Koen van Seijen: You will listen to an interview with Bert Glover on how he and his team put one hundred and sixty million to work in regenerative agriculture and food. Their lessons learned and how we can scale this to this size which is absolutely necessary.
Koen van Seijen: Welcome to another episode of the podcast. I’m Koen van Seijen your host and today I interview Bert Glover, co-founder of Impact AG partners, which manages over a hundred and fifty Australia million dollars in land assets on behalf of international and domestic investors in Australia.
Bert Glover: I started to look at besides financial performance what else was happening in those ecosystems and and I guess I soon started to realize that I felt that in some ways economic performance was an outcome and that outcome was at the cost of the environment and the society, the greater society, and I felt that there had to be a better way in terms of how we farm.
Bert Glover: I quickly understood that 60 per cent of our farm profit was coming from only 20 per cent of our years.
Bert Glover: So how could we take out that variability? I was asking questions of our own business around, how can we take out volatility of our financial performance and how could we reduce the variability in the production of our plants. And a lot of that came back to the soil
Bert Glover: We really believe that we only borrow our natural assets from our children and we believe that in the production of food and fiber it shouldn’t be at the cost of the environment and it shouldn’t be at the cost of the human race globally.
Bert Glover: And our objective here is to sit between the financial sector and the operating sector which is the farming sector and help both of those participants deliver better than average triple bottom line results.
Bert Glover: We’re seeing our consumers and our society saying we want ethically produced food and fibre and we have an expectation of you, the farmers, that you’re going to do the right thing.
Koen van Seijen: So getting back to Impact AG partners which is 6/7 years old. If I’m right. What triggered that to start?
Bert Glover: I started to get asked to do external work off farm in terms of consulting and feasibility studies for third parties and in that process I got involved with some larger family offices that were farming here in Australia, that were having some challenges in their business actually and they came to me and said “Look can you come and help? Work with our team on the ground!”
Bert Glover: And agriculture is now seen in the family office community as the third greatest sector where they place their impact funds. Besides housing and education.
Koen van Seijen: What was the first project or one of the projects that’s a typical one? That’s one I’m very proud of, something you’ve managed to do in the past few years with Impact AG partners?
Bert Glover: It was about taking that asset that had been under conventional farming until we purchased it and then look at it and say how can we extract better value and how can we take this asset and have real impact for future generations? So one way we did that was primarily to change the way the livestock business was being run.
Bert Glover: We did a whole suite of measurement when we started the change management.
Bert Glover: And then probably the third part of major impact was we were asking ourselves the question: how can we monetize and how can we commercialize some of the impact we’re having? So why we did that was through a vertically integrated beef business. That helped try to bring more capital back to the farm gate.
Bert Glover: We learned early on that in terms of the red meat space, consumers, in the market we were targeting, were quite confused So there’s a whole education process and I think it’s one that is still not fully understood. I still think there is a lot of work to be done there.
Bert Glover: I think there are two things that are really exciting at the moment that we’re pursuing. The first one is we see more and more opportunity to bring more revenue back to the farm gate for farmers who are delivering ecosystem services.
Bert Glover: We’re seeing Environmental Finance starting to emerge which is a little bit like green finance.
Bert Glover: We’re seeing financial products being designed whereby they will help reduce a farmer’s interest rates with related debt to the tune of even up to 100 basis points to reduce their finance costs. If they’re delivering measurable ecosystem services.
Bert Glover: The second initiative that we’re working on at the moment is we have a client that has created an impact fund and that fund is purely based around supporting and demonstrating regenerative agriculture.
Koen van Seijen: It looks across the whole value chain basically not because a lot of the region ag funds I see are focused purely on land we buy land we regenerate it. That’s where the revenue comes from. You’re mentioning looking at biological fertilizer and looking at technologies, it almost becomes a sector fund but not just focused on land?
Bert Glover: Yes it is.
Bert Glover: One thing that we’re working on in the background is the importance of harmonizing the metrics for agricultural impact investments. So what are all the metrics that we need to capture. You know they need to be production, they need to be around financial performance and profit, but they need to be about the soil metrics, the plant metrics. Well, the environmental metrics.
Bert Glover: And then on top there are all the social implications as well. So one of the initiatives we’re working on, with some some other global players from Europe and the US, is about how can we harmonize the metrics that we measure.
Bert Glover: So that if we can help monetise ecosystem services so that we’ve got the best farmers farming our land if we can capitalize those farmers so that they can get on and drive growth businesses and be prepared to get in and be entrepreneurs on their land without a noose of long term debt and free up the capital market. I think we’re really well positioned to achieve all the things that people like you and I want to achieve.
Bert Glover: So I think if consumers can recognize that in the past they’ve bought food and it’s been a relatively low financial cost but it’s been at the cost of the environment. If we can change their mindset from commodity based food to premium high quality nutrient dense food, clean food, slow food I think that’s when we can really start to capture more change.
Koen van Seijen: If you could change one thing overnight, if you could wave your magic wand and could change one thing in the agriculture industry or the regenerative ag and food industry, what would you do?
Bert Glover: I think just off the top of my head as you ask that question if we could reward farmers that were delivering environmental and social good and help them be rewarded to bring more revenue on farm so they can reinvest in their assets and reinvest in their businesses.
Koen van Seijen: This was an interview with Bert Glover co-founder of Impact AG partners in Australia. I hope you learned something about investing in regenerative agriculture for family offices. The key metrics and trends which are pushing this sector forward.
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