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ARPA-E Announces $16.5 Million for Technologies Supporting the Biofuels Supply Chain

Business News/Analysis, Energy, Farming/Growing, Federal Agency, Feedstock, grants, Illinois, Infrastructure, Michigan, New Hampshire, New Jersey, North Carolina, R & D Focus, Sustainability, University/College Programs, Utah
September 4, 2020

(U.S. Department of Energy/ARPA-E) Today, the Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy 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.

A sampling of SMARTFARM projects can be found below; for the full list of projects click HERE.

University of Utah – Salt Lake City, UT

Soil Organic Carbon Networked Measurement System (SOCNET) – $1,899,317

The inability to measure on-the-spot underground carbon flux and storage within an economically sensible operation cost limits the accurate quantification of carbon sequestration, capture, loss, and storage necessary to achieve a carbon negative bioeconomy and biofuel supply chain. The University of Utah aims to develop and deploy a distributed carbon sensor system that is buried into the soil, capable of locally stimulating a surrounding volume of soils at multiple depths, and sensing carbon and carbon flux at ultra-low operational cost. The sensor will enable high-accuracy and real-time decision data for cost-effective carbon removal, storage, and management.

Dagan, Inc. – Durham, NH

Integrating Sensors, Remote Sensing and DNDC Model for Quantifying GHG Emissions – $1,840,203

Spatial and temporal variability of soil carbon stocks and environmental drivers that cause the production and flux of nitrous oxide (N2O) across agricultural systems create challenges for cost effective quantification of N2O emissions and soil carbon stock changes at scale. Dagan proposes to build, validate, and demonstrate an integrated system for reliable and cost-effective measurement of field-level soil carbon and N2O emissions. This system will consist of the following four components: a field sampling and measurement system; subfield scale process modeling to improve the quantification of soil carbon and greenhouse gas emissions; a detailed model validation system for quantification of model uncertainty; and an operational platform for implementing the system at scale.

University of Illinois – Urbana, IL

The “System of Systems” Solutions for Commercial Field-Level Quantification of Soil Organic
Carbon and Nitrous Oxide Emission for Scalable Applications (SYMFONI) – $4,500,000
Accurate and rapid field-level quantification of carbon intensity at a regional scale is critical to facilitate
adoption of new technologies to increase the bioeconomy’s feedstock productivity and reduce its carbon
footprint. The University of Illinois will develop a commercial solution, SYMFONI, to estimate soil organic
carbon and the dynamics of nitrous oxide emissions at an individual field level. The solution can be scaled up
to perform per-field estimates for an entire region. SYMFONI is a “system of systems” solution that integrates
airborne-satellite remote sensing, process-based modeling, deep learning, atmospheric inversion, field-level
sensing, and high-performance computing.

Soil Health Institute – Morrisville, NC
A Rapid In-Field System to Measure Deep Soil C Stock and Flux – $3,250,609
The Soil Health Institute aims to develop an integrated soil carbon measurement and monitoring system—the
DeepC System—that meets current and future needs for carbon markets in agriculture. The system comprises
three main components: in-field measurement hardware, an optimized spatial sampling algorithm to select
measurement sites, and machine learning calibrations that leverage the current infrastructure of national soil
spectroscopy libraries. As a system, these components synergistically allow a user to obtain rapid, nondestructive measurements of soil carbon stock.

Princeton University – Princeton, NJ
NitroNet: Smart System to Quantify Nitrous Oxide Emissions – $3,004,563
Nitrogen management for agricultural production of crops, the primary source of nitrous oxide (N2O),
contributes approximately 4% of all greenhouse gases from the U.S. annually. Quantifying these emissions,
which are non-uniform in space and time, is a significant challenge at the field and farm scales. NitroNet is an
autonomous sensing system designed to monitor N2O emissions over an entire growing season at high spatial
and temporal resolutions. By casting a virtual “net” over an entire field, NitroNet will monitor the non-uniform
N2O emissions within the field using atmospheric laser imaging. The total nitrogen loss over a growing season
through N2O emissions will be quantified to inform practices that minimize the climate change impacts and
environmental harms of agricultural crop production.

