Capturing Carbon with Agroforestry from Space

4 min readNov 3, 2021

Space4Good and Louis Bolk Institute devise CarboCatch, a remote sensing based carbon estimation tool for Dutch Agroforestry

Image 1. Carbocatch stakeholders

The integration of trees in agricultural and livestock systems brings many benefits in favour of climate mitigation/adaptation. This is globally recognized and exploited, but so far hardly any agroforestry is present in the Netherlands, while the Climate Agreement has agreed on an agricultural emission reduction target of 3.5–6.0 Mton CO2 by 2030. Agroforestry, stimulated by local (!) Carbon Credits goes one step further to contribute significantly to carbon sequestration within agriculture.

To play a role in stimulating agroforestry practices, Space4Good and Louis Bolk Institute are developing CarboCatch. This service is made to assess and monitor carbon storage at existing agroforestry sites (verification) and quantify the possible carbon storage in an agroforestry system (valuation) based on existing field measurements and satellite data. The assessment of the carbon captured within agroforestry in the Netherlands is based on the current situation and historical data, which makes it possible to monitor the (already) present above ground carbon. Rather than collect field data for each location, we rely on satellite information to map carbon. Superview high-resolution data is used to identify trees and as an input for modelling. Traditional field measurements still play a role in order to extract training data. Based on this modelling it is possible to verify, monitor and predict the carbon of a future agroforestry system, while this quantitative information can be directly linked to local Carbon Credits.

Image 2. Carbocatch Carbon Reporting Portal

As you can see in the image below, we were not ‘the worst boy in the class’ in 2019, but we are not far from that either. Europe’s plans at the climate summit are only one-eighth of the reduction in emissions required to keep warming below 1.5 degrees (based on the calculation of the Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency). And that is if all the new climate goals and plans for 2030 are already achieved. The situation is therefore simple: the Netherlands must drastically reduce greenhouse gas emissions and record them. Agroforestry is a viable, environmentally friendly and ultimately lucrative way to do this through functioning carbon credit systems. In addition, there is a need for an easier way to gain insights for all stakeholders involved (carbon intelligence).

Image 3. Greenhouse gas emissions per person in CO2 equivalent in the EU, (Source).

The Netherlands currently has approximately 1,000 hectares of agroforestry. In addition, the Ministry of LNV wants to realize 25,000 hectares of agroforestry and 1,000 hectares of food forest by 2030. As such, CarboCatch gives a kick-start to the professionalization of the local agroforestry Carbon-Credit system, in which provinces and ministries gain essential insight into possibilities to bring carbon storage (farmer) and carbon offsetting (business) together locally. CarboCatch is also of direct benefit to farmers, property developers, certifiers and marketplaces by providing insightful and affordable data on their current carbon activities, increasing their environmental integrity and creating new business impact opportunities. Carbon storage programs and Carbon Credits are intended to stimulate the introduction and implementation of agroforestry in the Netherlands.

Currently, verification of agroforestry Carbon Credits based on field measurements is done in a time consuming and a resource-intensive way for the voluntary carbon market. Because of these ‘overheads’, farmers get less back on Carbon Credits, making local carbon compensation more expensive than international compensation. Our target customers all need an affordable service, extensive monitoring of various project portfolios, large amounts of data and reliable data (with standards) to contribute to today’s biggest societal challenge: the climate and its change.

CarboCatch addresses these challenges by providing a cheap, fast and reliable method to verify carbon stocks. Our service maps current carbon sequestration and calculates scenarios for future initiatives. This allows stakeholders (farmers (organisations), (local) governments, business and financial institutions) to have a handle to comply with the Climate Agreement and to contribute locally to a sustainable future, whereby farmers are encouraged to realize agroforestry systems. In this way, CarboCatch provides data-driven stimulation in the form of impact calculations on agroforestry (carbon storage) activities in order to achieve the required emission reduction.

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