AI agronomist, making regenerative advice accessible to all. How important is it to preserve information regarding Regenerative Agriculture?
John Kempf, founder of Advancing Eco Agriculture (AEA) and host of Regenerative Agriculture Podcast, is back on the podcast to discuss his book on Regenerative Agriculture, developing AI agronomist, and influencing farmers to ask better questions.
LISTEN TO THE CONVERSATION ON:
An interview where we check in with John Kempf on why healthy plants are hardly ever affected by pests and diseases, as well as John’s priorities in creating new projects. We talk about his book, his work on developing an AI agronomist to make regen ag advice accessible to all farmers and to nudge farmers to observe better and more and ask better questions. And finally, how would John put a 1 billion dollar investment fund to work?
John started his work on fruit and vegetable production to get growers to adapt to regenerative agriculture practices. The goal is to reduce fertilizer and pesticide application and influence a change in eco-agriculture to produce quality and quantity of food. They want to set high standards for other companies by providing information and quality service.
“I believe that if you want to get people to change, you need to give them an economic incentive to change. The company Advancing Eco Agriculture works with farmers to show them how they can make more money, be more profitable, and be more successful using regenerative agriculture practices and managing plant nutrition differently.” – John Kempf
Recently John wrote a book, Quality Agriculture, which contains a collection of transcriptions from his podcasts and webinars, realizing the importance of information in this generation. The goal is to share and preserve everything he learned about Regenerative Agriculture for the current and future generations. The book aims to information democracy as knowledge should be accessible to all, regardless of language.
“I had several mentors when I was first starting out 15 years ago, who had incredible knowledge and passed away early and took much of that knowledge and information with them. I would like to do my part in preventing that from happening with the many wise elders that we have in our generation today.” – John Kempf
Regenerative Farming System
There are so many advantages in research. There is an abundance of information that is useful, implementation is what is needed the most. In Regenerative Agriculture System, there is a need to manage and understand all ecosystems interactions by using the knowledge already available.
“The key to implementing a Regenerative Farming System successfully is that there is a broad base of knowledge that is needed. Even mainstream farmers who are not using a regenerative approach, they have a very diverse knowledge base that includes mechanics and nutrition and genetics and biology and the list just kind of goes on and on.” – John Kempf
John, together with his team, is working on a software platform called AI Agronomist. It is a tool that can monitor meteorological data, a plant’s nutritional profile, predict disease and insect susceptibility in the future, and predict yield quality. It is a powerful tool to help farmers as well as for human health.
“I think it’ll be incredibly valuable and powerful for growers all around the world to be able to see this. The intent is not to get farmers out of the field and have them looking at the screen for alerts, but actually to use this to get growth into the field more and asking better questions.” – John Kempf
One Billion Investment Fund
When Koen asked John if he was given one billion dollar that he could use to invest on anything he wants, John said that, in agriculture, that amount of money is not a lot. In fact, they need to produce billions of dollars used strategically to see an improvement in regenerative agriculture spaces. John would invest in improving practices, production by growers, and looking for issues that hinders regenerative agriculture.
“Various funds have largely been focused on farmland and investing in farmland, and I see the opportunity in buying, I see the security that is present. Investing in farmland that has an appreciable asset and so forth, but I don’t believe that is the place where we can produce the most change. Now, I do believe that, that is one place where there is an opportunity to demonstrate for other stakeholders the significant potential that exists. If I had to think about deploying a billion dollars, focusing on strategically, I would try to identify what are the barriers to adoption for regenerative agriculture, and specifically invest in removing those barriers.“John Kempf
To learn more about John Kempf download and listen to this episode.
John Kempf is the co-founder of Advancing Eco Agriculture. He and his team are helping growers to make more money with regenerative agriculture. Since 2006 they have served over 2 million acres all over the world. Focusing on how to make regen ag the norm by 2040.
If you want to know more about ITN framework, it is used widely in the Effective Altruism community:
TRANSCRIPT OF THE INTERVIEW
crops, growers, farmers, regenerative agriculture, question, produce, plant, people, develop, invest, soil, opportunity, field, agriculture, happening, conversation, observed, significant, podcast, nutritional
John Kempf, Koen van Seijen
Koen van Seijen 00:00
This is an interview where we check in with John Kempf. Why healthy plants hardly have pest and disease issues. We talk about his book his work on developing an AI agronomist to make region ag advice accessible to all farmers anywhere everywhere and how to nudge farmers to observe better and ask more questions. And finally, how would John put a $1 billion investment fund to work? Enjoy!
