Given the unsettled science on the permanent sequestration of carbon and the present volatility of carbon markets, REGEN1 has chosen to focus on a range of verifiable benefits made possible by regenerative agriculture. While the first four are fairly straightforward—air, water, soil, and biodiversity—the last, equity, may prove among the most important benefits arising from regenerative agriculture: the opportunity to reframe our current food production model to create more visibility and greater market support for BIPOC producers will have a lasting impact in ensuring a more equitable food system
By building SOM and keeping roots in the ground, regenerative systems allow more water to infiltrate, resulting in less overall water use, less water running off-site, and less soil, nutrients, and herbicides/pesticides ending up downstream along with it.
Case Study No. 1: Sierra Orchards
Sierra Orchards increases water holding capacity of their soil with regenerative practices
Farmed by Julie and Craig McNamara and their children Sean and Emily, Sierra Orchards is a 450 acre certified organic walnut orchard located in Winters, CA. The farm produces, on average, 850,000 lbs of walnuts each year (that’s about 2,000 lbs per acre). Currently, all of their walnuts are sold to Andersen and Sons Shelling in Vina, CA, for a premium of around 100% and then continue on to be sold to consumers at Trader Joe’s.
Sierra Orchards have implemented a number of regenerative practices on their farm. Those that relate to water conservation and quality are outlined below.
Cover crops are planted on the farm so that the ground is covered throughout the year. Cover cropping reduces runoff and erosion and leads to increased soil organic matter. Soil organic matter is the percent of living things in the soil. It improves soil structure, stability, nutrient retention, and water holding capacity. In addition to cover crops, compost is applied to the soil as fertilizer (no synthetic fertilizers are used) and the farm is no-till, meaning that the soil is not disturbed through tillage, further reducing erosion and runoff and increasing soil organic matter. With these practices, Sierra Orchards has increased their soil organic matter from 1.8% to 3.5% in 5 years. This increase in soil organic matter represents an increase in water storage on their orchard by around 4.5 million gallons (or 10,000 gallons per acre) per year over the course of those five years. This water storage is especially important in a place with frequent droughts for crops that need a lot of water, like walnuts. Furthermore, the farm uses buried drip irrigation to reduce water use and minimize nutrient loss and the farm also has tailwater ponds, sediment traps, and hedgerow plantings to minimize water use and waste.
Putah Creek runs through the orchard and the McNamaras have worked with the Solano County streamkeeper to preserve the creek’s watershed. They’ve planted the creek banks with thousands of California native plants and created hedgerows that stretch for miles to help keep the creek clean and healthy. Their organic practices of not using synthetic fertilizer or pesticides is also great for water quality.
Alongside reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, sequestering carbon from the atmosphere is key to mitigating climate change. Forests and oceans are well-known carbon sinks, but there is growing recognition that the proper agricultural management may also enhance the soil’s capacity to store carbon from the atmosphere. In other words, being smart about what you eat may be an effective way to help mitigate climate change.
One key aspect of regenerative agriculture’s growing popularity is its focus on building soil health and increasing plant cover over bare soil. Both of these practices provide the benefit of drawing carbon dioxide—a significant contributor to climate change—from the atmosphere and into the ground for long-term storage. Additional practices like planting cover crops and minimizing tillage are also important for increasing and maintaining soil’s ability to capture and store carbon. The application of compost is still another agricultural practice that can boost these ecological processes in many regions. Collectively, these regenerative practices lead to a host of other ecosystem benefits that also include improved air and water quality and increased biodiversity.
Achieving positive outcomes may lower costs for farmers, especially since regenerative practices require less inputs, including pesticides and fertilizers. Nonetheless, transitioning to a regenerative system from one previously dependent on synthetic amendments comes with significant risks and requires upfront financial investment, at least in the first few years. Along the way, maintaining and improving yields remains a challenge. Consequently, and despite its benefits, adoption of regenerative agriculture is still in its infancy.
One emerging idea is for farmers to be paid incentives that reward them for their system thinking approach by placing a monetary value on the ecosystem services they provide, including the carbon they capture in the soil. From where would the money for these incentives come? Companies, governments, and even individuals emitting GHGs through their activities are now considering mechanisms that pay farmers for the GHGs they pull out of the atmosphere and “sequester” in the soil, offsetting this benefit against the pollution that others generate.
