Paul McMahon on why ecological agriculture makes more business sense than chemical agriculture

SHARE IT!

Paul McMahon is co-founder and managing partner of SLM Partners, an asset manager that acquires and manages rural land on behalf of institutional investors to scale up regenerative ecological farming and forestry systems. He’s also the writer of a white paper called The Investment Case for Ecological Farming.

LISTEN ON:

TOPIC OF THIS EPISODE

SLM Partners is an asset manager that acquires and manages rural land on behalf of institutional investors, to scale up regenerative, ecological farming and forestry systems that deliver financial returns and environmental benefits.

Paul is the writer of the two white papers: 

We covered a wide range of things in this interview, mainly looking at the trends that are changing the food and agriculture sector and what it means for conventional and non conventional producers.

Where are the challenges and opportunities in the sector and what should (smart) impact investors look for?

Other episodes on SLM PARTNERS:

——————————————

TRANSCRIPT OF THE INTERVIEW

SUMMARY KEYWORDS

land, soil, people, regenerative agriculture, agriculture, investors, forestry, world, systems, scale, farmers, conventional, sector, ecological farming, australia, fund, farms, farming, change, podcast

SPEAKERS

Koen van Seijen, Paul McMahon

Koen van Seijen 00:02

Welcome to another episode of investing in regenerative agriculture investing as the planet matters podcast show where I talk to the pioneers in the regenerative Food and Agriculture space to learn more on how to put our money to work to regenerate soil, people, local communities and ecosystems while making an appropriate and fair return. Why am I focused on soil and regeneration because so many of the pressing issues we face today have their roots in how we treat our land grow our food and what we eat. And it's time that we as investors big and small and consumers start paying much more attention to the dirt slash soil underneath our feet. In March last year, we launched our Patreon community to make it easy for fans to support our work and so many of you have joined as a member, we've launched different types of benefits exclusive content q&a webinars with former guests asked me anything sessions plus so much more to come in the future. For more information on the different tiers, benefits and how to become a member check patreon.com slash regenerative agriculture or find the link below. Thank you.

Koen van Seijen 01:06

So welcome to this podcast "Regenerative Agriculture: Investing in Agriculture as if the Planet Mattered". I started doing these podcasts because I noticed that I was having quite some, at least for me, interesting conversations around investing in regenerative agriculture and every time after the conversation was finished, I thought "why didn't I record this so I could actually share it with others who are interested in the space?" I'm Koen van Seijen , I'm a senior manager at Tonic where we work with the community of impact investors, and in my spare time I record these interviews.

Koen van Seijen 01:38

So why regenerative agriculture? Because so many of the current issues we face as a world come together in this sector and impact investing for me offers a way to scale this sector and reach the potential it has. In these interviews I'm talking to people who are trying to scale up the regenerative agriculture side, either by increasing the inflow of capital into the sector or by increasing the impact on the ground and scaling up the enterprises on the ground. You're gonna listen to an interview with Paul McMahon, co-founder of SLM Partners. We discussed a lot of things in this interview, among them their current projects in Australia who are benefiting from a good year of rain, and new projects in Ireland and Chile. We also spent some time with the white paper he wrote about ecological farming and the investment case, looking at the main risks for the current farming industry and the main opportunities and barriers that are slowly being taken away. Luckily, enjoy.

Koen van Seijen 02:40

I'm here today with Paul McMahon, co-founder and managing partner of SLM Partners, an asset manager that acquires and manages rural land on behalf of institutional investors to scale up regenerative ecological farming and forestry systems that deliver financial returns and environmental benefits. He's also the writer of a white paper called "The Investment Case of for Ecological Farming". Very warm welcome, Paul. Thank you for joining us.

Paul McMahon 03:05

Thank you.

Koen van Seijen 03:06

So I would like to start with: Why are you in this business? And how did you end up here?

