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Capture6 in Action: How Ethan Cohen-Cole and his team remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere

By Tech in Action

Ethan Cohen-Colen recognises that no silver bullet will solve the climate crisis. It was this mentality that spurred him to co-found Capture6 in 2021. Now as CEO of the direct air capture company, Ethan draws on 25 years of experience as an entrepreneur, academic and economist to deliver scalable climate mitigation solutions.

Can you introduce yourself and explain why you founded Capture6?

I am Ethan Cohen-Cole and in 2021 I co-founded Capture6 with our President, Luke Shors. We understand that a radical reduction of carbon dioxide emissions was essential if humanity was to avoid the worst impacts of the climate crisis. 

However, we also recognise that every carbon-emitting activity cannot be easily – or possibly – stopped straightaway. To reach net zero, we need to complement reduction efforts with technologies that remove residual and historical emissions from the atmosphere. And this is why Luke and I started Capture6. 

We see three significant gaps in the carbon removal market that need to be addressed if we are to make a meaningful impact on the climate crisis:

  1. A relatively immature voluntary market poses a challenge to the immediate growth of the tech-based removals industry;
  2. There is little evidence of sufficient voluntary demand for >$500 per tonne of CO2 at the scale required to address the climate crisis; and
  3. An insufficient focus awareness around the tools of carbon removal to drive decarbonisation.

In recognition of these gaps, Capture6 is developing projects that are commercially viable today, at affordable price points. By ensuring our project economics make sense in the current market conditions, Capture6 can drive decarbonisation now, and until the global commitment to carbon reduction intensifies and a more robust carbon market for tech-based removal credits potentially emerges.

Could you explain the problem Capture6 seeks to solve?

To avoid the worst global climate change scenarios, it is vital to reduce humanity’s emission of greenhouse gases. Still, as underscored by the UN’s IPCC lead author, Heleen De Coninck, we will also have to do negative emissions or carbon dioxide removal in the second half of this century to ensure a safe and stable climate. 

Through its direct air capture technology, Capture6 offers permanent, irreversible carbon removal that complements a rapid curtailment of new, anthropogenic emissions. At the same time, we also address the growing global demand for water and increasing drive for industrial decarbonisation. 

But our technology does more than remove carbon from the air. Our facilities help industries decarbonise by capturing point-source CO2 emissions; they produce fresh water and create green hydrogen, lithium, and other industrial inputs. Because of these potential integrations with other industrial processes, Capture6’s technology turns carbon removal from a costly stand-alone proposition into a viable solution that enables widespread decarbonisation. We are focused on a socially just, environmental transition.

Let’s get technical: How does your product work?

Capture6 has developed a proprietary Direct Air Capture (DAC) technology that uses a liquid sorbent to capture carbon dioxide from ambient air (AKA atmospheric air in its natural state). 

This technique involves splitting salt through electrochemical processes which produces a base and an acid. The base absorbs CO2 from the air, forming carbonates that are stored long-term. 

As I mentioned before, our technology also boasts additional features, including the production of fresh water, the ability to operate at ambient temperatures for renewable energy compatibility, and a once-through process for continuous solvent creation and carbon dioxide sequestration. 

The technology is versatile, allowing various input and output configurations, and it integrates with multiple industries. Capture6 generates several revenue streams, including freshwater, green chemicals and carbon dioxide capture-related revenues.

Could you share a story of Capture6’s success?

We are proud to have announced three, different decarbonisation projects on three continents. Our plan is to grow to a gigaton scale as we expand our global project pipeline. 

Our first project – Project Monarch – is based in Southern California. It is part of Palmdale Water District’s Pure Water Antelope Valley Demonstration Facility (PWD), which will be the first fully integrated water management and CO2 removal facility of this nature. We are proud to be able to estimate that the full-scale project will save the PWD between 20 and 40 percent on the lifetime costs of their new water management facility.

Next, we have Project Wallaby which is the product of our partnership with Pilot Energy Limited. This partnership will assess the integration of Capture6’s direct air capture and water recovery technology into the Mid West Clean Energy Project – a model decarbonisation initiative for Australia.

Project Octopus will be a first-of-its-kind facility for water recovery and carbon removal using a seawater desalination plant. In addition to removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, Project Octopus will generate green chemicals, including domestically produced, low-carbon alternatives for heavy industries in Korea that currently depend on imported products.

And finally, what’s next for Capture6?

Project Monarch is the first step in our ambition to get direct air capture to a gigaton scale and we plan to break ground on this project in the second quarter of 2024. For Project Octopus and Project Wallaby, we expect this to occur between late 2024 and early 2025. 

From a technological standpoint, we recently received an award from the U.S. Department of Energy to finetune our cooling tower design, a key element of our technical process. This enhanced tower design – Absorption Unit Reactor for Ambient Air (AURA) – will make our direct air capture process more efficient and less energy-intensive per tonne of carbon dioxide captured from the atmosphere. We look forward to further optimising our technology through research collaborations.

Be it with companies addressing their net zero and water positivity goals, or with municipalities recovering more freshwater for their constituents, we look forward to developing even more partnerships around the globe. 

