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This startup plans to sequester 1 trillion tons of carbon, using a new global marketplace for farmers

Agtech startup Indigo is offsetting carbon emissions by paying farmers to embrace sustainable growing techniques.

This startup plans to sequester 1 trillion tons of carbon, using a new global marketplace for farmers
[Photo: Alex Wigan/Unsplash; Peter Žagar(leaves); NASA/Wikimedia Commons]
THE WORLD’S 50 MOST INNOVATIVE COMPANIES
22 Indigo

Known for developing a biocoating for seeds that reduces the need for environmentally taxing fertilizers, agtech startup Indigo is on a mission to entice the world’s farmers to shift to more sustainable growing techniques. In June 2019, the company launched the Terraton Initiative, a marketplace that connects farmers willing to embrace regenerative agriculture—including such techniques as no-till farming, using cover crops, and spreading less fertilizer—with companies that want to pay for carbon offsets. “Once we started working out the potential of agricultural soil to store atmospheric carbon and realized that it could have a meaningful impact on climate change, it felt like our obligation to launch it,” says CEO David Perry.

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Indigo is partnering with various organizations to study how much carbon each farm captures over time, with the first offsets for sale later this year. At a time when many farmers are struggling financially, Indigo provides them with a new revenue stream: Terraton guarantees at least $15 per ton of sequestered carbon. The company had expected to enroll around 1.5 million acres of farmland in the initiative within six months of its launch, but farmers with more than 15 million acres expressed interest. Perry now hopes to reach farmers around the world, with the ultimate, ambitious goal to sequester a teraton, or 1 trillion tons, of CO2. “This will be a decades-long process,” Perry says, “but it remains the most optimistic thing I know about with regard to climate change.”

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A version of this article appeared in the March/April 2020 issue of Fast Company magazine.

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About the author

Adele Peters is a staff writer at Fast Company who focuses on solutions to some of the world's largest problems, from climate change to homelessness. Previously, she worked with GOOD, BioLite, and the Sustainable Products and Solutions program at UC Berkeley, and contributed to the second edition of the bestselling book "Worldchanging: A User's Guide for the 21st Century."

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