Boulder, CO-based startup Perennial is using satellite imagery technology to track carbon levels in the soil. The results are designed to help farmers improve soil health and reduce greenhouse gas emissions by feeding satellite images into a computer algorithm alongside the land’s environmental data.
Perennial hopes the information will encourage farmers to move away from traditional pesticide and fertilizer use and start thinking more about sustainability to improve the longevity of their fields and to save money.
The company is helping the world decarbonize its food supply chain with a carbon verification system that can be used remotely. Its Soil-Based Carbon Removal Verification Platform was recently named to “TIME” magazine’s 2022 Best Inventions list.
Healthy soil systems are a vital component in carbon emissions. A healthy soil system acts as a natural carbon “sink,” able to sequester atmospheric carbon naturally. The top four feet of the world’s soil contain triple the carbon currently in the Earth’s atmosphere. Thus, the more acres of healthy soil, the less greenhouse gas concentration in the air.
The startup’s satellite technology measures how much light reflects from the soil across the entire electromagnetic spectrum, including many bands of light invisible to the human eye. Those bands provide critical carbon level information.
Perennial then combines that information with data gathered by digging holes in fields across the U.S., each sorted to match models for varying crop types and climate zones.
With this information, farmers can better understand how damaging certain traditional agricultural practices are to their land — with hopes they will start using sustainable approaches to restore and nurture their land.
Oleksiy “Alex” Zhuk, Perennial’s president, believes the value of a consistent carbon soil market, where farmers are paid a premium for reducing their carbon footprint, can create massive positive change. It can become critical in mitigating severe worldwide soil erosion and water and air pollution caused by fertilizers and pesticides.
“Our approach produces a standard measurement anywhere in the world — a farmer in Ethiopia that puts a ton of carbon in the soil will get recognized and paid the same as one in Iowa, transcending borders and inconsistent verification standards,” Zhuk said.
Perennial’s ultimate goal is to expand its technology for farmers worldwide and to encourage climate-friendly branded food and sustainable sourcing. The company is currently training its algorithms to recognize new countries and terrain types, including pastures and grazing grounds. Overall, it believes in one steadfast mantra: the healthier the land, the more carbon it absorbs.
“Our goal is to move agriculture from just an industry that feeds us to an industry that is a major contributor to offsetting our emissions and reversing climate change,” Zhuk said.