CarbonCrop launches native regeneration scheme, powered by AI

CarbonCrop has launched Native CarbonCrop Units (CCUs), giving Kiwi landowners with native reforestation access to a new revenue stream outside the Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS), and providing buyers of voluntary offsets with a transparent, traceable, and biodiversity-focused source of offsets.

Native CCUs are awarded exclusively to native forest and are the first voluntary carbon credits of their kind available in New Zealand. A landowner can specify an area of ​​native regeneration that they want to retire and CarbonCrop will issue native CCUs each year based on forest growth and actual changes in carbon stock.

Once registered, landowners can sell their Native CCUs or use them to offset their own products and services. Each native CCU is equivalent to one tonne of carbon captured and will cost $50 initially, a figure that will change as trade kicks in.

CarbonCrop uses AI to analyze the species mix, height, density and growth over time of regenerating native forest, based on decades of aerial photos and satellite data.

The AI ​​can accurately map forest boundaries over vast areas and support the creation of detailed models of carbon stock and carbon sequestration within a forest area down to one square meter of land. It can also detect exotic species and exclude them from carbon calculations.

This allows CarbonCrop not only to register native forests within the ETS, but also to identify carbon sequestration that the ETS does not recognize and to issue Native CarbonCropUnits for these areas.

Jo Blundell, CEO of CarbonCrop, comments: “The emissions trading system uses restrictive qualification criteria, which means that many native forests miss out on carbon credits, even though they sequester carbon legitimately. Applying averaging based on fixed settlement dates works for pine farms, but native regeneration is emerging at different rates with no uniform boundaries – and requires a more nuanced measurement approach.”

By recognizing native regeneration that does not qualify for the ETS, Native CCUs will empower more Kiwi landowners to value their regenerating native forest, and targeted businesses to support that recovery. For farmers, this means unlocking a new revenue stream from low-producing land, and for all landowners it means it’s more affordable to control pests, plant more native trees and really participate in climate change action.

Interested landowners can request a free assessment through the CarbonCrop website to find out if their forests qualify for Native CarbonCrop Units. Initially, a minimum of 20 hectares of native forest is required, but as the CarbonCrops systems scale, it plans to grade blocks up to one hectare.

To make Native CCUs easily tradable, CarbonCrop has partnered with Carbonz, New Zealand’s premier marketplace for traceable carbon credits.

CarbonCrop and Carbonz are teaming up to encourage the development of the voluntary carbon market in New Zealand, including making the origins of carbon offsets transparent for brands. Globally, McKinsey predicts that the voluntary carbon market will grow from $1 billion to $50 billion by 2030.

Carbonz founder Finn Ross says: “New Zealand is a major net importer of carbon credits, it is time kiwi companies, investors and individuals buy their carbon credits from regenerating native New Zealand forest. Voluntary Carbon Credits (CCU) are a critical new tool to achieve large-scale recovery by valuing our native forests and achieving our climate, water and biodiversity goals.”

CarbonCrop worked with 15 landowners across New Zealand in the pre-launch pilot. More than 5,000 Native CCUs were certified for 631 acres of Native regeneration, worth an estimated $260,000 at current prices. More than $140,000 of these carbon credits have been sold through the Carbonz platform to companies including Christchurch Airport, Heilala Vanilla and Les Mills.

Glen Dene, a 3,000-acre hill country station in Otago owned by the Burdon family, was one of the first recipients of Native CarbonCrop Units. CarbonCrop identified 305 hectares of eligible native forest and granted credits for 3,100 tons of CO2 stored in the past four years. The station’s owners have already sold some of their assets, making more than $75,000.

Richard Burdon, who owns and runs Dene with his wife Sarah Glen Dene, says: “Understanding the economic potential of our native forest is vital to inform our future spatial planning. The CarbonCrop process to issue Native CarbonCrop Units has been quick, straightforward and has delivered tangible financial results, showing us that the station can generate new, conservation-related revenue streams alongside traditional farming.”

CarbonCrop’s AI models have assessed more than 500,000 acres of land for potential registration in the emissions trading system, and registered customers will receive more than $20 million in ETS carbon credits by 2023.

In addition to certifying indigenous CCUs for voluntary carbon trading, CarbonCrop will continue to register landowners with the emissions trading scheme. Where native forest does meet the ETS criteria, CarbonCrop registers these areas for the ETS, so that nothing is double registered and landowners get the possible return for their land.

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