With the regenerative farmer Thomas Rippel we discuss crowdfunding, stable coins, pensions for farmers, food pensions for city folks and land ownership.
This is the second interview with Thomas.
Here the first one: Thomas Rippel, using a blockchain to help Farmland Stewardship Organisations grow.
This time we have Thomas Rippel back on the show, he is looking to create new forms of land ownership and community capital. Last time I interviewed him was on March 30th 2018. So it is time to catch up!
Thomas raised over € 1M with a German CSA to buy the land under their farm. Now Thomas is looking at blockchains to help more Farmland Stewardship Organisations do the same.
TEXT SUMMARY OF THE INTERVIEW:
Koen van Seijen: Yeah, let’s unpack. I mean, what have you been up to? Last time we talked was on blockchain technology, stable coins and big crowdfunding campaigns that you were actually campaign singular that you were doing for farmland stewardship organizations. Where are you now as we’re talking at the end of 2019, in December?
Thomas Rippel: Well I’m still working on the same things and we just made real strides in all of those areas.
Thomas Rippel: So let me just give a quick overview of what Kultur land Genossenschaft is. So it’s a co-operative where people can become members in the co-operative and buy shares and the co-operative then takes that capital and buys land with farms and, I say, with farms and not for farms because the cooperative makes a separate legal entity for each of the farms that the co-operative puts the capital into. And the farm also becomes a partner in that legal entity.
Thomas Rippel: So in total, we as an organisation have raised four million or three and a half, almost four million euros. There are 570 members who have invested and 200 hectares of land that has been secured. And we’re currently in talks with 20 farms actually to buy more land.
Thomas Rippel: And I think there’s the potential here to really go in a very broad scale and make this tool, this infrastructure in terms of I.T. infrastructure, but also the legal infrastructure that we’ve created in terms of this legal entity that really neutralizes the ownership of land and dedicates it to this purpose. So it is kind of steward ownership model of land where it cannot be sold and it has to be used in an eco social way. I think this is something that a lot of farms, especially community-supported farms, will find very attractive and actually have more than half of the farms that we’re working with our community supported farms.
Koen van Seijen: What if you would wake up tomorrow. You’re the head of a big investment fund. And let’s put a crazy amount of money on that, like, let’s say a billion dollars or a billion euros. And I’m asking those questions because I see that the interest in the space is growing a lot.
Koen van Seijen: And I think we’re going to see a large influx or at least a potential influx of money and at once that is going to try to get into the space. And so I’m asking pioneers in the space like yourself, like what would you do if you were put in that position to build up? And it’s a diversified portfolio and investment portfolio. Obviously, you can do some grants out of it, but primarily an investment portfolio with a large amount of money.
Koen van Seijen: In this case, a one with nine zeros. And what would you do? What were your first days look like?
Thomas Rippel: Well, I think what I would do with the money is to make that available to for land purchases in this stewart ownership model so that any farm that is willing to purchase land and put it into this steward ownership model can come to the fund.
Thomas Rippel: And we’ll have all the capital necessary, but really only to use that as buffer capital so that we can act quickly and make sure that no, no more land has to go into speculative hands.
Thomas Rippel: And in parallel do a lot of lobbying work to make sure that laws are being implemented or rather enforced, because there are already laws in Germany that there are not being enforced properly to stop speculative investment capital from purchasing agricultural land.
Koen van Seijen: We made a nice bridge to do something that we don’t discuss very often in this podcast. Sometimes we touch upon it when we discuss the age of the average farmer around the world. But that’s pensions.
Koen van Seijen: And tell us a bit about what you’re working on in terms of pensions. In this case, specifically for farmers and they will touch up on pensions for city folks.
Thomas Rippel: All right. Great that you bring that up because we have now ventured into a new area as Kultureland Genossenschaft. Now, that’s the foundation of this organization is so solid.
Thomas Rippel: We have decided we can take on this pension question so that farmers who don’t have heirs that want to take over the farm, either they don’t have children or they have children who have decided not to take over the farm.
Thomas Rippel: To give you a specific example where we’re talking to one farmer who has his farm with 70 hectares of land and buildings and machinery and so on with the value of two and a half million euros.
Thomas Rippel: And he has calculated for himself that he needs one hundred fifty thousand euros upfront in order to purchase himself a little house in the countryside. And then he would like to have 2200 euros per month for his living costs for the rest of his life. And so he’s 65 years old currently. And according to the statistics, he will live on average 20 years. So if you calculate 2200 euros over a period of 20 years, it’s about half a million. So what he’s asking for is six hundred fifty thousand euros rather than two, two and half million.
Thomas Rippel: So we can enable that, we have a community that the pools their money together so we can pay him this upfront money and then pay him the two thousand two hundred euros per month, which comes from the money that the community pays.
Thomas Rippel: And that includes the farms who pool the money every year to cover the costs of of operating the Kultureland Genossenschaft and then we are able to then pass on the farm as a whole rather than just purchasing land. We can then pass on the farm as a whole to the next generation.
Koen van Seijen: And then in terms of pension for city folks, what are you doing? I mean, this is more on the thinking side and the planning side. But what are you thinking there?
Thomas Rippel: Well, actually, we have implemented the pilot project here in one of our farms here. So it’s not just in the thinking stage. We’ve developed this over the past three years. We go over the farms where private persons can take a part of their retirement fund. And actually, we’re not there yet with taking part of the retirement fund. That is the next step because retirement funds are locked capital. But to take a part of their their liquid capital that is not locked into a pension fund, but they consider part of their retirement. So to take that and to make that available for land purchase and then get a monthly payment so that’s what we have developed with one of the farms and we want to develop this much further in that we go into a much broader scale.
Koen van Seijen: Sorry to interrupt, the payment, is that in food or in money?
Thomas Rippel: Currently, that is in money. So it’s just in monetary terms it’s called or it’s only defined in monetary terms.
Thomas Rippel: And the next step in this concept is to not define that in a fixed monetary sense with euros, but rather to define a food basket, the basket of goods, and then to guarantee to the person who makes that capital available that they will receive that basket of goods for the rest of the life.
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