Blog Technological Innovation for Soil Carbon Sequestration: an invitation from CGIAR scientists and Pluton Bio

On the heels of a recent event with soil-sensing startup Stenon, the Accelerate for Impact Platform will bring together microbial-science venture Pluton Bio and CGIAR soil science experts on 7 July for the upcoming Venture-Out Event: Technological Innovation for Soil Carbon Sequestration.

Around one-third of the increase of atmospheric CO2 is attributed to soil organic carbon (SOC) loss: this not only is huge threat when it comes to greenhouse gas emissions, but declining fertility due to SOC loss risks also great damage to agricultural productivity and thus food security. Carbon sequestration presents an opportunity to reverse this SOC loss, by removing atmospheric CO2 and storing it in the soil carbon pool. Soil carbon sequestration technologies provide a crucial opportunity for negative emissions: scientific estimates indicate that agricultural soils have the potential to store an additional billion or more tons of carbon each year. 

“Soil carbon sequestration is often considered as a proxy for climate mitigation,” said ICARDA climatologist Ajit Govind. “However, I believe that in the process of enhancing carbon sequestration, we adequately adapt to a changing climate, enhance the soil quality, enhance soil hydraulic properties, enhance biodiversity, reduce land degradation and foster agroecology.

Thus, the process of soil carbon sequestration has a lot more to do than merely mitigating climate change: soil carbon is the elixir of plant life and hence, humanity,” 

Analysis from Fortune Business Insights suggests that the global market for carbon capture and sequestration will grow from $2.01 billion in 2021 to $7.00 billion in 2028 at a CAGR of 19.5%. Commitments of tech and other financial giants in recent months to back such technologies are boosting their financial support 30-fold. Sequestration also introduces an opportunity for the carbon offset market, with growth rates of credit projects and transactions skyrocketing to boot. Nevertheless, challenges like scientific disagreement over the permanence of storage, fragility of smallholder land and thus credit rights, and inequity or difficulty of access to measurement technologies present obstacles for scientists and entrepreneurs alike. More collaboration between scientists and ventures can bridge the disconnect to solve these issues and strengthen soil carbon sequestration technologies – and opening up a dialogue is the impetus for these partnerships to grow.

Venture-Out Events are a series of interactive webinars to encourage this learning and collaboration across the innovation ecosystem. In the Venture-Out events, science-based agri-food tech startups share their journey from science to action. Founders of selected startups present their experience of developing and scaling their innovations and discuss the ongoing and potential collaborations between their venture and CGIAR.

“These events encourage the entrepreneurial spirit within CGIAR scientists while exposing them to the opportunities for impact that the innovation ecosystem has to offer,”

said Senior Partnerships and Innovative Finance Officer Gianpiero Menza. “Visiting startups can forge valuable technical partnerships through CGIAR’s network of expertise and receive feedback and insights to strengthen their technologies.”

On 17 March 2022, Technological Innovation for Soil Health: A Conversation with Stenon brought together scientists from across the different CGIAR centers to engage in an interactive seminar with Stenon, an agtech startup that provides laboratory independent, real-time soil analysis for farmers. Stenon’s technology, FarmLab, allows farmers to have immediate, accessible, and accurate information on soil health metrics like temperature, texture, moisture, pH value, specific nutrient content, and more. This instant access to soil data helps farmers to “optimize soil health and overall cultivation.” In December 2021, Stenon raised $20 million in their series A funding round.

Watch a recording of the event here

To build on this momentum, the Accelerate for Impact Platform is organizing a next-iteration of Venture-Out Events: Technological Innovation for Soil Carbon Sequestration: A Conversation with Pluton Bio, 07 July at 16:00 CEST. This event will host founder and chief science officer Barry Goldman to present Pluton Biosciences’ scaling journey and innovations in carbon sequestration and will feature an interactive discussion moderated by ICARDA/CGIAR climatologist and soil carbon sequestration expert Ajit Govind.

Pluton Bio uses its Micromining Innovation Engine to create novel microbes with numerous applications in carbon sequestration, agriculture, pharmaceutical, biomaterials and bioremediation. Pluton Bio’s seed round garnered 6.6 million USD in funding, with support from First-In Ventures, The Yield Lab Institute, Wing Venture Capital, and lead investor Better Ventures; now, Pluton Bio is collaborating with Bayer AG to develop a soil carbon sequestration product, a microbe-based carbon-capture soil amendment for growers, to be sprayed at planting and harvest.

The event promises to be a crucial forum for highlighting the cruciality of innovations in soil carbon sequestration and bridging science and venture perspectives on how to strengthen efforts. “Scientific innovation and collaboration are the backbone of Pluton’s work,” Goldman said. “To fully realize the promise of using novel microbes to sequester carbon and fix nitrogen to improve soil health we need to think creatively – communicating and collaborating across different scientific and entrepreneurial perspectives is a way to foster that.

Venture-Out Events are organized by the Accelerate for Impact Platform (A4IP): 'combining scientific creativity, technological ingenuity, and entrepreneurship for transformative solutions’

A4IP is a venture space that builds on CGIAR’s legacy of Research and Innovation to support both incremental and transformational innovation to address some of the world’s most pressing challenges at the nexus of agriculture, environment, and health. A4IP bridges science and entrepreneurship to incubate and accelerate scientific ventures for spin-offs, such as start-ups, that directly respond to market demand and generate both impact and the resources needed to support continued research in pursuit of the Sustainable Development Goals.

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