Accounting models can identify the amount of greenhouse gas emissions produced by a polluter in one place, then balance it with an equal amount of corresponding carbon “sequestered” in the soil somewhere else. This carbon offset model has created a new marketplace, one where anyone, including environmental polluters, can mitigate the environmental impact of their emissions by purchasing carbon credits equivalent to the ecosystem benefits created by a farmer or rancher whose practices reduce GHGs.
When it comes time to sell a carbon credit, the prevention of double-counting, a system where multiple parties attempt to “own” the credit created by a farming activity that sequesters carbon, is crucial to keep everything straight. To avoid this issue, some programs restrict carbon credit sales to just one instance, after which the credits are immediately retired, while others embed critical information in serial numbers or blockchain technology to reliably and transparently track the movement of a credit.
Carbon credits are typically expressed as 1 ton of CO2 removed from the atmosphere for a specific amount of time. To maintain the value of an offset transaction, that carbon sequestered in the soil would need to be kept out of the air. But for how long? Ideally, that would be forever, but the question of how to measure and insure the permanence of this sequestration varies across carbon markets. Some require at least 10 years while others set the bar at 100 years. The problem is that current measurement techniques are far from accurate.
Some carbon markets require direct soil sampling, usually over multiple years and with multiple sampling points. Currently, the costs and relative imprecision of these soil testing results have proven to outweigh the economic value of whatever ensuing carbon credit could be established from this collected data. In the near future, AI, as well as technologies using mapping and other aerial analysis, may provide predictive modeling with enough accuracy to enable carbon offset transactions with a higher degree of certainty.
While burgeoning carbon markets are aligned on the goal of monetizing carbon sequestration, their approaches vary. One difference is in determining if a practice—and the subsequent carbon sequestered—can actually be directly attributed to offset funding. In other words: did this activity or outcome specifically occur because of the offset or would it have happened anyway?
Remember: the point of purchasing a carbon offset is to underwrite activities that accelerate the reduction of GHG concentrations in the atmosphere, with the intent being to mitigate climate change. However, if the purchasing of a carbon credit goes toward a sequestration of carbon that would have happened anyway, the act of purchasing a credit, while well intended, has provided no additional value. Unfortunately, determining this additionality has proven quite challenging to several emerging carbon offset markets. Some have even shifted their programs, requiring that producers only receive credit for practices implemented for the first time or instituted in the recent past.
As proponents of regenerative agriculture celebrate the carbon sequestration potential of these practices, scientists urge the community to check their numbers. The concern is that overestimating and generalizing the amount of carbon soils can take in to mitigate climate change could not only compromise the goals of the movement but also the value of these carbon credits. Furthermore, the rapid and competitive nature of these markets could be hindering collaboration to support a sound scientific foundation for soil carbon offsets.
Many environmentalists express concern that carbon credits commodify nature, equating its value to dollars, and prompting a system where the flow of money allows polluters to continue harming the environment while placing the burden on others to clean it up.
If the marketplace is focused on additionality and conditioned to solely reward producers for new practices that capture and store carbon in the soil, how can farmers that have adhered to enlightening agricultural practices—including those requiring organic certification—for decades be rewarded for their work? REGEN1 seeks to answer this question by identifying not just carbon sequestration but a range of ecosystem benefits that result from more regenerative practices. Many long standing organic farmers, for example, may find that joining the regenerative movement will create new markets and previously untapped financial returns that reward them for their methods.
We asked three REGEN1 members to compare their carbon market protocols, then conducted case studies to show who benefits from these models.
|How each program...||Nori||Regen Network||Climate Action Reserve (CAR)|
|Producer has adopted the practice since 2010||Producer has not used the practice before (lookback period defined to 10 years)||Establishes a threshold to differentiate whether an adopted activity is additional or common practice|
|Counts Permanence||10 years||25 years||100 years|
|Prevents Double-counting||Credits can only be sold once, and then are immediately retired upon purchase||Uses blockchain to create immutable records of GHG removals||Assigns unique serial number to each credit|
1 ton of CO2
|Nori Carbon Removal Tonne (NRT) - Calculated difference between CO2 removed from new practices minus CO2 removed from old practices||
GHG - Difference in the net amount of carbon resulting from the estimation of changes in soil organic carbon (SOC) stocks between two periods of time and subtracting GHG emissions on the farm. |
Co-benefits - ranking ecosystem health, soil health, and animal welfare
|Climate Reserve Ton (CRT) -|
|Measures and monitors sequestrations||Modeling (Soil Metrics based on COMET-Farm Tool)||Soil measurements coupled with satellite remote sensing analysis.|
|US, croplands only||International||US and specific projects in Canada and Mexico|
|Credits verification||Third party verifier||Third party verifier||Third party verifier|
|Has this program sold any soil carbon sequestration credits?||Yes||Yes||Yes|
Take a look at these case studies
Providing best water quality conditions to ensure optimal living condition for growth, breeding and other physiological needs
Water quality is sourced from natural seawater with dependency on the tidal system. Water is treated to adjust pH and alkalinity before stocking.