Paul McMahon 03:14

I think that we see land at the center of a number of overlapping and increasingly important environmental issues. For example, climate change, land is going to play a huge role as a carbon sink, as you try and get greenhouse gas emissions out of the atmosphere - whether that's in soils, whether it's in trees, or biomass on the land - the stress for carbon we think has got a huge future in the next 50 to 100 years. But looking more broadly, looking at water quality, you know the water we drink, coming out of our tops, in hugely influenced by what flows into it from agricultural and forest landscapes upstream, and issues like nitrate pollution, pesticides and runoff, sedimentation, you know, all play a big role in that. Biodiversity of course is another huge issue in agriculture and deforestation is responsible for some of the biggest biodiversity losses. So we have all these overlapping environmental pressures which are just intensifying as time goes by. And we started to get into it as an investor point of view because although there are these threats, you also see some huge opportunities. We found that there are more ecological farming systems out there which are able to address those environmental issues, able to put carbon in the soil, are able to improve water quality, increase biodiversity, and improve soil health, while also generating really good yields at a low cost in a very profitable way. And when we think those systems are proven at a small scale, and there's some fantastic case studies out there, often driven just by Innovative farmers not necessarily coming out of academia or research institutes, but by really innovative farmers trying out new ideas and sort of creating from the ground up. And so they're proven at a small scale, but they need to be scaled up. And so we think investment capital can play a role: to help kind of turbo charge that transition from more extractive conventional industrial agricultural systems to more ecological, sustainable, resilient agricultural systems.

Koen van Seijen 05:27

And when you look at the current situation, because often investors are asking the question "Why now?" and "What what has changed in a sector to make it extremely interesting to enter at the moment?" What makes the sector at the moment - except for all the huge issues you mentioned before - so interesting to start? Is it that the pioneers are ready? Is it that the systems are tried and now is the moment to scale them up? Or is there something else as well?

Paul McMahon 05:54

I think there's two things changing at the moment. The first, going back to those environmental issues I talked about, what we're seeing is that those externalities, which people got away with for free, are increasingly being priced and regulated. So actually, farmers, land managers are being forced by policy regulation to actually take into account the impact you're having on carbon, on water, on soils, and you know, biodiversity. And that's leading to stricter regulations in some places where you just can't do what you could do before. Take antibiotic use in intensive livestock production. That was absolutely widespread, prophylactic use of low dose antibiotics, completely mainstream in a lot of feedlots in the US for example, and that's going to change because everyone has seen these antibiotic resistant diseases, massive human health implications, and the regulations are tightening. Practice will have to change, and people will have to take a lot of antibiotics out of use. So we're seeing those regulations tightening up. On the flip side, on the environmental side, we're also seeing some positive signals coming along, you know, some potential rewards for doing things the right way. So for example, carbon markets. Probably more talk than action so far when it comes to land in particular, but we are seeing the emergence of these markets opened up. In Australia, where we work, the government's emissions reduction fund is putting 2.5 billion Australian dollars to work paying mostly farmers to store carbon in trees, below soil, on the on rural landscapes, and that's starting to generate some really interesting economic incentives to change practices. So that's the first point around those environmental externalities. You're getting priced, getting regulated, farmers have to take into account more now than in the past.

Paul McMahon 07:42

I think a second and maybe even a more powerful driver, a more immediate driver is shifting consumer demands and consumer trends. The modern consumer, particularly young millennial consumer, is very aware about these environmental issues, very concerned about where their food comes from, super motivated by issues of sustainability, but also of health, nutrition, flavor. And that's creating massive demand in markets like organic foods, you know, grass fed beef, grass fed dairy products, and they're the fastest growing sectors in food at the moment. And so actually, a lot of the traditional food companies are seeing that and are scrambling to respond. So consumers driving very, very quickly and then on the other side you have the environmental regulation and markets kicking in as well. So yeah, we think this shift is just beginning and there's a long way to go.

Koen van Seijen 08:35

And when you look at what drove you personally into the sector, was there a specific moment? Or was it something that grew over time? How you ended up on the regenerative or ecological farming side?

