Bert Glover is the co-founder of Impact AG partners. An interview on how he and his team put one hundred and sixty million to work in regenerative agriculture and food.
MAIN TOPICS AND LINKS MENTIONED IN THE INTERVIEW:
- 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.
- We see more and more opportunity to bring more revenue back to the farm gate for farmers who are delivering ecosystem services.
- We really believe that we only borrow our natural assets from our children and we believe that you know in the production of food and fibre it shouldn’t be at the cost of the environment and it shouldn’t be at the cost of the human race globally.
- 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
- 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.
Impact AG website
UBS Family office report
More information on Toniic:
More on 100% Impact Portfolios:
Cation Exchange Capacity
Measurements keep coming back as a key point! With Abby Rose we discussed how the farmers can measure their own soil health:
Interview with Abby Rose “Please don’t invest in another random technology which is going to save us all”
We discussed carbon as a proxy also with Chuck de Liedekerke:
Interview with Chuck de Liedekerke – We need more regenerative and financially literate farm managers
Seaweed and cow methane emissions
Could Feeding Seaweed to Cows Help Save the Climate?
Carbon farming credits
First Australian carbon credit units issued to a soil carbon grazing project
Nori did a great podcast on the program in Australia
#64: Restoring Soil Health for Resilient Farms—with Louise Edmonds of Intuit Earth
TRANSCRIPT OF THE INTERVIEW
farm, metrics, regenerative agriculture, farmers, consumers, impact, plants, business, agriculture, ecosystem services, soil, land, assets, podcast, australia, sector, investors, ag, drove, outcomes
Koen van Seijen, Bert Glover
Koen van Seijen 00:00
You will listen to an interview with Bert Glover on how he and his team put 160 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 00:14
Welcome to another episode of "Investing in Regenerative Agriculture: Investing as if the Planet Mattered", a 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 / soil underneath our feet.
Koen van Seijen 00:52
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, ask 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/regenerative_agriculture or find the link below. Thank you.
Koen van Seijen 01:18
Welcome to another episode of the podcast. I'm Koen van Seijen your host and today I interviewed Bert Glover, co-founder of Impact Ag Partners, which manages over 150 million Australian dollars in land assets on behalf of international and domestic investors in Australia. Welcome Bert!
Bert Glover 01:34
Thanks very much.
Koen van Seijen 01:35
It started with a personal question. How do you end up managing land, agricultural land, on behalf of international clients and mostly focusing on soil?
Bert Glover 01:46
Well, that's a good question. It's quite an interesting journey, I guess. And I guess it starts back from being a child living on a family farm in southern New South Wales in Australia. Growing up on a family farm, farming, originally, in a traditional way, as my father and grandfather and forefathers had and what was standard practice in our community, in our industry - our farm was a sheep farm that, you know, we produced wool and meat and lamps - and we started based on immigration from England and Scotland, and I was part of a generation of farmers. So that's kind of the early days in my life.
Koen van Seijen 02:33
And that's quite a transition. I mean, you could have still, I don't know what happened to the farm obviously, you still managed that farm but actually you did not you continue to move to a much more financial side of things. How did that happen?
Bert Glover 02:48
Yeah. So, you know, to continue on with that story I after going away and working in some corporate agricultural roles, some University study in agricultural economics, and some study in sustainable agriculture, I got really interested in the data associated with farming and I was very lucky to be involved in what we call a benchmarking group of farmers, which is a collective of up to 30 farm businesses and a facilitator brings together all of those producers that are interested in comparative analysis, improvement, and trying to understand what drives productivity and profitability on farming. So early in my career, and I'm gonna say this is in my late 20s, I was on a family farm after being away for a few years and came back with a view on what can we do with this family farm to scale it up, make it more profitable. And I got involved in this benchmarking group, and I got really interested in what drove superior performance, and I think from that deep dive into farm data and farm information and understanding what drove efficiency, what drove productivity, and then the outcomes of that, what drove profitability. So in that vein then, I started to look at, besides financial performance, what else was happening in those ecosystems? 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. And so, I started to get more interested in sustainable agriculture, started to ask questions around how can we do this better? Because we'd gone through good times in agriculture here in Australia, but there was also, you know, some tough times associated with drought.
