2021 | Agribusiness | Early stage | SDG13 | SDG15 | SDG2 | SDG8 | United States
Scalable soil carbon measurement for agricultural lands

1. General


SDG 2: Zero Hunger

SDG 8: Decent Work and Economic Growth

SDG 13: Climate Action

SDG 15: Life on Land



2. Project Details

Company or Institution

Cloud Agronomics Inc.


Scalable soil carbon measurement for agricultural lands

General description of the AI solution

– Cloud Agronomics’ vision is to help agriculture heal the planet. Cloud Agronomics uses AI and remote sensing to quantify carbon sequestration and enable regenerative agriculture at scale. This technology is the foundation for our partnership with carbon project developers by providing measurement, reporting, and verification (MRV) on agricultural lands.
– Large agribusinesses are committing significant resources to originating a source of credits, and farmers see an opportunity to get paid to change their practices in ways that are regenerative to the soil and generate credits for the programs that they enroll in.
– Today, however, the primary method of quantifying soil carbon is through dense and laborious physical sampling which is cost-prohibitive to scale. One can also imagine that a few physical samples in a field are not representative of the entire field given that soil carbon can vary significantly. Thus, Cloud’s ability to analyze thousands of points from environmental data and remote sensing in a field using AI enables us to compute soil carbon for millions of fields at a fraction of the cost.




Cloud Agronomics Inc.

3. Aspects

Excellence and Scientific Quality: Please detail the improvements made by the nominee or the nominees’ team or yourself if your applying for the award, and why they have been a success.

Cloud Agronomics is focused on generating repeatable and accurate measurements of soil organic carbon by combining physical samples with remote sensing. The use of satellite remote sensing to quantify soil organic carbon content has been demonstrated in peer-reviewed literature. Our research shows that our methodology will achieve the uncertainty requirements of third-party registries and regulators, including a change in soil organic carbon stock associated with a 60% probability of exceedance, as outlined in the 2018 Methodology Determination by the Australian Minister for the Environment and Energy. The methods we are using to calibrate and validate our measurement techniques are similar to those adopted by NASA in the calibration and validation of aboveground carbon density estimates from space-borne remote sensing. Jim Kellner, Cloud’s Chief Scientist, is a co-investigator on the NASA Global Ecosystem Dynamics Investigation (GEDI) Science Team and is leading the development of algorithms for calculating aboveground carbon density.

Scaling of impact to SDGs: Please detail how many citizens/communities and/or researchers/businesses this has had or can have a positive impact on, including particular groups where applicable and to what extent.

Enabling the monitoring and scaling of regenerative agriculture through a more cost-effective method of quantifying global carbon stocks is directly in line with several of the U.N. Sustainable Development Goals. In addition to increasing the organic content and health of soil, regenerative agriculture has significant positive externalities that include preventing further environmental degradation, increasing the water-holding capacity of soil, and reducing synthetic fertilizers, all of which enrich the quality of food. As the environment changes, access to a sustainable food supply is critical to the future of zero hunger (SG2)

In order to achieve this lofty goal, consumers must better understand the processes at the farm and in the supply chain by which food reaches their table. Farmers have an outsized impact on this process and the environment. Technology that better enables growers to enroll in carbon programs directly aligns with ensuring they have decent work and economic growth (SDG 8). In the United States, carbon has been quoted as a second cash crop for growers who traditionally rely on government subsidies to turn a profit. Additionally, in developing countries, access to low-cost carbon monitoring and carbon programs will bring additional payments, startup capital and low-cost lending to adopt regenerative practices, and access to discounted seeds and inputs.

Finally, agricultural soils have the potential to offset 20 – 35% of human greenhouse gas emissions be increasing global C storage at a rate of “4 per mille” (Minasny et al 2017 Geoderma). This is a serendipitous confluence of of Climate Action (SDG 13) and Life on Land (SDG 15).

Scaling of AI solution: Please detail what proof of concept or implementations can you show now in terms of its efficacy and how the solution can be scaled to provide a global impact ad how realistic that scaling is.

Today, Cloud’s soil organic carbon models are monitoring millions of acres globally, powered by one of the world's largest geo-located datasets of physical samples. In order to meet requirements set by international registries and governing bodies, and in order to scale, it will be critical to continue to partner with local universities, agronomists, agricultural research institutions, and NGOs in UNESCO member countries to access local resources and ensure access to physical samples on the ground to calibrate the models.

In the status quo, the industry is struggling with key questions around ensuring that farmland carbon credits are rigorous, additional, and permanent. The ability to measure global carbon stocks at the sub-field level using AI will help researchers and partners begin to answer the industry’s buringing questions around additionality, permanence, and the average rate of sequestration in various soil types and geographies.

To date, we have begun working on answering these questions with Microsoft as a part of their AI for Earth program, and we are continuing our work with the World Bank and the Sustaintech Xcelerator (Google, DBS, Verra, Temasek) to collaborate on datasets and advance AI monitoring of soil health and agriculture.

Ethical aspect: Please detail the way the solution addresses any of the main ethical aspects, including trustworthiness, bias, gender issues, etc.

I certify that the AI solution is lawful, complies with all applicable laws and regulations, is ethical and adheres to ethical principles and values, and is robust by the highest scientific standards.

In terms of inclusion, Cloud's ability to provide low-cost and in some regions, free localized soil carbon analysis enables traditionally underrepresented groups including indigenous farmers and BIPOC farmers. We are actively working on providing greater access to regenerative practices, low-cost loans, and carbon credit programs with the USDA and are in early conversations with local organizations in Kenya and NGOs to improve access of our monitoring technology and regenerative agricultural practices to traditionally underrepresented groups in agriculture.

Thank you for your consideration.


International Research Centre
on Artificial Intelligence (IRCAI)
under the auspices of UNESCO 

Jožef Stefan Institute
Jamova cesta 39
SI-1000 Ljubljana



The designations employed and the presentation of material throughout this website do not imply the expression of any opinion whatsoever on the part of UNESCO concerning the legal status of any country, territory, city or area of its authorities, or concerning the delimitation of its frontiers or boundaries.

Design by Ana Fabjan