Soil Organic Carbon Networked Measurement System (SOCNET)

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Salt Lake City,
Project Term:
01/13/2021 - 01/12/2024

Critical Need:

This topic works to establish validation sites for field-level emissions quantification of agricultural bioenergy feedstock production. These teams will work towards the development of “ground truth” solutions to establish measurements and protocols for emissions monitoring at the field level to create publically available, open-source, high-resolution datasets to support testing and validation of emerging biofuel production monitoring technologies. The projects will also compliment selections in ARPA-E’s full SMARTFARM program, further supporting and validating the selections made through this full funding opportunity. Ethanol production is one of the largest consumers of domestic grain in the U.S., and developing sustainable production methods for ethanol and bio-based fuels has great potential to both reduce emissions and potentially provide a net emissions-free source of energy. While the economic and emissions impacts of ethanol production nationally are clear, field-level contributions remain unclear. The lack of understanding of field-level feedstock emissions, combined with the absence of economic incentives beyond yield, leaves feedstock producers to estimate and assume risks to their primary revenue stream by new management practices. By establishing sites and protocols for measuring the impact on yield increasing and emissions reducing technologies, these teams will bridge the technology gap between feedstock producers and existing market incentives to de-risk sustainable management practices, defray the cost of monitoring their impact, reduce biofuel feedstock production emissions, and broadly enable a future carbon farming industry.

Project Innovation + Advantages:

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 sensors will enable high-accuracy and real-time decision data for cost-effective carbon removal, storage, and management to promote climate change mitigation via agriculture and managed land systems. The team aims to develop (1) a UV-based non-destructive CO2 sampling technique, (2) low-cost, wideband, and high-selectivity CO2 sensors, enabling accurate quantification of CO2 among gas mixtures (3) an artificial intelligence-based auto-calibration technique by combining environmental information and infrared spectra to quantify the sensor data, (4) machine learning-based geo-statistical mapping of CO2 distribution and flux over time, with an operational cost of <$10/acre/year on a commercial scale.

Potential Impact:

Reducing the uncertainty of emissions quantification is critical to realizing the revenue potential of carbon management markets.


New technologies will maintain U.S. leadership in sustainable biofuel production and advanced carbon removal and management.


These technologies will help incentivize continued emissions reductions throughout the biofuel and bioeconomy supply chains while enabling new opportunities to leverage agriculture and managed land systems to perform carbon removal, management, and storage to address climate change.


Enabling producers to participate in carbon management markets would complement yield-based revenues with economic incentives for input efficiency, climate change mitigation, and restorative practices.


ARPA-E Program Director:
Dr. David Babson
Project Contact:
Dr. Hanseup Kim
Press and General Inquiries Email:
Project Contact Email:


University of Nebraska, Lincoln

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