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Sensor startups are seeding an agtech revolution for carbon farming

Carbon farming, or the sequestration of carbon in agricultural soil, could remove as much as 1.5 gigatons of carbon emissions per year from the atmosphere.

The promise and size of a potential market for agricultural carbon removal is vast, but it’s also complicated.

That’s why investors and some of the largest agricultural companies are investing heavily in new technologies that can help farmers capture more carbon, monitor how much carbon they’re storing and reap the benefits of those carbon offsets in specific marketplaces where companies with heavy emissions can buy offset credits.

(ClimateVC has a good overview on the market.)

A clutch of strategic corporate investors and venture capitalists have just placed a new bet on GroundTruth Ag to ensure that farmers — and carbon markets can get accurate information.

The company, which does business as EarthOptics, has recently raised $10.3 million from the investment arm of agrichemical giant, Bayer, and S2G Ventures (the Chicago-based investment firm founded by an heir to the Walmart fortune) alongside financial investors like FHB Ventures, Middleand Capital’s VTC Ventures and Route 66 Ventures.

The company’s technology relies on ground penetrating radar and electromagnetic induction to make deep maps of soil that are easier, cheaper, and produce better data than existing methods of human sampling.

These sensor arrays could ultimately find themselves on John Deere tractors or other farming equipment to map fields while farmers are seeding and tilling.

Companies like Yard Stick and Cloud Agronomics are both trying to tackle this market as well using drones, satellite imaging, data processing, and novel sensing technologies.

“Scientists estimate that farm soils could store over 60 billion tons of additional carbon,” said EarthOptics CEO Lars Dyrud, in a statement. “EarthOptics’ machine-learning technologies will be at the center of helping farmers gain control over returning carbon to the soil by accurately mapping both soil carbon and agricultural practices like tillage.”

That data collected can mean additional money in the pockets of farmers for adopting no-till, water efficient, and carbon smart farming methods. It can also save on fuel, equipment, and labor, according to EarthOptics’ pitch.

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