Ranchers and Farmers
What does Pachaterrae do?
Our primary service is soil consulting, organic carbon measurement and mapping. We test the organic carbon in your soil and work with producers on strategies for increasing this organic carbon.
Pachaterrae also does further scientific research on soil health and soil organic carbon. We work with producers to translate scientific data into practical management tools that can be used with the carbon map, .
What do you require from me?
We do an interview to learn about your land and management practices. Then we conduct a testing procedure: design a stratification of input data and sampling plan, do the field sampling, laboratory testing, and create a carbon map of your land. When we provide the carbon map to you, we will meet again to explain how you can use it as a management tool.
If I’m interested, what are the next steps?
First, we sign a contract. Then we schedule a time with you to conduct the initial interview. Lastly, we organize a time with you to do the field testing.
Carbon Offset Protocols Explained
Most greenhouse gas emissions cap and trade systems allow those who reduce or sequester greenhouse gases such as carbon, to register and sell these reductions. These are generally called “carbon offsets”. Before offsets can be recognized or sold, an offset protocol must first be registered. Although Alberta is a world leader with its cap and trade system, there is currently no measurement based carbon accrual offset protocol for ranchland and farmland in Alberta, or anywhere else in Canada.
One reason is that it was widely believed that the cost and complexity of actual SOC measurement was prohibitive and that such an offset protocol was not feasible. Although the process is indeed complex, we have been working hard to get critical industry support and to incorporate new science and technology. Because of these factors, we believe that farm scale measurement is now becoming economically feasible, provided we do it on a large enough scale. We plan to start developing two new offset protocols with the Alberta Government:
Measurement Based Soil Carbon Accrual Protocol: A producer will earn carbon offsets for the additional SOC that accrues over time in the soil because of regenerative management practices. As the protocol will be measurement based, the offsets will not be dependent on any single land management practice.
Avoided Grassland Conversion Protocol: Producers who can show economic pressure to convert native pasture or grassland into cropland, may be eligible for a carbon offset for not converting the land, and thereby avoiding significant carbon emissions that would otherwise result from such conversion.
Other Benefits from Soil Organic Carbon
Most regenerative land practices focus in some way on the improvement of soil fertility and the restoration of soil biology. Soil Organic Carbon (SOC) is the most important indicator of soil health. Other than the benefit of selling offsets, higher SOC levels have other direct benefits to you:
More production and healthier products.
It reverses soil degradation and erosion.
The soil can hold more water, which makes the land more drought and wildfire resistant.
The higher water penetration rate makes the land less prone to flooding and damming.
Better soil biology reduces input costs such as pesticides, antibiotics and fertilizer.
How It Works
6 Steps to Soil Carbon Credits and Mapping
1. Engage producers and associations
We are engaging producer, industry association, research institution and outreach agency support. We need access to the land for sampling, but also require that the producer implements regenerative practices to facilitate the sequestration. Most of the producers working with us have been practicing regenerative agriculture for years.
We currently have commitments from nearly 50 ranches in AB to be part of the first round. The Agricultural Research and Extension Council of Alberta (ARECA - representing the majority of grazing associations in the province), Alberta Forage Information Network (AFIN), Alternative Land Use Services (ALUS) and a number of counties in the province committed to support our outreach to more producers. We are currently working on formalizing the aggregation agreements with the producers.
2. Stratification and sampling design
In stratification we outline a sampling area using GPS, then superimpose other data parameters for the area. Relevant data includes gamma radiometrics, electromagnetic satellite imaging, soil type, climate data, historical land use data from the producer, and so on. The stratification map determines the randomized number and locations of samples to be collected.
3. Field sampling
Field crews use the sampling design to gather the soil samples to 1 metre depth. They follow strict protocols to ensure the data is accurate and verifiable.
4. Lab analysis and data processing
Samples are sent to the lab for analysis. Although measuring the SOC is the main focus, we include a series of soil fertility, microbial, genomic and nutrient tests to maximize the data and baselining from each sample. The SOC readings are processed by a machine learning platform, and delivers a soil carbon map, showing the distribution and whole farm number of soil carbon. The result also calculates when the soil should be re-measured to determine the actual carbon sequestration. Subsequent measurements occur generally every 5 years. The measurement data from each round improves the stratification of the next round, improving the accuracy of each cycle.
5. Producer advisory
Advising producers on improving their SOC is a key element of our service, of which the soil carbon map and analysis forms a part. We are working with Alberta Agriculture and Forestry extension agents, soil scientists, agronomists and the applied research and grazing organizations to maximize the reach and benefit of our data to producers.
Our project is the largest soil carbon measurement initiative for farms and ranches to date.
6. Carbon offset aggregation and trading
Offset protocols must be registered on the Alberta Carbon Offset Registry. Once the soil is retested and the actual number of offsets determined, the offsets are aggregated and sold. Although the program can be registered in multiple markets, for example the VCS and in Alberta, an offset can only be sold once.
We are in discussions with the Alberta government to develop 2 new offset protocols – Carbon Accrual Based on Soil Carbon Quantification Protocol and an Avoided Conversion of Grasslands Protocol as basis for approval by provincial governments. These protocols will be written to also be compatible with the voluntary markets such as the Voluntary Carbon Standard (VCS), American Carbon Registry (ACR) and the California Air Resource Board (CAR)
Obstacles in the Past
Regenerative agriculture can sequester between 3 and 7 tonnes of C02 Equivalent per hectare annually.
At the low end, that is a potential capacity for over 60 million tonnes C02 Equivalent per year. Currently we’re using 0% of this resource.
Up to now, there have been significant obstacles to this utilization.
Previous technology for baselining SOC is prohibitively expensive.
The process has been complex, scientifically demanding and time consuming.
There is no soil carbon accrual protocol in Canada, which is largely due to the first two factors. Protocols in other markets are typically based on restrictive practice outlines and conservative estimates rather than actual measurement. Overall there have been very few measurement protocols for agriculture accepted widely enough to garner the support of governments and carbon markets. Alberta is reviewing many of its existing agricultural protocols and it is likely we will need replacements.
Farms and ranchland soils are becoming a viable GHG offset because of recent technological and political advances. Combined, these advances allow for cost effective SOC measurement and the development of offset protocols that reward producers for sequestering carbon.
Technology in data processing, algorithms, machine learning and AI has become more economical and efficient.
Where the data processing of measurement results was too complex and expensive, it is now becoming attainable. The current program design is based on proven measurement technology, but our measurement practices are dramatically more cost effective than a decade ago. Additionally, we are leveraging emerging technologies such as spectroscopy, genomics and machine learning to further drive down costs.
2. Accrual based offset protocol
We are in the process of developing an accrual based offset protocol as well as an avoided grassland conversion protocol.
These come in conjunction with the creation of a world leading protocol development firm with support from the Alberta government.
3. Political priority
Offsets have become a political priority due to the Paris Accord.
Canada’s commitment to meet GHG reduction targets and Alberta’s commitment to climate leadership. We see this in the number of new federal and provincial grants and programs introduced in the last 12 months.
4. Regenerative agricultural practices
Regenerative agricultural practices are gaining wider support among producers, and experimentation and studies on improving these are on the rise.
5. Demand for Organic, Ethical and Climate-Friendly Food
Consumers want to know that the food they eat is good for them and the planet, which goes hand in hand with regenerative agriculture.