Jennifer Betka, Indigo Ag

Harnessing the power of the earth, for the earth, is an ancient concept made ultra-modern for Indigo Ag, a Boston-based solution firm whose mission is to help farmers sustainably feed the planet through a mighty trifecta of agriculture, technology and sustainability.

Founded in 2014, Indigo Ag describes itself as a “nature-based climate solution” that embraces microbiology and digital technology to improve consumer health, grow profitability for farmers and pioneer environmental sustainability — and does so through its unique portfolio of agricultural solutions.

Sustainably Grown

Jennifer Betka, chief marketing officer at Indigo Ag, told WWD at its virtual Culture Conference: Sustainability and the Human Element, on Sept. 15 that the agriculture system is in “a massive state of evolution” and what we are using today doesn’t incentivize farmers to invest in quality or sustainable agriculture.

“Indigo is using technology to fundamentally reshape agriculture for the benefit of growers, consumers and the planet,” Betka explained. “Producing [crops] more sustainably is critical to the health of people and the planet,” and Indigo Ag “takes a systems approach to integrate with the supply chain, starting with seeds in the soil and extending all the way to helping farmers meet consumer demand for sustainably sourced products.”

That systems approach begins with its microbial seed treatments, which make plants more resilient and enable farmers to reduce their dependency on synthetic chemicals and fertilizers. Indigo Ag works with farmers of large-scale crops like cotton, wheat, corn, soybeans and rice.

Ancient Trade, Transformed

Indigo Ag’s reshaping of agriculture also lays a strong foundation for its digital platform, Indigo Marketplace, which levels access to and optimizes the process of buying and selling grain, Betka said, as it features embedded technology, financing tools, and transportation logistics support to expand opportunity and improve efficiency for its users.

And specialty grain characteristics can be marketed through the platform: A partnership with Anheuser-Busch, for example, leveraged its marketplace platform, working directly with farmers to grow rice with specific environmental attributes, which resulted in a 23.7 percent water reduction, 13.3 percent reduction in fertilizer use, and average reduction of 26.6 percent in greenhouse gas emissions.

Counting Carbon

Indigo Ag’s modernization of agriculture includes carbon sequestration, which involves supporting farmers in adopting a number of farming techniques that remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and increase the amount of carbon storage in soils — and allows farmers to profit from their farmed carbon. That’s where Indigo Carbon comes in, an interactive digital carbon market the firm launched about a year ago.

“Indigo Carbon connects farmers implementing beneficial farming practices with buyers looking to offset their carbon emissions through drawdown in agricultural soils,” Betka explained. The platform uses a credit-based system to pay farmers per verified ton of carbon that they receive for enriching their soil, and allows the user to control the process of adopting new regenerative growing practices across their operations while receiving guidance from Indigo Ag.

Sustainable standards organizations Verra and Climate Action Reserve are helping Indigo Ag create protocols for quantifying, monitoring, reporting and verifying net on-farm greenhouse gas emissions.

“These are crucial steps toward paying farmers to remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and bringing dependable soil-based carbon credits to buyers,” Betka explained. “By paying farmers for their stored carbon and their emissions reductions, we not only have a scalable and immediate solution for addressing climate change, but farmers are also able to access an additional revenue stream that will be transformative for their operations and the communities within which they live and work.”

Competitive Advantage

Investing in agriculture, according to Betka, can give brands a competitive edge in the sustainability space.

“The premium carbon credits generated through agriculture improve farmer profitability, support local communities, and offer a deep transparent connection between the people doing this important work and your brand,” she said. “Diversifying your ESG [Environmental, Social and Governance] strategy to invest in real, scaled and immediate change through beneficial farming practices isn’t just the right thing to do — it is an approach that is distinguished by the faces of farmers who are growing more sustainable food and fiber while helping to rectify the climate crisis.”

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