Paul McMahon 08:50

I first came to this world working at a company called Climate Change Capital in London is an investment manager, which had at that time the world's largest carbon fund. And we were given the task of really looking at land through a climate change lens. And when you do that, you actually come to quite interesting conclusions, because you're looking at it in terms of: a) mitigation, so how do you put carbon back into landscape?; but b) adaptation and resilience, how do you make land more resilient to a changing climate? Well, there's many more extremes of drought and flooding and heat waves and storms. And if you look at it throught that lens, you realize that what we need to do is build healthier soil, put organic matter back in the soil, have more resilient ecosystems and landscapes, more diverse landscapes as well. And you end up gravitating towards these more ecological farming systems, so it was a process of discovery - which I began probably about eight, nine years ago now - where we developed some of these initial ideas and I think the good thing is the more we've worked in the sector, and we've been working now since about 2008, the more I think we find that those idea have been validated. There are of course more and more case studies and farmers proving these systems can work economically and environmentally, all around the world. And those consumer trends are intensifying, as are those efforts to regulate the environmental impacts as well. So, yeah, it began eight years ago but the nice thing is that we just think it's a train that is sort of gathering momentum, you know, year by year.

Koen van Seijen 10:26

Yeah, I completely agree, obviously, and to come back to one of your points, you mentioned resilience in the farmland. And I can imagine from an investor point of view - and you mentioned that in the white paper as well - it's very interesting to be invested in farms or farmland or operations that are more resilient, especially in a time where climate change starts to kick in. Can you explain a bit more about how that change is a business model for farm? And how that's different from the traditional / chemical way of farming?

Paul McMahon 11:00

Yeah, well, you know, farming is the ultimate biological business. The fundamental business of farming is taking sunlight, energy, combining the water and the properties and minerals of the soils to grow things. It's a biological system. So you're always going to be exposed to some extent to fluctuations in weather and climate, and that's always been the case or we will be the case. But yeah, we do see that those extremes are getting more and more dangerous as time goes by. And the more conventional systems can be very stressed by that. So there's quite a few examples of that of, for example, you know, organic coffee systems which are able to out produce in terms of yield actually conventional coffee systems during droughts. A number of case studies in 2012 in the U.S. where that was the case with corn production. We've also seen it when it comes to pasture-based systems, grass-based systems, where the landscapes would have healthier soils, healthier grasses, using forms of rotational grazing or multi paddock grazing, are able to ride out the droughts and floods an awful lot better. It's an interesting scene because economically, from a financial point of view, you can take out some of those fluctuations in yield of production when those weather extremes hit, but also kind of take off some of the reliance maybe an input cost as well. You can just smooth out the return and the profitability and income from from the land.

Koen van Seijen 12:36

Yeah, I remember one example, I think where in a drought, one ecological farm was still producing about 80% of their normal yield but their neighbors were probably hardly harvesting anything. Which would for them, of course, mean a completely last year but for the ecological farm they were still having - although 20% less than normal - but still actually a proper year to sell probably at far higher prices because of the drought.

Paul McMahon 13:05

Exactly, there's also a great example, I think, from Central America when after one of the big hurricanes hit a whole range of farms on the hillsides and found that those using more ecological practices with better soil health, they're the ones that survived. Whereas the ones that were more chemical-based, more conventional had huge problems in erosion, a lot of crops had been wiped out. I think these is this growing body of evidence around our theme. There's also diversity, you find those more ecological farms tend to be growing a broader mix of crops or raising a broader mix of animals. So you're getting similar resilience just from diversity, which really reflects and mimics nature, nature likes diversity, nature abhors a monoculture. And that gives you resilience environmentally, but also in terms of markets as well, where you're gonna have good years and bad years for different products.

Koen van Seijen 14:00

So nature gets bored when there's a monoculture and starts annoying it with pests etc.

Paul McMahon 14:06

Fights back rather effectively.

Koen van Seijen 14:08

And in the long run you don't win that. And if we make it a bit more and more concrete, you co-founded SLM partners to dive into this trend and to see the opportunities? When was that?

