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Agtelligence and Airbus; Unlocking Green Finance for Sustainable Agriculture

Author: William Rickard
Contributors:
David Carlin and Dr Francessca Faedi

Amidst the escalating recognition of the global imperative to address environmental challenges, green finance has emerged as a compelling tool for propelling sustainable development. It is a pivotal instrument for allocating financial resources towards projects and initiatives to prioritise environmental protection and conservation. High-resolution satellite data, in synergy with the recommendations of the Task Force on Climate-related Financial Disclosures (TCFD) and the evolving framework of the Task Force on Nature-related Financial Disclosures (TNFD), is fundamentally reshaping the landscape of how we monitor, rigorously assess, and strategically invest in endeavours that champion environmental sustainability.

Agtelligence brings insights into biodiversity and soil health in the agricultural landscape; we do this by AI-driven time series analysis that captures environmental indicators, and we then apply a scoring methodology to simplify the data and make it accessible to all stakeholders via a dashboard or API. This data provision allows corporations to locate, evaluate, assess and disclose their business risks and impacts on nature aligned with global reporting frameworks.

Navigating the Green Finance Landscape

Before we dive into the pivotal role of high-resolution satellite data within green finance, it's vital to grasp the intricacies of the green finance landscape. Green finance spans a comprehensive spectrum of financial services and investment opportunities strategically oriented towards projects, activities, and companies deeply committed to environmental sustainability. This encompasses a diverse array of financial instruments, including green bonds, sustainable loans, that require rigorous environmental impact assessments.

The Surging Demand for Green Finance

Addressing climate change and environmental challenges is accelerating the demand for green finance. As our planet faces increasingly dire consequences, there is a growing recognition that conventional financial practices must align with sustainability objectives. It is also the fastest-growing sector in the financial industry. This transformation has driven a surge in the demand for green finance as individuals, institutions, and governments acknowledge the critical role it plays in addressing the environmental issues of our time. In this context, green finance has evolved beyond a niche market to become a mainstream financial instrument. Investors and financial institutions increasingly integrate environmental, social, and governance (ESG) criteria into their decision-making processes. Green finance represents a proactive response to climate change, harnessing the power of financial instruments to foster a more sustainable and environmentally responsible global economy.

Green Bonds: Catalysts of Sustainability

One prominent facet of green finance is the issuance of green bonds. These financial instruments are specially designed to fund projects and initiatives that deliver tangible environmental benefits. Essentially, green bonds are debt securities, much like traditional bonds, but they are exclusively allocated to support environmentally responsible endeavours. This could involve projects spanning sustainable agriculture, conservation initiatives, or biodiversity enhancement. The critical distinction is that the funds raised through green bonds are earmarked for initiatives that contribute to a greener, more sustainable future.

Green bonds operate as a financial instrument aimed at funding environmentally friendly projects. The raised capital must be allocated exclusively to environmentally beneficial projects. Investors purchase these bonds, providing the issuer with funds to undertake green projects. The issuer then pays periodic interest to the investors and repays the initial investment upon maturity. The appeal lies in supporting environmentally sound initiatives while gaining financial returns, aligning investors' interests with sustainable development goals. Third-party verification ensures transparency and adherence to predefined environmental criteria, assuring investors of the projects' eco-friendly nature.

Sustainable Loans: Banking on a Green Future

Sustainable loans are another vital component of green finance. These financial arrangements entail providing loans to businesses and organisations committed to environmentally responsible practices. In essence, they offer a financial incentive for companies to implement sustainable measures. For instance, a business may secure a sustainable loan to improve the sustainability of its operations and manage the land it is responsible for in a way that enhances soil health and biodiversity. The financial institutions offer discounted rates, if the environmental aims are met. The repayment of these loans is typically linked to the achievement of predefined sustainability goals, aligning the financial interest of borrowers with their commitment to environmental stewardship.