Bert Glover 04:51
Through understanding farm data, I quickly understood that, you know, 60% of our farm profit was coming from only 20% of our years, so we had to really maximize those good years, because there was going to be some tight years. 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. And a lot of that came back to how can we build resilience in our systems, so that we could be longer term more sustainable, and build real resilience, not only at the financial level but within our environments, and resilience within our plants, and also the animals that we're using as well.
Bert Glover 05:44
So that's kind of how I got to, I guess, thinking about creating a business, which became Impact Ag Partners. And, you know, at Impact Ag Partners, we really believe that we only borrow our natural assets from our children. And we believe that, you know, in the production of food and fiber, it shouldn't be at the cost of the environment, and it shouldn't be at the costs of the human race globally. So our mission is about how can we have an impact, 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. So that's economic results, environmental results, and results for the society at large.
Koen van Seijen 06:40
Wow, that'd absolutely fascinating and there's a lot to unpack. I definitely want to dive deeper into how you're doing that, but I want to take take one step back. When you started asking those questions to, maybe to your family but also to your peers in that benchmark group. And what was the response?
Bert Glover 06:58
I think, the response initially, and this is in the 1990s, when, to be perfectly honest, a lot of the agricultural community was very focused on driving profitability, scaling up, understanding efficiencies, where the next productive game was coming from.
Koen van Seijen 07:18
Like you were when you when you came back. Uou said, I wanted to scale it up and make it more profitable.
Bert Glover 07:23
That's exactly right. And if you take a step back from that, in Australia, and this is a little bit reflected globally, in the 1940s and 50s we had the invention of mechanized agriculture. We saw machinery and tractors coming in, which really changed the industry, and then in the 1980s, and the 1990s, we started to see the introduction of chemical agriculture and we started to see the use of herbicides and less mechanization, and the chemicals such as glyphosate come into play, and the impact that's had. And then in the early 2000s, we started to see businesses in agriculture engage further up the value chain and start to be involved in vertical integration, and we saw a lot of investment come into vertical integration from the outside investment community. And then here we are now, we're at a position whereby productivity gain is very minimal. One to two percent? We're seeing our consumers and our society, saying "we want ethically produced food and fiber, and we have an expectation of you, the farmers that you're going to do the right thing". So it's an interesting journey. And I think we're really at an interesting point in time in terms of agriculture, food production, and how the consumers globally, view agriculture and its output.
Koen van Seijen 08:43
Yeah, I think I can only imagine, because I'm not in the sector for too long, imagine the difference between the last 30 years from the 1990s till now, I think there's a momentum shift I already see the last few years. And so getting back to Impact Ag Partners, which is six, seven years old? If I'm right. What triggered that to start? Because it's quite a step from managing or wanting to scale up and make your family farm more profitable to actually managing quite a lot of land and quite a lot of assets on behalf of others.
Bert Glover 09:19
Yeah, that's it's a good question. Because I guess following on from being involved in, you know, getting a deep dive into farm data and what drives farming performance, 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 and they came to me and said "Look, can you come and help, you know, work with our team on the ground in improving productivity and with an idea towards driving better profitability, and ensuring we've got a sustainable business model and looking for opportunities where we can extract more value from the market?"
Koen van Seijen 10:06
Were they seeing the same thing, like the 60% of their profit came from only 20% of the years. Because that's quite a staggering data.
