Climate tech startup Andes has developed a unique method to enhance the natural carbon removal ability of crops using microorganisms.
The company’s innovative approach aims to completely transform the carbon removal space with the tools it has available, while allowing farmers to increase their profit.
Namely, Andes adds microorganisms to the soil together with agricultural seeds, such as wheat and corn, where the microorganisms grow with the plant roots and speed up the conversion of CO2 into minerals, a process known as carbon mineralization.
We spoke to Gonzalo Fuenzalida, the CEO and co-founder of Andes, to learn a little more about the company’s carbon removal program, carbon credits and the role of agriculture in climate change mitigation.
Andes has developed a very unique method of reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions using microorganisms. How did the idea come about?
Andes has always been focused on the intersection of biology and climate tech. As part of our initial efforts, we researched microorganisms that could contribute to the removal of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. There are many ways in which microorganisms can remove CO2, and we decided to move forward with the one that has high permanence and ability to rapidly scale.
Tell us a little bit about the Andes Carbon Program. How does one enroll?
Andes partners with growers to remove CO2 from the atmosphere. The process of enrollment is frictionless for the farmer. Interested growers can sign up on our website. Enrollment involves sharing coordinates of fields and management practices. If the fields qualify, Andes takes care of the rest. The Andes program is a one year commitment and does not require any upfront investment from growers.
Do you issue carbon credits, and if so, can you speak to the methodology you use?
Due to the novel approach we are taking, there is no existing methodology that we fall under. We are currently writing an ISO standard methodology for our approach with Ecoengineers and plan to have our removals verified by a third party by the end of the year.
Today, we follow a direct sampling approach to quantify the CO2 removed by our technology.
What are your thoughts on the recent investigations into low-quality carbon credits?
Andes is following these investigations very closely and we believe it is good to push for improvements in the voluntary carbon markets in terms of transparency and integrity. There are many low-quality carbon credits on the market today in terms of additionality, over-crediting, and weak Measurement, Reporting, and Verification (MRV) approaches. Specifically, in the nascent carbon removal space, the goal of transparency and rigor is of the utmost importance.
At Andes, we are focused on high permanent, additional carbon credits and are transparent in our process for developing this technology. We will publish our methodology publicly and ensure that third parties review our solution for validation and verification to meet the highest standards.
Is Andes’ approach to carbon removal scalable?
Yes, Andes’ technology allows for the opportunity for hundreds of millions of farmland acres to be put to work towards reducing greenhouse gasses from the atmosphere at a gigatonne scale.
What role do you see agriculture playing in the mitigation of the climate crisis in the years to come?
According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), approximately five billion hectares of land is used in agriculture, or 38 percent of the global land surface, which represents a massive opportunity to remove CO2.
There are over 160 million agricultural hectares in the Americas alone that are highly suitable for Andes CDR technology. This land would have a dual purpose: growing food and removing carbon from the atmosphere. Using Andes technology, we are transforming this land into carbon sucking machines with the potential to remove gigatons of CO2 in the coming years.
What are Andes’ plans and goals for the near future?
Finalizing our carbon project methodology with a third party and verifying our removals.