Koen van Seijen 00:25
Welcome to another episode of "Investing in Regenerative Agriculture: Investing as if the Planet Aattered", 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 slash soil underneath our feet.
Koen van Seijen 01:03
In March last year, we launched our membership 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 gumroad.com/investinginregenag or find the link below. Thank you.
Koen van Seijen 01:29
Welcome to another episode today with John Kemp, the co-founder of advancing eco agriculture and obviously the host of the podcast Regenerative Agriculture. He and his team are helping growers to make more money with regenerative agriculture since 2006. And since 2006 they have served over 2 million acres all over the world, and he's focusing on how to make regen ag norm by 2040. And I've interviewed him almost exactly a year ago. So welcome back, John on the show.
John Kempf 01:56
Thanks for having me Koen, I enjoyed our conversation last time and I'm sure this one is going to be even more fun.
Koen van Seijen 02:01
We have a lot to check in, actually, we're going to look back at the show we recorded last time, which obviously will link below and then we have some other pieces I would love your opinion on, your thoughts on. So let's get started. Very briefly, for anybody that doesn't know you have a brief two minute overview who is John Kempf, and what is advancing eco agriculture?
John Kempf 02:20
Yeah. I believe that if you want to get people to change, you need to give them an economic incentive to change. So the company of advancing eco agriculture works with farmers to show them how they can make more money, be more profitable, and be more successful using regenerative agriculture practices and managing plant nutrition differently. We are agronomy consultants and coaches that work closely with them to reduce fertilizer applications to reduce pesticide applications. Our history really started in the high value of fruit and vegetable production space and getting those growers to adopt regenerative agriculture practices. I see advancing eco agriculture as an engine for change because we can change agriculture and change the quality and quantity of food that is grown in the world purely as a result of us being in business and our intent. And our desire is not to be all things to all people, but to set such a high standard and provide such exceptional information and value and service that we force other companies in the space to do business differently purely as a result of our presence in a local region. And that has already been happening, which I'm very pleased and excited about, and this is all of course with an eye toward being very specific and very strategic about how can we get agriculture to shift to the point where regenerative agriculture becomes the mainstream in the next two decades.
Koen van Seijen 03:46
Yeah, which is definitely something we'll unpack, but first, I wouldn't say housekeeping because these are very important pieces but we discussed them last time and actually, they're big updates around that. So first of all, the book, you just published a book I mean I think this week even, so when this comes out obviously it's going to have reviews, etc. But talk a bit about your book "Quality Agriculture".
John Kempf 04:05
It's been an interesting pathway to producing this book and other books that are in the pipeline now. The people have been asking me to write a book for over a decade and finally I sat down to write an outline of everything that I wanted to include and when I was done, the outline was 40 pages long. And it looked like a really big project. So I scratched my head for a bit. And then I said "Wait a minute, we have all these podcast interviews that we've done, all the webinars that I've taught, many presentations that I've taught, why don't we use those and get those transcribed and use those to fill in these various sections of the book that I want to write". So we started down this pathway and got all these episodes transcribed, and I started editing them and reviewing them. And I realized how incredibly valuable and important the information was in a lot of the conversations that I had had. And soon came to the conclusion that I would be doing a disservice both to my guests that I had interviewed, and to my readers if I tried to just extract bits and pieces from that. The book "Quality Agriculture" is an edited, heavily edited for clarity, transcription of thirteen of the initial interviews that we had on the Regenerative Agriculture podcast, which have been listened to hundreds of thousands of times already. And the book, we just launched it yesterday and just released it yesterday and already the response has been extremely strong, people who are reading it electronically have had lots of good things to say about it, I've gotten lots of good feedback so I expect it to become very popular and I see it as the first in a series. We'll continue doing this with the other interviews that I've done and release a set of volumes over time.
John Kempf 05:50
But I see myself, I mean, my name is on the cover, but I'm not so much, I've been responsible for editing and review and everything else but this is really the voices of some of the leaders and the wise elders in the regenerative agriculture space who've been doing this work in many cases for 20 or 30 years. And one of the things that I've come to really appreciate as the host of the podcast and having conversations, I have noticed that there are two characteristics of all of the episodes and all the people whose episodes become really popular. There are two characteristics that they all share in common. The one is that they are exceptionally observant. They really observe natural systems and what is happening and going on in the world around them. And the second is that they come from a place within of a very strong heart connection and deep empathy for others, deep empathy for people, for the landscape, for livestock. And I feel really blessed that I'm able to have conversation with people who have those characteristics and who have decades of experience to share that I can learn from and then that others can learn from as well. So I'm certainly contributing in the sense that I'm guiding the conversation, asking the questions, but these are voices from people who have some really incredible information that in many cases is not widely known and that's... I had several mentors when I was first starting out 15 years ago who had incredible knowledge and passed away early and took much of that knowledge and information with them and I would like to do my part in preventing that from happening with the many wise elders that we have in our generation today.