Bert Glover 10:13
it is indeed. And I think, you know, investors were finding snippets of that data, but they're also seeing what was happening on the ground and they were looking at their landscapes. And, you know, they come from a sophisticated business community, the majority of investors, and they understand that they have a social license, and they're astute, and they are always looking for areas of improvement. And I think they were looking and they were coming to me and saying "Can you find areas where we can improve and help my team improve to deliver better outcomes". What we call better triple line outcomes. So that's kind of what started the journey for Impact Ag Partners, and from that, you know, our business has grown primarily through referral where people have either seen what we've done, heard about what we're doing, they've spoken to other family offices about agriculture as an asset class, and that's driven interest. I mean, it's quite interesting, because, you know, primarily our investors, our family offices, and, you know, UBS did a did a study on global family offices in 2018, and they delivered a report. They did a survey of 311 family offices primarily out of North America that had about 1.1 billion under management, and 30% of those respondents had a direct investment in agriculture, which to me was encouraging, and seven 7-8% of those respondents had planned on allocating more in future. And I found that quite interesting in the early years of researching for Impact Ag, what the opportunity was, and then we soon realized that what we were doing was actually delivering real impact. And when you think about how the impact investment movement has changed in the last five years, it has really grown, and the same 311 family offices that I talk about, 40% said that in the next generation of those family offices, there was going to be a greater amount of their investments going to be focused on impact investments. 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. Agriculture, now we've seen amongst the family office community, an asset class for investment and a real impact investment.
Koen van Seijen 12:47
It's exactly the reason, I'm doing these podcasts coming out of the impact investing world and seeing agriculture high on the list of wish sectors or sectors I would like to allocate more capital to, but usually not high on the list of sectors, families, and high net worth individuals actually allocated capital to. So there's a gap there. And it's I mean, that's why we're running these interviews to interview the people that are shaping that sector and helping to put money to work, big and small, and I think it's starting to be seen as a sector - maybe next to energy as well, which is an absolutely massive one, obviously - but one that actually can deliver not just less negative impact, but actually positive impact in terms of food, but actually in terms of carbon, as well and so many sectors are touched by the food and agriculture sector, or the way we farm and use the land basically. So that that growth, I think is just going to continue, and especially the next generation I see it with the members I work with at Tonic, that the next generation is really, really shifting gears, and going into a whole new level when it comes to impact. impact measurements, allocation, different systems that we never thought would be possible in portfolios, and also portfolio build up. Very, very interesting and encouraging.
Koen van Seijen 14:01
And what was the first, because you very deliberately called it Impact Ag Partners, so what was the first project or one of the projects you say, okay, that's a typical, that's one I'm very proud, something you've managed to do in the past few years, with impact ag partners.
Bert Glover 14:16
I think one of the first assets under our management, where we implemented real change and we implemented change at multiple levels, was an asset whereby it's in a strategically amazing landscape with very fertile red basalt soils and a really, for us in Australian standards, reliable consistent rainfall. And 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. We changed the grazing management into a more large-scale dynamic rotational grazing system. And we we went in there and we utilized changes in the asset design in terms of the size of each field, the location of the water, we reduce the amount of chemical fertilizers, we use more biological products, we did a whole suite of measurement when we started the change management, that soil carbon, soil pH, fertility, ketone exchange, you know, magnesium-calcium ratios. A whole suite of measurements on the soil, a bunch of measurements on our plants that we were growing throughout our pastures in terms of biodiversity, the vegetation identification, all of those sorts of things so that we could help demonstrate our impact. 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 a way we did that was through a vertically integrated beef business. And so we tried to take that business to the market, and we actually sold wholesale beef and retail beef, both domestically here in Australia and export it under our own brand, that helped try to bring more capital back to the farm gate, based on the story of regenerative agriculture and ecosystem services, and focusing on low stress stock handling, and humane treatment of animals and all those sorts of things in the story around the landscape. So that project kind of ticked a lot of the boxes for us in terms of proving our thesis, but also giving us the confidence to say "Yes, we want to do more of this and there's a lot more to explore".