Producers that own and manages the farm operating under small-scale farming model with limited input, investment which leads to low to medium production yield
All 1,149 of our farmers in both regencies are smallholder farmers who operate with low stocking density, traditional ponds, and no use of any other intensification technology.
Safe working conditions — cleanliness, lighting, equipment, paid overtime, hazard safety, etc. — happen when businesses conduct workplace safety audits and invest in the wellbeing of their employees
Company ensure implementation of safe working conditions by applying representative of workers to health and safety and conduct regular health and safety training. The practices are proven by ASIC standards’ implementation
Implementation of farming operations, management and trading that impact positively to community wellbeing and sustainable better way of living
The company works with local stakeholders and local governments to create support for farmers and the farming community in increasing resilience. Our farming community is empowered by local stakeholders continuously to maintain a long generation of farmers.
Freezing seafood rapidly when it is at peak freshness to ensure a higher quality and longer lasting product
Our harvests are immediately frozen with ice flakes in layers in cool boxes. Boxes are equipped with paper records and coding for traceability. We ensure that our harvests are processed with the utmost care at <-18 degrees Celsius.
Sourcing plant based ingredients, like soy, from producers that do not destroy forests to increase their growing area and produce fish feed ingredients
With adjacent locations to mangroves and coastal areas, our farmers and company are committed to no deforestation at any scale. Mangrove rehabilitation and replantation are conducted every year in collaboration with local authorities. Our farms are not established in protected habitats and have not resulted from deforestation activity since the beginning of our establishment.
Implement only natural feeds grown in water for aquatic animal’s feed without use of commercial feed
Our black tiger shrimps are not fed using commercial feed. The system is zero input and depends fully on natural feed grown in the pond. Our farmers use organic fertilizer and probiotics to enhance the water quality.
Enhance biodiversity through integration of nature conservation and food production without negative impact to surrounding ecosysytem
As our practices are natural, organic, and zero input, farms coexist with surrounding biodiversity which increases the volume of polyculture and mangrove coverage area. Farmers’ groups, along with the company, conduct regular benthic assessments, river cleaning, and mangrove planting.
THE TERM “MOONSHOT” IS OFTEN USED TO DESCRIBE an initiative that goes beyond the confines of the present by transforming our greatest aspirations into reality, but the story of a moonshot isn’t that of a single rocket. In fact, the Apollo program that put Neil Armstrong on the moon was actually preceded by the Gemini program, which in a two-year span rapidly put ten rockets into space. This “accelerated” process — with a new mission nearly every 2-3 months — allowed NASA to rapidly iterate, validate their findings and learn from their mistakes. Telemetry. Propulsion. Re-entry. Each mission helped NASA build and test a new piece of the puzzle.
The program also had its fair share of creative challenges, especially at the outset, as the urgency of the task at hand required that the roadmap for getting to the moon be written in parallel with the rapid pace of Gemini missions. Through it all, the NASA teams never lost sight of their ultimate goal, and the teams finally aligned on their shared responsibilities. Within three years of Gemini’s conclusion, a man did walk on the moon.
FACT is a food systems solutions activator that assesses the current food landscape, engages with key influencers, identifies trends, surveys innovative work and creates greater visibility for ideas and practices with the potential to shift key food and agricultural paradigms.
Each activator focuses on a single moonshot; instead of producing white papers, policy briefs or peer-reviewed articles, these teams design and implement blueprints for action. At the end of each activator, their work is released to the public and open-sourced.
As with any rapid iteration process, many of our activators re-assess their initial plans and pivot to address new challenges along the way. Still, one thing has remained constant: their conviction that by working together and pooling their knowledge and resources, they can create a multiplier effect to more rapidly activate change.
Who can enter and how selections are made.
A Greener Blue is a global call to action that is open to individuals and teams from all over the world. Below is a non-exhaustive list of subjects the initiative targets.
To apply, prospective participants will need to fill out the form on the website, by filling out each part of it. Applications left incomplete or containing information that is not complete enough will receive a low score and have less chance of being admitted to the storytelling lab.
