Soil Carbon Co: Capturing carbon from the atmosphere on a gigatonne scale
Soil Carbon Co is on a mission to address climate change, restore the world’s agricultural soils, and turn carbon into an asset. No mean feat for a company that was established only 2 years ago. But for Guy Hudson, Soil Carbon Co.’s co-founder and Chief Executive Officer, the mission is what drives the team forward. In this fascinating interview, Guy talked about climate action and how one of the most important scientific endeavours of the 21st century can help address two of the biggest issues we are facing right now.
Impact X: How did Soil Carbon Co come about? Can you share some of the motivations that led to the birth of Soil Carbon Co?
Guy Hudson: We are a biotech company made up of more than 30 microbiologists, agronomists, farmers and entrepreneurs. United in a drive to address climate change, we are all working at different scales on the same problem: to remove carbon from the atmosphere and improve the world’s soils.
Soil Carbon Co. was co-founded by Guy Hudson, Tegan Nock, Frank Oly, Guy Webb and Mick Wettenhall in 2019 and is headquartered in Orange, New South Wales, Australia. Our team is now made up of more than 30 people working across three labs in Australia and the US. Our mission is to serve farmers and the environment first.
Impact X: Pls talk to us about microbial soil sequestration in the context of climate change. How big of an impact will this make?
Guy Hudson: Two crises are threatening our future: too much carbon in the atmosphere, and not enough carbon in the soil. Soil Carbon Co. has a single solution to both problems. We have developed a microbial seed coating, which harnesses tiny dark microbes that have the power to return CO2 to the soil and lock it away for the long term.
The microorganisms also help increase carbon in the soil, boosting fertility, resilience, and productivity on farmland. If rolled out across the world’s cropping land, our technology has the potential to remove CO2 on a gigatonne scale. The opportunity to restore the world’s agricultural soils, mitigate climate change, and turn carbon into an asset lies just below our feet.
"Microbial soil sequestration promises to be among the most efficient ways of capturing and storing CO2 because it requires no additional land, energy, or equipment."
Impact X: What are the immediate benefits that can be accrued by using this technology?
Guy Hudson: Microbial soil sequestration promises to be among the most efficient ways of capturing and storing CO2 because it requires no additional land, energy, or equipment. Its adoption doesn’t rely on farmers dramatically changing their behaviour or investing in new machinery.
It is scalable and starts working within the first growing season. Our technology is already being deployed and is making a difference. Farmers use our seed coating — a common and simple farming practice — then sow their crop seeds as normal. We have isolated microbes with the unique ability to store carbon in tiny, compressed particles of soil called soil micro-aggregates. These micro-aggregates provide a stable home, where carbon can be stored for the long-term. Building soil carbon levels boosts yield, increases nutrient cycling, and builds drought resilience. Trials on our canola products have shown a 7% increase in yield and 2.6 tCO2e stored per hectare. This also provides opportunities for growers to unlock value on the carbon markets.
Impact X: What are the key stumbling blocks in scaling your solution globally? How do you plan to address these issues?
Guy Hudson: Regulation of biological products varies from country to country. The most significant challenges will come from biosecurity regulations when transferring organisms between countries. To mitigate this, Soil Carbon Co. develops unique libraries at the national, and even sub-national, levels. Another hurdle is moving away from synthetic agricultural products, which have highly predictable outcomes.
Naturally, biologicals have a greater degree of variability. We are working to select organisms that have the least variance across the widest possible range of agro-ecosystems. Alongside this, we provide a multi-layered value proposition to farmers that isn't reliant on a single outcome (short term plant benefit, long-term resilience, diversification of income etc).
"The opportunity to restore the world’s agricultural soils, mitigate climate change, and turn carbon into an asset lies just below our feet."
Impact X: In the next 10 years, how do you see Soil Carbon Co. contributing in the climate change fight?
Guy Hudson: The time for our technology is right now. The world does not have to wait until 2030 or 2050 for our technology to make a global difference. By 2030, our products will be in the ground drawing down gigatonnes of CO2 across multiple farming systems in both emerging and developed markets.
Whether it's a truckload of treated seed planted on a corporate farm in Australia or a handful of microbes on a family farm in Asia — the technology works for systems of all sizes. Our technology will not further entrench energy and climate poverty because it will channel climate finance and solutions to those hit hardest. Soil sequestration is the tool that gives the world time to build and adapt to infrastructure for a carbon-negative economy and sustainable future.
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