Nori carbon removal marketplace
Nori's vision is to create the financial infrastructure to jumpstart the trillion-dollar carbon removal industry.
Lead Applicant Organization Name
Lead Applicant Organization Type
Small company (under 50 employees)
Website of Legally Registered Entity
How long have you / your team been working on this Vision?
Lead Applicant: In what city or town are you located?
Lead Applicant: In what country are you located?
United States of America
Your Selected Place: what’s the name of the Place you’re developing a Vision for?
Nori is seeking to work with over 1 million acres (4,046 km^2) of cropland in the United States, with an emphasis in the Midwest region.
What country is your selected Place located in?
United States of America
Describe your relationship to the place you’ve selected.
Nori is an American company. We care about the farmers of our country and their increasingly precarious way of life. Many of us have roots in the Midwest. Nori’s Supply Development Lead, Ryan Anderson, was born and resides in Illinois and has over 12 years of professional experience with farmers across the region. They need new income streams, and could benefit from being less dependent upon the few monocultures that dominate their industry. Moreover, the United States has emitted the lion’s share of greenhouse gases and has a duty to remove past emissions from the atmosphere. Nori’s first methodology for carbon removal is for farmers practicing or switching to regenerative agricultural practices that pull CO2 out of the atmosphere. Decades of synthetic fertilizer use and tillage have made farmers dependent upon external inputs, and have depleted the natural fertility and health of their soil. The United Nations estimates we only have sixty harvests left. By providing a financial incentive to farmers to switch to regenerative practices, they can earn a new revenue stream that will help get them over the hurdle of switching from tillage and synthetic fertilizer, making them potentially more profitable, sustainable, and able to recreate much for the rural lifeways that have been lost over the last century.
Describe the People and Place: Provide information that would be helpful for an outsider who has never been there and may have no context about this Place to better understand the area.
The Midwest region of the United States can be broadly characterized as the heart of the country, both in geography and in the ethos of its people. It is also commonly referred to as “America’s breadbasket” in terms of provision from the land, in large part due to the fertile soils and favorable climate for row crop agriculture. The mostly flat landscape is dominated by just two annual crops, corn and soybeans, generally grown in a simple rotation on midsize family farms. Though many Midwest farms implement some form of conservation tillage to reduce erosion on these uniquely productive soils, only around 5% plant cover crops to provide sufficient protection (and to maximize carbon sequestration) throughout the long winters and wet springs. Roughly 75% of the population lives in 12 urban clusters spread across 8 of the 12 Midwestern states, with the remaining 25% in small rural communities. Many of these rural communities were built on the tallgrass prairie, plowed up in the mid-1800s and under intensive cultivation ever since.
What is the approximate size of your Place, in square kilometers? (New question, not required)
What is the estimated population (current 2020) in your Place?
Challenges: Describe the current (2020) and the future (2050) challenges that your food system faces.
In 2020, American agriculture intensively uses synthetic fertilizer and tillage, which decrease the natural fertility of the land, removes its ability to retain water thus leading to increased flooding, soil erosion, and eutrophication of waterways due to nutrient runoff. These communities are often food deserts with very little in the way of fresh food. Farms, in general, are still in a process of consolidation, with sizes going up and smaller farmers leaving the industry or retiring. Rural communities are also aging, with some estimates of rural communities being in the high sixties. Technology is increasingly prominent, with precision agriculture practices in use, but is currently unable to grapple with the demographic and environmental challenges facing farm communities. Policy has doubled down on large farms and monocultures, with policies like crop insurance making it risky and difficult for farmers to become less dependent upon corn and bean rotations, synthetic fertilizers, herbicides and pesticides, etc. These themes are mutually reinforcing, such that an aging farm population is less likely to take a risk on switching to regenerative practices if they are near the retirement age. Land being farmed conventionally takes some years to switch and return to prosperity, as natural fertility does not come overnight. The incentives both at the policy, cultural, and economic levels all promote a status quo that is not viable. The United Nations has estimated that we have about sixty harvests left. In 2050, we’d have thirty harvests left at current rates. Assuming that the trend continues, climate change’s effects will have become more pronounced, causing chaos for farmers trying to grapple with changes in seasonality, with droughts and flooding wreaking havoc, and with centralized farming practices increasingly vulnerable to pests should farming continue to favor economies of scale over the antifragility of diversity. We believe it is very likely that by 2050, the family farm is far less present than it is currently (with the exception of direct-to-consumer farmers market fare which is growing), and rural America continues its march toward being a regional ghost town.
Address the Challenges: Describe how your Vision will address the challenges described in the previous question.