Nonprofit organizations, communities of fishers and fish farmers and companies that are seeking a closer partnership or special support can also apply by contacting email@example.com and interacting with the members of our team.
Special attention will be given to the section of the form regarding the stories that the applicants want to tell and the reasons for participating. All proposals for stories regarding small-scale or artisanal fishers or aquaculturists, communities of artisanal fishers or aquaculturists, and workers in different steps of the seafood value chain will be considered.
Stories should show the important role that these figures play in building a more sustainable seafood system. To help with this narrative, the initiative has identified 10 principles that define a more sustainable seafood system. These can be viewed on the initiative’s website and they state:
Seafood is sustainable when:
Proposed stories should show one or more of these principles in practice.
Applications are open from the 28th of June to the 15th of August 2022. There will be 50 selected applicants who will be granted access to The Lexicon’s Total Storytelling Lab. These 50 applicants will be asked to accept and sign a learning agreement and acceptance of participation document with which they agree to respect The Lexicon’s code of conduct.
The first part of the lab will take place online between August the 22nd and August the 26th and focus on training participants on the foundation of storytelling, supporting them to create a production plan, and aligning all of them around a shared vision.
Based on their motivation, quality of the story, geography, and participation in the online Lab, a selected group of participants will be gifted a GoPro camera offered to the program by GoPro For A Change. Participants who are selected to receive the GoPro camera will need to sign an acceptance and usage agreement.
The second part of the Storytelling Lab will consist of a production period in which each participant will be supported in the production of their own story. This period goes from August 26th to October 13th. Each participant will have the opportunity to access special mentorship from an international network of storytellers and seafood experts who will help them build their story. The Lexicon also provides editors, animators, and graphic designers to support participants with more technical skills.
The final deadline to submit the stories is the 14th of October. Participants will be able to both submit complete edited stories, or footage accompanied by a storyboard to be assembled by The Lexicon’s team.
All applicants who will exhibit conduct and behavior that is contrary to The Lexicon’s code of conduct will be automatically disqualified. This includes applicants proposing stories that openly discriminate against a social or ethnic group, advocate for a political group, incite violence against any group, or incite to commit crimes of any kind.
All submissions must be the entrant’s original work. Submissions must not infringe upon the trademark, copyright, moral rights, intellectual rights, or rights of privacy of any entity or person.
Participants will retain the copyrights to their work while also granting access to The Lexicon and the other partners of the initiative to share their contributions as part of A Greener Blue Global Storytelling Initiative.
If a potential selected applicant cannot be reached by the team of the Initiative within three (3) working days, using the contact information provided at the time of entry, or if the communication is returned as undeliverable, that potential participant shall forfeit.
Selected applicants will be granted access to an advanced Storytelling Lab taught and facilitated by Douglas Gayeton, award-winning storyteller and information architect, co-founder of The Lexicon. In this course, participants will learn new techniques that will improve their storytelling skills and be able to better communicate their work with a global audience. This skill includes (but is not limited to) how to build a production plan for a documentary, how to find and interact with subjects, and how to shoot a short documentary.
The Lexicon provides video editors, graphic designers, and animators to support the participants to complete their stories.
The submitted stories will be showcased during international and local events, starting from the closing event of the International Year of Fisheries and Aquaculture 2022 in Rome, in January 2023. The authors of the stories will be credited and may be invited to join.
Storytelling lab participation:
Applicants that will be granted access to the storytelling Lab will be evaluated based on the entries they provided in the online form, and in particular:
Applications will be evaluated by a team of 4 judges from The Lexicon, GSSI and the team of IYAFA (Selection committee).
When selecting applications, the call promoters may request additional documentation or interviews both for the purpose of verifying compliance with eligibility requirements and to facilitate proposal evaluation.
Participants to the Storytelling Lab who will be given a GoPro camera will be selected based on:
The evaluation will be carried out by a team of 4 judges from The Lexicon, GSSI and the team of IYAFA (Selection committee).
Incidental expenses and all other costs and expenses which are not specifically listed in these Official Rules but which may be associated with the acceptance, receipt and use of the Storytelling Lab and the camera are solely the responsibility of the respective participants and are not covered by The Lexicon or any of the A Greener Blue partners.
All participants who receive a Camera are required to sign an agreement allowing GoPro for a Cause, The Lexicon and GSSI to utilize the films for A Greener Blue and their promotional purposes. All participants will be required to an agreement to upload their footage into the shared drive of The Lexicon and make the stories, films and images available for The Lexicon and the promoting partners of A Greener Blue.
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