ImpactAlpha, Jan. 29 – Soil health is all the talk on the campaign trail in Iowa as well as on the slopes of Davos. Something’s definitely in the air, er, ground, when organic agriculture features in a Super Bowl ad.
Anheuser-Busch InBev’s spot for its organic Michelob Ultra Pure Gold highlights the “monumental challenges” faced by farmers converting to organic.
Helping grain farmers make the transition will take more than the portion of six-pack sales the company will provide (each six-pack funds the conversion of six square feet). But a spadeful of new initiatives is starting to deliver on the promise of soil carbon.
Healthy soil removes carbon from the air and stores it. Modern farming techniques, from overgrazing to overtilling to chemical use, have degraded this natural carbon sink. Restoring the world’s soil by rotating crops, eliminating chemicals, integrating livestock and other regenerative techniques could offset 10% of total global emissions in 25 years, according to the U.N.
Indigo’s Terraton Initiative seeks to remove 1 trillion tons of carbon from the air by paying farmers to sequester carbon in soil and reduce emissions. The crux of its scheme: a carbon trading market that pays farmers a minimum $15 for each metric ton of carbon they sequester.
Better ways of measuring and verifying farming practices and carbon sequestration are needed. Climate Action Reserve’s Soil Enrichment Project Protocol aims to measure, verify and report on agricultural practices and carbon sequestration. This spring, a coalition led by the Rodale Institute, will roll out a regenerative organic certification that addresses soil health, pasture-based animal welfare, and worker fairness.
Investing in soil wealth
Iroquois Valley Farmland REIT has invested $50 million to help more than 40 farmers restore 12,000 acres of farmland in 14 states. “Soil Wealth,” an analysis of private investment in food and agriculture, identifies 30 farmland investors managing a total of $22 billion in assets.
Regenerative ag deals, especially those in the global south, “are mostly underdeveloped, quite small, not yet investment-ready and need financial structuring, market strengthening and impact monitoring,” says Laura Ortiz of SVX Mexico. Only 1% of impact investment deals are going towards sustainable land use and other investments targeting SDG No. 15 (Life on Land), according to the Global Impact Investing Network.