 

 

Disclaimer: Respira International has announced its intention to purchase direct air capture credits from Capture6. Read more here.

Satellites in Action: Why Ed Mitchard founded Space Intelligence

By Tech in Action

When he was 15 years old, Ed Mitchard went to Brazil. For a teenager so keenly interested in tropical forests, this was a dream come true. Yet this was no school trip – Ed had won a competition to appear on a Japanese TV show. He now found himself 4,000 miles from home, in the depths of the Amazon rainforest.

Although Ed saw many areas of intact forest on his adventure, he also observed severe degradation and deforestation. Determined to make a difference, Ed pursued biology and forest ecology at university. As he learned more, it soon became clear to him that the world seriously lacked data on forest change. While there was some data on deforestation, Ed found nothing at all on forest regrowth. 

Ever since his undergraduate, Ed has been countering this problem. Becoming a full professor at the University of Edinburgh, he has published approximately 100 papers on different methods for monitoring forest change. Now, as Chief Scientist at his company Space Intelligence, Ed uses innovative satellite technology to provide high-quality data on forest carbon, forest regrowth and habitat loss.

Can you introduce yourself and explain why you founded Space Intelligence?

During my PhD, I developed new ways of working with radar satellites to measure the biomass of tropical forests. Unlike other satellites, radar satellites allowed us to see through clouds from space which is absolutely essential if you want to monitor tropical forests all year round.

I continued to research and write papers on this topic, first as a Research Fellow and then as Professor of Global Change Mapping at the University of Edinburgh. Between 2015 and 2018, a colleague and I received requests from a number of REDD+ projects asking to use our technology to monitor deforestation. It was a little tricky to help them from within the university as they wanted maps within a shorter time frame than we could offer.

At the time, there was no one doing high accuracy monitoring, so the university encouraged us to start a company. So in 2018, we set up Space Intelligence. We were small – I kept my university job and we employed just one other person – but we provided maps to some of the world’s largest NGOs including the Wildlife Conservation Society and The Nature Conservancy. 

Today, we have more than 50 employees and produce on-demand maps to support nature-based solutions. We work with project developers, predominantly in the tropics, who need us to produce the data to enable their carbon credits to be generated and validated. We also work with registries, such as Verra, to generate activity data for host countries. For Verra, we have generated activity data for Kenya and Tanzania which is supporting the introduction of their jurisdictional REDD+ methodology. 

We also work with the stakeholders buying carbon credits from those projects, who tend to be global-north-based corporate and financial investors conducting due diligence. As Chief Scientist, I run the map production side of the business and focus on developing these technologies to improve the data we can offer in the future.

Could you say more on the problem you seek to solve?

Throughout my life, a steady one percent of tropical forest has been lost every single year. I’m 37 now and around 37 percent of the world’s tropical forests have been destroyed since the 1980s. For people, for biodiversity and for our levels of atmospheric CO2, deforestation is a massive crisis.

For a minute, let’s take it back to the ‘big picture’ problem. Every year, humans release about 40 gigatonnes of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. The burning of fossil fuels accounts for 40 percent of that figure, while another 20 percent comes from deforestation. However, the atmospheric burden of CO2 only goes up by about 20 gigatonnes every year. Yes, this is still a lot, but about half of our emissions are absorbed by the oceans and earth’s vegetation. We need to stop burning coal and reduce our fossil fuel emissions, but simultaneously we must stop deforestation to conserve our natural carbon sink. It’s a no brainer.

Space Intelligence is playing a part in solving this problem. Without measuring forests, how can we know the extent of the problem or when we have made progress? This is why we provide high-quality data on deforestation and forest regrowth to project developers, carbon credit buyers and governments. 

As governments start to make large transfers of cash to countries conserving forests, Space Intelligence is producing the data to make these transactions possible. There’s no way the UK government would transfer tens of billions of dollars a year to different tropical countries based on data produced by those countries themselves. Instead, they want to go to an external independent third party that uses the latest scientific methods.

Space Intelligence exists to be an independent provider of data. We don’t have data precomputed – we talk to clients about their requirements and then produce high-quality maps on demand. Our teams conduct the analysis and then will report back to the client.

Let’s get technical: how does your product work?

Space Intelligence produces on demand maps of land cover and forest carbon. First, I’ll speak about HabitatMapper, our tool to map land cover. 

In HabitatMapper, every pixel is assigned a class such as tropical forest, degraded forest, savannah, grassland, urban area, agricultural land or water. We use a year’s worth of satellite data to determine these classes, meaning that every pixel has been viewed around 400 times using both optical and radar data. 

We use this satellite data to train a machine learning algorithm to assign each pixel to the most likely class. This is very useful for project developers to work out how much forest they have within their site and to assess its deforestation rate.

Our second tool is called CarbonMapper. Instead of placing pixels into landscape classes, CarbonMapper only considers those pixels containing forests. While HabitatMapper would display a forest as uniform, CarbonMapper visualises the differing amounts of carbon stored in each pixel of forest.

