What 19 interviews taught me about Investing in regenerative food and ag in 2018

It has been an amazing year! Thank you for listening, commenting, sharing and recommending guests, please please continue to do so in 2019!

So we can all learn from people putting money to work to regenerate soilpeoplelocal communities and whole ecosystems.

Let’s dive into what the interviews of 2018 taught me!


‘’It is hard to imagine any future that has 10b people eating healthy and sustainably of which soil is not part of that future’’ (Victor Friedberg)

So when Victor founded FoodShot Global the first target of their 30M platform could only be SOIL

‘’a KPI to measure soil carbon and the correlation to financial returns’’

The wish from Chuck of Soil Capital, if he could change something overnight in agriculture.

‘’The best kind of measurement is one that is repeated and is looking at agency’’ (Peter Donovan)

Peter pushed us to ask better questions, especially on measurements, as he has been since he met Allan Savory in 1990!

And although we discussed Soil a lot this year, Dirk reminded us that in some places soil-less green houses could be regenerative. Especially if we start recycling CO2 into them!


‘’Organic isn’t too expensive, chemical is too cheap’’ (Volkert Engelsman)

Over the year some big elephants were discussed, for instance Price: how do we compensate farmers (organic or even better regenerative-organic) for the amazing nutrient dense, carbon fixing, water storing and ecosystem regenerating food they produce?

Volkert co-founded one of the largest organic fruit and vegetables importers in Europe. His answer:

True Cost accounting, getting the externalities into the price”.


Another elephant in the room, how do we organise ownership of land and companies to speed up regeneration?

Armin an impact investor who is investing in steward owned companiesasked the power question:

‘’Who owns the steering wheel of your company?’’ (Armin Steuernagel)

How can you structure the ownership of the company so that the mission is looked? Two key take aways from Armin’s interview:

  • Self governance isn’t tradable, steering wheel is always hold in trust by stewards of the company
  • Purpose, the company has a clear purpose

Decommodifying farmland

Why turned farmland into a commodity and did that give rise to industrial farming? Thomas pushes us to think about steward owned farmland and why it is key to regenerative agriculture.

Especially in the US, where 400m hectares of farmland will change generational hands soon, Ian of the Agrarian Trust is working to bring this land into the hands of young regenerative farmers, for ever.

(Interesting fact: the leases of the Agrarian Trust are directly connected to the soil building off the farmers.)


Raising $2.3B from institutional investors to turn a whole region in India to beyond organic agriculture

Satya taught us to be bold about raising capital and affecting many people with regenerative agriculture. They will try to raise $2.3B in Climate Bonds starting in 2019 to transition 6m small holder farmers beyond organic. Definitely a project to keep an eye on in 2019! 

But as always, something big starts small somewhere, so Shameek challenged us to think about the farmer’s level and the connection to the customers in the city. When he left Amazon to found Farmizen to enable local small holder farmers to farm organic, zero budget natural farming and supply exactly what customers want.

Transition finance

Eric co-founder of Pipeline Foods explained why he focuses on broad acre crops (soy, corn) because these crops cover millions of acres. Bringing them under organic management already has a huge impact on local/regional climate systems, biodiversity and water quality
(I’m looking forward to the impact measurements in 2019!)

Even more interesting, what if we consider all these acres and relationships with farmers as a first step in the transition to regenerative organic over the years, when processing markets catch up.

After 18 months Pipeline Foods is doing over 150M in sales focussing on organic broad acre crops


We need more trees on farmland! But how to finance them?

Getting trees incorporated into farmland, to capture carbon, to regenerate soils and to produce a more diversified income for farmers and more, seems absolutely key.

So why aren’t farmers not planting more trees?

Jeremy Harry and Ethan of Propagate Ventures, are working to create vehicles to help finance a trillion productive trees. Hopefully soon also for retail investors.

Dr Bronner’s and Patagonia investing in regen ag?!

Why is a natural soap company setting up a transition finance fund together with Patagonia for farmers who want to go regenerative? Les Szabo, director of constructive capital at Dr Bronner’s explains.

Retail investors

Does the future of investing in regenerative lies with retail investors?!

Kevin of Iroquois Valley Farm thinks so but it isn’t easy. Iroquois has raised over 50M dollars from non retail investors and is now opening up their finance company to retail investors.
Let’s see in 2019 how retail investors respond to this kind of products!

