Acorn partners with Akvo to collect ground truth data

Data is what makes our Acorn mission possible – starting with ground truth data collection. To ensure our data is high quality and standardized across our projects globally, we are now officially partnering with Akvo.

In this article:  

Why is ground truth important (for Acorn)?

At Acorn, our mission is to empower smallholder farmers to transition to agroforestry, improving their lives, combating climate change, and investing in a healthier, more equitable planet. The way we do that seems straightforward: farmers plant trees that grow and absorb carbon from the atmosphere, we measure the carbon sequestered, and then sell these carbon removal units to responsible corporates — with 80% of revenue flowing back to the farmers. 

But how do you know if a tree actually grew somewhere, and by how much? This hard data is essential. After all, we ensure to only sell carbon credits that are reliable, transparent, and traceable. These carbon removal units (or CRUs) each represent one tonne of CO2 captured from the atmosphere and sequestered in tree biomass — biomass we can’t just guesstimate.

Our approach to verify tree growth is remote sensing, starting with ground truth: where locally collected data (e.g. tree measurements, plant species, altitude, etc.) is measured on-site by enumerators.

Acorn’s challenges with collecting ground truth 

Gathering ground truth is tricky: our partner projects are usually across difficult terrain with thousands of trees and vegetation — and they’re not always easy to get to. With the addition of unforgiving temperatures, all of these factors make ground truth collection much more complicated than you’d think counting a few trees would be. 

In our Every Credit has a Story series, our innovation consultant, Kyle Nielsen, shared his experience in Ghana, where a field of grass proved a formidable foe for both him and the enumerators tasked with counting the trees of a single farm.

Ground truthing with Akvo in Kipkelion, Kenya

How Akvo brings solutions to our ground truth collection challenges 

To address these challenges, Acorn has partnered with Akvo, a non-profit foundation focused on data and technology solutions that enable sustainable development through improved decision-making.

Tackling water, agriculture, and climate conundrums worldwide, Akvo helps organizations and governments solve problems using data. This makes them a great fit for our Acorn approach. Collecting ground truth is complex and takes a lot of time, and isn’t easy to standardize on an international scale. With Akvo providing training to enumerators, we can be sure that the data gathered in any country, (from tree species to diameter to height) is both accurate and standardized.

Read more about how Akvo and Acorn work together.

Ground truthing with Akvo in Kipkelion, Kenya

The resulting reliable ground truth data allows us to train our machine learning models to draw the correct conclusions about biomass from satellite imagery, making our remote sensing approach all the more scalable. Working with Akvo makes this possible.

Acorn and Akvo

About Acorn

We help support smallholder farmers in developing countries transition to agroforestry. Together with local partners, we facilitate the funding and training needed by farmers to start their agroforestry transition. Transforming the sequestered CO2 through agroforestry into Carbon Removal Units (CRUs), we offer carbon credits to responsible corporates to help them reach their climate goals. The growth of the trees is measured with satellite imagery, AI, and LiDAR, and certified by ICROA-accredited Plan Vivo.

With 80% of the sales revenue going directly to the farmers, it creates an additional income stream and helps them adopt a more climate-resilient way of farming that improves food security, biodiversity, and financial independence.

Get involved with Acorn.

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