You can estimate the carbon stored in a tree very accurately if you measure its diameter, height and water density. Obviously you can’t do all this from space, but on the ground it is very easy to measure a tree’s diameter. Once you know a tree’s species and diameter, height and water density can both be estimated accurately.

Space Intelligence monitors forest canopy height using space-born LIDAR and then correlates these height measurements with local field data. We try not to fly out to the places we map. Instead, our clients will employ local teams to collect field plots. Although this is anyway a requirement of the carbon standards, it provides us with the field data we need to calibrate our equations. From here, we can reveal if a forest is gaining or losing carbon and if deforestation occurs in carbon dense areas.

Could you share a story of success?

I’d like to talk about our recent work with Verra. This November, Verra announced updates to its REDD+ methodology as another step in increasing the overall integrity, transparency and efficiency of carbon markets. Under this revised methodology, it will be Verra, not project developers, who will provide baseline data. What’s more, the data will cover the entire jurisdiction. 

When it considered making these methodology updates, Verra recognised that advancements in remote sensing can provide the accuracy needed to address some of the challenges in the market. Space Intelligence was selected by Verra to produce data for two jurisdictions – Kenya and Tanzania. We worked across an area of approximately 150 million hectares to provide Verra with maps and data on forest coverage and activity data on deforestation.

We followed our usual HabitatMapper process for this work, which included mapping around eight classes for each region across three time periods. We then converted these land cover maps to change maps with the following classes:

  • Stable forest; 
  • Stable non-forest;
  • Deforestation; and 
  • Reforestation.

In this type of work, distinguishing between vegetation types, especially accounting for seasonal changes, can be challenging. Indeed, an aerial view can change quite dramatically within the year as parts of the country look drier and wetter at different times. 

To overcome these challenges, we sought the expertise of our ecologists and local partners in Kenya and Tanzania to identify the different vegetation types in our satellite imagery. Without this in-house ecological expertise – and without applying it to our machine learning models – our estimates of deforestation rates would not be accurate.

To test the performance of the maps, we undertook an independent accuracy assessment. More than 1,600 sample points were assessed, both internally and by our project partners, the Kenya Forest Service. For any points we disagreed on, we met for resolution sessions. As a result, we were able to supply Verra with jurisdictional level data with confidence.

And finally, what’s next for Space Intelligence?

As well as providing our on-demand maps, we’d like to continuously monitor our clients’ project sites. We want project developers to have a platform through which to access monthly data on their area and quickly catch illegal deforestation or natural degradation. It would also provide a visualised record of conservation successes that could be shared with customers and the public. 

The prototypes are developing well, so our aim is for this product to be ready by the summer of next year. When I started out, there weren’t many people working in forest change mapping, but now I feel there is a lot more interest and commitment to stop deforestation.

 

Learn more about Space Intelligence here.

Kana in Action: How Andy Creak is scaling investment in nature-based solution

By Tech in Action

Andy Creak is a keen cyclist. Such was his love of riding through London, that he was inspired to launch Hedkayse – a cycle helmet company in 2013. But this was not the end. Cycling continued to lead Andy to unexpected places. When he decided to reduce emissions throughout his Hedkayse’s supply chain, Andy learned more about carbon markets. In his search for UK-based carbon projects, he realised something was missing. There was no central hub where he could find information on project developers and their credentials. Spying an opportunity for climate action, Andy’s idea for Kana was born.

Can you introduce yourself and explain why you founded Kana?

The idea for Kana was born when I decided to make my cycle helmet business carbon neutral. We calculated our emissions, reduced where we could, and the final step was to counterbalance our residual emissions with carbon credits. 

As a British business with a UK-based manufacturing facility, we wanted to invest in nature close to home. However, I soon realised how difficult this would be. Not only was it a challenge to find UK-based carbon credits for sale, but that there was no central place to source information about the carbon projects, the developers or their credentials.

After an arduous search, I found myself on a hill in the north of Scotland. Here, I met with a peatland project developer, examined their site and discussed the potential impacts of my investment. I found this experience was invaluable, but the effort to get there got me thinking – I was sure there must be an easier way.

Throughout my search, I naturally learned more about carbon markets. Having founded multiple technology businesses in the asset management sector, I began to see parallels between carbon markets and the financial markets with which I was familiar. Soon, I saw a massive opportunity – a new, green asset class that could help the planet and deliver sustainable returns.

Could you say more on the problem you seek to solve?

The UN Environment Programme estimates that, by 2050, we must invest $8.1 trillion in nature if we are to tackle the interlinked crises of climate change, biodiversity loss and land degradation. A substantial percentage of this capital must come from the private sector, but right now the infrastructure and assurances are not in place to facilitate such large-scale investment.

At Kana, we conducted more than 150 workshops with market stakeholders to tap into their knowledge and insights. From these conversations, it became clear that nature markets are held back by multiple barriers, ranging from outdated systems to a serious, systemic lack of funding.

Although I became aware of parties creating scientific frameworks for natural capital or focused on market intelligence, I realised something was absent from the UK market. To scale, the UK market needed a platform to improve supply and streamline the demand, in essence bringing both sides of the equation together.

