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CarbonCrop launches native regeneration scheme, backed by AI

By Catherine Knowles
Mon 4 Jul 2022

CarbonCrop has launched Native CarbonCrop Units (CCUs), giving Kiwi landholders with native reforestation access to a new revenue stream outside of the Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS), and offering buyers of voluntary offsets a transparent, traceable and biodiversity-focused source of offsets.

Granted exclusively for native forest, Native CCUs are the first voluntary carbon credits of their kind available in New Zealand. A landholder can specify an area of native regeneration that they wish to retire and CarbonCrop will issue Native CCUs every year according to the growth of the forest and actual changes in carbon stock.

Once registered, landholders can either sell their Native CCUs or use them to offset their own products and services. Each Native CCU is equivalent to one tonne of carbon sequestered, and is initially priced at $50, a figure which will change as trading commences.

CarbonCrop uses AI to analyse the species mix, height, density, and growth over time of regenerating native forest, based on decades of aerial imagery and satellite data.

The AI can precisely map forest boundaries over vast areas, and supports the creation of detailed models of carbon stock and carbon sequestration within an area of forest down to a single square metre of land. It can also detect exotic species and exclude them from carbon calculations.

This not only enables CarbonCrop to register native forests within the ETS, but also to identify carbon sequestration which the ETS doesn't recognise and to issue Native CarbonCropUnits for these areas.

CarbonCrop CEO Jo Blundell comments, “The Emissions Trading Scheme uses restrictive qualifying criteria, which means many native forests miss out on carbon credits even though they are legitimately sequestering carbon. Applying averages based on fixed establishment dates works for pine plantations, however native regeneration springs up at different rates without uniform boundaries - and demands a more nuanced measurement approach.”

By recognising native regeneration which isn't eligible for the ETS, Native CCUs will allow more Kiwi landowners to attach a value to their regenerating native forest, and purpose driven businesses to support that restoration. For farmers, this means unlocking a new revenue stream from low production land, and for all landowners it means it's more affordable to manage pests, plant more native trees and genuinely participate in climate change action.

Interested landholders can request a free assessment via the CarbonCrop website, to find out whether their forests qualify for Native CarbonCrop Units. Initially a minimum of 20 hectares of native forest is required, however as CarbonCrops systems scale up, it plans to assess blocks down to one hectare.

To make Native CCUs easily tradeable, CarbonCrop has partnered with Carbonz, New Zealand's first marketplace for traceable carbon credits.

CarbonCrop and Carbonz are working together to encourage the development of New Zealand's voluntary carbon market, which includes making the origins of carbon offsets transparent to brands. Worldwide, the voluntary carbon market is predicted by McKinsey to grow from $1bn to $50bn by 2030.

Carbonz founder, Finn Ross, says "New Zealand is a large net importer of carbon credits, it is time kiwi businesses, investors and individuals purchase their carbon credits from regenerating native New Zealand forest. Voluntary carbon credits (CCU) are a critical new tool to achieve large scale restoration by putting a higher value on our native forests and meet our climate, water and biodiversity goals.”

CarbonCrop worked with 15 landholders across New Zealand in its pre-launch pilot. More than 5,000 Native CCUs were certified for 631 hectares of native regeneration, worth an estimated $260,000 at current prices. More than $140,000 of these carbon credits have been sold via the Carbonz platform to companies including Christchurch Airport, Heilala Vanilla and Les Mills.

Glen Dene, a 3,000 hectare hill country station in Otago, owned by the Burdon family, was one of the first recipients of Native CarbonCrop Units. CarbonCrop identified 305 hectares of qualifying native forest and issued credits for 3,100 tons of CO2, sequestered over the last four years. The station's owners have already sold a portion of their credits, earning more than $75,000.

Richard Burdon, who owns and runs Glen Dene together with his wife Sarah, says, “Understanding the economic potential of our native forest is vital to inform our future land use planning. The CarbonCrop process to issue Native CarbonCrop Units was quick, straight forward and has led to a tangible financial outcome, showing us that the station can generate new, conservation-related income streams alongside traditional farming.”

CarbonCrops AI models have assessed more than 500,000 hectares of land for potential registration in the Emissions Trading Scheme and registered customers stand to receive over $20 million in ETS carbon credits by 2023.

In addition to certifying Native CCUs for voluntary carbon trading, CarbonCrop will continue to register landholders for the Emissions Trading Scheme. Where native forest does meet the ETS criteria, CarbonCrop registers these areas for the ETS, so nothing is registered twice and landholders get the possible returns for their land.

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