Koen van Seijen 16:58
There's a lot to unpack again, in this one. Let's start with the vertical integration. How easy was it to.... what were you communicating on regeneration? Because what I see often is that it's very difficult to explain the full story, especially with livestock. What's possible? What's not possible? As we we are bombarded with with information on carbon and methane, etc. etc. How did you make it simple enough for somebody in the shop, who doesn't have a lot of time to just to understand that? Did you manage to do that? Or what were lessons there? As I think a lot of people listening to this would take notes on this.
Bert Glover 17:33
Yeah, a lot of lessons. And I think one of the things we did was trying to really understand consumer preference, consumer behavior, and what the conscious consumer was looking for. And I think, you know, we learned, early on that in terms of the red meat space consumers in the market we were targeting, were quite confused. And they were confused about what grass-fed meant, grass-finished, free to roam, you know, they'll try and understand what good animal husbandry means. What's regenerative agriculture? What's sustainable agriculture? So there's a whole education process, and I think it's one that is still not fully understood. I still think there's a lot of work to be done there. But it's a really hard business when you're trying to differentiate a product that is sitting alongside conventional product. And especially when, and we'll probably talk about this a bit later it's something I'm passionate about, is the metrics that need to be associated to differentiate something like a product that's grown ethically and sustainably, as opposed to the metrics that are kept for a conventionally produced product.
Koen van Seijen 18:42
Yeah, because it seems to same when I'm at the shelf, but obviously, or hopefully, it tastes very different, but that I only know when I'm in my kitchen and I prepared it. So you have basically the packaging to play with when when you're there. Am I right?
Bert Glover 18:57
Well, that's right. And it's about, you know, how much space you've got on a label to tell your story. And what certifications can you utilize to differentiate yourself? And how robust are those certifications? And are the other certifications on your competitors, are they being third party audited? And so there's a whole education process there. And it's really the sophisticated consumer that can understand the differences between products. So like most consumers, they're time poor, and they're looking for convenience, and it's got to be a succinct message, a sharp message and not confusing. So, as an industry, there's plenty of work to be done.
Koen van Seijen 19:38
And when you look at the metrics, you mentioned you did a huge survey or huge metric work at the beginning. What were the results over time? I'm immagining you measured over time as well? How fast did you see certain things change? Imagine we are the investor that commissioned this work, what would I see In the field, or what would you be able to tell me after year three and year five, in terms of differences? And in this case, obviously, I'm not a farmer so I might see that all the animals are in the same group, and I might see some other small things. But what would be the differences that I can see from the old system of management to basically a few years out in the new system?
Bert Glover 20:19
Okay, so I'll break this down in three pieces. To start with, with the soil, primarily we would see scientific data that would demonstrate something like our carbon levels went from 1.5%...
Koen van Seijen 20:34
Which is extremely low, just to put it in perspective, right?
Bert Glover 20:37
Yeah, exactly. 1.5% in year one and by year five that was up to 5.5%. So that was quite a good change.
Koen van Seijen 20:48
And there was without bringing any outside manure, etc. in, it was just a management.
Bert Glover 20:52
It's primarily based on getting our plants to work and sequester carbon on our behalf. So that's the soil level, and not only carbon in the soil, you know, we were changing how fragile the soil was, the soil's capacity to hold moisture.
Koen van Seijen 21:08
But carbon seems to be a good proxy there, right? It's what I learned is these 50 episodes I've recorded so far.
Bert Glover 21:14
Yeah, carbon is the proxy for soil health, that's exactly right. And then so from a plant's point of view, we saw a change in diversity. So all of a sudden, where we might have seen, you know, four or five variety of plants in our pastures, we were starting to see herbes and forbes and a bunch of other plants. So we, I think, I havn't got the data in front of me, but something like, you know, species numbers of eight and then over a five year period getting up to sort of 23 and 24, purely based on a rotational grazing system.
Koen van Seijen 21:49
So nothing planted by you, basically plants that were either already there or replanted, or refertilized or respread by your livestock management.