Enter Kana. Since 2021, we have made natural capital an accessible, efficient asset class and facilitated private investment in nature. Our purpose is to increase investment in nature’s recovery and would like to see natural capital become a staple asset class in every ESG and impact fund portfolio.

Let’s get technical: How does your product work?

To create the infrastructure to scale investment into nature-based solutions we have broken our product down into two parts: Kana Hub and Kana Seed. Kana Hub caters to the supply-side of the market while Kana Seed will serve the demand.

Kana Hub: Improving the supply of high-quality carbon and biodiversity projects

Kana Hub is a platform for project developers, landowners, validation and verification bodies (VVBs) and codes. Within Kana Hub, users can manage their work and collaborate on the project development lifecycle. Here, processes that were traditionally completed in endless email chains and complex spreadsheets are fully-digitised. Because this massively improves efficiency and reduces overheads, it means more projects can get off the ground quicker. 

What’s more, Kana Hub makes a project’s life cycle fully-auditable, offering buyers greater assurance of quality and integrity. We have also built a directory which invites project developers and landowners to publicly showcase the quality and integrity of their schemes. This window into the market will make it easier for buyers to find projects, while giving them a snapshot of the real-life impact their investment can make.

Kana Seed: Streamlining and facilitating demand

Kana Seed is a tool for asset managers, businesses and sustainability consultancies. With our product, they can gain advanced oversight of their natural capital portfolios and manage their projects and investments. Whether developing their own project or investing in one already in existence, our platform will allow users to track the performance of their assets over time, analyse risk and trade units with advanced modelling and targets.

Kana Seed will have exclusive access to the auditable project data on Kana Hub. This symbiotic relationship between Seed and Hub will help rapidly accelerate capital flows to nature-based solutions.

Could you share a story of success?

Since we launched Kana Hub one year ago, we have onboarded 44 percent of woodland and peatland carbon projects in the UK. Today, of our 2,251 projects, 997 are in the categories of UK-based woodland and peatland.

We are proud to have worked with top project developers to tailor our product and build new functionality to improve our Kana’s efficiency. For instance, we recently launched a new function allowing users to carry out on-platform project activities. This means that project validations, verifications, loss events or disputes can now be completed digitally on Kana Hub. All compliance documentation can be generated at the click of a button. 

Although some of these processes only take place every 5 to 10 years, they can use huge amounts of resources to complete and take months to complete. Since we launched this new function, project developers have started at least 20 project activities on Kana Hub.

And finally, what’s next for Kana?

For the last year and a half, we’ve been working on Kana Hub and improving the supply of carbon and biodiversity projects. Since launching to market we’ve had great traction and are proud to be continuously onboarding new projects. Now, we’re kicking off initiatives to drive traffic to the public project directory and to put the UK natural capital market on the map.

 In terms of our product, we’re well into the process of building Kana Seed and have already developed the baseline functionality that will form the foundation of the platform. We’re currently working alongside a number of pioneering asset managers to build out their requirements and enable them to launch natural capital funds. This will be ready by the end of Q1 2024. Within a rapidly evolving market landscape, our business is accelerating. We’re excited to see what the next year holds.

Disclaimer: Respira International does not have any undisclosed affiliation with Kana. Read more about Kana here.

Removal in action: How Antti Vihavainen is growing the engineered carbon removal market

By News, Tech in Action

Antti Vihavainen is certain. He is sure that hope alone will not solve the climate crisis. For Antti, hope must always be accompanied by action if a true impact is to be made. It is on this firm belief that his company, Puro.earth, was founded in 2018. Ever since, Puro.earth has been actively expanding the tech-based carbon removals sector with a carbon crediting program dedicated to engineered carbon removal. 

Engineered carbon removal differs from nature-based carbon removal. Rather than investing in natural carbon sinks, such as forests and soil, engineered carbon removal uses technology to draw and store greenhouse gases from the atmosphere. Methods including carbon capture and storage (CCS) and direct air capture (DAC) store the emissions they remove securely, often in vast underground geologic formations. 

In the past five years, Puro.earth has validated the technological removal activities of more than 50 companies and facilitated the sale of verified credits to corporate stakeholders to support their decarbonisation strategies. Here, Antti shares his motivations and reveals how Puro.earth is scaling the engineered carbon removal market.

Can you introduce yourself and explain why you decided to found Puro.earth?

In 2017, it became apparent to me. I realised the concentration of atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2) was already too high. Although I’ve always been interested in the climate, this was a pivotal moment for me. I realised that our emissions reduction efforts were simply not fast enough and that humanity faced an unprecedented, runaway climate catastrophe.

Yet, there was something else I recognised. While emissions soared, more and more research was being conducted into technological methods for removing carbon from the atmosphere. But something was missing – these engineered climate solutions were not being sufficiently commercialised. With the climate crisis at our door, I wanted to explore the commercialisation of tech-based carbon removal with the aim of facilitating the growth of new, net-negative carbon industries. So in 2018, I co-founded Puro.earth, the first carbon crediting program focused exclusively on technology-driven carbon removals.

Could you say more on the problem you seek to solve?

