Carbon Agriculture – What is it and what does it mean for global sustainability efforts?


Agriculture is at the heart of the European Union (EU). Within the borders of the EU, 39% of land is devoted to agricultural practices and 37% of the EU budget is devoted to supporting the sector, by far the largest recipient of EU funds. However, this sector also contributes 10% of the EU’s greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, posing challenges to the EU’s climate targets. The EU Green Agreement, Europe’s ambitious strategy to become the first climate neutral continent by 2050, is now focused on transforming the carbon-emitting agricultural sector into a promising carbon sink. The practice of carbon agriculture, in particular, has been identified to play a key role in achieving these EU climate goals.

The EU’s Green Deal includes a series of strategies aimed at greening the agriculture and forestry sectors. Among them, the “From farm to fork” The strategy established the launch of the EU’s Carbon Agriculture Initiative by the end of 2021. This aims to promote a new agricultural model that rewards climate-friendly practices through the Common Agricultural Policy ( PAC) and efficient carbon markets. Successful functioning of carbon markets requires effective carbon sequestration measurement and validation processes in order to reward farmers with farm-level credits and payment programs. To help intensify research in this area, Horizon Europe, the EU’s main funding program for research and innovation, now supports a number of new projects that may reveal information on the exploration, quantification and validation of effective carbon farming practices.

Planet organized a panel during EU Green Week presenting concrete projects applying Earth observation data to support the ambitions of the European Green Deal in terms of sustainable agriculture. The session brought together Bettina Baruth from the European Commission, Isabelle Piccard from Vito Remote Sensing and Dragutin Proti??, CEO and co-founder of Gilab. Each panelist explained how remote sensing data has revolutionized the way sustainable agricultural practices and carbon cultivation in particular can be assessed.

In these projects, Earth observation data is recognized as an important source of information to monitor the impact of agricultural management practices over time and to support the quantification of its effects on reducing greenhouse gas emissions. greenhouse effect. Today’s high spatial and temporal resolution satellites offer the ability to monitor carbon cultivation processes over large areas and scale the information collected at the field level. This can be used both to identify gaps and guide the decision-making process in the agricultural sector towards meeting emission reduction targets.

In one of these projects, Gilab co-founder and CEO Dragutin Proti?? presented the concept of the platform that will be built in AgriCapture, an EU-funded Horizon 2020 project of which Planet is also a partner. This platform seeks to make it more profitable and easier for farmers to adopt regenerative agricultural practices, including crop rotation, cover crops, low or no tillage, and agroforestry to increase carbon sequestration, improve soil health, increase biodiversity and provide economic benefits to farmers. To do this, AgriCapture uses multiple data streams from Earth observation, machine learning, and field soil sampling to explore and quantify how these practices can be measured and verified for agriculture. regenerative and carbon credit certification programs.

To accelerate the precise assessment and implementation of agricultural carbon practices, AgriCapture draws on different Earth observation datasets, soil data and machine learning models to help infer soil organic carbon stocks for the whole of Europe. The platform also intends to use satellite imagery to verify farmers’ compliance with carbon cultivation practices and generate a validation service for a carbon capture certification program. While public Landsat and Sentinel data provide a basic data layer, agricultural vegetation is very dynamic and Planet’s high resolution, high frame rate imagery is critical to the success of this project.

“It is commonly accepted that Earth observation data is the main technology to support and monitor the implementation of policies,” said Proti??. “It is very important to also involve high resolution satellites. That’s why we have Planet on board. We will use Planet Fusion which offers 3 meter resolution, daily data spectrally compatible with Sentinel-2 and allowing continuous monitoring. We will use it to fill the gaps in the Sentinel optical imagery time series. We will also use the high spatial resolution of the Planet Fusion product, for example for agroforestry and to extract the smallest ecological features that we cannot reach with the Sentinel satellites of 10 or 20 m.

This level of integrated Earth observation data is a necessary tool for the EU as it transforms agriculture into a key sector in the fight against climate change. At the policy level, it is clear that investment in Earth observation technology and innovative workflows leveraging machine learning algorithms will help increase the usefulness and efficiency of carbon markets in the process. region. Going forward, Planet’s satellites offer unique rapid review capabilities that can have a direct and widespread impact on the assessment of carbon capture practices and lead the EU towards the goal of climate neutrality.

If you want to learn more about the carbon farming revolution, subscribe to our annual conference in October and hear from the leaders of European Carbon + Farming Coalition, a farmer-centric initiative created by the World Economic Forum CEOs Action Group for the European Green Deal accelerate progress towards the carbon neutrality objectives of the European Green Deal.

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