Jonathan and Nick Reinke from Land O’Lakes brand, Truterra, have a conversation about how the company is using software to work with farmers to help offset carbon, create more sustainable farming practices and their new program called, Trucarbon.
Nick is very familiar with farming. He grew up on his family farm in North Dakota which has had 4 generations of family running it. For the last 10 years he has worked in agricultural banking and crop insurance before joining the Truterra team.
Nick talks about how agriculture data is traditionally a one way flow. Farmers provided it but didn’t get any back. But since Truterra has started working with farmers, it’s about giving data back to the farmer that’s relevant and informative for them. With Truterra, you can look at things like soil erosion, nutrient efficiency and see where a farm is wasting money as well as where the environment can be improved which creates a business case for environmental sustainability.
Nick emphasises that they don’t recommend any practices specifically. They take the data and tie it to financial mechanisms and environmental impact so they can make the best choices. Farmers inherently know where issues are in their fields; to be able to put that into a piece of tech that can show them where they’re losing is key. They have approached this using a trusted network of people because really incredible tech falls on deaf ears if it isn’t coming via a trusted source. Agricultural co-ops are a key part of how they operate and get the message out. We have a whole field team that meets with co-ops; it’s a very in person approach.
The conversation moves into carbon credits as Nick breaks down what they are and how they are used. A carbon credit uses metrics. So one metric ton of CO2 or equivalent like methane is a transactable credit for a company to purchase and leverage that credit against their own carbon footprint. It’s incredible how complex the accounting mechanisms are. Does this mean a company can pollute as much as they want and then offload somewhere else? Big picture, it does not.
There’s an opportunity for a farmer to modernize by either sequestered carbon or reducing emissions. Carbon credits create a financial incentive to do both of those things. Carbon credits can include avoided emissions like using a smoke stack scrubber or can alternatively, can include carbon sequestration by removing legacy load carbon from atmosphere and storing it in the soil. Depending on the marketplace and mechanisms, those two things could be viewed as equivalent. A ton of carbon is a ton of carbon, but very different activities pulling carbon out, vs avoiding putting more in have different effects.
Nick and Jonathan talk about the massive system change this all requires. There is some infrastructure in place to help. For accounting mechanisms to work, it needs to be clear that if there is investment in this carbon credit, there aren’t multiple people claiming the same impact, thereby reducing the overall impact on a global scale. They would need to be additive, not a competitive public to private marketplace. How can we simplify, streamline and optimize the marketplace to get maximum possible value back to the grower? The conversation needs to be about overall benefit to farmers beyond just carbon — deeper insights through data.
For the amount of energy & capital flow — we’re finally starting to connect the dots of risk and realities of climate change. You can remove social good entirely and there’s enough of an argument around mitigation asset movements. A lot of companies have a lot at risk from climate change. The best financial hedge against that risk is carbon mitigation.
As the show wraps, Nicks talks about passion and purpose. Agriculture is a passion lifestyle – you don’t stay involved in all the headaches if you don’t have it (passion). The land can be touchy for that reason – that farmer that has been on that land for decades or generations, obviously they care about it being sustainable. There’s new information to be had about what soil health really means – it’s a little bit about having a more informed conversation around things like seed population as well as soil health and carbon.
This isn’t a conversation that the entiere farm marketplace is ready for. There’s early adopters and innovators – we’re in that next 15 % of growers who have been observing the early adopters. It’s not about appealing to all farmers, it’s about supporting that next 15% who are looking for the incentive to do this and take that next step.
In closing, Nick says, “When I talk about farmers needing to be passionate – you need to be passionate and a little bit crazy. You’re a price taker for all elements and are at the mercy of the weather; the only thing you can control is how hard you work at it to give yourself the best chance.” The battle against climate change – it’s a big problem. Agriculture can have such a huge impact. Nick is passionate about trying to be able to translate that impact back to the farm.
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