

    5.1.1 Modeled and Default Equations Map 
    5.2 Sample Design 
    5.2.1 Population 
    5.2.2 Sample Designs Used to Choose Sample Points 
    5.2.3 Assignment of Sample Types to Sample Points 

    5.3 Modeling Baseline Scenarios 

    5.3.1 Constructing parallel modeled baseline threads 
    5.3.2 Using matched and blended modeled baseline 
    5.3.3 Non-modeled (Non-SOC) Baselines 
    5.3.4 Calculations Using Modeled and Default Baselines 

    5.4 Results of Quantification 

    5.4.1 Reversible and Non-Reversible Emission Reductions 
    5.4.2 Soil Organic Carbon Stock Change 
    5.4.3 Methane Emission Reductions 
    5.4.4 Nitrous Oxide Emission Reductions 
    5.4.5 De Minimis Calculations 
    5.4.6 Uncertainty 
    5.4.6.1 Post-stratification and Strategies to Reduce Absolute Bias and Variance 
    5.4.7 Buffer Pool Contribution 

    5.5 Leakage 

    5.5.1 Accounting for Leakage from Livestock Displacement 
    5.5.2 Accounting for Leakage from Yield Reduction of Cash Crops 

    Chapter 6: Monitoring & Data Collection

    Indigo employs detailed monitoring and data collection to ensure the high-quality quantification of reductions and removals. The basis of this chapter describes how we ensure scientific rigor and data scrutiny along the carbon crediting process. 

    Soil sample collection is part of the data gathering process and is specific to the sampling depth, procurement and handling methods, composite sampling methods, sanitation requirements, and shipping standard operation procedures. Data collected from these soil samples are used as model inputs, supporting model calibration and validation across practice categories, crop functional groups, and emission source combinations.  

    Further quality control processes are conducted to ensure grower data completeness and confidence and to facilitate evidence review, confirmation, and grower outreach and follow-up as needed. An overview of data processing, data sources, and the importance and enabling of auditing, data provenance, and reproducibility are detailed in this chapter.

    We are planning to monitor and account for potential reversals across the project during the permanence period. The efforts to collect data and estimate CRTs at the project level for growers in the program are covered in other sections throughout the monitoring plan, including, but not limited to, subsection 6.2.1 Data Collection from growers above. 

    6.1 Data and Parameters Used 

    6.1.1 Infrastructure and Tools 

    6.1.2 Data and Parameters 

    6.2 Data Collection and Data Sources 

    6.2.1 Data Collection from Growers 
    6.2.2 Project Data Sources 

    6.3 Field Boundaries 

    6.4 Soil Sampling 

    6.4.1 Sample Collection 
    6.4.2 Soil Analysis 

    6.5 Use of Models 

    6.5.1 Model Calibration and Validation 
    6.5.2 Model Application 
    6.5.3 Model Data Transformations 

    6.6 Ongoing Monitoring 

    6.6.1 Ongoing Monitoring –– Cropland 
    6.6.2 Ongoing Monitoring –– Grazing 

    6.7 Data Handling, QA/QC, and Processing  

    6.7.1 The Carbon Data Pipeline and Gates  
    6.7.2 Auditing, Provenance, and Reproducibility 

    Chapter 7: Index of Project Documentation

    Due to the level of complexity of the project, there are often supporting materials that are provided with a monitoring plan to better describe the operations of the project and how we were able to accommodate the requirements outlined in the SEP. For example, in Chapter 6 our team provides a general description of the internal QA/QC that is conducted to ensure the data flowing through the program are accurate and approved for credit generation. To support this summarya supporting document provides details of the specific logic implemented in the software to flag issues, request reviews, and pass the data for credit generation.  

    Conclusion

    Creating agricultural carbon credits is complex and requires a significant amount of coordination between growers, data collection systems, quantification methods, and GHG crediting programs, which in turn makes them unique. With the scaled implementation of practices that “farm carbon,” we have an opportunity to replenish an overly depleted carbon sink while realizing ecosystem benefits, such as healthier soils, increased biodiversity, and resilience to extreme weather events. 

    If this overview of our monitoring report should spark curiosity in Carbon by Indigo, please reach out to join on the collaboration and dialogue around this significant nature-based climate solution. 

    Producing Quality Agricultural Carbon Credits

    In Spring 2022, Carbon by Indigo will generate the first registry issued, third-party verified agricultural carbon credits using direct soil sampling and advanced modeling at an unprecedented scale.