Paul McMahon 14:24

Yes, so we founded SLM partners in 2009. Our vision is building an asset management firm wholly focuses on sustainable regenerative agriculture and forestry. We take a real assets approach so we're in most cases looking to acquire land or invest in land as the primary asset and then look to really accelerate the shift in management, you know, from more conventional, unsustainable practices to more sustaianble regenerative practices. What we've done so far is we've raised an Australian Reed Aattle Rund in 2012. We have about 100 million Australian dollars in equity and debt in that structure in Australia. We've acquired over a million acres of land in Australia for grass cattle production using a form of rotational grazing called adaptive multi-paddock grazing or holistic grazing to take somewhat degraded land and to regenerate it and remake the health of the soil from the grasses just by managing cattle in a slightly different way. We're also working some new ideas. We're raising an Irish Forestry Fund. At the moment, we've got backing from the European Investment Bank for that. The idea there is we're looking to acquire existing mid-rotation commercial forsts in Ireland, all which are destined to clear fell which can be destructive in terms of the impacts on soils and water and biodiversity and even carbon storage. We want to transform where possible to get a more sustainable type of forest management called continuous cover forestry, where you never clear the forest, you maintain forest cover, you selectively harvest, you get a more natural diverse forest. We're also working on am some investment strategies in Chilean Patagonia looking at sheep production and looking at a couple of years in North America as well. So, a global focus, but everything comes back to a more ecological farming of forestry system, which is proven at a smaller scale, and we're looking to scale that up through ownership or control land, and then also partnering with really great farmers and foresters. I mean, that's the other key thing. There's lots of people running around, former bankers with presentations, and spreadsheets, and that's kind of easy to do but the hard part is actually making it happen on the ground and for that you need great technical people, great operational managers, people who've got dirt on the fingernails and really have done this before, so we always try to partner with those people locally, wherever we're operating.

Koen van Seijen 16:56

And when you look at the last few months, and what kept you up at night? What have you been working on? And of course, what you're allowed and is possible to share? What kept you up and what are you proud of that work in the last few months?

Paul McMahon 17:15

Well, I think in terms of progress that we've made the last few months I think we've done quite interesting carbon deals in Australia. We're quite proud of, so we're participating in that Australia Emissions Reductions Fund I mentioned to you before where we've actually won contracts to supply quite a large amount of carbon credits from the land that we own in Australia, mostly to regeneration of native woodlands and Savanna type woodland ecosystem, which is very consistent with the kind of grazing approach that we're using down there. So that's been exciting to see that market develop and to be able to participate in that. I think the other that is quite exciting, we're on the verge of launching our Irish Forestry Fund which would be a bit of new departure for us into timber. But I'm originally from Ireland, so it's close to my heart. And I think we have the chance to really capitalize on the change and how forests are managed. Not just in Ireland, but potentially across Northwest Europe where you know that there's a kind of reliance and clear felling, and we think there might be a slightly better way to do it. So those have been two of the more exciting things to be involved with in less than a year or so. An ongoing challenge, a lot of work that we have put into is raising capital and educating investors and finding investors who are willing to back the kind of strategy that we're developing. I think it's an overall lack of understanding of agriculture actually, just full stop, that is quite new as an asset class for many investors. It has not tended to attract much institutional capital actually until quite recently, so there's a huge amount of education has to be done just to get people comfortable with the dynamic of the sector. And then beyond that, you know, if you're doing something a little bit more ecological, something which is maybe not quite the mainstream, there's an extra level of education to show people evidence, get people uncomfortable, that this can be scaled up.

Koen van Seijen 19:10

Yeah, I think it's an excellent point you make because I think in the white paper you mentioned since 2009 that the boom in agriculture investment really started but of course it was all traditional agriculture and the time of easy money, or the days of easy money, are over. So it's almost educating investors how agriculture actually should be done, but they either don't know it, or they're used to something else, or to get different presentations with slightly different time horizons, etc. So what's the big difference in the presentations you're giving and other fund managers in the agriculture space are giving? What's the response to that?

