Sustainability Innovation Award - Soil Monitoring
We are extremely proud and excited to share some news about a ground breaking innovation project we are working on that aims to support improvements to our environment and food supply chains.
UnifAI Technology has been awarded an InnovateUK grant to accelerate the development of sensing and artificial intelligence to support carbon sequestration of soil.
The project will provide an effect mechanism to measure and monitor carbon in soil to support the use of the natural environment to capture and store carbon. This will enable farmers and others involved with land management to diversify their income streams and be rewarded for good soil husbandry, through grants, subsidies and carbon exchanges.
Typically today, soil sensors are used for basic soil quality, and are almost entirely limited to understanding fertiliser requirements to improve yields. Monitoring carbon sequestration capacity is simply not 'business as usual'. Where it is done at all, it's done through lab analysis of soil samples, or estimated using simple algorithms. The former cannot scale, the latter provides only blunt estimates and cannot be certified.
The innovation comes from combining low cost sensing with cloud-based AI, and using the converged capability to monitor organic soil carbon to create a real-time measurement capability of the carbon sequestration capacity of soil.
This project will help pave the way for giving farmers a revenue stream linked to environmental management that would help to overcome issues such as COVID-19, or other events, with future diversified revenue streams by enabling them to protect and monetise the value of carbon sequestered in their soil.
The UN FAO has estimated that improved soil management could sequester around 20 PgC over the next 25 years. The world's carbon credit markets grew 34% to $215 billion in 2019.
PWC have cited "high transaction costs relating to monitoring, reporting and verification of agricultural carbon" as a barrier to exploiting agricultural carbon from soil for carbon markets, also noting "...overall agricultural carbon markets are nascent, held back by a number of barriers...".
The value to UK farmers from the difference between poorly and well managed soil could be between £280 and £505 per hectare, with an effective monitoring and verification solution. According to DEFRA, the average farm in the UK in 2019 was 86.4 hectares. That equates to a carbon value of more than £24,000 to £43,000+ for the average farm, which is currently un-tapped.
By the end of this project we will have deployed sensors to gather data necessary for training our initial neural network models. We will have deployed live demonstrators, showcasing sensors integrated with our AI measuring and monitoring the organic carbon in soil in near-real-time.
The results will be prototyped new, affordable tools for the agriculture sector to help manage and improve soil quality for improved plant health and reduced carbon emissions, and a critical first step towards unlocking new revenue streams from carbon credits for soil carbon sequestration.