Otago property native carbon groundbreaker

Justine and Geoff Ross and son Finn, with Sika, check native plantings in 2019 on Lake Hawea...
Justine and Geoff Ross and son Finn, with Sika, check native plantings in 2019 on Lake Hawea Station. PHOTO: STEPHEN JAQUIERY
An Otago station is one of the first properties to receive Native CarbonCrop Units through Nelson-founded climate tech startup CarbonCrop.

CarbonCrop, which was established in 2020, yesterday launched Native CarbonCrop Units (CCUs) to enable landowners with native reforestation to access revenue, outside the Emissions Trading Scheme.

The company worked with 15 landowners throughout the country in a pre-launch pilot and more than 5000 CCUs were certified for 631ha of native regeneration, worth about $260,000 at current prices, a statement from the company said.

More than $140,000 of those credits have been sold via the Carbonz platform to companies including Christchurch Airport, Heilala Vanilla and Les Mills.

Carbonz, founded by Finn Ross, is an exchange for native New Zealand carbon credits; buyers of any size could buy credits to offset their emissions, or as an investment. It sold both voluntary and regulatory carbon credits on the exchange.

Mr Ross is sustainability manager at Lake Hawea Station - New Zealand’s first carbon positive certified farm - farmed by his high-profile entrepreneur parents Geoff and Justine Ross, and he is also a PhD student researching seaweed as a natural way to help reduce climate change.

Glen Dene Station, across the lake from Lake Hawea Station, owned by the Burdon family, was one of the first recipients of CCUs.

CarbonCrop identified 305ha of qualifying native forest on the 3000ha property and issued credits for 3100 tonnes of carbon dioxide, sequestered over the past four years.

Station owners Richard and Sarah Burdon had already sold a portion of those credits, earning more than $75,000.

The tangible outcome of the process showed the couple the station could generate new, conservation-related income streams alongside traditional farming, Mr Burdon said.

A landowner could specify an area of native regeneration they wanted to retire and CarbonCrop would issue Native CCUs every year according to the growth of the forest and actual changes in carbon stock.

Once registered, landowners could either sell their Native CCUs or use them to offset their own products and services.

Each Native CCU was equivalent to one tonne of carbon sequestered and was initially priced at $50.

CarbonCrop used AI to analyse the species mix, height, density, and growth over time of regenerating native forest.

The AI could precisely map forest boundaries over vast areas and supported the creation of detailed models of carbon stock and carbon sequestration within an area of forest down to a single square metre of land. It could detect exotic species and exclude them from carbon calculations.

CarbonCrops has plans to assess blocks down to 1ha.