19:54

Well, I think there's a small number of groups like ours who are trying to attract investment in these more ecological regenerative agriculture systems. In our white paper we identify I think six or seven different groups, probably in total we manage about $500 million in assets, so it's not insignificant. At the same time, if you look at the total money raised for agriculture investment over the last 10 years, is probably more than 20 billion, so it's still a small percent of that. And I think most of the money has been flowing into conventional, more industrial farming systems. It kind of appeals in a way to a financial mindset where everything gets reduced to a pretty linear process where you acquire an asset, you work out what it costs in terms of inputs to put things in and what you might get to take things out the other end. And the more simplified it can seem, and the more industrial it can seem, the more it can look like a like a factory, for example, the the easier it is in some ways to convince people that this is the way to go. So I think there's a small number of us who are trying to show that there's quite a ferocious debate going on in farming around the future of agriculture, and that there are some really, really interesting and compelling strategies that have a more ecological leaning. I think though, that that space is opening up more and more now actually, and that will be the third fact I mentioned about environmental regulation and consumer trends. But actually a third thing is happening in the investment side is, if you look at where money flowed into agriculture over the last 5 to 10 years, it mostly went into quite passive, buy-and-lease strategies, focused in North America, where people could be land banking, acquiring land, leasing it out, not really caring too much about what happened on the land, and just riding up a secular upswing in land prices. And there was some pretty aggressive land appreciation, especially in the U.S. but in many part of the world over the last decade, and that produce good returns. But are starting to run out of steam now because land prices are actually coming down, they're correcting, cash rents are coming down. If you look at conventional corn, soybean wheat prices, they are low. Farmers are actually losing money in most of them this year in the U.S.. So it's a pretty tough time, actually, in conventional agriculture to make any money. And at the same time you look at what's happening in the organic space in these more, let's say consumer-friendly markets, that's where all the growth is. That's where premiums are available, that's where people are still making good money. So I think investors are waking up to that. They're seeing that these more passive, conventional strategies are maybe running out of puff a little bit, and they're looking for a higher value-add, more active niche strategies, where they can get behind a team and propels some changes in how the land is managed and capture more returns from that.

Koen van Seijen 22:41

It seems like the perfect storm for the traditional agriculture system has arrived. And if you look at: What do you see as the biggest risk, or the biggest hidden overlooked risk, of the traditional agriculture side? You mentioned a number of them in the white paper. What for you is the number one overlooked risk there?

Paul McMahon 23:05

Well, I think it depends on your on your timeframe. I think if you look over a very long timeframe, I think the degradation of natural assets, in particular soil degradation is a huge issue for humankind over the next century. It's one of these slow run problems that you can ignore, especially if you're in a very fertile area with very deep tough soils, but eventually it will come back to bite. For example, Iowa is a great example of some of those fertile wonderful soils in the world but Iowa has lost half of its topsoil over the last 150 years to erosion. Now has still got many feet left because it's incredibly deep but if that just keeps going on eventually you will hit bedrock and you will see decline in yields and problems cropping up. So I think that soil degradation is one of these things that doesn't get a huge amount of attention but it's a big issue. And if you go to more brittle parts of the world which didn't start out with such abundant resources and natural resources and soil resources, you are seeing it really kicking in where erosion, loss of nutrients, loss of soil structure is leading to collapse of systems and climate change is then aggravating that to a large extent.

Paul McMahon 24:21

So I think that's the long term thing. I think though, in the in the immediate term, the bigger risk of the more conventional systems is the changing consumer. The consumer, whether you agree or disagree, wants something different from what conventional ag is selling. The consumer wants something green, healthy, flavorsome, with a story behind it, and that's good for the environment. I think that the more conventional system has a real struggle on their hands trying to overcome that. So I think that's what's going to propel the needed shifts back on the supply chain, via the food company, via the restaurants, via the Chipotle's and the Whole Foods of the world who were recognizing that and trying to follow it.

Koen van Seijen 25:09

And when you look at the sector, the regenerative agriculture sector, as its scaling, what are the two most important barriers you see for the sector to reach its potential?

Paul McMahon 25:21

The question we always get, and I think a lot of people get working in these spaces, is "where's the track record? Where's the proof?". A lot of these systems have been proven, sometimes at a small and medium scale, usually individual farmers, but there can be a bit of a leap to go from that to actually an investment product; a fund, or a company doing it at a larger scale. So I think that's probably the biggest challenge is still, just to be able to show evidence and data that this can be done at a scale. I think there's enough proof for that.

