Pilot Projects

ESMC is conducting pilot tests of its full market delivery approach in a methodical buildout leading up to its targeted 2022 market launch. Working with our extensive network of partners and collaborators, the pilots will test and refine ESMC’s integrated ecosystem services credit protocol and new technologies in each major geographic region and agricultural production system as the effort is scaled across the United States. Through these pilot projects, ESMC will quantify environmental assets generated by participating producers and arrange the sale of credits or assets through the ESMC market so that farmers and ranchers are recognized and rewarded for their documented impacts to soil carbon, net greenhouse gases, water quality, and water use conservation.

The first three-year pilot was launched in 2019 in the Southern Great Plains on rangeland in Texas. This initial pilot partnered with participants of the Land Stewardship Program of the Noble Research Institute, involving a few operations covering over 4,000 acres. The outcomes from this multi-year project have resulted in improvements to the data intake platform, ensuring it is more user friendly and automated for producers, and further refinement of the protocol’s implementation on the ground.

Working with General Mills and the Kansas Department of Health and Environment, ESMC expanded its pilot efforts in the Southern Great Plains region in 2020. Twenty-four wheat farmers participating in the General Mill’s regenerative agriculture program in the Cheney Reservoir watershed have opted in to data tracking and field measurements to be included in the ESMC pilot project. Read more about this collaborative pilot here.

In collaboration with The Fertilizer Institute (TFI), ESMC will be testing improved nutrient stewardship and its protocols and data intake procedures through another pilot launched in 2020. TFI will work with row crop farmers enrolled in their 4R Advocate Program in Illinois, Iowa, and Missouri. Enrollment is in process for generation of assets from the 2020 cropping year. Read more about this collaborative pilot here.

In early 2020, the Conservation Technology Information Center (CTIC), in partnership with ESMC, Heidelberg University in Ohio, and others, was awarded a Great Lakes Restoration Initiative (GLRI) grant by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The three-year project is using satellite data, sophisticated modeling, farmer training programs and direct incentives to focus on improving water quality in the Maumee, Sandusky, and Portage Cedar river watersheds. Enrollment is scheduled for fall 2020. Read more about this project here.

A collaborative partnership with The Nature Conservancy, McDonald’s, Cargill, and Target led to the 2020 launch of a five-year, $8.5 million project aimed at working with Nebraska farmers to advance soil health practices to help mitigate greenhouse gas emissions and help farmers adapt to climate change. Targeting 100,000 row crop acres across Nebraska, the participating farmers will have the opportunity to opt in to an ESMC pilot. Enrollment will begin late 2020 into spring 2021. Additional details on the project can be found here.

Launched in late summer 2020, the Illinois Corn Growers Association, Archer Daniels Midland (ADM), GROWMARK, and ESMC partnered on a pilot project in central Illinois. With a target of 10,000 acres, farmers enrolled in the Precision Conservation Management (PCM) program will have an opportunity to participate in the ESMC pilot to further test the protocol for carbon, net greenhouse gases, and water quality quantification and asset generation. Additional details on the project can be found here.

Awarded a grant from the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) for the “Oregon Carbon Ranching Pilot,” a partnership with Sustainable Northwest, ESMC, Oregon State University and four Oregon ranchers in Klamath, Wasco and Wallowa counties launched in fall 2020. The objectives of the project are to 1) adapt a carbon sequestration protocol for Oregon’s unique land source regions and soil, 2) implement and monitor its effectiveness within the partner network of agricultural operations, and 3) establish a durable supply chain for enrollment and sale of credits in the ESMC marketplace to compensate producers for these practices. Read more about this collaborative pilot here.

In early fall 2020, The Nature Conservancy (TNC) and ESMC launched a pilot in Minnesota to help farmers receive financial benefits for their regenerative agricultural practices which help improve soil health, sequester carbon in the soil, and reduce nutrient runoff from fields. With a target of enrolling 50,000 corn and soybean acres over three years in central MN, the pilot is leveraging existing cost share and technical assistance funding from project partners, such as the Natural Resources Conservation Service and the Minnesota Department of Agriculture. To learn more about the pilot, see the full release here. Read an update on soil sampling here.

Additional pilots in the Midwest, California, Northern Great Plains, and the Pacific Northwest are in development for 2020 and 2021.

ESMC’s due diligence in its market buildout includes planned expansion with members and collaborators on a continual basis. By the end of 2022 when ESMC launches the full market, the program will have launched pilot projects in most major agricultural production systems and geographies in the United States and will continue its build-out post-launch.