The burning of crop residues in open fields leads to air quality impairment, smog, heat waves, haze, and various health problems around the world. Despite these issues and the fact that more sustainable alternatives exist, farmers in developing countries often resort to crop burning in order to clear their fields quickly and prepare for the next harvest. What if farmers could be financially incentivized to stop crop burning, while also unlocking new revenue streams?
Meet DeFire, our 2022 TFF Finalist Team from Thailand. This team has built an innovative green financing platform for farmers to stop crop residue burning and adopt other sustainable post-harvest crop management practices.
DeFire uses satellite data, drone data, and IoT to monitor the fire activities of individual farmers and helps them earn carbon credit points under a globally acceptable carbon standard. They also work with farmers to train them to use better crop residue management practices and to sell their biomass for other uses like electricity production.
Get energized about DeFire’s solution – watch their TFF Demo Day video here:
Economic development and rapid population growth have put intense pressure on the agricultural sector to fulfill rising industrial and food demands. As a result, intensive agriculture with high use of inputs and the introduction of modern technologies has shaped the sector in recent decades.
To meet the market’s needs, farmers often engage in unsustainable practices that endanger the environment and rural communities’ livelihood conditions. Burning crop residues is one of them. Residue burning is illegal, but farmers often resort to it as a fast and efficient way to clear fields as they prepare them for the next crop.
In 2020, more than 600k hectares of agricultural land was burned, resulting in air quality deterioration, smog, haze, heat waves, and health issues. In severe circumstances, it has led to deaths, hospital admissions, closures of airports, highways and schools, and significant economic losses. Crop burning accounts for 37% of air pollution in Thailand, and responsible for economic damages of over $65B USD!
Beyond these impacts on society, crop burning has detrimental effects on agricultural production itself. This practice increases risks of erosion and increases soil temperatures, consequently decimating soil microorganisms. In the end, farmers end up paying more to recover soil fertility by using more fertilisers. According to the FAO, 33% of the Earth’s soils are already degraded, and over 90% could become degraded by 2050. We can’t afford to lose fertile topsoil anymore.
Enter DeFire, a young startup from Thailand. This startup was born as an intersection between climate change and green finance. Working with local communities, governments and carbon development partners, they aim at generating carbon credits from reduced crop burning and regenerative agroforestry practices under globally acceptable carbon standards.
Yes, you heard that right: farmers can generate additional income through financial schemes that involve protecting the environment and its fauna-flora biodiversity. How? DeFire pays farmers $8 per hectare for not burning their crop residues. The avoidance of C02 emitted from fire corresponds to a carbon credit.
A carbon credit is a financial unit representing the reduction or removal of one tonne of CO2 emissions from the atmosphere. It is generated through the development of mitigation projects that follow precise methodologies and international standards and is certified by an external accreditation programme (e.g. Verified Carbon Standards-VCS, Gold Standard).
Trade in carbon credits began as part of the 1997 UN Kyoto Protocol, the first international agreement to cut CO2 emissions. Unfortunately, the market has shown many flaws throughout the years, but DeFire is working hard to change that by focusing on verification and measurement in all that they do.
DeFire employs remote sensing technology, drones, IoT, and machine learning algorithms to detect and monitor fires at scale and speed. By doing that, they can identify the fire activities of individual farmers and report their findings to credit carbon schemes. With the Defire program, farmers’ incomes can increase by 90% while reducing pollution and greenhouse gases.
As crop burning is prevented, DeFire’s goal is to go a step further by improving the management of cropping practices using regenerative agricultural management techniques. Following this approach, farmers will improve their farm’s overall sustainability and improve their living conditions while producing high-quality food.
“Farmers’ education is the only way to make the shift towards a more sustainable food production chain. Crop burning is a detrimental issue affecting my country, and we must stop it right now. The usual ways aren’t working” says Theethat, CEO of DeFire.
Defire’s solution goes beyond carbon markets. Their technology can also be used by farming organizations and agri-food companies for precision agritech services like yield forecasting and soil organic carbon analysis. DeFire’s platform aspires to become the go-to tool for project developers and agri-food producers to boost nature-based solutions to capture CO2 while improving agricultural management practices.
Some of the ways that DeFire stands out from the competition:
- 477000 household farmers will have access to green finance and live in a healthier environment with no issues generated by air pollution,
- 16 000 000 tonnes of C02 will be reduced, promoting the conservation of the local biodiversity and natural ecosystems
- $230,000,000 projected as additional income generated for farmers.
Carbon markets are one of the tools to tackle climate change issues. The carbon market is increasingly playing a role in the decarbonisation of the global economy by putting a price on carbon and giving polluters an incentive to reduce their emissions.
Today one of the central carbon emitters, agrifood, has the potential to turn into a driver for decarbonisation, becoming a carbon emission sink by capturing and sequestering more GHG emissions from the atmosphere than it generates.
Nestlé, PepsiCo, Mars and Danone are just a few of the prominent industry leaders already committed to net zero. In 2021, the global carbon market reached $851 billion, with $36.2 billion for cropland emission reductions. Only in Thailand was this market worth $700 M!
Working with National Government Agencies, NGOs and local businesses, DeFire’s platform already reaches more than 10000 farmers, and by 2026, the number is expected to grow to 387000. This will help to avoid about 1 million tonnes of C02 emissions from crop-burning fires. At the current price of $10 USD per tonne, DeFire plans to generate credits for $10M USD.
Not only will farmers see an additional source of income through carbon credits ($40 per hectare), but using DeFire’s platform, they can tap into additional revenue streams like selling crop residues ($90 per hectare) and higher crop productivity ($90 per hectare). The team is already working with international partners like SouthPole, and providing carbon credits issuance for big corporations trying to achieve climate goals by 2030.
DeFire is a story of love and passion for the environment and rural communities in Thailand. Since 2013, Theethat Rangkasiri, DeFire’s CEO, has been closely following the development of rural communities involved in the agricultural sector. Before DeFire, he worked for different NGOs in Thailand with a primary focus on stopping deforestation. In the region, farmers used to cut down trees and clear the land to cultivate maize. Theethat has consistently advocated for sustainable agriculture, suggesting farmers implement more high-quality crop production systems (i.e. coffee and cashew nut) to avoid deforestation and still generate income to live.
Traveling throughout the region, Theethat became more and more sensitive to the issue of crop burning, and he could witness with his eyes the detrimental effects of these practices on the environment and communities’ health.
That’s when the idea for DeFire was born.
Merging business, science and love for the environment, the team plans to eradicate hunger and malnutrition in rural areas through carbon-based incentives to farmers. Every day, the team educates thousands of people in the region about the adverse effects of non-sustainable agricultural practices, trying to shift the production chain towards a more sustainable one while saving costs, improving health, and reducing the possibility of fire-related disasters.
The team is now focused on expanding operations in surrounding countries. They are also fine-tuning the accuracy of their platform and securing more pilots and corporate partnerships that can help them continue to test and verify their product.
Theethat and the team were selected among the top 9% of applications worldwide for the Mass Challenge Switzerland 2022’s Accelerator Program.
DeFire participated in the TFF Academy, our personalized startup acceleration program, where they are further developed their business model, go-to-market and fundraising strategies, and storytelling. We are also introducing them to relevant industry contacts so that they can gain investments and engage in critical pilots in the near term.
Currently, they are fundraising for $600K USD. This investment will be used to grow the team and expand its operations in South East Asia.
To learn more and get in touch with the team, contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org