Environmental Impact Assessments: Quantifying Green Outcomes

As green finance matures, so does the importance of rigorous environmental impact assessments. These assessments serve as financial due diligence, offering an in-depth evaluation of a project's ecological footprint. They quantitatively measure the environmental benefits of a proposed initiative and analyse its potential positive influence on sustainability. Financial institutions, investors, and regulatory bodies rely on these assessments to ensure that green finance investments genuinely advance environmental objectives. By leveraging data and analysis, these assessments play a pivotal role in determining the viability and alignment of projects with the broader goals of green finance.

Sustainable Agriculture and Green Finance

Agriculture uses 40% of the global land surface and stands as a cornerstone within the green finance landscape. The agriculture sector is pivotal in addressing environmental challenges and advancing the cause of ecological sustainability. In this section, we will delve into the intricate relationship between sustainable agriculture and green finance, shedding light on how financial mechanisms support and promote environmentally responsible farming practices.

 

Photo by Mika Korhonen on Unsplash

Sustainable Agriculture: An Environmental Imperative

Sustainable agriculture is not merely a buzzword but a comprehensive approach to farming that places long-term ecological harmony, resource conservation, and food security at its core. It seeks to meet present agricultural needs without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.

Why Sustainable Agriculture Matters in Green Finance

The significance of sustainable agriculture within the green finance landscape is profound. Conventional agriculture practices, which often involve intensive resource use, monoculture farming, and heavy pesticide and fertiliser application, have been associated with soil degradation, water pollution, and biodiversity loss. In contrast, sustainable agriculture strives to mitigate these environmental challenges by embracing practices that integrate practices that enhance nature.

The scale of climate finance dedicated to sustainable agriculture is growing, yet it remains highly insufficient compared to the need. The Climate Policy Initiative (CPI) reports that the amount of climate finance going to agriculture and forestry pales in comparison to that for energy systems, industry, and transportation. Given the transformative role agriculture and forestry can play in human development and climate mitigation there is an urgent need for increased investment in sustainable agricultural practices.

One of the primary challenges in scaling up finance for sustainable agriculture is the lack of reliable and standardised data. The World Bank emphasises that data gaps in the measurement, reporting, and verification (MRV) of climate finance hinder the effectiveness and allocation of funds. These gaps make it difficult for investors to assess the impact of their investments and for governments to formulate policies that effectively channel resources into sustainable practices. Furthermore, the complexity and diversity of the agricultural sector, with its multitude of smallholder farmers and varied ecological conditions, add to the data challenges. Standardising metrics and improving data collection and analysis are crucial steps towards enabling more targeted and effective financing.

Investing in sustainable agriculture has a catalytic effect on other economic sectors and global development. The International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) argues that investments in sustainable agriculture can boost economies, particularly in rural areas where agriculture is a primary livelihood. This investment stimulates local economies, creates jobs, and increases resilience to climate change. Moreover, sustainable agricultural practices contribute to several United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), including poverty reduction, zero hunger, clean water, and climate action. The ripple effects of such investments extend beyond agriculture, fostering broader economic growth and environmental sustainability. As the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) notes, sustainable agriculture financing is not just about food production; it's an integral part of a holistic approach to sustainable development. By channelling funds into agriculture and forestry, there is an opportunity to address multiple global challenges simultaneously.

 

Photo by Ivan Bandura on Unsplash

Green Finance's Role in Promoting Sustainable Agriculture

Green finance plays a central role in advancing sustainable agriculture by facilitating the flow of capital to projects and initiatives that embody ecologically responsible farming practices. These projects can encompass a wide spectrum, ranging from biodiversity promotion on arable lands to regenerative farming methods and initiatives aimed at reducing the agricultural sector's carbon footprint.

Financial incentives and access to capital are essential elements that green finance provides to farmers and agribusinesses willing to adopt and scale up environmentally friendly agricultural practices. Such practices often entail efficient water resource management, improved soil health, and sustainable land management. By offering financial support for these endeavours, green finance not only encourages their adoption but also nurtures the cultivation of higher yields and reduced environmental impact.

