Many practices are associated with regenerative agriculture — anything from no-till practices to pesticide-free farming. What’s more, the concept means different things for different crops in different regions. What is considered regenerative in one location might not qualify for the same label under other agricultural conditions.
It’s clear the food and agriculture sector needs to start defining regenerative agriculture specifically and measuring it quantitatively — it’s essential for the concept to scale. Some practitioners and regenerative ag pioneers are piloting new technologies to help with that process. These new tools — under development or in the early phases of testing — are helping put numbers to the abstract concept of regenerative agriculture and helping measure metrics such as biodiversity, carbon sequestration and other soil health considerations.
Following is a list of five emerging options, focused on two primary concerns, measuring biodiversity on agricultural land and gauging soil health and carbon levels.
1. Quantifying insect diversity using AI
Ecdysis is building an insect database that will use artificial intelligence to identify insect species and extrapolate the population of each species on a farm. The nonprofit, based in South Dakota, got off the ground with a crowdfunding campaign and now pays the bills with a combination of donations, foundation money and competitive and corporate grants. The 11 team members, four of which have Ph.D.s, are working with General Mills’s regenerative agriculture pilot to build up and verify its library of insects.