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Pachama: Rethinking Our Environmental Menu, One at a Time

  • Pachama is a leading climate-tech company that combines cutting-edge technology with ecology to address climate change and protect the environment. Through AI and satellite data, Pachama originates, verifies, and monitors nature-based carbon sequestration projects worldwide. 
  • The company aims to modernize the voluntary carbon market by developing technologies for estimating carbon, monitoring forest cover change, and assessing baselines.
  • Pachama's digital measurement, reporting, and verification platforms streamline the process of issuing carbon credits, making it faster and more cost-effective. 

Listen up, my fellow Earthlings! We have dabbled a bit into trying and reversing the damage we have caused to Earth, but our efforts haven’t proven very effective. It's kind of like trying to eat a salad which you know is good for you, but secretly eyeing the juicy burger and eventually losing that inner battle. 

For far too long, we have dipped our toes into the pool of environmental conservation. Attempting to fix what we have destroyed. Although these efforts were in good intentions, they weren't, and aren't enough. We can no longer work on this passively. It is time to take on a more radical approach.

Pachama believes that with technology, we can unlock the full potential of natural systems to address climate change and protect life on Earth.

Historical background of Panchama

Pachama was named in honour of Pachamama, the Mother Earth goddess for the indigenous people of South America. The company’s roots are found in the heart of South America where the rainforest meets the mountains.

Pachama’s co-founders, Diego Saez Gil, and Tomas Aftalion, originally from Argentina, were moved to action after witnessing wide-scale deforestation and the early impacts of climate change. Working from the redwood forests of California, they created an organization that combines cutting-edge technology with the latest advances in ecology.

Their goal was to take advantage of market mechanisms in order to build a sustainable economy capable of solving climate change and guaranteeing human well-being. 

What makes it different?

Pachama uses AI and satellite data to originate, verify, and monitor nature-based carbon sequestration (a natural or artificial process by which carbon dioxide is removed from the atmosphere and held in solid or liquid form) projects around the world.

Simply explained, Pachama aims to heal nature by fixing the climate crisis we are facing at the moment. Think of them as a global restoration team with tech geniuses by their side. Like environmental detectives collecting scientific evidence.

They figured that as a way to avoid the worst impacts of climate change, we need to drastically reduce carbon emissions. Pachama was founded to accelerate progress towards this goal. Modernizing and reforming the carbon market is ultimately central to the company’s mission to restore nature to help solve climate change. 

The leading climate-tech company is harnessing cutting-edge technologies such as computer vision and satellites to drive funding to effective reforestation and conservation projects that sequester carbon, enhance biodiversity, and enrich local communities around the world. 

The nature-based carbon credit platform is developing three core technologies required to modernize the voluntary carbon market and create a future where high-integrity, transparent carbon credits can scale at the speed our planet demands.

What are carbon credits though?

A carbon offset is a reduction or removal of emissions of carbon dioxide or other greenhouse gases made in order to compensate for emissions made elsewhere. They are basically like rewards that you get for reducing carbon emissions, to make up for the not-so-environmentally-friendly things that you do. 

Now, getting back to the three core technologies;

1. Estimating carbon

Status Quo: Field crews measure individual trees by hand to inventory carbon stocks over a small sample of a project’s area. This process costs tens to hundreds of thousands of dollars and can take months—or even years.

Pachama’s Approach: They are building machine-learning models that integrate satellite data, field plots, and 3D airborne lidar imaging to map forest carbon over entire regions, and eventually, anywhere in the world. This satellite-based carbon mapping unlocks a more scalable, cost-efficient future for crediting.

2. Monitoring forest cover change

Status Quo: Most registries require that projects are monitored only every 3 to 7 years. Years could pass without information on a forest fire or illegal deforestation.

Pachama’s Approach: They use high-resolution satellite imagery and cloud-penetrating radar to track losses and gains in forest areas over time, unlocking continuous visibility across an entire forest.

3. Assessing the baseline- 

Status Quo: In forest carbon markets, a baseline is a business-as-usual scenario used to estimate expected emissions without the incentive of carbon financing. Today, credit issuance relies on historical data and a complex set of subjective factors to set baselines.

Pachama’s Approach: Using machine learning models, they match each satellite pixel in a project to a ‘control’ pixel outside the project with similar attributes. They then use satellite data to observe forest loss in the control pixels compared to the pixels in the project area.

You may be wondering about the outcome?

Putting it all together, since their founding in 2018, they’ve sought to lead the way in Digital Measurement, Reporting, and Verification (DMRV). Their goal is to create a registry-integrated system that provides a modern, intuitive experience for both project developers and buyers through a transparent, simplified crediting process.

Today, issuing credits for a forest carbon project can take years and cost hundreds of thousands of dollars. With new digital monitoring, reporting, and verification (DMRV) platforms, credit issuance could take only days at a fraction of the cost. 

To understand more clearly, in Pachama’s words, “credit issuance is ultimately a process of monitoring, reporting, and verification (MRV): monitoring to calculate a project’s credits, reporting to document the calculations before a credit registry, and verification of the calculations by independent auditors. Credit registries now refer to future digital crediting platforms as digital MRV (DMRV) platforms.”

This modern future will bring more high-quality projects to the market, allow businesses to make more informed carbon investment decisions, and drive more funding to the communities restoring and protecting the land.

Pachama’s team is made up of a multidisciplinary, international group of engineers, scientists, and operators from some of the best organizations in the world including NASA, Google, Microsoft, Amazon, OpenAI, SpaceX, Tesla, and The Nature Conservancy, among others. They are driven by purpose and a deep love for nature and our planet.

The company immediately attracted talented engineers and scientists in addition to the support of investors such as Y Combinator, Breakthrough Energy Ventures, LowerCarbon Capital, and the Amazon Climate Pledge Fund.

Pachama has since assisted dozens of Fortune 500 corporations in investing in high-quality nature-based carbon credits. Pachama’s work has helped fund projects restoring or protecting more than 1 million hectares of land in 15 different countries.

They have raised a total of $79.3M in funding over 7 rounds. Their latest funding was raised on May 5, 2022, from a Series B round. Pachama is funded by 52 investors. Claire Hughes Johnson and Khaled Naim are the most recent investors.

With Pachama paving a new path, revolutionizing the voluntary carbon credit market, we can finally create a future that aligns with our intentions. It's time to set aside our burger cravings and fully commit to the salad of sustainable solutions.

Edited by Shruti Thapa