Dan Miller on crowdfunding and its key role in regenerative agriculture

Dan Miller is the founder of crowd investing platform Steward.

LISTEN TO THE CONVERSATION ON:

Is investing in regenerative agriculture and food only for large investors?

Dan and Koen unravel the role of the crowd in the financing, the growth of regenerative agriculture, and how the current crisis is speeding up everything. They also talk about how Dan started financing the first deals on the platform.

Witnessing Economic Collapse

This episode is one for the books as the guest, Dan Miller, comes from crowdfunding/ crowd investing/ crowd lending movement. He is one of the pioneers who took part in the regenerative agriculture industry. 

Dan narrates his connection to farming started when he was young. His relatives from his mother side own farmlands in the Chesapeake Bay area. Unfortunately, over one generation, the land was destroyed with overfishing and industrial pollutant runoff and industrial agriculture. 

We spent a lot of time out there and we saw a region collapse economically, no value goes into the local farms, a lot of the farms getting squeezed out by larger producers, and the net benefit of the society and community being destroyed, but also the ecological consequences.” – Dan Miller 

Focus on Regenerative Practices

After seeing the outcome of economic collapse in their estates, Dan committed himself to agriculture under the lens of regenerative, sustainable practices that were focused on ecology first. 

“For me, it’s been connecting all of my background, family history, my experience prior to Steward, and then now using all of those skills to help accelerate the growth through regenerative agriculture, focusing on capital, which is generally the first constraint for any farmer doing this type of work.” – Dan Miller 

Economics and Access to Capital

Dan shares the reason why regen ag as it is today is because of policy decisions and incentives put in place, not just circumstances. Koen agrees, stating that the biggest bottleneck in farming is not necessarily the lack of good entrepreneurs or good farmers or entrepreneurial farmers, but having access to capital.

“That’s when I started to realize these farmers are growing heirloom varieties, taking care of the soil doing very unique products. They have no access to financing. They can’t get funding anywhere. I don’t think I’ve ever connected economics. But then, as I really started to work on Steward, I realized the economics have to be aligned with the agricultural practices.”  – Dan Miller 

Government Policies

With research and early discovery, Dan shares that government policy drives most funding in agriculture — from government direct lending or through banks. This is unfortunate news for 90% of farmers in the US, who are small and medium farmers.

“If you’re not a large commodity producer in the US and generally around the world, they’ve kind of followed this practice. If you’re not a large commodity producer, you’re ignored. You don’t get finance, whether that’s by design or not, that’s a different conversation, but they are left out.” – Dan Miller 

Persevering in the Face of Challenges

Many of the farmers who worked with Dan are sustainable and are interested in regenerative ag. However, without the capital to grow, they can’t get there. They all are persevering in the face of challenges and a little bit of funding goes such a long way for them to grow their businesses.

“We learn about their business, we make recommendations on what fundings out there between either us or other sources grants as well. Then what do they need to move forward? So it has become very comprehensive because as you can imagine, these generally regenerative farmers are not focused on financing. It’s not an interest for them. But it’s important.” – Dan Miller 

To hear more about Dan Miller, Founder of Steward and how they make it possible for farmers to gain access to capital, download, and listen to this episode!

Guest Bio:

Steward’s story begins with its founder and CEO, Dan Miller. Ask Dan what inspired him to create Steward, and he’ll tell you about early mornings spent crabbing with his dad on the Chesapeake Bay.

This was the experience that rooted him to the land, but it was a meeting with a well-known chef in Dan’s hometown, Washington D.C, that would plant the idea of Steward in his mind. He talked about the difficulties facing the independent farmers that supplied his restaurant. The more specialised the farms were, the harder it was to get a loan.

Dan felt that instead of forcing farmers to fit within a box, it should be the other way around. So he committed himself to creating a system that empowers farmers to steward their land sustainably, with consumers—the people with the most to gain from sustainable farming—investing in their success.

Since graduating from the Wharton School with a B.S. and M.B.A in 2010, Dan has seen firsthand the potential of an investment crowdfunding model. From 2010 to 2015, he was Co-Founder, President and a Director of Fundrise, the first and largest US real estate crowdfunding platform, which has raised more than $500 million to date. It’s this experience, combined with a passion for agriculture and ecology, that led Dan to Steward.

Links:

Steward

Linkedin: Dan Miller

We also discussed about Jonathan Lundgren and his interview about profitability in regenerative agriculture.

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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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