PlantVillage – a project initially designed to help struggling African farmers and increase crop yield but also offering carbon storage benefits is one of the $1 million milestone award winners of the XRPIZE Carbon Removal Competition.
PlantVillage is a company founded in 2012 by David Hughes from Penn State University and led by an international team.
The company’s approach is centered around planting trees and monitoring the carbon stored in them. It develops a system that includes tagging trees with QR codes, mapping farmland with satellite imagery, developing an AI-enabled app, and tracking carbon sequestration credits in an open and transparent way via Solana blockchain platform in order to enhance natural carbon sequestration.
The startup was created initially to address crop diseases in Africa with AI-enabled cellphones in order to mitigate crop destruction. Since August 2021, the team also focused on exploring carbon removal.
By September last year, it initiated a systemic planting and monitoring of trees in two Kenyan counties, Busia and Bungoma. So far, the company has planted and set up monitoring for more than 770,000 trees. It aims to expand and plant 1 million trees across 12,500 farms in African counties.
The team has estimated that each farm could draw down 3 to 5 tonnes of carbon per year while also benefiting farmers from carbon removal payments received through carbon marketplaces. The company aims to ultimately scale to 200 million farmers which it says will be pulling down 1 gigatonne of CO2 each year.
According to Mr Hughes, African farmers and African land offer the realistic potential of permanently sequestering 1 ton of carbon for the price of less than $25 per ton. “This prize money allows us to prove that case,” he adds.
Planting trees and facilitating their growth is one of the critical climate change solutions via natural carbon sinks. Technologies in monitoring the amounts of carbon stored by forests need to improve to back the validity of carbon credits.