Bert Glover 22:01
That's right. So there was no introduced plants in that. That was all just by changing the way that the animals were grazing the plants, giving the plants time to regenerate, and also asking those plants to drive their roots deeper and access nutrients and excess moisture at depth to make those plants more resilient. So there's less change within the plant community and the composition of all those plants, because they're lasting longer and they're more resilient. So then, from the animals point of view, you end up with a more balanced diet, you end up with animals being able to graze a whole suite of products, that, you know, those plants are offering all the nutritional requirements that they need. So improved animal health, less requirement for human intervention in terms of animal health. They become psychologically happier, they're calmer over time, those animals, you know are easier to manage, there's less risk to the people that are working them. And because they're less stressed, they perform better.
Koen van Seijen 23:03
That's absolutely fascinating. I heard a term that when cows have, or livestock have this suite of options, this diversity they are basically are able to self-medicate and already prevent a lot of things that we otherwise had to interfere for. And I even heard a story I think it was in the UK, when cows had the opportunity to to go into beach, they actually would eat certain algae - I think was also an Australian story actually, I will link it below - and eat certain algae which reduced greatly their methane production. They were able to select which one actually worked for them, obviously, as they have done for a great number of time. So there's an interesting thing there on psychology and be able to choose instead of one or two or eight types of plants, choose from 23.
Bert Glover 23:50
I think if I look, one year ago, what's changed, I mean in the last 12 months what's changed, I mean, we've taken an example like that farm and based on some of those results we've seen an increase in deal flow. We've seen new investors who have been introduced to us through a referral come to us looking for investments in agriculture and they see ag a new asset class to add to their portfolio, sometimes seen as a real asset, but it's generally there as a long term asset. It's not liquid, so it's there for the long term and we've seen an increase in deal flow. I mean, that's probably got a bit to do with global financial markets, geopolitical interactions around the world. And I think the whole focus on feeding a global population, and it just so happens that Australia is really well positioned to Asia, where a lot of that population growth is going to come from we have seen an increase in deal flow.
Koen van Seijen 24:57
And what excites you at the moment? Or what are the new customers asking for? What's what's on your mind? The last few months what have you been working on? If that's something you can share, obviously, if there's a specific project you're very excited about, or a specific, in this case client relationship? What are the important pieces that are being worked on at Impact Ag Partners at the moment?
Bert Glover 25:20
So, you know, I think there's 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. And we're seeing more and more small markets opening up for biodiversity management, carbon markets globally. We're seeing environmental finance starting to emerge, which is a little bit like green finance.
Koen van Seijen 25:55
What do you mean by that? Do you have an example? Because I've seen the first carbon credits being paid, I think, in Australia a month ago on a farm project, but what do you mean by environmental finance?
Bert Glover 26:05
So we're starting to see large corporations trying to place capital whereby the outcomes are delivering environmental impacts. So whether it's investment in renewable energy, or if it's something like green finance where it's supporting on-farm energy efficiency, or even at the point whereby if farmers are delivering ecosystem services - so it might be reducing nutrient runoff, increasing biodiversity, increasing ground cover, reducing waste - 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. So these are the sorts of areas that we're working on at the moment that we're very excited about.
Koen van Seijen 26:20
It's very interesting because then it hits your your bottom line immediately. And your CFO, if you have one, would be very excited about paying less interest. I think I've seen one, not related to ag but that I mean, actually indirectly is obviously because they're known as a huge company, but they had a consortium of banks, I think one of them was BNP Paribas, and the interest rate on the loan was connected to and had a certain spread it could follow, based on how they were scoring on sustainability. And that was quite a bit of money that it saved them if they would hit certain stainability targets. But I havn't heard... I've been waiting for this type of outcome based schemes where, could be ground cover, it could be nutrients, could be etc. Always depends who's paying for it, in this case it's very interesting that it's connected to certain debt structures. That's fascinating.
