We’re always interested in discovering new companies, individuals, or other organizations seeking to creatively solve problems facing our communities. And it’s even more fulfilling when the solution has the added benefit of creating more opportunity for the community and its people.
We came across such a company about a year ago, called SilviaTerra – a venture-backed technology company that uses satellite imagery to produce high-resolution carbon inventories of every forest acre in the United States. It basically determines how much carbon is in each tree. As the lungs of the earth, trees capture and store carbon dioxide while releasing oxygen — more trees means more stored carbon.
Here is a picture of the carbon inventory from forests in Leader McCarthy’s district in California:
Once it’s known how much carbon is stored in forests, a data-driven, private sector forest carbon marketplace is born. SilviaTerra has recently launched one, called Natural Capital Exchange, or NCAPX. It’s essentially a platform for people and companies to buy carbon credits from landowners. How it works: landowners are offered some money to not cut down their trees — thus keeping carbon stored and available to be applied as “offsets” for carbon emitted elsewhere — say, a data center. Companies seeking to reduce carbon emissions can secure the credit from the trees these landowners are now not cutting.
We’re writing about this today because SilviaTerra recently announced its marketplace will soon be open for enrollment to anyone, even small landowners who wouldn’t qualify for a typical large scale forest management project. And the story of the landowner participants is just as interesting as the technology itself.
We spoke with some of the original landowner participants back in the summer to learn why they were a part of the program, and what it means to them. These are regular Americans in rural Pennsylvania who wanted to continue to cultivate, protect, and care for the land that has offered them bounty for generations. They were Republicans, Democrats, and Independents.
Logging is a touchstone for their local economy. But with this program, if a landowner wasn’t quite ready to harvest trees, they had the option of entering the marketplace and earning a source of revenue while maintaining their current forests.
The program gave these landowners flexibility without sacrificing their livelihood — which is helpful when you might not want to harvest yet, but you do need to pay for a new tractor, as one landowner told us.
Without any government mandates, this innovative technology bridged the gap between businesses and landowners, and is a reminder that private sector, innovation-led solutions are usually the most effective and beneficial to creating jobs, opportunities, and a cleaner environment.