Nicole Junkermann is an investor in industry-leading Food Tech company Eat. Nicole is a worldwide entrepreneur who focuses on disruptive technologies. Here, she applies her sector expertise to developments in tech.


A Solution: Agroforestry

More and more, both firms and individuals are looking for ways to offset their carbon emissions – and agroforestry will go a long way towards meeting the globe’s shared climate goals. Rabobank has developed a platform which could see smaller landowners engaged in the climate fight for the first time.  

Increasing numbers of corporates and individuals are keen on offsetting their carbon emissions – but it is not always easy.  

One solution is agroforestry – the intentional combination of agriculture and foresting – which sees bushes and trees planted on farms and pastures. Those ‘forests on farms’ do a great job as carbon catchers, and Rabobank seems to have found a way to commercialise the process whilst also tackling the global CO₂ challenge.

Future of Agriculture with Rabobank

Recently I listened to the bank’s Innovation Lead, Jelmer van de Mortel, tell the Forum for the Future of Agriculture about their new big idea and why the firm wants to remain a leader in agriculture financing and sustainability-oriented banking.  

Smallholders across the globe are becoming more engaged in agroforestry, which can diversify their incomes with the revenues from fruits or nuts from new trees. It can help to combat inefficiencies, high losses, low yields and sensitivities to climate change in farms.  

Rabobank’s platform will connect extensive corporates looking to offset their emissions with smallholder farmers sequestering carbon through tree planting. The project leverages Rabobank’s roots in agriculture and Microsoft’s technology and integrates remote sensing, artificial intelligence and machine learning. The ultimate objective is to create a global, transparent, transformative platform to ensure smallholder farms remain sustainable and profitable.  

Getting smallholders engaged in the practicality and principle of carbon capture is vital in the climate puzzle. Data differ from country to country, but one oft-cited study from the journal World Development reckons some 75 per cent of the world’s agricultural land is operated by families – and the smallest farms, more diminutive than two hectares, account for about 12 per cent of the total.   

Too often, those smallholders have been reluctant to get into the carbon capture world. 

What this means for smallholder firms

The costs associated with the carbon market have made it difficult for smallholder firms to get involved. Monitoring how much carbon has been captured, and certifying it, are prohibitively expensive. Rabobank’s support enables the introduction of agroforestry at scale and uses carbon sequestration credits to make it more profitable. Satellites monitor and measure the carbon captured by the trees, certified and ‘tokenised’ to be sold to those wanting to offset their emissions. FOR will apply remote sensing and artificial intelligence to calculate the carbon sequestration generated, ensuring scalability and increasing the number of farmers participating whilst scaling up innovative agroforestry uses.  

With the pilot phase currently underway in sub-Saharan Africa, hundreds of smallholder farmers have planted over 50,000 trees in cooperation with Rabobank over the past year. The bank plans to sign up 15 million farmers in four years.  

It’s a hugely exciting project, and I’m excited to see how it grows. Using natural solutions in the form of agroforestry in combination with technology is truly innovative.  

Author: Nicole Junkermann is an international entrepreneur, investor, and founder of NJF Holdings, a global investment company interested in venture capital, private equity, and real estate. Through NJF’s venture capital arm (NJF Capital), Nicole oversees a portfolio similar to a small venture fund across Europe and the US, including healthcare, fintech, and deep tech.