Koen van Seijen 07:38
Yeah, we often forget how much work already has been done with way limited equipment and tools and technology that we have now and things obviously to share, technology to share we're using to record this, but there's so much already done and so much to actually easily forgotten if the wrong person passes away too early and didn't write it down or didn't record anything, a lot of that disappears, which obviously happened with previous generations. So documenting that and making it accessible, because a podcast is great and audio form is great but it's very, we noticed that as well, is very limited. I mean there's only a very small percentage of people listening to things or watching things even online, compared to reading, so I think it's amazing to see that you actually translated that without just doing a transcript, but actually heavily editing it for readability to make it accessible for a whole new audience to read, in this case, electronically, but the books are being shipped. So you can actually read it in paper form as well.
Koen van Seijen 08:37
Yeah, these are going to be incredible resources and just echoing what you said earlier, there is so much knowledge and information that has been lost from previous generations because we didn't do a good job of documenting it. And one of the things that I've realized is that there are two challenges that we often see in this, I think this is just a general human characteristic but I think it's particularly important in the context of the regenerative agriculture conversation. So there are many pioneers who have developed incredible wisdom and knowledge and experiences but in many cases, they may be largely or almost completely unknown. People don't know about them, people don't hear about their stories, they're not widely shared. So my desire was to be able to draw some of that out and capture it and then the other aspect you mentioned is information democracy. It's so important in today's world, I believe, to have information and knowledge be readily accessible to everyone around the planet. And I would say within that, including not just the people who read English, which is a limitation of course that we have in the language that we're speaking in and writing in is that that's only a fraction and a minority fraction of the world's population.
Koen van Seijen 09:49
But defected you haven't written now means that translation becomes much easier than audio translation.
John Kempf 09:55
Koen van Seijen 09:56
Absolutely. Yeah. And it's a nice bridge to something I've heard You mentioned in a conversation with Dan Kittredge, I think it was recorded last year at the bio nutrient food Association forum event where you mentioned that you are working on, I called it in my notes the AI powered pharmacist, but obviously there must be a much fancier or better name, but basically making all this knowledge or at least a big chunk of this knowledge accessible for farmers anywhere. Can you elaborate a bit on that project?
John Kempf 10:29
What I have learned in these many conversations is that we're in a situation today where there are areas of new knowledge that are useful, but in many cases we don't need any more information, we don't need any new information, we already have all the knowledge and all the information that we need and we simply need to propagate that and implement what it is that we already know. And I'm using the broadest sense of the collective 'we' in this sense that we collectively already have tremendous knowledge and information, we simply need that to be applied.
Koen van Seijen 11:00
By applying you mean farmers, in this case let's focus on regen ag, its farmers implementing...?
John Kempf 11:07
Actually implementing it in the field. Yes. And the key to implementing regenerative farming systems successfully is that there is a broad base of knowledge that is needed, even mainstream farmers who are not using a regenerative approach they need to have a very diverse knowledge base that includes mechanics and nutrition and genetics and biology and the list just kind of goes on and on. And that becomes even more pronounced and even more necessary in regenerative agriculture systems where you need to manage all of these ecosystem interactions and understand all the ecosystem interaction so that you can manage them well. And there is such an abundance of information available today...
Koen van Seijen 11:47
It's very daunting, I mean that's huge going from plug and play, I wouldn't say plug and play but plug and spray maybe, but imagine less, how do you say knowledge intense? I mean it's knowledge intense but the moment you step into the realm of regien ag and start making your first steps, etc. it becomes very complex very quickly and there are a million things you can look at and a million things you could or should be doing. So it can be, I think, quite overwhelming, especially if you are just starting out.
John Kempf 12:16
Yeah, mainstream agriculture, I think could be appropriately described as target and spray. And so there is so much knowledge and information available today about how nutrients and how biological organisms and cultural management practices contribute to different disease organisms, or insects, and so forth. So we have all the information today that a farmer who has a crop should be able to get an alert, either on his phone or by whatever means or mechanism, and say that "you need to begin scouting your crop for this insect because it's expected to emerge from dormancy in the next three to four days and of these eight different sections in your field, or these eight different blocks, you have these three out of your eight fields are highly susceptible, and the first field is highly susceptible because it doesn't have enough molybdenum and therefore it has high levels of nitrate accumulation. The second field is highly susceptible because it doesn't have adequate magnesium. The third field is highly susceptible because it doesn't have adequate sulfur". But the point is that we have all the knowledge today about how to manage plant nutritional integrity so that plants can become resistant to all these different organisms and yet monitoring that and understanding it and connecting all those dots is something that I've spent the last 15 years doing and something that I really enjoy but there's a tremendous knowledge base that is required behind that to connect all these different pieces and deeply understand it.