Environmentally, farmers practicing regenerative agriculture use much less or no synthetic fertilizer, thus dramatically decreasing nutrient runoff and eutrophication. Using crop rotation and diversity to reduce herbicide and pesticide use is better for the environment, workers, and the community’s health. With more crop diversity, particularly if row crops incorporate agroforestry (planting trees alongside crops), this could aid local diets by remedying the food desert effects of monocultures. Culturally, if there is a price on carbon removed from the atmosphere via Nori, and if this new revenue stream if large enough, the region could see a revitalization of rural life since it may no longer be only the biggest farmers able to survive. Nori would very much like to make farming more profitable to ensure that in the century of urbanization, old ways of life can be preserved and rejuvenated. Technologically, Nori uses the best of software practices to streamline participation in a carbon market, which up to now has only been accessible to very large farmers, if at all. Nori’s software approach makes integration into farm information platforms like our collaborator, Granular, means that data farmers enter into Granular in order to make better agronomic decisions can be easily ported to Nori in order to estimate and verify the carbon removal taking place, without farmers losing proprietary ownership of their data. By using software to cut costs and increase trust for buyers through blockchain, access and participation for both buyers and suppliers should increase voluntarily. On the policy level, Nori’s approach is to not be dependent upon any policy, but compatible with any of them. Much work is currently being done to determine how best to incent farmers to practice carbon removal, much like 45Q does for direct air capture.
High Level Vision: With these challenges addressed, now provide a high level description of how the Place and the lives of its People will be different than they are now.
Simply put, Nori helping farmers to monetize their carbon removal services makes regenerative agriculture easier to switch into, would attract younger farmers interested in making sustainability a key part of their career, and may help to create a rural renaissance through an additional income stream. The diversity in crops to support regenerative agriculture would support an end to rural food deserts, eutrophication would end with the lessened use of synthetic fertilizer, topsoil would build back up, water retention would increase thus helping farms to become climate-resilient and avoid flooding and erosion, and beyond. Politically Nori might be able to heal a lot of the conflict around climate change, since it is much easier to reach people with a payment for doing something good for the world than to come to them with taxes and regulations.
Full Vision: How do you describe your Vision for a regenerative and nourishing food future for your Place and People for 2050?
Nori’s approach to incentivize removing carbon from the atmosphere and returning it to the soils is a lynchpin to creating systemic change across humankind’s environment, diets, economics, culture, technology, and policy. Nori’s scalable marketplace makes it simple for US farmers to estimate, quantify, and verify the incremental addition of soil organic carbon from the adoption of practices in US croplands known as regenerative or conservation farming. By removing excess carbon from the atmosphere, Nori’s design has a clear impact on the environment in reducing the greenhouse effect. The outcome monetized through the Nori marketplace, an asset that represents one tonne of CO2 removed, is a proxy for shifting away from monoculture agriculture to more complex crop rotations, reducing synthetic fertilizer, herbicide, fungicide, and pesticide inputs, and improving the health of the soil without telling the farmers exactly how to achieve these outcomes, thus preserving the autonomy sought by farmers. Nori's approach to collaborators is very much influenced by the coauthorship and open-source schools of thought. Improved soil health has a direct impact on human health. The economics are clear: people and companies can use Nori to directly pay farmers who are removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. This makes a clear economic incentive to drive systemic change. From a cultural perspective, Nori’s incentive structure creates a powerful lever to honor and empower the farmer; it shifts from the extractive form of agriculture to one that hires more people who are directly engaged with supporting regenerative agriculture practices. Nori is a software-first startup. It uses blockchain technology to operate the market and create clear efficiencies above and beyond what exists in legacy carbon markets. It also leverages elegant software to collect and normalize data that can dramatically reduce the friction that results in transaction costs, which have made legacy carbon markets inhospitable to farmers to date. As a voluntary, private-sector market, there are clear synergies with policy. The Nori design complements policies that support farmers, thereby enabling stacking benefits—ways for farmers to get paid additional revenue from the adoption of regenerative practices. Further, the Nori design enables clear and transparent greenhouse gas reporting which supports local, state, and national policies that are making ambitious climate goals. As a nimble start-up, the asset generated through the Nori marketplace can also be compatible with carbon markets driven by policy. As a carbon market, Nori develops open-source and transparent methodologies. These methodologies are systems to monetize carbon removal and coauthored directly with the participation of the farmers participating in the marketplace. Nori aims to cocreate a rural renaissance for the United States and make viable the place-based, regenerative lifestyle beloved by thinkers like Wendell Berry.
How did you hear about the Food System Vision Prize?
Either social media, or someone sent it to us, or both.