    Data transparency builds the credibility and value of the credits.

    These credits are generated using the Soil Enrichment Protocol developed and adopted by the Climate Action Reserve, with participation from Indigo’s team of leading scientists, policy experts, and technologists. Carbon by Indigo’s agricultural soil carbon credits are considered the highest quality because net changes in greenhouse gasses are credited following MRV, or “monitoring, reporting, and verification,” which adheres to IPCC guidelines and best practices.  

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    Hear from Our Partners

    Mask

    We built Airly with a mission to reverse climate change through food, acknowledging that's an audacious goal, but we are fundamentally driven by the fact that agriculture has a big role to play in that overall solution. As you get out into the market and you start to demonstrate the consumer demand, a lot more people start jumping in.

    Jennifer McKnight | Co-Founder, Airly Foods, Post Holdings

    Mask

    We will not squeeze carbon out of the global economy if we don't have a huge investment in carbon credits. It simply isn't going to happen and carbon credits are a great tool to provide a financial incentive, to target a lot of those areas that might be difficult to target from a public policy perspective, but we can make it happen. And it also buys us time. Time that we frankly don't have to address this problem.

    Craig Ebert | President, Climate Action Reserve

    Mask

    We really need to start treating agriculture and food production in this country more like a long-term investment and less like borrowing and lending. You have to give the capital a chance to grow.

    Zach Ducheneaux | Administrator, USDA Farm Service Agency

    Mask

    The ability to sell carbon as a new crop ... it's going to fundamentally change what we do on the farm. We'll get paid for something other than yield

    Ben Riensche | Partner, Blue Diamond Farms, Iowa

    Mask

    This is better farming. Some of the world’s largest companies have a million farms in their supply chains and are facing a world in which climate is becoming more disruptive, less predictive rainfall, water shortages, too much water—all those factors that are making it more difficult to be a farmer today. These companies are looking for exactly that type of agriculture that is going to create more resilience.

    Paul Hawken | Author of Drawdown and Regeneration, Business Strategist, Journalist

    Advancing the Adoption of Soil Carbon Science

    Updates from our in-house team of experts and partners in science and policy.

    Carbon Experimentation field research provides a foundational dataset and case studies that keep Carbon by Indigo on the forefront of science

    Indigo’s Carbon Experimentation team launched fall sampling in September 2021 for year 3 of the long-term study, the Soil Carbon Experiment (SCX).

    During year 3, we are re-sampling over 100 fields currently enrolled in SCX and will perform initial sampling on new fields joining the program – gathering data on soil organic carbon, bulk density, soil health, and other measures on soil samples, including some down to a 1-m depth. These samples come from a mix of regeneratively and conventionally managed fields – including a subset of split-field trials with both management systems.

    SCX data and case studies help Indigo: understand credit generation potential, minimize grower data burden, and improve unit economics. 

    Advancing Policy Development

    Policy Brief

    Additionality for Carbon Offsets

    This analysis signifies the importance of additionality for carbon offsets to succeed by showcasing how and why they work, as well as offering policy options to ensure carbon programs have vigorous requirements built into them.

    Policy Brief

    The Agricultural Greenhouse Gas Footprint

    Overview of overall on-farm GHG footprints, the potential to reduce and avoid emissions, add additional income and transform farms into carbon sinks.

    Policy Brief

    Healthy Soils Improve Crop Productivity, Environmental Resilience, and Climate Mitigation

    Illustrating the value and benefits of soil health and how policy advancements can improve the field.

    Peer Reviewed Article

    Implementing the Soil Enrichment Protocol at Scale: Opportunities for an Agricultural Carbon Market

    Improved modeling, data collection and financial incentives from the Climate Action Reserve Soil Enrichment Protocol, ensure growth and legitimacy of the voluntary carbon market.

    Policy Brief

    Policy Opportunities for Climate Smart Agricultural Practices

    Overview of how policymakers can enrich climate smart agricultural practices through complementary and additive policies that support growers entering a voluntary market.

    Policy Brief

    Carbon Market for Climate Smart Agricultural Practices

    Primer on the current state of the science behind the methodology for the generation of high-quality carbon credits and the support required from federal policymakers.

