Reversing Climate Change: How Hybrid Smart Contracts Incentivize Regenerative Agriculture

As a wider variety of data is fed into blockchain networks, from weather indexes to IoT sensor readings, users worldwide are continuing to discover the power of blockchain applications for use cases far beyond money and finance. In the sustainability sector, hybrid smart contracts—smart contracts that leverage blockchain infrastructure and off-chain data and computing resources—are emerging as an innovative solution for enabling global communities to more easily come together to incentivize green practices and directly verify their impact. This has even begun to extend into “regenerative agriculture” programs, which are not only offsetting climate change but helping reverse its effects while empowering local communities.

Incentivizing Environmental Sustainability and Regeneration With Hybrid Smart Contracts

A growing amount of environmental science research points toward the benefits of regenerative agriculture techniques for protecting natural ecosystems. Regenerative agriculture is a holistic land use practice that involves planting multipurpose tree species alongside indigenous vegetables and superfood plants to create an agro-ecology system. Agro-ecology systems have many social benefits to society, such as increases in local income and nutrition, as well as a “draw down” of CO₂ into the soil. Regenerative agriculture focuses not only on reducing the carbon footprint and ensuring sustainability but also on going beyond traditional conservation practices to reverse the direction of climate change.

In staging an effective response to the accelerating threat of climate change, it’s critical to rapidly scale regenerative agriculture into a global practice. Such a response requires the efforts not just of governments and corporations but of local businesses, communities, and individuals, as well as methods for the efficient and well-targeted mobilization of substantial financial resources. For small organizations, these challenges are considerable, while large organizations tend to grapple with high administrative overhead and slow program creation and enactment. This is where hybrid smart contracts can help connect the dots, using blockchain-based automation and transparency to coordinate efficient and reliable resource allocation between existing organizational workflows around a shared and well-defined purpose.

Hybrid smart contracts are software programs (if x event happens, then trigger y action) that run on blockchain networks and securely connect to non-blockchain data and systems. They leverage the decentralized computation framework and ledger of blockchains to execute predefined logic and record transactions in a tamper-proof manner, while using external data and computation to verify real-world events and trigger payments and penalties. By combining the two, hybrid smart contracts can be used to improve sustainable practices that involve many different stakeholders, such as incentivizing sustainable consumption through data-driven reward systems and increasing accountability through open-verification of emissions levels. The result is users having far greater insight into the causes they support and participants having more reliable reward systems for positive outcomes, ultimately making both sides more likely to contribute towards global green efforts.

Today, we’re proud to award a Chainlink Community Grant to the Green World Campaign, an ambitious project that is showcasing how hybrid smart contracts can be leveraged to reverse the effects of climate change. The grant will help fund Green World Campaign’s regenerative agriculture project AIRS—a hybrid smart contract application that uses satellite data to automatically dispense financial rewards to people who successfully regenerate designated areas of land by improving soil health, contributing to greater carbon sequestration, increasing vegetative/tree cover, enhancing hydrology, and other rehabilitation techniques. These rewards are issued to stewards as “regenerative carbon” assets that are tokenized on the blockchain and represent Green World Credits. They can then be sold to institutions and globally publicized crowdfunding campaigns aimed at natural restoration.

The Green World Campaign’s vision is to create a global movement to restore degraded land through reforestation and agro-ecology, raising living standards and increasing health of the rural poor, replenishing soil and restoring biodiversity, and mitigating climate change through “carbon drawdown.” Their mission is to scale up their award-winning programs under their holistic “Regenerative Society” model, by a hundred- or a thousand-fold, planting billions of trees, fostering regenerative agriculture, providing eco-education to children and farmers, and raising income and nutritional standards in poor communities living on the front lines of climate change.

Green World Campaign uses a hybrid smart contract application called Automated Incentives for Regenerative Stewardship (AIRS)—a project being built via a collaboration between Cornell University, Initiative for Cryptocurrencies and Contracts (IC3), Green World Campaign, Green World Ventures LLC, Green World-Kenya, ETH-Zurich, and ESRI.

AIRS uses satellite remote sensing data with hybrid smart contracts to successfully reward stewards of targeted regenerative agriculture, bringing an unprecedented degree of low-overhead automation and transparency to the process. The payouts are directly triggered by Chainlink oracles, which are tasked with gathering ground-truthing and satellite data, analyzing it within trusted-execution environments for high-trust quantitative metrics, and relaying it to the blockchain to trigger automated payments to stewards. AIRS rewards to stakeholders can take the form of cryptocurrency—readily convertible into local currency—or digital financial instruments tailored to meet the needs of local communities.

Blockchain-based hybrid smart contracts reversing climate change
How AIRS incentivizes regenerative agriculture using satellite data, Chainlink oracles, and hybrid smart contracts.

AIRS represents a new and powerful tool for converting regenerative agricultural outcomes into financial instruments. They plan to launch an AIRS pilot in Kenya, where the Green World Campaign team inaugurated the country’s first successful community-based complementary currency and where they have extensive experience, resources, and staff built from over a decade of community-based regeneration initiatives on the ground.

“Hybrid smart contracts have immense potential to coordinate global efforts around financial incentive systems that reward local communities who successfully regenerate and lower the carbon impact of land,” stated Marc Barasch, CEO of Green World Campaign (GWC). “By using blockchain technology and Chainlink oracles, we can distribute rewards to good stewards in a more efficient manner that is easily verifiable by all stakeholders, which only further incentivizes people to participate knowing their labor and capital generates verifiable results. GWC also has long-established networks and the media reach to offer this to organizations, companies, and the public at this  inflection point of crisis and opportunity, enabling global citizens to help ‘ReGreen the World’ at the dawn of the U.N. Decade on Ecosystem Restoration.”

The Chainlink Community Grant Program provides financial resources to the many development teams and researchers building a more functional, accessible, and socially impactful Chainlink Network. We encourage talented individual developers and development teams to apply to the grant program here, or if you are a researcher and want to collaborate, contact us. Chainlink Community Grants are provided in cash and/or LINK.

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