Flexible loans

Aymeric and Josep explained their experience with putting over €10M to work in Europe. And why flexible loans are key for many food companies and impact investors who are new to the regenerative food and agriculture space.

Fund managers investing in soil building

I started a list of fund managers investing in soil building and explained why we (farmers, impact investors, consumers, regeneration enthusiasts in general) should pay much more attention to this emerging group of fund managers. (LINK)

Lessons learned and advice by guests

(It is not intended to be investment advice. Seek a duly licensed professional before making any investment)

Rufo, a poet and active impact investor
– Don’t be too hasty but don’t be too slow either, set aside a bit of money you can afford to potentially lose and put it to work
– Get yourself educated and learn, but don’t waste the time of entrepreneurs and fund managers, don’t set up endless calls if you have no interest in investing
– Think about where in the value chain you want to invest, the land itself, the processing
– Think about the geographies
– Think about water, many places have inadequate water supply, so make sure you take that risk into account

Esther, CEO of Cienega capital. Probably the most experienced impact investor in regenerative agriculture:
– Start with some education, great place to start: the Soil Health Primer
– Do something, just do 1 thing, make 1 grant, or loan or investment

– Meet with regenerative farmers and have meaningful conversations
– Talk to investors who have been allocating capital to regenerative agriculture for a couple of years
– Plus learn about the food sector at large and the global challenges

– Land tenure 
– Long term commitment of the farmers/land managers

– Find your local Farmland Stewardship Organisation and get involved
– Look into your local CSA farms, they usually rely on expensive bank loans you could refinance

– Soils, farmers who are not building soil do not deserve investment capital
– Water, invest in farmers who are building their water holding capacity
– Biodiversity, a direct connection between biodiversity and the ability of a plant to withstand diseases

As the demand for organic is soaring, supply has to catch up and there is a huge investment potential to scale up and convert growers.

‘’Freeing the farmers from being held hostage by the agro chemical input business, that parasites on farming like the pharmaceutical industry parasites on your health. By selling a few pills (or agrochemicals ) with a few side effects, for which they have new pills or agrochemicals again’’

Aymeric and Josep:
To get into the comfort zone of traditional investors you need two things:
– (some) liquidity
– investment periods which aren’t too long

Great wealth has been accumulated in this country (US) through extractive industries. We need to collectively realise that the returns and wealth we got used to are based on extractive and exploitation.
– We need to get used to negative return, we need to return wealth to the soil, the ecosystems and communities we extracted for so long.
– We need to look at ways to compensate for sequestering carbon in soils.

Entrepreneur turned impact investor in Southern Africa, passionated about soil on the fight against maize monocultures in Zambia and much more

Explained the opportunities for regeneration in agricultural powerhouse New Zealand and why (slowly) the ag sector is waking up. Unfortunatelythe impact investing sector hardly exists and thus Geoff is forced to look for impact investors from overseas. (LINK)

We filmed this episode as well! (YOUTUBE LINK)

Regeneration Newsroom Podcast

In November we started a joint venture with the Regeneration Newsroom of Ethan Soloviev, where myself and Ethan highlight and discuss the top articles, books, videos, podcasts and other news on Regenerative Agriculture and Business!

You can find the two episodes we recorded so far here and let us know what you think!


The Future of Carbon Measurement, Regenerative Meat, Australia Rising (LINK)


Global Land Degradation, Gucci Goes Regenerative, and Why Certifications Don’t Work (LINK)


Wow what a year it has been and I’m already looking forward to next year, I’m planning many more stories as the regenerative agriculture and food space is exploding.

Of course we need to be very careful as we see already quite some ‘regeneration washing’ and we all have to pay more attention what is and what isn’t regenerative agriculture.

Demand measurable outcomes to questions like: are these practices regenerating soil, people, local communities and ecosystems?

With your help in 2019, I will be diving into:

  • Landscape scale regeneration
  • Transition finance
  • Return nutrients to the soil
  • Farmer first tech
  • Nutrient dense food (connection to health)
  • Protein, role of animals, alternative proteins
  • Short food webs
  • Payment systems for ecosystem services
  • Land ownership

And much more 🙂 maybe even looking into what Victor mentioned as a wish:

How do we make the invisible more visible?

Any suggestions please comment below or reach out on Twitter (LINK)

Listen to or download all the podcast interviews on SouncloudiTunes or Spotify

P.S. 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.

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