Bert Glover 28:02
Yeah, it's fantastic. And so the second initiative that we're working on at the moment is, is we have a client that has created an impact fund and that fund is purely based around supporting and demonstrating regenerative agriculture. So we're, we're rolling over existing land assets and we're also investing in things like soil carbon measuring businesses, we're looking at things such as green finance, biological fertilizer companies, we're looking at technology and investing in technology. And this is all about regenerative agriculture, and about trying to help demonstrate to the investment community, what we can do from an impact point of view in regenerative agriculture.
Koen van Seijen 28:48
So that's basically a fund that is set up, is it only Australia? Or is it outside Australia as well?
Bert Glover 28:54
Some of the assets are outside of Australia. And we are, first and foremost focusing here, but quite likely we'll have global impacts and global investments. So that's a really neat initiative we're very passionate about.
Koen van Seijen 29:09
Yeah, because it looks across the whole value chain. Because a lot of the regen ag funds I see are focused purely on land. We buy land, we regenerate it, that's where the revenue comes from. But you're mentioning looking at biological fertilizer and technologies so it almost becomes a sector fund, but not just focused on land, which is, again, I've been waiting for that, that's absolutely fascinating.
Bert Glover 29:32
Yeah, it is and look for us at Impact Ag Partners, we're building the framework and designing how this should look and helping structure this. So in due course, you know, I'll be able to share with you what that looks like. And I think something that we're really passionate about, and 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, you know, all the environmental metrics. And then on top, there's all the social implications as well. So one of the initiatives we're working on with some other global players from Europe and the US is about how can we harmonize the metrics that we measure and what are the right metrics to measure and then how can we streamline this so that we've got something clear, and something that's easily reported on and communicated to the investment community? Because some of the feedback we get from the investment community is that impact investments have metrics that sometimes don't correlate, they are confusing, they're measured in different ways to get the same outcome. So in the agricultural space, how can we get on the front foot in harmonizing these metrics? So it's an initiative that we're working on in 2019 and we're collaborating with a group of other participants, NGOs, foundations, family offices, global asset managers in agriculture. So that's another initiative.
Koen van Seijen 31:28
I mean, they're consumers at the end and it's a bit like what's needed in the consumer space as well. In such a complex story, like, yes you can actually use agriculture to regenerate even whole landscapes if you wanted to, but how do you bring it down to a report you send four times a year or twice a year? Or how do you bring it down to basically a label you see for a few seconds before you decide to go left or right? That's going to be, on both sides, it's going to be a huge challenge but absolutely essential to get much more money, much more smart money into the space, and at the same time, get more and more consumers to actually join the positive side of agriculture and food and not just less negative, which is absolutely key. But we need to switch that moment into and switch that paradigm to "Okay, how are we going to store all that carbon? How are we going to change the the agriculture system?". I mean, everybody always talks about metrics in the impact investing sector, but that doesn't mean they're not important.
Koen van Seijen 32:27
And is that one of the main barriers you see to for the sector, the regen ag and food sector, to scale further? This lack of metrics? Or are there other barriers you see that should be be taken away? Or should be worked on by this community?
Bert Glover 32:44
Yeah, so I think the metrics are there. It's just, I think initially it's to simplify the metrics and make them common amongst those practitioners because in order to attract more capital to regenerative agriculture, we do have to demonstrate those metrics. And I think one of the reasons why, one of the outcomes of demonstrating this is that hopefully, we can help monetize more of those ecosystem services. So I think, you know, if we can monetize ecosystem services, and if we can encourage governments to use a bit of a carrot and stick approach whereby, if you're a farmer, and you're doing the right thing, and you're regenerating your landscapes, and implementing social good, you should be rewarded. And for the farmer that isn't doing those things, using traditional methods, you know, contaminating land, not regenerating land, driving down natural capital, you know, there should be a stick approach, and there should be ramifications for that. So that's why I think these metrics are important. I think if we can monetize the ecosystem benefits, it helps promote and encourage farmers that are doing the right thing to do more of the right thing. And it should give them more access to capital, because access to capital is one of the barriers to more regenerative agriculture. And if you put that on top of generational change, I think with succession planning and you know, farmers are getting older all the time, we need to make agriculture appealing to the next generation. So that if we can help monetize 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.