John Kempf 13:50
So the intent of in the interests of democratizing information and making this information accessible, one of the projects that we have in the pipeline that we're working on is this software platform that we're calling the AI agronomist. And the AI agronomist is essentially what I've described, a tool that has the capacity to monitor meteorological data, the plant's nutritional profile in the field of soil attritional profile, and predict disease and insect susceptibility into the future, and also predict yield quality and the quality of that yield. So this has the capacity to be incredibly powerful.
Koen van Seijen 14:31
It sounds like magic almost, but yeah.
John Kempf 14:34
Well, we do this to a degree for human health and for veterinary medicine and so forth. We already have the information we just haven't used it quite in this way because of the significant vested interests that are in place on the treatment side of using pharmaceuticals or chemicals to treat these problems. So I think this platform becomes incredibly powerful because it changes the conversation. Instead of the conversation being that "I have this bug, I need to spray an insecticide", the conversation now becomes "I have this bug, or I have susceptibility to this bug, because I don't have the right nutritional integrity and if I want to change my susceptibility, from an eight on a scale of one to 10 down to a two, I need to apply molybdenum". And all of a sudden, it connects the dots that there is a nutritional correlation to disease and insect susceptibility. And it's incredibly empowering for the growers, because now it gives them the resources, the connection, they can do something and they can also do the research and immediately try to connect the dots around what is the 'why' behind this, what's happening and what's going on. So I think it'll be incredibly valuable and powerful for growers all around the world to be able to see this and the intent is not to get farmers out of the field and have them looking at the screen for alerts. But actually to use this to get growers into the field more and asking better questions. Going back to the comment that I made earlier, there are many pioneering growers who are very gifted observationally, they are very good at making keen observations around what's happening in natural ecosystems. And our desire, to the degree that we can, is to use this as a tool to facilitate asking better questions, and observing better what's happening in going on in the landscape.
Koen van Seijen 16:27
So basically using the technology to train almost or to incentivize and to nudge more farmers to train their observation.
John Kempf 16:36
Absolutely. We asked them questions, we asked them to both take photos, and also to evaluate how their crop is doing how widely are the leaf nodes spaced apart? How many flowers do you have per cluster? How large is your biomass? What's your water infiltration rate? So we asked farmers to do all these measurements and upload them to the platform.
Koen van Seijen 16:58
To get closer to their plants and soil basically.
John Kempf 17:01
Koen van Seijen 17:02
And what's the timeline? Or where do you start with this? Because it seems gigantic. Would there be one crop? One type of grower? One region? How do you approach something so big?
John Kempf 17:15
The pathway that we're following is we begin by identifying the crops that we can have the most significant economic impact on globally. In the short term, we begin working with those and these are the crops that most people depend on as a food source, crops such as rice and wheat and corn and soybeans. But then also, not just exclusively those grain crops but also working on fruit and vegetable crops, apples, cherries. And we're also focusing on working on the crops that have the most significant pesticide use. If apples and cherries and strawberries are among the most significant pesticide users, let's demonstrate the proof of concept in the environment in which it's the most difficult, and then deploying it on other crops in the regions around the country becomes a lot easier.
John Kempf 17:58
So it is a very ambitious project, it's a very big project, and at the same time, the foundational principles behind these nutritional correlations and nutritional interactions and various disease organisms and insects and the meteorological data. The foundational principles behind these interactions are relatively similar from crop to crop. And they're even similar between different groups of insects, so there might be hundreds of possible insect pests but when you begin categorizing them based on their nutritional requirements, and the amino acid profile that they require within a plant, you can actually group them into perhaps as little as five or six groups. So when you group them together, then you can put in the data of how many heat units or growing degree days are required for them to emerge from dormancy, or whatever, you can look at all those parameters. And it is a very big project, I'm not discounting that at all, but it is not as difficult as it might perhaps at first appear.
Koen van Seijen 18:58
And in terms of timeline? When are you hoping, expecting - I mean timelines are always difficult - what's your hope?
