September 1, 2020. Today, the Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E) announced $16.5 million in funding for six projects as part of the Systems for Monitoring and Analytics for Renewable Transportation Fuels from Agricultural Resources and Management (SMARTFARM) program. These projects will develop technologies that bridge the data gap in the biofuel supply chain by quantifying feedstock-related GHG emissions and soil carbon dynamics at the field-level. These technologies will allow for improved efficiency in feedstock production and enable new ag-sector carbon removal and management opportunities.

“Biofuel production is a growing asset to many aspects of the American energy generation landscape,” said ARPA-E Director Lane Genatowski. “SMARTFARM teams will work to further develop the core technologies for our nation’s agricultural community to more efficiently support the biofuels supply chain, while enabling carbon markets to incentivize greater feedstock production efficiency and carbon management opportunities for producers.”

SMARTFARM teams will work to design and develop systems to quantify feedstock production life cycle GHG emissions at the field level reliably, accurately, and cost-effectively. Selected projects are capable of delivering a positive return on investment when field-level carbon emissions reductions are connected to associated biofuel carbon markets. The program also focuses on potential economic benefits to feedstock producers and future carbon management markets, potentially complementing yield-based revenues with incentives for input efficiency and restorative practices. This focus will also help to lay the groundwork for market structures to shift away from national averages and toward lower uncertainty field-based estimates for incentivizing efficiency and other services.

Working to make the biofuel supply chain carbon-negative through the removal or sequestration of carbon would greatly improve biofuel’s economic and environmental benefits. Achieving reductions in carbon emissions also encourages feedstock producers to adopt new technologies and practices to quantify their impact. SMARTFARM teams are working to develop robust quantification methods through these awards so that management practices can be linked to environmental and economic outcomes simultaneously.