Koen van Seijen 34:51
And I don't know if there's an appropriate question because I don't know if the farm is still in the family. But if that would happen, and if that would have happened 30 years ago, would it had been interesting for you to come back to the farm? If the ecosystem services, if what you described now would have been in place, then would it have been something for you to be excited as an entrepreneur? And maybe even a regenerative entrepreneur on the family farm?
Bert Glover 35:16
Yes, it would have been. But I still wonder whether it would have been enough to keep me on the farm, whether it would have been stimulated enough on the farm, but no doubt it would have helped scale the business.
Koen van Seijen 35:26
You would probably have started a few a few side businesses?
Bert Glover 35:29
Well, most probably because there's so much to do, you know, whether it's technology relating to regenerative agriculture, whether it's businesses that are more consumer facing. I mean, I think one of the barriers, you mentioned barriers to regenerative farmers, I think consumer expectations and their consumer behaviors have to change. I mean, if they, I think, if their expectations are around ethical production, food and fiber, they've got to be prepared to pay for that. And a lot of consumers, you look at consumer survey data, what they say they're passionate about, and then what they actually do with their dollars and how they spend their money are sometimes two different things. They say they care about ethical production and the environment but they don't also always do that with their purchasing behavior in their decision. So I think if consumers can recognize that, in the past, they've bought food, and it's been at relatively low financial costs, 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 36:46
And I want to be conscious of your time as well, and finish up with some final questions. If you look at the investor landscape, I mean, you're working with some very, very forward thinking families. Imagine there's a room full of impact investors listening to this podcast, let's imagine it's an a gigantic room, a theater, and they're all starting to get very interested in soil, they've read the books, they've read Gabe Brown, they've read Charles Massey, and they would like to start. What would be your, obviously not investment advice, but what would be your advice where to start? What kind of questions should you ask? As you've been in many of these situations, what would be a good first step for someone that wants to put some of his capital or her capital to work in regenerating soils.
Bert Glover 37:33
I think the first thing is to find the right partners. I think it's a long term partnership and what I've learned with a family offices we work with is that it's a partnership and you need to find those partners that have got the experience in regenerative agriculture. Number one, they capture the metrics and can demonstrate performance, whether it's financial performance, or environmental and social performance. I think beyond that, you've got to be at the forefront of entrepreneurship around identifying trends around consumer behavior, trends around social licence, understanding global supply and demand trends. And you've got to, you know, investors have got to look for those thought leaders that are out there, looking for opportunities, that are gonna help increase the value of their assets, but also help those businesses that are operating on those assets, extract more value through, you know, their good land stewardship and creating businesses that have the capacity to go further up the value chain and be rewarded for their land stewardship. So you're creating value at the asset level, and value at the business level. I think that would be my advice, finding those people.
Koen van Seijen 38:54
And this is really the final question: If you could change one thing overnight, if you could wave your magic wand and that could change one thing in the agriculture industry or the regenerative ag and food industry, what would you change? And what would we wake up to tomorrow? What would be the one thing if you can dream incredibly big?
Bert Glover 39:16
I think just off the top of my head, as you asked 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, I think by rewarding those good farmers that would be a really good start in the sort of change that we'd like to see in the food and fiber sector.
Koen van Seijen 39:45
I think it's a perfect answer. And a perfect finish of this interview. Bert I thank you so much. I'll definitely be checking in to dive deeper into the different projects you're developing, they all sound interesting enough to spend a whole podcast on honestly, but we don't have to time today. So I'm gonna close it off. And I hope to see you back soon on the podcast. Thank you so much.
Bert Glover 40:06
Thanks very much.
Koen van Seijen 40:07
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.
Koen van Seijen 40:20
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