Carbon: The Next Cash Crop

Dec 4, 2020

Nutrien, the world’s largest provider of crop inputs and services, isn’t joking around when it comes to the $215 billion carbon market.

The ag retail king is rolling out a pilot program targeting 100,000 acres in 2021 to drive growers to sell environmental credits they rack up through using ‘climate-friendly’ products and services.

It’s a two pronged approach:

  1. First, Nutrien will ramp up their offerings of sustainable products – think time-controlled nitrogen fertilizer – while pushing agronomic services and a platform to track and measure the success of those sustainability efforts.
  2.  Then, Nutrien will facilitate a marketplace where growers can monetize their sustainability gains by selling carbon credits to other players in the value chain.

“We want to change carbon from becoming what it is today, an expense, to a revenue,”
noted Nutrien President and CEO, Chuck Magro.

So let’s do the math: Nutrien expects the program could boost a farmer’s income by $50 per acre. That pencils out to $20 coming from carbon credits while $30 stems from productivity and yield gains.

With an estimated 100 million metric tons of carbon annually holed up in U.S. cropland, there is money to be made assuming buyers show up to the market.

With a market opportunity this big, Nutrien is already playing catch up:

→ Indigo Ag launched its Terraton Initiative using open-source experiments and grower competitions to promote adoption
Seattle-startup Nori and Granular teamed up to scale a blockchain-backed marketplace
Bayer is using its Climate data platform for carbon crediting and promoting climate-smart practices
And there are sure to be more entrants elbowing their way to this crowded carbon dinner table.

The outlook: In 2030, we all may be reading the ‘carbon case study’ on who won the race to help producers reduce greenhouse gases, sequester carbon, and profit from it. Until then, grower adoption and monetization will be the keys to which ag juggernaut will lead the pack.