At Farm, our mission is to increase the number of healthy and productive acres. This goal necessitates accurate and relevant monitoring of the indicators we look at to determine the health and productivity of a given parcel of land. Measurement, reporting, and verification (MRV) is the framework we use to do that.
The term MRV arose from the Bali Action Plan, devised for the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) in 2007. The idea was that climate change mitigation actions, which at that time were mainly focused on greenhouse gas emissions reduction, should be implemented in the context of a transparent, agreed-upon system of measurement, reporting, and verification.
If you are familiar with the state of climate action strategy today, you likely wouldn’t describe many aspects of it as either transparent or agreed-upon. And while not every effort needs to be quantifiable (some of the most crucial elements of land stewardship aren’t!), we believe in the power of sharing data on land management successes and failures. MRV allows for greater transparency around targets set and benchmarks achieved. It offers a standard of accountability for those making sustainability claims, and helps build trust for stakeholders who want to support their goals. The benefits of a transparent MRV approach can be applied to anything from corporate or government pledges, to organizations, to individual investors.
Let's get into how these processes work and build upon one another.
Land managers and investors need accurate and timely data to make informed decisions in their stewardship efforts. Conservation tech company Upstream built Lens as a way for environmental organizations to monitor landscapes remotely with ease and efficiency. Data gathered in the web app can be used to establish baseline conditions, track ongoing management projects, detect issues or violations, identify future conservation and restoration opportunities, and more.
This tool can be used to analyze, model, and mitigate environmental destruction, as is the case at The Sonoma Land Trust, which uses Lens to monitor the impacts of fires on their properties. Or Colorado Open Lands, which uses the application to track tree damage caused by beetle outbreaks. Mapping and layering tools help users build a narrative understanding of the land they manage over time and across ecosystem functions.
Upstream recently partnered with Regrid, a property data and location intelligence company, to provide land parcel data as a layer in Lens. This allows users to access records including parcel boundaries and ownership details in a standard format across the United States.
The Ecosystem Services Market Consortium (ESMC) is ********a non-profit that works to compensate farmers and ranchers who are committed to sustainable practices, and MRV plays a large role in the organization’s strategy. ESMC is currently working with a number of tech partners to develop tools that allow for long-term monitoring and verification of regenerative agriculture, including a satellite system that tracks the use of conservation tillage and cover crops.
Data collection technologies like the AI models developed by Google for Wildlife Insights push our imaginations of the future of MRV and climate mitigation even further. Wildlife Insights is a giant curated dataset of images that uses AI to detect and labels animal species, drastically improving the efficiency of converting camera data into usable biodiversity insights. Anyone who collects camera trap data can use the platform, and the more images are uploaded, the more accurate the models become.
As of today, MRV has most broadly been used to document and share data related to greenhouse gas emissions. But there is so much more to climate action than carbon. We are working with land stewards on the Great Plains who are helping safeguard grassland ecosystems, restoring historically abused agricultural lands, revitalizing soil life, and beyond. All of these actions and strategies play a crucial role in the broader climate movement. They are more complicated to quantify, and certainly more difficult to put an economic value on, but we don’t think that should preclude them from the benefits of rigorous measure, report, and verification.