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Indigo Ag Names 36 SemiFinalists in Terraton Challenge

Initiative highlights projects that add innovation to carbon sequestration initiative.

Indigo Agriculture has named 36 sustainable ag projects as semifinalists in the company’s first “Terraton Challenge,” which aims to drive innovation to help farmers sequester carbon and improve environmental sustainability. 

Terraton is Indigo’s initiative to draw down 1 trillion tons of atmospheric carbon dioxide in agriculture soils. In July it launched the Terraton Challenge, soliciting “…solutions to accelerate carbon sequestration and represent industry-leading efforts to optimize the impact of regenerative agricultural practices,” the company said in a news release. 

Nearly 300 applicants from 44 countries submitted projects to the Terraton Challenge. A panel of 25 judges whittled that number down to 36 projects in three different tracks: technologies that accelerate soil carbon sequestration, methods to quantify soil carbon, and innovative financial offerings that reward growers for capturing and maintaining soil carbon. The projects include proposed advancements in food waste reduction, robotics and drone technology, finance, and microbial science. 

Jon Hennek, senior director of systems innovation at Indigo Ag, says the companies that made it this far in the process are eligible to participate in virtual courses in mentorship and work with mentors to evaluate the technology in coming months and for possible testing on growers’ fields. 

In October, 2020, winners from each of the three tracks will be named. Each will receive a $20,000 grant to boost project development. 

The Terraton Challenge is evidence of Indigo’s commitment to boost carbon sequestration in ways that cost farmers less money, make it easier for farmers, or speed up the ability to sequester carbon, Hennek says. 

“Agriculture represents the most scalable, affordable, and immediate method available to pull carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere,” says Geoff von Maltzahn, Indigo’s chief innovation officer. “By accelerating advancements in scientific discovery and technological innovation, The Terraton Initiative seeks to optimize the potential of this natural climate solution and build a more beneficial, sustainable, and resilient food system in the process.”

The carbon sequestration space is ripe for technological advancement, adds Dan Harburg, senior director of systems innovation at Indigo. “The global innovation ecosystem hasn’t been sufficiently exposed to the opportunity for technological advancement that soil carbon sequestration and agricultural emissions reduction present to mitigate climate change.”

A panel of 25 judges representing thought leaders from academia, business, and agriculture vetted and selected the semifinalists, who will now advance to compete for up to $60,000 in grants. Select finalists with scalable solutions will be eligible for up to $3M in contracts. A full list of the semifinalists can be found online here.

Iowa farmer Ben Riensche was one of the Terraton Challenge judges. “As a farmer, I want to make sure the ideas are practical and scaleable, things real farmers will do on real farms,” he says. Proposed solutions from the Terraton Challenge will be pilot-tested on his farm.  

The incubation, experimentation, and refinement of contestants’ projects will culminate at Beneficial Ag 2020, where qualified semifinalists will have an opportunity to showcase live demonstrations of their proposed solutions. Hosted in Memphis, Tennessee, in June 2020, the event gathers thousands of the most influential and innovative stakeholders from across the agricultural value chain – from growers, buyers, and investors to grain marketers, packaged goods companies, and scientists. Following the event, semifinalists will continue to refine their solutions until the challenge’s completion in October 2020. 

For more information and updates on the The Terraton Challenge, follow along on Instagram via @terraton and on Twitter via @terraton.

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