Gazelle Ecosolutions: Revolutionizing the Carbon Measurement and Offset Industry (Part 1)

By Natalie Sinha, GSLI Student Associate & Amod Daherkar, Gazelle CEO
Edited by Sandi Ruddick and Madison Gove Khamooshi

Founded in 2022, Gazelle Ecosolutions Corp has built novel technologies to enhance transparency in carbon markets and spurred conservation projects in southern Africa. After witnessing the impacts of desertification and climate change in the Kalahari, their team wanted to incentivize long-term sustainability in a way that environmental benefits could be quantified, tracked, and verified for communities. To dive deeper into the evolution of this incredible company, I sat down with Co-founder and CEO Amod Daherkar to learn more about their journey. The following interview is from a three-part series: 1) The company evolution 2) The Shell partnership and 3) The student entrepreneur experience.

So, what exactly is Gazelle?

Put simply, Gazelle is creating tools which will allow people to take advantage of Earth’s natural carbon sinks. Afforestation, reforestation, regenerative agriculture, conservation projects…all of these things are great. They can provide up to 30% actually of all of the mitigations we need to reach 1.5 degrees Celsius goals by 2030 and Article Six. But, it’s really hard to quantify, track, and verify most of these projects. If you buy a carbon credit, how do you actually know that that one carbon credit has been sequestered permanently? Or, in the case of a nature based project, semi-permanently stored one ton of CO2 somewhere else around the world? You don’t know that.

Tell me more about that.

In the past 15–20 years, there’s been this ecosystem of independent third-party auditors of carbon registries and product developers, mostly on the supply side, that are building credibility. It’s very expensive, time consuming, and complicated to develop these projects. To address this, we build plug and play tools that do everything from implementing methodologies for GHG accounting, assessing eligibility criteria from end to end, and actually doing digital MRV for these projects.

Basically, we build tools that help other people develop carbon projects–because we developed our own carbon projects and then we realized it’s hard to do that. So we became our own customers. Now we’re mostly a software business, but we also have our own portfolio of credits on the side.

What was the initial goal of the company?

We actually started out not really developing carbon products for the first four months. If you go to the App Store or Google Play, just look up Gazelle Ecosolutions and you’ll find our free app. And that app does carry capacity optimization, looks at stocking rates kind of set to meet market data, and basically provides really granular data and forecasts for cattle ranchers…and it functions entirely offline. If you are in the middle of cloudy south-end Botswana and you have no internet access, but you managed to download this app on your phone out in the field, we can help you create an optimal land use scenario that essentially serves as a baseline of comparison against your actual land management scenario.

That’s amazing. So how has Gazelle evolved from there?

That was a neat tool that we developed early 2022, but there was no business model. The app is free. We deployed it, it’s in use across a quarter million hectares in Botswana in the Kalahari. But then we realized that in Botswana, the current land management system lacks incentives for improvement. So we developed an approach that essentially pays landowners to sustainably manage their land. This led to the development of our first carbon project, Modisa, involving a 17,000-hectare game ranch near a sensitive wildlife area.

We’ve assembled one of the largest credit portfolios in southern Africa and undertaken numerous projects in Botswana, developing various in-house tools. These tools cover GHG quantification, monitoring, and other aspects of the carbon project lifecycle, and we’ve repackaged them into a commercial software product to address a gap in the market for comprehensive carbon project management tools. And a lot of that was through working with Dr. Thoralf Meyer.

What was Thoralf’s story?

Thoralf absolutely did have a story to tell. Essentially, the country of Botswana is about 80% the size of Texas, and its ecosystems and habitat types are very similar between the two. But the unique thing is that Botswana has one of the highest wildlife densities on the entire continent. The picture that he painted was that there are more cattle than people in Botswana, so everyone’s a cattle rancher–but not by choice, and they have no clue what they’re doing.

The average size of a ranch in Botswana is five hectares, and everyone in every family has a few head of cattle that they don’t know how to manage. If you drive anywhere in the country from some kind of urban settlement, anywhere, you’ll see just cows walking around on the road, broken fence lines, encroachment into wildlife management areas–because there’s nowhere left to graze. Anywhere you dig in the Kalahari, it’s 80 to 120 meters of pure sand.

So, how did working with Thoralf become a catalyst for Gazelle?

At our meeting with Thoralf, we grabbed a textbook off of his shelf called Veld Management (“veld” means “field” in Afrikaans) and basically memorized everything in it. We developed this carrying capacity algorithm based on information in that textbook and then actually translated it into an app. We did a lot of field testing for it and then eventually ended up deploying the app. That tool was sort of the thesis behind doing the GSLI SEED competition, and that turned into a couple of other pitch competitions.

How did the GSLI SEED Program impact the trajectory of Gazelle?

I didn’t have any previous experience in sustainability when we started with this idea, which was around January-February 2022. My co-founders and I knew that there was a lot of startup funding available through UT, but most of that money goes towards someone creating a very pretty-looking PowerPoint, and then a line on their resume, and they end up going and doing absolutely nothing with it.

So we thought: how about we go win some of that money and then put it to good use? We know how to pitch but you know we don’t necessarily align with the thematic focus of this pitch competition. I think the SEED competition was important because it was a really early indicator of success: like hey, if somebody thinks this is a good idea, and they’re willing to fund it, then what more can we do? A couple of months later, we had the idea of developing what would end up becoming Botswana’s first Carbon Project. And then the rest is sort of history.

Stay tuned for Part Two in November!



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