Regrow’s climate-smart digital platform is making regenerative farming accessible and scalable for scientists, farm advisors, growers and conservationists, while pushing food giants toward their net-zero goals.
Around 50 years ago, agriculture experienced a radical transformation. Advancements in machinery and production of fertilizers led to an exponential increase in the speed, size and scale that food could be produced. Though it dramatically increased efficiency and output, the transformation also led to the industry's downfall — with soil degraded, waterways polluted, forests destroyed and global food transportation miles at an all-time high.
Conventional agriculture accounts for roughly 11 percent of the world's greenhouse gases, 70 percent of the world’s water consumption and 70 percent of global deforestation. Furthermore, the UN estimates that up to 40 percent of our land and soil is now degraded. If we continue with our current unsustainable methods, the future of our food, soil and water are all at risk. Just as the industry underwent a radical transformation 50 years ago, it is now in need of another — one that aligns data and connectivity with regenerative practices.
“Regenerative agriculture is one of the best ways for us to build resilience in our food systems while actively combating climate change. It’s essential that we recognize the impact of regenerative agriculture and make it more accessible on a global scale,” Regrow CEO Anastasia Volkova, Ph.D., told Sustainable Brands™.
Regenerative agricultural practices work by reversing the impacts of previous unsustainable farming methods; they prioritize restoring the soil organic matter — the necessary component in soil which allows it to store carbon and essential nutrients — and soil biodiversity. By restoring these elements in the soil, carbon sequestration and water filtration can be improved — vital processes in the fight against climate change and the future of food production.
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Regrow might just be the catalyst for the industry's next transformation. Its platforms are designed to help growers adopt regenerative practices and help consumer companies reach their net-zero emissions goals.
“Our program has been designed with growers in mind,” Volkova, who was recently named a Bloomberg New Economy Catalyst, says. “The platform can integrate with several of the world’s most-used Farm Management Systems. This reduces the burden of data entry for growers and makes practice adoption, and program participation, easier.”
Regrow’s technology works on a number of levels: Its remote-sensing model, OpTIS (Operational Tillage Information System), uses satellite data to map the adoption of regenerative ag practices — such as cover cropping, crop rotations and level of soil disturbance — which all impact the environmental sustainability of agricultural production systems. Scientists, farm advisors and conservationists can then use this model to assess the progress of sustainable practice adoption.
The data from OpTIS — along with publicly available soil and weather data, and farm-management data — is then imported into a computer model, DNDC (Denitrification/Decomposition). This model imitates soil chemistry, biology and physics, quantifying how nitrogen, carbon and other elements or molecules cycle through the soil. This DNDC model can therefore be used to promote understanding of what happens to agricultural soils under different management practices. It can also imitate how farm management and crop growth impact the environmental outcomes of farming, including soil organic carbon and GHG emissions.
All of this data is then readily available through Regrow’s digital platform — which utilizes decades of data to help ensure accurate estimation of environmental outcomes associated with soil health practices.
“Decades of data allows us to improve and attain accuracy of our soil carbon modeling (DNDC),” Volkova explains. “In some ecosystems, it can take decades for soil carbon levels to meaningfully change, which makes this historical data essential; and it allows our remote-sensing algorithm (OpTIS) to better ‘learn’ the practices it maps. Gathering decades of data on different agricultural systems helps us understand the nuances of different systems with various crops, in various regions around the world. That allows our soil carbon model to be more responsive — so that we can accurately represent what’s really happening in the soil, as opposed to receiving a snapshot of potential outcomes based on a small dataset.”
Having accurate data builds much-needed credibility for carbon markets, prevents greenwashing and ensures that the climate-beneficial outcomes companies claim — including GHG emissions reductions and carbon sequestration — are true.
Regrow’s technology has already been implemented in 45 countries, where it monitors nearly 400M acres of land annually.
“We are currently working with customers — including customers with significant impact, like Cargill and Kellogg’s — to implement grower programs that help reduce GHG emissions associated with food production and sequester carbon in the soil. To date, we’ve helped sequester nearly 80,000 metric tonnes of carbon,” Volkova explains. “We are also working to monitor the adoption of regenerative agriculture practices and to assess the effects of climate action across supply sheds — [for example], Regrow has a partnership with General Mills to monitor 175M acres of farmland globally across its supply sheds.”
Regrow’s work helps the aforementioned food giants and others develop regenerative farming programs for growers, while reducing emissions to meet their net-zero goals.
Currently, there are numerous challenges associated with scaling regenerative agriculture — regenerative ag programs must be viable across crop types, agricultural systems and regions; Volkova says Regrow’s technology allows for that versatility and scalability.
“We must ensure that our science is rigorous and transparent. The agriculture climate industry (as we know it today) is quite young; carbon markets and regulatory bodies are still being established, and we’re still working to understand and refine the science of carbon capture in agricultural soils,” she admits. “Therefore, it’s essential that we build the foundation for this industry with accurate data and well-founded scientific models, and that we promote this rigor in all our practices — with corporations, in climate policy, with growers and with regulators.”