    Policy Brief

    Harnessing Agricultural Data with Standards & Interoperability

    Proposal of key policy solutions that work in tandem with the USDA, to minimize GHG emissions while impacting grower engagement, data sharing, conservation outcomes, and that benefit grower production.

    The Progress of Advancing Soil Carbon Science to Unlock Agriculture as a Climate Solution

    Understand the milestones unfolding as agriculture becomes a viable and scalable part of the climate conversation.

    1990s

    1990 - Clean Air Act: Expanding on air quality legislation, an amendment of the Clean Air Act introduced measures to ​cap and reduce sulfur dioxide (SO2) and nitrogen ​oxides (NOx) ​emissions, leading causes of acid rain. ​Coupled with regulation limiting the production and use of ozone-destroying chemicals, the Clean Air Act led to a significant decrease in US air pollution concentrations.

    1997 - Kyoto Protocol: Signed on December 11, this operationalized the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) by committing industrialized countries and economies in transition to limit and reduce greenhouse gases (GHG) emissions in accordance with agreed individual targets. The protocol was ratified in 2005​ and applied to seven greenhouse gases, including carbon dioxide (CO2), Methane (CH4), and Nitrous Oxide (N2O), which constitute the leading sources of agricultural GHG emissions. The Kyoto Protocol also introduced three new mechanisms for flexibility that would inform carbon markets for years to come: international emissions trading, the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM), and Joint Implementation (JI).

    1990 - Clean Air Act: Expanding on air quality legislation, an amendment of the Clean Air Act introduced measures to ​cap and reduce sulfur dioxide (SO2) and nitrogen ​oxides (NOx) ​emissions, leading causes of acid rain. ​Coupled with regulation limiting the production and use of ozone-destroying chemicals, the Clean Air Act led to a significant decrease in US air pollution concentrations.

    1997 - Kyoto Protocol: Signed on December 11, this operationalized the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) by committing industrialized countries and economies in transition to limit and reduce greenhouse gases (GHG) emissions in accordance with agreed individual targets. The protocol was ratified in 2005​ and applied to seven greenhouse gases, including carbon dioxide (CO2), Methane (CH4), and Nitrous Oxide (N2O), which constitute the leading sources of agricultural GHG emissions. The Kyoto Protocol also introduced three new mechanisms for flexibility that would inform carbon markets for years to come: international emissions trading, the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM), and Joint Implementation (JI).

    2000-2005

    2001 - The Climate Action Registry (CAR) launched: Originally founded by the State of California as the California Climate Action Registry, the Reserve (a private, nonprofit organization) set the stage for US voluntary and compliance offset programs. This keystone effort ignited the North American carbon market and helped to promote and innovate, credible, high-integrity, and transparent market-based climate change solutions that benefit economies, ecosystems, and society.

    2005 - The Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI): Governors from nine states developed a regional cap-and-trade program addressing CO2 emissions from power plants, ​a first-of-its-kind effort that has yielded billions of dollars of net economic benefits and has now expanded to eleven states.

    2001 - The Climate Action Registry (CAR) launched: Originally founded by the State of California as the California Climate Action Registry, the Reserve (a private, nonprofit organization) set the stage for US voluntary and compliance offset programs. This keystone effort ignited the North American carbon market and helped to promote and innovate, credible, high-integrity, and transparent market-based climate change solutions that benefit economies, ecosystems, and society.

    2005 - The Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI): Governors from nine states developed a regional cap-and-trade program addressing CO2 emissions from power plants, ​a first-of-its-kind effort that has yielded billions of dollars of net economic benefits and has now expanded to eleven states.

    2006-2009

    2006: California enacted the California Global Warming Solutions Act (CA GWSA) required by law the sharp reduction of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, within the state. Assembly Bill 32 (AB32) resulted in the first program in the country to take a long-term approach to addressing climate change that looks to improve the environment and natural resources while maintaining a strong economy.

    2009: The American Clean Energy and Security Act, also known as Waxman Markey, was supposed to be a pivotal piece of federal legislation that would have established a Federal cap-and-trade program, similar to the EU Emission Trading Scheme. Though the bill did not become law, an increase in sub-national level climate action ensued, driven by the progress of the California program.

    2006: California enacted the California Global Warming Solutions Act (CA GWSA) required by law the sharp reduction of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, within the state. Assembly Bill 32 (AB32) resulted in the first program in the country to take a long-term approach to addressing climate change that looks to improve the environment and natural resources while maintaining a strong economy.