Puro.earth solves the very same issues that first drew me to the world of engineered carbon removal. With such extensive research into these technologies, I had identified a real need for commercialisation. So, first and foremost, Puro.earth is a platform dedicated to harmonising the climate effects of different carbon removal methods. In this way, Puro.earth assists in the overall scaling of engineered carbon removal. We want to help the removals market grow in efficiency and enable more companies to embark on a science-based pathway to reach a state of net-zero emissions. 

Since we launched, Puro.earth has pioneered several of the world’s first crediting methodologies for engineered carbon removal. While we bring together a range of removal activities, our criteria always remains the same. We look for methods which can be scientifically verified; that durably capture and store CO2 for 100+ years and which have the potential to scale industrially. We believe that in facilitating corporate engagement with engineered carbon removal, we can drive the development of a strong, carbon net-negative economy. It’s our aim to galvanise further investment in these technologies. 

Let’s get technical: How does your product work?

Our Puro.earth platform brings together suppliers of carbon net-negative technologies and climate-conscious companies. We have developed our own Puro Standard with which to verify CO2 Removal Certificates (CORCs). Each CORC represents one tonne of CO2 that has been removed from the atmosphere via an engineered method and stored long-term in carbon net-negative processes or products. 

We are particularly proud of our Puro Standard for it is the first to assess carbon credits generated exclusively from such tech-based removal activities. The methodologies of the Puro Standard are science-based and durable, meaning that companies can depend on them for precise emission compensation. To maintain independence, the Puro Standard is managed by an Advisory Board which oversees any proposed changes to its rules and requirements.

On our platform, buyers can browse the available tech-based carbon removal suppliers and explore purchase options. However, buyers do not purchase CORCs through Puro.earth. Instead they negotiate an agreement directly with an accredited CORC supplier or via our network of carbon marketplaces connected to our registry. CORCs can either be bought as a spot purchase or as an advance market commitment. In the latter, the buyer agrees to purchase CORCs that will be verified in the future. Known as Pre-CORCs, these are certificates that allow companies to pre-pay for validated projections of engineered CO2 removal. Only after such a carbon removal has been independently verified are Pre-CORCs converted into CORCs.

Can you share a story of success?

In the five years since our launch, we have grown to be the world’s leading crediting platform for engineered carbon removal. Now, more than 50 companies have issued CORCs and are selling them directly to corporations or via the carbon marketplaces connected to our registry. 

It is hard to choose just one story of success because throughout 2023 we have formed numerous partnerships and made agreements with other companies in the engineered removals space! In July, we announced our CORCs would be available on Xpansiv’s CBL Spot Exchange platform, while in September  we signed an agreement with the carbon capture company, Climeworks. Moreover, we are working to develop Africa’s first DAC facility with Octavia Carbon and Cella. We consider such collaborations to be essential in the expansion of the tech-based removals market.

And finally, what’s next for Puro.earth? 

There’s so much innovation happening within the climate space that we are constantly impressed with the suggestions we are given the opportunity to assess. Amid so much fast-paced transformation, we expect to jump one order of magnitude in the next 18 months and make a second leap by 2027.

 

Disclaimer: Respira International does not have any undisclosed affiliation with Puro.earth. Read more about Puro.earth here.

Cecil in Action: Why Rory Oxenham backs data-driven nature markets

By Tech in Action

It was 2019 and Australia was burning. As fire claimed the lives of people and animals, Rory Oxenham made a decision. He dedicated his career to tackling the dual crises of climate change and biodiversity loss. This wildfire disaster, now known as Black Summer, was a catalyst. It spurred Rory and his colleague Alex Logan to quit their jobs to found a new venture: Cecil. Committed to driving high integrity nature markets, Cecil works to combine complex data sources and provide more accurate insights to market participants.

Can you introduce yourself and explain why you decided to found Cecil?

My life changed when I moved to Australia in 2015. I joined a clean tech startup with a mission to make residential battery storage and solar energy more accessible to rural Australian communities. Whilst it was here that my commitment to climate action took off, it would be another two years before I would meet my future co-founder. 

I met Alex Logan whilst working for the corporate venturing arm of Boston Consulting Group in Sydney, Australia. Here, we built and launched data-driven businesses for some of the most influential corporations in the world, spanning from insurance to agri-businesses. I’m not sure if either of us fully appreciated the severity of the climate crisis until it arrived on our doorstep in 2019. Catastrophic bushfires destroyed homes and natural ecosystems throughout Australia, claiming the lives of over three billion animals in the process. This tragedy sparked a joint decision; we would dedicate our careers to protecting, conserving and restoring the natural world.

Could you say more on the problem you seek to solve?

Globally, there is a nature financing gap of more than US $700 billion. If we are to close this by 2030, it is essential we establish high-integrity nature markets. As nature-related claims underpin these markets, we believe these should be both backed by high integrity data and grounded in transparency.