John Kempf 19:04
I haven't put a mark in the ground, at this point. We do have a version of this that we are already using in house in our consulting work as an alpha test that we're using with our advancing eco agriculture team. And we need to continue developing that and expanding that. In order for this to have the performance that I just described and have be this level of an assistant to a grower there is one thing that we really need and that is we need the capacity to measure a plant's nutritional profile in the field in real time. That is technology that Dan Kittredge is working on and that other people are working on.
Koen van Seijen 19:43
So can you explain for a layman what does that mean? What do you need to measure when you measure the nutritional profile of a plant in the field?
John Kempf 19:51
I need to have a device, a sensor that a crop scout or a farmer can carry into the field and can measure the concentrations of nitrogen, calcium, phosphorus and twenty some different minerals, and perhaps also the amino acid profile of the plant and immediately uploaded to the cloud. That technology, as of this moment in time, is only housed within a laboratory context. It's not mobile, that you can take it into the field.
Koen van Seijen 20:19
And you do that by scalling like a leaf or an apple, or what would the process look like?
John Kempf 20:25
The process would be as simple as taking a snapshot of a leaf or an apple, whatever part of the plant that you want to measure.
Koen van Seijen 20:33
And that's the missing piece.
John Kempf 20:34
That is the missing piece we know that technology is coming. It's not a question of if, it's only a question of when. So we are continuing to develop this in house and we have not put a line in the sand to say that we need to have this ready to go by a certain date, because we are waiting for that technology to be developed. In the meantime, we're developing the platform and actively using it using laboratory data. So we are collecting the sample sent into the laboratory and getting nutritional data. And that's how we're building out the proof of concept and so forth.
Koen van Seijen 21:03
It's an interesting point to make. We made it in the previous interview. But why are you focusing so much on plants is the underlying reason there is that you stated and you state? Probably again, if I would ask you that healthy plans are not attacked by pests, or at least attacked in a way different way. Which is something that probably many listeners would, I don't know, not know or be very skeptical about? Is that something you encounter often like people say "Yeah, but pests are always going to be there". But the underlying reason here is if your plants are strong, healthy, nutritious, etc. you don't have necessarily a pest issue.
John Kempf 21:39
Pests are not always going to be there. And every farmer who is honest, in his observations, knows this to be true. If you have a field with a given crop, insect pests or disease never begins attacking the entire field uniformly, they always concentrate first in one area. Perhaps a scenario that there was where it was too wet, and there was water standing for a couple of weeks. It can be any number of factors. But insects and diseases do not occur at random. They are simply nature's survival of the fittest mechanisms that are here to take unhealthy plants out of the system before we can consume them. And then we of course, in our so called wisdom, spray toxins on these plants and feed them to people, which is a really stupid thing to do. But it is absolutely possible for plants to be completely 100% resistant to all diseases and all insects. And I know that that is a very significant claim. It's not one that I make lightly. And I can make that claim based on actual field experience of accomplishing those results on millions of acres, on dozens of different crops, on multiple continents. I haven't personally experienced this, but colleagues that I work closely with have experienced growing crops that were completely resistant to locusts,to a swarm of locusts in Africa. And I can promise you, if you can grow a crop that is resistant to a sort of locusts, you can grow plants that are pretty much resistant to everything.
Koen van Seijen 23:06
That's very, I mean, it places a bomb underneath the input industry basically, which is obviously why there's so much pushback which we discussed before. That's, it's very helpful.
John Kempf 23:17
When you look at it from a high level perspective there are not many significant differences between the medical pharmaceutical industry and the agricultural pharmaceutical industry.
Koen van Seijen 23:28
They're often the same companies.
John Kempf 23:30
They're often the same, often the same players, and they both have the desire to maintain the continuity of a problem so they can sell their pharmaceutical bandaids to cover the problem. But in the case of either human health or plant health or animal health, if you identify the dietary or nutritional foundations of the health imbalances, you can, not always certainly, but in the significant majority of cases, you can prevent the problems from showing up in the first place
Koen van Seijen 24:02
To make a nice bridge, is that something - because last time we discussed actually you were very enthusiastic about a product you're working on to launch which is an input product, like I mean you sell inputs, but very different ones - did that launch? And if so, how did that go?
John Kempf 24:17
Many soils today have become substantially degraded not so much from a nutritional perspective. They can be nutritionally degraded from a nutritional perspective, but even more significantly, perhaps much more significantly, their microbiome has deteriorated because of historical pesticide applications. We know that there are some organisms that have been developed for hydrocarbon remediation, oil spill, remediation and so forth, that seem to be very effective at remediating these pesticides in the soil and allowing the microbial population to really expand and to develop a very strong microbiome around root systems again. So we've been developing this product, I've been working on it for probably five or six years, we launched it, we did a partial launch a year ago and released it in one state nd it's now available in several states here in the US. It's a product called Centera. And it's interesting we're having to jump through some interesting regulatory loopholes to get it registered for sale in additional states because some of the organisms that we are using to produce these effects are not widely known or considered to be useful, active microbes in an agricultural setting. And yet, every time we apply them, we get these tremendous crop responses. And it's not so much that these organisms are contributing directly to the crop as that they are changing the environment, allowing the organisms that should be present to proliferate and develop.