Koen van Seijen 25:56

Nature has done it for a few billion years.

Paul McMahon 25:58

Yeah. I think it's enough proof for that medium scale. Economic proof as well of really great, medium-to-large scale producers doing it on their own farms. I think that is there, and then I think it is possible to go from there to be a larger version of that more institutional investment version. then manhandling as time goes by, we will fill in more of the gaps, we'll have more successful funds out there with track records, then it becomes much, much easier. The biggest obstacle is that question of track record and proof.

Paul McMahon 26:31

I think the second is just a more general one for the sector in that agriculture of any type is still unfamiliar territory for most investors. There's just a unit of education required to get people used to the dynamics of the sector. It tends to be capital intensive, the returns are lower, you're not going to get your VC private equity 20-25% net IRR. It's just not possible. But at the same time you've brought out some protection, because you have real assets, you have land, you have biological assets. Which are also appreciating assets, usually over time, rather than depreciating. So I think just getting people to understand the dynamics of the sector is the other obstacle and some of them got there and are allocating and investing heavily, but a lot are still working their way through the education process.

Koen van Seijen 27:23

They're still in the return vision of Silicon Valley, so the illusion of the 20-25%, that that's possible outside software. And when you look at the barrier of scaling the few pioneers, or the pioneers with a few 100 or a few 1000 hectars to a fund like SLM, like you're managing now, how did you overcome that barrier to investors? And because I know that the fundraising hasn't been easy. Is there any key lesson? Any key takeaway on how to overcome that and be one of the first to raise such a fund?

Paul McMahon 28:01

I think first thing is building a great team. So actually, building a team with real farmers who've actually done it before and who can point in a way to their own personal track record. That may not be a traditional financial track record of IRRs and multiples and the like, but it's an operational track record. Having those people on the team is is critical. The second then is being able to identify and research and catalog in a way the case studies that do exist in that particular region and be able to present them to investors and take investor to those farms and show them. That's what we did, we took investors to farms in Australia using the same ideas, having done it with great success, and so they can see it with their own eyes. Yeah, you know, this has been done on let's say 10,000 or 20,000 acres, well, there's no reason to be done in 100,000 or 500,000 acres. So I think having those real life case studies is very important.

Koen van Seijen 29:04

And if you look at your coming months, let's say six months, what are you working on mainly? What are your main goals? What are your main goals for the next half a year?

Paul McMahon 29:19

So we'll be continuing operations in Australia and looking to take advantage of what's been a really good year in terms of rainfall and growth down there. So we're going to focus on operations Australia, and then raising capital for our new projects in Ireland in forestry, and also in Chile in livestock. And then we're starting to think about some ideas in North America as well where I think it is possible to do things at an even greater scale, given the dynamics that are there, so we're putting a lot of effort quietly into developing some strategies for the U.S..

Koen van Seijen 29:56

And for Ireland do you see - because you've been for six, seven years talking about livestock to investors and to your network, and now you're talking about trees and forests - is that difficult for them to get their heads around? Or are you already into the door because you've built up this track record in agriculture in general?

Paul McMahon 30:19

So a couple things, I think we always said the beginning that we want to look at agriculture and forestry. If you look at our kind of philosophy it's around rural land, and harnessing sunlight, water, and soils to grow things. And it's interesting, financial investors like to think in asset classes but nature doesn't think that way. you know, the boundaries are fluid and everything is interlinked. So we can see a time in the future where we may even try and combine some agricultural and forestry crises together. They've always been kept apart, but we see some interesing potential for agroforestry systems in some parts of the world. So I think, our new steps into forestry, it's always something we've had in mind and I think in the future we can see some complementarity between the agriculture side and the forestry side. The second thing is, we've also been building up a team of people who have this real forestry experience. We have a guy who is joining our team in London, who's spent his whole life in forestry, who helped run a $250 million forestry fund in Asia. And we're working with a great team of forest managers in Ireland, too. So again, without that team there would be no point in trying, but because we have the right people in place, then it is credible.