However, at the moment, organisations investing in nature or assessing nature-related risks are struggling to tackle three, core data challenges:

  1. Inadequate data management systems
  2. Combining complex data sources
  3. Keeping up with nature-related reporting requirements

Inadequate data management systems

Access to accurate and comprehensive data is critical for teams operating in nature markets. However, these organisations are currently cobbling disparate data sources using ad-hoc and non-scalable management systems. This inevitably leads to information silos, data gaps and versioning issues – problems only made worse as data volumes increase overtime. What’s more, manual methods of merging and validating environmental, financial, and operational datasets are time consuming and error prone. This leaves organisations unable to reveal the necessary insights to support decision making and drive impact. 

Difficulties combining data sources

The rapid rise of machine-generated data sources, from satellites in the sky to sensors in the canopy of rainforests, has unlocked new opportunities for organisations investing in natural assets to measure and verify natural capital stocks. However, datasets in both public and private spheres contain inconsistent data formats that require manual extraction or manipulation before they are ready to be analysed. This leaves organisations unable to leverage the full value of comprehensive data sources and struggling to hire specialised in-house expertise to make sense of the information. Ultimately, such inconsistencies limit the number of much-needed nature market participants.

Complex nature-related reporting requirements

Nature markets are undergoing a massive transition. From emerging biodiversity markets to nature-related financial disclosures, the reporting requirements are rapidly changing. We are seeing an increasing level of expected transparency and integrity of underlying data upon which claims are based. 

As a result, organisations operating in nature markets are responding to changing regulatory landscape and building capacity to comply with complex reporting standards. However, in the absence of high integrity data, the challenge for organisations to keep up is overwhelming. Teams are left unable to scale their impact at a pace proportionate to the urgency of the dual crises we face. 

Let’s get technical: How does your product work?

Cecil is focused on solving the data problem for organisations operating in nature markets today. Cecil’s cloud-based data infrastructure is secure and scalable, enabling teams to leverage the full potential of nature-specific technology and the data it unlocks.

Teams use Cecil’s data platform to: 

Connect: Automatically ingest data with built-in integrations

The proliferation of machine-generated data sources has dramatically increased the breadth and depth of information available to investors in natural assets. Cecil supports the automated ingestion of structured environmental, geospatial and investment data through API integrations. Nature-specific data sources can fall under the following categories:

  • Public registries: IHS Markit, Verra, and Plan Vivo
  • Market intelligence data providers: Trove Research, Allied Offsets, and Viridios
  • Publicly available datasets: Global Forest Watch
  • Geospatial mapping tools: ArcGIS, QGIS and the Landapp
  • Existing or emerging digital monitoring, reporting, and verification technologies: Downforce technologies
  • Standards and VBBs: Woodland and Peatland Carbon Codes

Organise: Consolidate data systems into a single source of truth

Through working with leading global nature investors, Cecil has developed a nuanced capability for organising data in this domain. Cecil’s data models structure project/asset level data logically, so that normalised data can be monitored, transformed and analysed. This enables Cecil to represent the complexity of natural systems by layering and drawing relationships between datasets over time. Cecil’s data models also provide a foundation for combining first party data with external data sources such as emerging digital MRV technologies, industry databases and other government datasets.

Monitor: Improve data quality in near real-time

When it comes to monitoring, Cecil can identify and confirm inaccuracies in the ingested data by performing data validation and establishing best practices for data modelling. Equipped with pre-defined specifications, we make sure the inputted data conforms. If an inaccuracy is flagged, it will be automatically resolved by the system or reviewed by a member of the Cecil team. 

Share: Deliver valuable insights to investors, partners and regulatory bodies

Teams operating in nature markets must transparently communicate the integrity of their assets to investors, partners and regulatory bodies. By helping teams establish a strong foundation of valid, analysis ready data, Cecil unlocks the ability to share granular insights with all stakeholders via destinations such business intelligence dashboards or private reporting portals and websites.

Can you share a story of success?

We are privileged to collaborate with forward-thinking teams who are driving impact within emerging nature markets. One inspiring example is Foresight Sustainable Forestry Company (FSF), a publicly-listed company dedicated to investing in sustainably managed forestry and afforestation (new woodland creation) assets in the UK. FSF was awarded the Green Economy Mark by the London Stock Exchange at the time of its IPO, and manages its fund in alignment with Article 9 of the EU SFDR (which requires it to pro-actively set and monitor progress against sustainability objectives).

Cecil has helped FSF establish a robust data management system capable of seamlessly connecting operational, financial, carbon, and biodiversity data collected across their ever-expanding portfolio of assets. By centralising data managed by FSF’s portfolio management team and its contracted forest managers, ecologists, and ad-hoc service providers in one place, Cecil can implement stringent data validation checks that improve data quality over time. Transforming nature-related datasets into meaningful metrics to streamline FSF’s reporting processes is another key focus, driving transparency and trust with FSF’s internal and external network of stakeholders.

Cecil has demonstrated the positive impact of establishing a solid data foundation at FSF. We’re thrilled to be playing a small but important role in supporting their mission to make a meaningful difference in the world of sustainable forestry and beyond.

Finally, what’s next for cecil?

At Cecil, we are closely following emerging trends emerging for nature markets. Encouragingly, nature appears to be rising up the global agenda.