Koen van Seijen 25:47
And so the results have been good.
John Kempf 25:48
The results have been absolutely incredible.
Koen van Seijen 25:50
Because we were discussing last time, I now remember actually part of the discussion that especially the speed was quite impressive of applying this specific input and the speed of what the soil actually was responding to.
John Kempf 26:03
I'm always amazed at the incredible resilience of natural ecosystems and their capacity to recover from all the damage that we have inflicted. There was one case in particular, I mean, there have been many cases. But one in particular that comes to mind was, when this product was applied on a peach orchard that was severely stunted. These were older peach trees that were about 20, I think just over 20 years old, which should be considered a young peach orchard but unfortunately it's considered an old Peach Orchard in today's agricultural context.
Koen van Seijen 26:33
Because how old can peaches get?
John Kempf 26:35
If they're managed well and have good nutrition they can easily become 80 to 100 years old and produce exceptional crops. These trees had for the prior five years only produced an inch to an inch and a half of new growth per year. So very small amount of new growth, there was no energy, there was no vigor, and you could see that these trees were slowly dying. The grower fully intended to take a bulldozer to the block and push them out and start over. If if we weren't able to turn them around in a single year, he give us a one year opportunity to turn them around. We applied this microbial inoculant with some biostimulants and some other goodies to the soil profile. And in three months, there was 18 inches of new growth.
Koen van Seijen 27:20
John Kempf 27:21
After five years of no growth to speak of. I was absolutely incredible. Trees recovering and turning around that fast. And the important aspect to consider here is that we added no fertilizers, we added no nutrients. I actually, maybe I can't make the blank statement that we added no we might have added some very small amounts of chelated manganese and trace minerals to the soil profile, but in terms of adding large quantities of nitrogen, and phosphorus and potassium, and so forth, we added none of those macronutrients. And yet we observed this incredible rebirth and regeneration of these trees. So those are the types of stories that I get really excited about. Because now the reality is that in the development of this product, it's proven challenging for us to find laboratories who are actually willing to do third party testing and validate that pesticides are being remediated from the soil profile. They're concerned about what the repercussions of that might be. But from a purely observational and experiential perspective of how these plants are improving, it is obvious that whatever we are adding is having a significant effect on plant health and performance and on the soil ecosystem' s health and performance that is easy to observe and easy to measure. So we're not talking about, we're not going out and making claims to say that "Oh, we can remediate glyphosate and we can remediate these pesticides" because we're having a hard time actually documenting and measuring that. But we can observe the tremendous crop responses and when growers experienced that and see that it doesn't take very long for them to make the decision that they want to apply it on a lot of acres.
Koen van Seijen 29:02
No, I can imagine. And actually, it's for anybody that's not a farmer actually like myself, you've also launched a daily newsletter, I think it was back in October, no maybe...
John Kempf 29:14
Koen van Seijen 29:15
Which has been teaching me a lot. I usually read them like in a block. So I read like 10 or 20 in a row and I have to be honest, a lot of the topics are way over my head in terms of depth in plant health, soil health, etc. but they're very interesting. A lot of interesting papers, etc. So anybody that's interested in that, definitely sign up on your website on this newsletter just to learn about the depth and breadth of what is happening at the moment and how much is changing how much knowledge is already there and how much we already know and how much we're discovering. I wouldn't say daily, but almost daily.
John Kempf 29:51
Thanks for sharing that Koen, and I'm intrigued to hear you say that they're above your head because I specifically tried to make them very simple and easy enough to understand and very short and brief and to the point. But the intention of the blog was to again, as I described earlier, I've discovered that there is so much knowledge and so much agronomic information that is not widely known. And many growers and agronomists don't have the bandwidth, or the desire to spend time reading white papers and reading articles to discover the new information, the new research that is out there, as well as the old information and the knowledge that has been lost. So the intent of the blog was to put this information out there in easily digestible pieces, and also as accountability for myself to commit to writing and publishing a certain number of blog posts every week. And that would eventually lead to putting a book together or expanding the series of books. So it's been a fun project, I would invite all of our listeners to please subscribe at johnkempf.com and share your thoughts and feedback and questions f there's any topics that you would like for me to address.
