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

WASHINGTON, D.C. – 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.

UPDATE 9/10/20 - ARPA-E's SMARTFARM program supports the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy’s Industries of the Future initiative, supporting the development of key emerging technologies that will shape the nation’s economy and security for years to come.

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.