We have seen the EU’s directive on deforestation free products  and the UK’s mandating of biodiversity net gain for development and infrastructure projects. We’ve also seen significant progress with industry driven initiatives, including the first release of Science Based Targets for Nature and the final recommendation from the Taskforce for Nature-related Financial Disclosures. Furthermore, 140 financial institutions have now signed the Finance for Biodiversity Pledge, committing to the protection and restoration of biodiversity through their financial activities and investments. Going forward, we expect high integrity data to play a key part in driving these initiatives.

We’re also tracking how new innovations such as eDNA and bioacoustics are unlocking scalable new ways to track biodiversity. Organisations operating in nature markets are leveraging this opportunity to digitise existing datasets which, when paired with modern data models, can unlock new insights into the historic and forecasted health of natural assets. We believe that this trend will continue to increase the volume of data flowing through nature markets, rapidly reduce the costs to measure nature and, ultimately, transform how natural assets are financed.

 

Disclaimer: Cecil has worked with Respira International. Read more about Cecil here.

Agri-tech in Action: Why ecometric is backing soil health

By Tech in Action

When your passions are flying and farming, opportunities to combine your interests are, it’s fair to say, limited. Yet, David Wright has managed it. He has transitioned from Red Arrow Pilot, through Agri-tech CEO, and on to Climate-tech CEO. In 2021, David founded ecometric – a company combining physical and spectral sampling to reveal annual carbon changes in agricultural soil. Today, ecometric provides accurate data and evidence-based decision making support to farmers looking to explore regenerative agriculture while opening opportunities for carbon trading.

Can you introduce yourself and explain why you decided to found ecometric?

The idea for ecometric stemmed, not from trading carbon, but as a means to draw focus of agriculture towards soil health. My previous Agri-tech company mapped crop canopy development from the air, which highlighted how yield was often dictated by limiting factors in the soil that couldn’t necessarily be corrected with chemical inputs. ecometric was set up to identify and monitor these key soil performance indicators to support improved management decisions. Soil organic carbon (SOC) was identified as one of the key indicators of system productivity and health, so we set about building a methodology to accurately monitor the SOC change associated with every production cycle.

The first stage was to design a soil sampling system that could account for a high degree of field-level SOC variability and to begin gathering data. The second stage was to introduce emerging AI technology that could relate spectral samples from multispectral satellite imagery to soil samples. This would increase the accuracy of quantifying SOC stock change. The third stage was to work with the farm management team to relate SOC change to specific, causal management decisions.

Rather than take a combative, disruptive approach, ecometric seeks to complement existing farming practices. We work for the farmer; we don’t work for the carbon market. Indeed, we sit completely outside of the transaction and make no money from the trading of carbon. This avoids conflict of interest and makes ecometric an extremely trustworthy farm management support tool.

Could you say more on the problem you seek to solve?

A problem with conventional farming is the risk of SOC loss through oxidation, mineralisation, leaching and erosion. Such depletion of SOC stocks has many consequences, including making farmers increasingly reliant on artificial fertiliser to maintain yields. As the single biggest source of greenhouse gas emissions from the arable farming production system, the rising use of nitrogen fertiliser is exacerbating global warming.

A system change is needed to reverse this SOC decline. In moving towards regenerative practices, farmers can minimise soil disturbance, maximise the size and duration of crop roots and canopies and, where possible, reintroduce livestock or their manure into the rotation. The resulting increases in SOC levels are a reliable indicator of soil health, productivity and resilience against climatic extremes and, as we are beginning to evidence, increased farm business profitability.

ecometric is committed to creating a compelling, evidence-based case for regenerative agriculture. The concept of soil sampling is not new, it has been used for decades to assess the availability of nutrients and calculate fertiliser requirements!  But at ecometric, we measure for the opposite reason. Our aim is to provide clear evidence that regenerative agriculture can sequester carbon from the atmosphere in contrast to the carbon emissions released from conventional systems. In doing so, we can directly relate increased organic carbon stocks to nitrogen requirement, yield, greenhouse gas emissions and business gross margin.

Let’s get technical: How does your product work?

There are three key components: the soil sample, the spectral sample and the Artificial Intelligence (AI). First, to directly measure soil organic carbon, we use the Dumas method. This measures and reports SOC and total nitrogen to a greater accuracy than alternative test types such as Loss on Ignition. As well as physical soil samples, we also source coincident spectral samples from multispectral satellite imagery.

Together, these measurements give us two, seemingly unrelated, sample types. To establish a relationship between the two datasets, we need a powerful computing system. This is where the AI comes in. We use an Artificial Neural Network (ANN) which is a technology constructed to work like a human brain. It learns iteratively from each dataset you give it, growingly progressively better with time and repetition.

The ecometric ANN is trained to relate the georeferenced soil sample results gathered at high density across the project area to the coincident spectral samples values. Once the system has established the site-specific relationship between the spectral and soil samples, it can accurately estimate SOC stocks from the multispectral imagery alone, reporting a discrete value for every 10-metre squared pixel. As the final test stage of this cycle, ANN results are directly compared back to the original soil sample results to calculate and report the average accuracy. With this method, ecometric has achieved repeatable accuracies of >95% over tens of thousands of hectares.