Koen van Seijen 31:05
Yeah, it's definitely accessible. But I think for me, sometimes the terms like the specific deep plant health terms that I I'd have to Google or find in a dictionary, so it's the language is definitely accessible. But the other few terms here and there that are that are above what I know, and what I daily deal with, obviously, if not as a non farmer, but it's a it's highly, I would say relevant and informational. And also entertaining, because they're short, they're easy to learn. If you want to go deep, you can go deep. And if you don't you don't you click to the next one. And with that, I would like to ask a question we didn't get to last time because I didn't think I was asking it yet. What if tomorrow morning, we're actually today, let's say after we close this interview, you'll be in charge of a $1 billion. And that's the investment portfolio. And you are focused on making region egg the norm by 2040. And actually, you can invest it in anything you want. I'm not going to give you the limitation. But what would you be as john Kemp investment manager of this investment portfolio of $1 billion dollars? What would you invest it in? Or how would you invest it?
John Kempf 32:09
Wow. That's a big question. You know, I hadn't
Koen van Seijen 32:15
had a bit of context, I'm, I'm asking it, because I see the interest growing from investors. And I made a, I think, I wouldn't say a bet because I may be losing money. But I'm thinking that quite a few large institutional investors and larger family funds and family offices are entering this space. And a number of people in this space are going to get these phone calls, like I would love to invest in soil, regenerative agriculture, plants, etc. Where can I place a billion dollars, or euros or yen or, but a large amount? I don't think we're debt far off that moment that that's going to happen more often. And I think we, as a sector need to be ready to have the infrastructure ready to absorb those kind of amounts and put them actually to work in a proper regenerative way. So just to give a bit of context to that question,
John Kempf 33:00
I commend you for asking good questions. I believe that many times breakthroughs are made by asking different questions and by asking good questions, and I think this is a very good question. So I've thought about this question. thought about it a lot, historically, and then a bit more, a bit more and more recently. And so here are my thoughts on how I would deploy a billion dollars and a billion dollar funds. So I believe, as for some context, and some background to my thoughts, I believe that in general, business is a very powerful way to drive change. I see as I described, advancing eco agriculture, I see a as an engine for change. And I see business as a self sustaining engine for change. So there is the opportunity to make money, but then also, in addition to making the money to have a very significant impact. And so my personal strategy, and what I really care about what I believe the planet really needs to make a significant difference on the planet and our long term future is to have regenerative agriculture become the mainstream in the next couple of decades. So that is definitely what I would focus on. So how would I deploy that there's one other aspect as well, which I believe that a fund should also seek to not just benefit itself, but to demonstrate for others the incredible opportunity that they have to also produce change, and be very profitable. And so also to demonstrate incentives for others. So when we think about a billion dollars in the context of global agriculture, the reality is that a billion dollars is a very small amount. In that context, we have equity that is in the trillions of dollars. And so to produce the level of the systemic level of change that we're seeking to produce billion dollars would need to be deployed very strategically and in areas that we can really leverage significantly to produce significant change. And I think this is one area that, at least in the practices that I've observed in the currently very small regenerative agriculture space, have shifted to regenerative agriculture. And various funds have largely been focused on farmland and investing in farmland. And while I see the opportunity, and
John Kempf 35:35
yes, I see the opportunity, I see the security that is present in investing in farmland that is an appreciable asset, and so forth. But I don't believe that is the place where we can produce the most change. Now, I do believe that that is one place where there is an opportunity there to demonstrate for other stakeholders the significant potential that exists. So if I were to think about deploying a billion dollars focusing on strategically, I would try to identify what are the barriers to adoption for Regenerative agriculture, and specifically invest in removing those barriers. So that implies that we're not just investing in agriculture itself, but in the entire ecosystem of supporting businesses and services, around agriculture and around farmland. So when we break that down, when I break that down and look at specific opportunities there our first speak a little bit about the opportunities that come to mind in in farmland itself and demonstrating for others the opportunity that exists, I see that there are two areas that there are significant economic opportunities. One of them is grass fed beef, in areas where grazing is not well and deployed. That's kind of a whole conversation that I'm not necessarily the expert in. But I've I've observed many conversions where I had this interesting conversation with Joel Salatin just a few episodes ago on our podcast where he described that soil land that has the capacity to produce 100 bushels per acre of corn can produce 400 cow days of grazing for grazing beef. So you can use that conversion factor of 100 bushels to 400 kg days of grazing for whatever the the corn yields might be. And in every market, when Joel has had a conversation with farmers, he's asked him to put the numbers on the board of what their costs are of purchasing stocker cattle and the market prices of selling beef. The input costs for producing corn, the corn profitably in every single market in dozens of presentations. Producing grass fed beef always is more profitable and makes more money than growing corn. But many farmers don't make the transition. Why is everyone growing corn? It's because they are in many cases, they're locked into a system. They have bank loans, they have large pieces of equipment combined and so forth. They are there many growers are they're comfortable people are resistant to change. It's a very human characteristic. I'm not faulting them for where they are, but
their friends and neighbors are,
John Kempf 38:17
yes, they feel stuck and trapped into a system for any number of different reasons. And yet, to me, it's so profound that we have grass fed beef being more profitable than grain production, on 10s of millions of acres, hundreds of millions of acres. And yet, the current status quo system that is degrading the environment and the ecosystems and the planet, as a whole continues to remain to be the status quo. So I see that as being one immediate, significant opportunity. How would you?