Koen van Seijen 31:39

And for the teams on the ground, is it difficult or challenging to see a future where those two worlds collide? Or it's very natural to imagine livestock and forestry in the same system at some point?

Paul McMahon 31:53

It depends where you go. I think it's interesting in educational terms, being where people go to college and learn about agroforestry, they're often kept quite separate. And actually, one of the unfortunate implications of policy has also been to keep the two very apart as well, especially in Europe where you have a common agricultural policy which is all about farming, and then you have forest policies which are all about forestry and never the twain shall meet. And God forbid you fall in between because then you might lose out on your subsidies on both sides, and that wouldn't be good. So I think there's also some unintended consequences from the policy side, we're keeping those worlds apart. Now, having said that, there are some, again, fantastic innovators out there doing agroforestry and silvopastoral systems, very successfully, you know, at decent scale. Examples in the U.S., examples in Spain, examples in other parts of the world. We think that's a really exciting area actually, agroforestry, and that there is enough of those conditions in place in terms of case studies, technical experts, that it will be possible to do something there in the future.

Koen van Seijen 33:03

Extremely interesting. So I would like to conclude with with the last question, if you could give advice to smart investors that want to get into the regenerative agriculture space, what would be your number one advice?

Paul McMahon 33:18

I think, only invest with teams who have real farmers on board. It's too easy to come up and sell a concept but farming is actually really hard. And it's actually harder than managing a fund, for example. And so unless you've got people on a team who've actually done this, and have made mistakes, and have the scars to show it, then I'd be a little bit wary. So having some technical, operational element is so so important in the world of agriculture.

Koen van Seijen 33:51

Are there moments in the last six, seven years that you... because you don't have farming experience, right?

Paul McMahon 33:58

No, but thankfully, I partner with people who do.

Koen van Seijen 34:01

And have you had any experiences where the lack of farming experience of you was awkward or painful or ...

Paul McMahon 34:09

Not really because I know when to defer to the experts on our teams. So you know, I think it's important that people bring a diverse range of skills to a team. Those with that knowledge are given the space to make those decisions and drive strategy when appropriate. At the same time it is also important to have people with investment, financial experience as well who know what investors want, who can structure things, who can report back, who can make it work as an investment. So, there's a certain amount of translation that has to go on between the world of farming the world of finance, you know, which which speak very different languages.

Koen van Seijen 34:50

Yeah, that's actually exactly the type of people I would like to interview in these podcasts who are with one leg in the farming world and with the other leg in the finance world to scale regenerative agriculture space. So thank you Paul so much for your time and your knowledge today and I speak to you soon.

Paul McMahon 35:11

Great, thank you very much!

Koen van Seijen 35:13

You just listened to an interview with Paul McMahon, co-founder of SLM partners who is scaling up the regenerative agriculture sector in Australia, Ireland and Chile. I hope you will join us again soon, with many more interviews with people in the finance sector and practitioners on the ground, all working to scale up the regenerative agriculture industry.

Koen van Seijen 35:34

If you found the investing in regenerative agriculture and food podcast valuable, there are a few simple ways you can use to support it. Number one, rate and review the podcast on your podcast app. It's the best way for our listeners to find the podcast and it only takes a few seconds. Number two, share this podcast on social media or email it to your friends and colleagues. Number three, if this podcast has been of value to you and if you have the means please join my patreon community to help grow this platform and allow me to take it further. You can find all the details on patreon.com/ regenerative_agriculture or in the description below. Thank you so much and see you at the next podcast.

——————————————

Feedback, comments? Reach me via www.twitter.com/koenvanseijen

Join the Investing in Regenerative Agriculture and Food newsletter on www.eepurl.com/cxU33P

The above references an opinion and is for information and educational purposes only. It is not intended to be investment advice. Seek a duly licensed professional for investment advice.

——————————————

Join the Community
SHARE IT!

4 comments on “Paul McMahon on why ecological agriculture makes more business sense than chemical agriculture

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.