Michigan Aerospace Corporation – Ann Arbor, MI
DroN2O: A Drone-Based System for Measuring Nitrous Oxide Emissions from Agricultural Fields –
$1,967,446
Michigan Aerospace Corporation proposes to develop an inexpensive system to sense nitrous oxide (N2O)
emissions from agricultural fields using laser-based sensors mounted on drones. These sensors include an
optical absorption cell, a short-range miniature wind LiDAR, and a camera for plant health and ground
assessment. The measurements from these sensors will be combined and processed with artificial
intelligence-enabled software to accurately measure N2O emissions from a given farm field during the entire
growing season. The resulting data will provide farmers of bioeconomy feedstock crops with tangible incentives
to alter farming practices in ways that reduce greenhouse gas emissions. READ MORE  

ARPA-E launches SMARTFARM program with $16.5M in investments for 6 projects aimed at low-carbon feedstocks (Biofuels Digest)

University of Illinois awarded $4.5 million to develop commercial carbon credit tools (University of Illinois)

 

Excerpt from Biofuels Digest: The Bottom Line:  ARPA-E’s right. A key to driving down carbon intensity is not only to improve fuels, but improve feedstocks, and we can work on crops in a way we can never work on petroleum. One piece of work is the reducing of carbon, another is to better measure and account in a sustainable way all that improvement. In the future, we may need to evolve block-chain technology to track lower-carbon feedstocks through the supply chain, or go with a “book and claim” system to account for the use of lower-carbon crops instead of higher carbon ones. And, we’ll need better rural broadband to enable all these smartfarms to measure themselves and communicate data from seed to the pump. Smart Farms the cause has a ways to go, but SMARTFARM the program is a great start.  READ MORE

 

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Energy Self-Sufficiency Initiative Russia Russian olive rutabaga Rwanda ry rye Rye grass s saccharification Safer and Affordable Fuel Efficient Vehicles (SAFE) safety safflower sago pond weed SAIC SAK Salicornia salt-tolerant saltbush saltcedar sal tree salt water Sanctions Santa Monica sardine oil Saskatchewan Saudi Arabia sawdust scale up Scandinavia scholarships/fellowships Science Advisory Board (SAB) Science Policy Scotland scum sea level rise seashore mallow seawater Seaweed/Macroalgae seaweed cultivation Section 526 Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) seed-to-wheel seed husks Senegal Serbia sesame sewage Seychelles shale shale gas shale oil shark oil sheep shipping shipping containers shipworm Sierra Leone silica Silphie/cup plant/Indian cup silver silver maple simarouba Singapore sisal SK slash Slovakia Slovakia/Slovak Republic Slovenia sludge Small Business Administration small engines small refinery exemption (SRE) smog smokestack soap Social social cost social value 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sugarcane sugarcane prices sugarcane straw Sugar kelp sugar palm sugar platform sugar prices sugars sugars-to-fats sugar standards sulfur Sumatra sunflower supercritical fluid supercritical hydrolysis supply agreements supply chain Supreme Court surahart Suriname sustai Sustainability Swaziland Sweden sweetgum sweet potatoes Sweet sorghum swine waste Switchgrass Switzerland sycamore syngas syngas fermentation synthetic biology synthetic diesel synthetic gasoline synthetic liquified gas (SLG) synthetic methane Syria Tailoring Rule Taiwan Tajikistan tall fescue tall oil tallow tallow tree Tamarix tank-to-wheel tank cars tankers tanker trucks Tanzania tariffs taro tar sands Tasmania tax benefit tax credit taxes tax incentives tax parity tax policy tea teach-the-teacher teacher teacher resources teacher training technical course Technical Readiness Levels technology transfer tech transfer telephone utility poles Tennessee termites terpenes terrestrial carbon testing Texas textbook Thailand 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