    2009: The American Clean Energy and Security Act, also known as Waxman Markey, was supposed to be a pivotal piece of federal legislation that would have established a Federal cap-and-trade program, similar to the EU Emission Trading Scheme. Though the bill did not become law, an increase in sub-national level climate action ensued, driven by the progress of the California program.

    2010-2015

    2010 - Increasing interest in agriculture: Voluntary and compliance offset programs put increased resources into the development of high-quality offset project protocols and methodologies. Starting around 2010, and continuing through today, development included protocols covering nitrogen fertilizer management, rice methane reductions, grassland conservation, grazing management, enteric fermentation, and others. Given technical and financial barriers, few of these protocols saw widespread success in the form of verified credit issuances. However, significant progress was made in science, policy, and stakeholder engagement, ultimately enabling the development of the improved protocols employed by Indigo.

    2011: California Air Resources Board adopts four of the Reserve’s offset protocols setting a precedent for policy to follow private sector and voluntary market work within the carbon sector. The Livestock Compliance Offset Protocol (targeting anaerobic digestion of manure) becomes the first agricultural offset protocol in a domestic compliance program.

    2010 - Increasing interest in agriculture: Voluntary and compliance offset programs put increased resources into the development of high-quality offset project protocols and methodologies. Starting around 2010, and continuing through today, development included protocols covering nitrogen fertilizer management, rice methane reductions, grassland conservation, grazing management, enteric fermentation, and others. Given technical and financial barriers, few of these protocols saw widespread success in the form of verified credit issuances. However, significant progress was made in science, policy, and stakeholder engagement, ultimately enabling the development of the improved protocols employed by Indigo.

    2011: California Air Resources Board adopts four of the Reserve’s offset protocols setting a precedent for policy to follow private sector and voluntary market work within the carbon sector. The Livestock Compliance Offset Protocol (targeting anaerobic digestion of manure) becomes the first agricultural offset protocol in a domestic compliance program.

    2016-2019

    2016 ​- Paris Agreement/COP25, SDGs Ratified: The Agreement gave countries the opportunity to strengthen the global response to the threat of climate change by keeping a global temperature rise this century well below 2 degrees Celsius and to pursue efforts to limit the temperature increase even further to 1.5 degrees Celsius.

    2019: In June, Indigo Ag launched our carbon program with a mission to activate the full potential of agriculture to combat the climate crisis by enabling the creation of a new class of high-quality, nature-based carbon credits which stimulate system-wide beneficial change.

    2016 ​- Paris Agreement/COP25, SDGs Ratified: The Agreement gave countries the opportunity to strengthen the global response to the threat of climate change by keeping a global temperature rise this century well below 2 degrees Celsius and to pursue efforts to limit the temperature increase even further to 1.5 degrees Celsius.

    2019: In June, Indigo Ag launched our carbon program with a mission to activate the full potential of agriculture to combat the climate crisis by enabling the creation of a new class of high-quality, nature-based carbon credits which stimulate system-wide beneficial change.

    2020-present

    2020 - Climate-Smart Agriculture gains momentum:

    • Interest in climate-smart agriculture grows as businesses and policymakers across the globe increasingly realize the value of strong land stewardship and the World Food Prize is awarded to Rattan Lal for his soil health work.
    • Carbon by Indigo announces initial cohorts of supporting companies committed to help catalyze change.

    2021: In November, COP26 is scheduled to gather with the hopes of bringing parties together to accelerate action towards the goals of the Paris Agreement and the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (​UNFCCC). ​

    2020 - Climate-Smart Agriculture gains momentum:

    • Interest in climate-smart agriculture grows as businesses and policymakers across the globe increasingly realize the value of strong land stewardship and the World Food Prize is awarded to Rattan Lal for his soil health work.
    • Carbon by Indigo announces initial cohorts of supporting companies committed to help catalyze change.

    2021: In November, COP26 is scheduled to gather with the hopes of bringing parties together to accelerate action towards the goals of the Paris Agreement and the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (​UNFCCC). ​

    Interested in Advancing the Science and Policy With Us?

    Get in touch with our team to begin the conversation.

    Discover More

    Carbon by Indigo For Farmers

    Carbon by Indigo For Supporting Companies

    See the Progress Made So Far

    Relevant Standards

    Climate Action Reserve

    Verra

    Other Important Quality Standards & References