ClimateRice: a New Initiative to Drive the Transition to Climate-Smart Rice

Cornell University and CarbonFarm are announcing the launch of the ClimateRice Initiative. ClimateRice leverages satellite-verified carbon credits to scale the adoption of climate-resilient rice production practices based on the System of Rice Intensification, reducing methane emissions by 50%.

SRI field in Timbuktu, Mali (Photo E. Styger)

Rice is an enormous contributor to climate change, but proven alternatives exist

Growing rice produces 12% of man-made methane emissions and uses 33% of global freshwater for irrigation, while global demand for rice increases. Pesticide and chemical fertilizer overuse harms soil, plants, animals, and humans. The way rice is grown needs to change, which is complicated: 80% of the world's rice is produced by smallholder farmers in more than 100 countries. Conventional solutions focus on input-based technologies, such as the use of new germplasm, chemical fertilizers, and pesticides to boost rice yields. These solutions are expensive, create dependencies, produce environmental damage, and yet remain highly vulnerable to climate change.

A climate-resilient rice production alternative exists, based on agronomy and agroecology. It is called the System of Rice Intensification or SRI. SRI is a simple planting method where rice is grown in non-flooded, organically enriched soils with larger spacing between each plant, giving plant roots and shoots room to grow, which increases their grain productivity. With less seed (-90%), water (-50%), and chemical inputs (-30-100%), the rice crop grows healthier and obtains higher yields (+20-100%). SRI is a scientifically proven method that has been successfully introduced in over 60 countries but is currently only used by 5% of rice farmers. Most of this pioneering work has depended on grant-funded projects. However, funding cycles of three to five years are too short to change an agricultural system and create a lasting impact.

The ClimateRice approach to scaling SRI

Cornell University's Climate-Resilient Farming Systems Program and CarbonFarm have teamed up to launch the ClimateRice Initiative to address the global urgency of methane reduction and food security.

ClimateRice will leverage carbon finance to accelerate the adoption of SRI for millions of rice smallholders throughout the world, leading to significant reductions in methane emissions and freshwater use while increasing food security and resilience to climate shocks.

The ClimateRice idea is simple. ClimateRice will work with local partner organizations to train and support farmers in their transition to SRI. The reductions in methane emissions achieved will then be scientifically quantified through satellite monitoring and certified as carbon credits. The credits generated will then be sold to remunerate farmers and fund more training. This mechanism will create a virtuous self-financing model to fund the global scaling of climate-resilient rice production.

With start-up funding from the Cornell Atkinson Center for Sustainability, ClimateRice is led by Erika Styger, Professor of Practice in Cornell's Department of Global Development, along with Vassily Carantino and James Hastwell, founders of CarbonFarm Technology. Cornell's and CarbonFarm's expertise is highly complementary.

From left to right: Laurène Pascal (Machine Learning Engineer, CarbonFarm), Erika Styger (Professor of Practice, Cornell University), Vassily Carantino (CEO, CarbonFarm) and James Hastwell (CTO, CarbonFarm)

Professor Erika Styger is an agronomist and a leading expert on farming extension and the System of Rice Intensification. Erika has worked in more than 30 countries and is connected to a global network of local SRI partners in 50+ countries. Prof. Styger expresses her enthusiasm for the approach:

"I am excited to collaborate with local partners and farmers to adapt the SRI rice cultivation practices to new locations and to create self-financing models that drive long-lasting and beneficial change with carbon credits."

CarbonFarm Technology is a climate tech start-up, facilitating access to carbon markets for rice growers through satellite-based monitoring of farming practices and a rigorous assessment of their environmental impacts on water and GHG emissions.

"CarbonFarm's objective is to facilitate the development of rigorous rice-decarbonization projects,"

explains Vassily Carantino, its CEO,

"ClimateRice is a great opportunity to channel capital to smallholder farmers to boost the adaptation of climate-smart practices that both reduce emissions, but also increase their resilience to climate change."

A collaborative effort

ClimateRice's objective is ambitious: scale SRI to a third of the global rice area, from 6.7 to 55 million hectares, by 2033.

"To get there, we need all hands on deck",

says Carantino. ClimateRice is looking for local implementation partners, with strong connections to farming communities to share the team's ambition to transform rice production.

While climate finance will be the key mechanism to scale-up SRI through a positive feedback loop, the team is also looking for initial grants, carbon market developers, carbon buyers and investor partners to help launch the rice carbon projects.

"ClimateRice follows a market-based approach to incentivize change, but an initial push is essential to get us started" says Dr. Styger,

"Promoting sustainable rice practices is one of the most efficient levers to curb methane emissions while enhancing smallholder livelihoods. Time is running out; we are ready to act and implement mechanisms that can truly scale!"

Media Contact


Company: CarbonFarm Technology SAS; Cornell University's College of Agriculture and Life Sciences

Contact Person: Vassily Carantino; Dr. Erika Styger


Location: Paris

SOURCE: CarbonFarm Technology

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