However, the process does not end when the ANN’s accuracy exceeds 90 percent. In line with the agricultural cycle, we take new samples every 12 months. And every 12 months, we retrain our models. As well as consistently improving the ANN, this means we have up-to-date physical results against which to check ANN accuracy. This tethers ANN estimations to on-the-ground realities and prevents the error rate increasing over time which is a common limitation of untethered models. Accuracy levels are ‘measurable’, and all sources of laboratory and AI error are treated as potential sources of over-estimation and deducted from the SOC stock totals.

Central to our methodology is the commitment to only trade climate positive, soil carbon gains. This means we deduct all the greenhouse gas emissions released during the farm’s production cycle and a landowner can only trade if there remains a surplus. This carbon balance report proves that the farm has added more carbon to the soil than has been emitted while growing food and fibre. The carbon revenue becomes a major incentive for farmers to adopt and improve regenerative methods that sequester enough carbon to generate a tradable surplus.

Can you share a story of success?

Within regenerative systems, we are evidencing an average annual SOC increase across the whole rotation and have correlated these findings to higher yields per hectare with lower quantities of nitrogen fertiliser. As an example, our highest performing project in 2022 yielded 11 tonnes of wheat using only 140 kg of nitrogen. To put that in perspective, the UK average for a crop that big, is 220 kg of nitrogen per hectare. This same farm also had the lowest greenhouse gas emissions of all benchmarked projects.

But it’s not just the nitrogen. When farmers exit the cycle of depletion, they unlock numerous additional benefits:

  1. Soil organic carbon holds water.
    Every 0.5 percent increment in soil organic carbon stocks can hold another 150,000 litres of water per hectare. Therefore, by increasing the organic carbon content of soil, farmers are straight-away improving the resilience of that soil to droughts and dry spells.
  2. There is a relatively fixed relationship between carbon and nitrogen in the soil.
    As you increase the carbon, you also increase the naturally available nitrogen. This brings both environmental and economic benefits as yields can be consistently maintained while reducing quantities of applied nitrogen fertiliser.
  3. More accurate reporting.
    Many farmers use online carbon footprint calculators to estimate the emissions from their production systems. However, ecometric can provide more accurate insights by replacing the assumed sequestration values with a real-life measurement of soil carbon stock change. This is useful for supply chain reporting as supermarkets increasingly ask for environmental credentials to be displayed on a product’s packaging and accuracy is vital to optimising farm management decisions.

Finally, what’s next for ecometric?

To make the biggest, most positive climate impact, we need to operate over the largest possible area. Already working in ten countries (and with data share projects ongoing in another two) our priority is to scale internationally.

We are also digging deeper into our metrics to look beyond soil carbon and into other indicators of soil health. Soon, we will be looking at the bacterial and fungal loading of soil biomes with the aim of relating the soil carbon content with the biodiversity of the soil. From here, our ultimate aim is to relate these metrics to the nutritional value of the food coming out of the system. We have heard and seen much anecdotal and empirical evidence that food grown in regenerative systems is better for human consumption. So our next step is to prove this with data.

However, the central value of ecometric will always remain. We have balanced very carefully the need for accuracy from a carbon buyer perspective with affordability from a carbon seller perspective. At our core, we give land custodians the tools to measure improvements in soil health as a result of their changing land management practices. We don’t just give findings and walk away, ecometric is always part of the data interpretation and evidence-based action to support system change.

 

Disclaimer: ecometric works with one of Respira International’s flagship portfolio projects, Blaston Farm. Read more about ecometric here and about Blaston Farm here.

Carbon Credits

Coming soon: Tech in Action

By Tech in Action

Technology is truly crucial for mitigating climate change and preserving our natural world. But although many of us understand this vast and emerging potential, far fewer are aware of the cutting-edge tech innovations already moving us closer to our environmental goals.

Enter our new series: Tech in Action. In every article, we will interview a leading climate or nature tech entrepreneur to highlight the latest developments in the world of tech.

Why now?

As a venture-backed, carbon finance business, we are focused on scaling high-quality, nature-based carbon solutions. Throughout our work, we have witnessed first-hand how climate and nature technologies are building on – and complementing – the hard work carried out across our sector to strengthen the integrity and transparency of the voluntary carbon market. Now, we would like to amplify these solutions and draw attention to positive, successful examples of climate action. 

What to expect?

In this series, you will hear from business leaders at all levels. From project developers to end-buyers, we reveal why each felt inspired to turn to tech. While shining a light on the specific problems each solution seeks to solve, this series is also an opportunity to learn about technicalities. How does the technology actually work? And how have these products brought environmental success? 

For all this and more, stay tuned for the first instalment of our Tech in Action series. Set for publication on the 12th of September, you will hear from Marco Albani, the Co-Founder and CEO of Chloris Geospatial. Utilising advanced machine learning, artificial intelligence and sensor-fusion, Chloris Geospatial directly measures vegetation dynamics on earth, from space. 

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