Aussie Ag Tech Helps Farmers Produce Carbon

By Hari Yellina
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A cooperation between GrainCorp and Australian biotech startup Loam Bio is incentivizing Australian grain growers to boost soil carbon. A strong alliance linking farmers to soil carbon technologies is encouraging Australian grain growers to participate in the carbon market. GrainCorp and biotech business Loam Bio announced their alliance on Tuesday at a national carbon farming conference in Albury. “We’re working throughout NSW and Victoria… looking at ways we can co-design these initiatives to run with farmers at the centre of these programmes,” said Tegan Nock, co-founder and chief product officer of Loam Bio.

A pilot project that compensated a number of barley and canola growers to apply the technology, which boosts a plant’s inherent ability to store carbon in soil, is part of the collaboration. Ms Nock told AAP, “We bring bacteria into the system that are specifically intended to collect bigger levels of carbon.” “We’re removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere by using plants as a straw, and storing it in our soils for the long term.” To allow the plant to sequester more carbon, the method introduces fungal seeds.

“They’re (farmers) planting their crops as usual, but they’re also applying a seed inoculum…so they’re coating it on their seeds and sowing them within their soils, while we’re doing a baseline to see what the carbon level looks like.” Loam Bio has already put the technology to the test by planting 150 small plot trials across Australia and the United States, with the GrainCorp pilot project aiming to increase that to 1500 hectares. Jesse Scott, GrainCorp’s chief innovation and growth officer, said the technology might be rolled out to the company’s 11,000 Australian growers in the future.

“It’s one of our most interesting ventures,” he added. “This is a way for growers to diversify their revenues by producing a carbon crop on top of their traditional broadacre crops.” “Using this inoculum has a dual benefit: first, it boosts crop yield, and second, it creates the soil conditions for carbon sequestration.” Mr Scott told AAP that the technology can boost agricultural yields by up to 6%. “Participating in this Loam sale with GrainCorp will bring considerable financial benefits in the future.” He claimed that the inoculum had immediate crop benefits and would help growers meet rising demand for carbon-neutral products.

“Why wouldn’t you do this if you can take a pretty low-cost inoculum and apply it to your seed and get a better yield and carbon credits?” According to John Connor of the Carbon Market Institute, raising soil carbon is critical for agricultural output and a wonderful way to reduce carbon emissions. “It’s fantastic to see new technology and ideas being sparked by carbon market potential,” he told AAP.


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