 

High-Resolution Satellite Data

The Airbus satellite constellation Pleiades provides data with resolutions down to 0.5m and a broad range of spectral data used to monitor on-ground features that can capture biodiversity and soil health. Integrating this high-resolution satellite data is a transformative game-changer in sustainable agriculture. It gives a high level of observability that can provide the data needed for the burgeoning green finance markets. These advanced satellites are equipped with specialised sensors capable of capturing intricate imagery and data from the Earth's surface. This data proves invaluable for sustainable agriculture in several fundamental ways:

Climate Change Adaptation: Sustainable agriculture is acutely susceptible to the impacts of climate change, including altered weather patterns and extreme events. High-resolution satellite data facilitates the monitoring of these changes, enabling corporations to understand the risks and opportunities in investments that are connected to agriculture.

Soil Health Assessment: Healthy soil is the bedrock of civilisation. High-resolution satellite data provides critical information on soil health and management. This data is essential in reporting climate impacts of investment, from GHG emissions, soil degradation and diffuse pollution of nutrients into the water.

Biodiversity Conservation: Sustainable agriculture often integrates practices that promote biodiversity within agricultural landscapes. High-resolution satellite data can identify areas where biodiversity is at risk or needs protection; this technology is used to identify high-value biodiversity habitats at a range of scales from the field to the landscape. This information aids in allocating resources for biodiversity conservation, contributing to the overall sustainability of agricultural ecosystems.

Water Resource Management: Water use and management is an important part of sustainability, and understanding the threats to water and water usage will be increasingly important; the ability to understand the impacts and mitigations of business activity on water will be a crucial part of reporting impact. Water management  is also important for risk management as the hydrological processes influence wildfires, flood and drought risks to lives and livelihoods.

Green Finance's Commitment to Sustainable Agriculture

Within the green finance landscape, sustainable agriculture is a shining example of how financial mechanisms can be harnessed to advance environmental goals. As green finance continues to gain prominence, the synergy between sustainable agriculture and financial support becomes increasingly evident, fostering a more sustainable and ecologically responsible global agricultural system.

Monitoring Green Finance Projects

Once green finance investments are made, it's essential to monitor the progress and impact of these projects. High-resolution satellite data offers continuous surveillance and evaluation capabilities:

Project Verification: Satellite data with insights that simplify complex data can verify that projects funded by green finance are implemented as intended. This ensures transparency and accountability in the use of funds.

Impact Assessment: Continuous monitoring allows for assessing a project's environmental impact. This data helps investors and stakeholders understand the effectiveness of their investments.

Risk Mitigation: Satellite data can identify potential project risks, such as natural disasters or environmental changes. This information enables proactive risk management strategies.

Adaptive Management: The real-time data satellites provide allows for adaptive project management. If issues or opportunities arise, stakeholders can adjust project strategies accordingly.

Agtelligence's insights from High-resolution satellite data have emerged as a game-changer in green finance. As we navigate the growing demand for environmentally responsible investments and the imperative to address climate change, the integration of satellite technology is transforming the way we monitor, assess, and invest in projects that champion sustainability. Sustainable agriculture, in particular, is benefiting from the power of high-resolution satellite data, as it allows for precise climate change adaptation, soil health assessment, and biodiversity conservation. Green finance drives financial incentives and capital flow into sustainable agriculture, nurturing environmentally friendly practices. As the synergy between green finance and high-resolution satellite data continues to evolve, it propels us towards a more sustainable and ecologically responsible global economy. The tools and insights provided by Agtelligence are helping us make informed, data-driven investment decisions that advance the cause of sustainability and environmental protection. Finance and sustainability haven’t often been considered together with Agtelligence’s environmental insights in conjunction with  AIRBUS imagery can provide a way forward for the green finance market. 

William Rickard
Chief Scientific Officer

Meet our team

Nima Eskandari
Chief Executive Officer
William Rickard
Chief Scientific Officer
Simon Maddox
Chief Finance Officer
Babak Rezvani
Environmental Planner and GIS Specialist
Beth Roberts
Senior Scientific Specialist
Reuben Langdon
Project Assistant
Dr Vahid Akbari
Senior Earth Observation Scientist