What would you look for?
John Kempf 38:53
Well, you can invest in the underlying land, that's one pathway. But if I were to seek to deploy a billion dollars as efficiently as possible, in this particular context, you could also and what I think would be a better opportunity is you could simply lease the land, you could rent the land and graze it. Imagine doing that on 10s of 1000s of acres or hundreds of 1000s of acres in the American Midwest, you can compete with the farmers who are renting land for corn ground, you can out compete them because you are more profitable. And you can regenerate large quantities of land large areas of land very quickly, and make money and be very profitable while doing so without having a tremendous amount of equity tied up. So perhaps there are positives and having that equity side as well. So I understand that there are different objectives that can be achieved here. But the point is that there are many more opportunities than just investing in the farmland itself. Then there is a second opportunity in actual production agriculture that I believe is even bigger. Perhaps significantly bigger than grazing beef. And that is in one specific category of crops that I refer to as the untapped genetic potential crops have usually what we refer to as multi fruiting reproductive crops. So let me just clarify that lexicon a little bit, describe what I'm talking about. So we have some crops that are vegetative, that we harvest the vegetative parts of the plant like alfalfa, and kale and spinach. And then you have reproductive crops, the crops, we actually harvest the fruit or grain, these would be rice, corn, tomatoes, soy beans, etc. And then within this category of reproductive crops, you have some crops that are highly developed, they've been studied intensively and their management and their nutrition has been studied intensely. And they're at a reasonably high level of performance corn would be an example of a crop in this category, or tomatoes or strawberries, then you have other crops that have not been highly developed, they've been largely ignored in terms of their economic development. And a, an appropriate historical example of this would be strawberries. In North America, which is the marketplace that I'm most familiar with 20 years ago, the average yield for strawberries in California was 4000 flats per acre, that's eight quarts or eight pound flats. Today, the average yield is 10,000 plants per acre. So you've had a 250% yield increase over the last 20 years, purely as a result of managing this crop much more intensely, there have been some improvements in genetics, absolutely, but not to that degree. It's that nutrition and irrigation and everything else has been managed much more intensely. And what we have observed in our work with at advancing eco agriculture, I believe very much that you produce the change that you desire to see in the world when you give people an incentive, for that change. So when we talk to growers, and in our marketing at advancing eco agriculture, we don't speak extensively about producing crops that are resistant to diseases and insects and eliminating the need for pesticides. We don't speak about growing food as medicine, and we don't speak about regenerating soil health and sequestering carbon and building soil organic matter. Those are all secondary outcomes, they are a result of the work that we do with the growers, they happen automatically. The conversation we have with the grower is we can help you make more money be more profitable and more successful by managing nutrition differently. That's it. That's the conversation that we have. And what we have observed is that there are many of these high value fruit and vegetable crops, which have a very large untapped yield potential, they have not been highly developed, like strawberries have, for example. And so for these crops, when we work with growers who are growing these crops, we don't even use some of their yield increases in our testimonials. And when we tell the stories of the successes that we've had, because people wouldn't believe us. We've had conversations, we've had growers report 70% yield increases in marketable yield on onions 120% yield increases on citrus lemons, specifically 50%, it's very common for us in for groups in this category, or excuse me, for crops in this category, to have anywhere from 30 to 50%, yield increases. This is not uncommon at all. So when you think about that, now you can be incredibly competitive with all the other growers for these crops in the landscape. So there is another significant investment opportunity there.
John Kempf 43:44
And how would you deploy capital in that opportunity? Would it be buying, upgrading farmers? Would it be investing in the potential? What would be your angle?
John Kempf 43:58
I think the angle there, as I see it, from my perspective is you need to have control over the actual production. So whether that means owning the land, or whether that means renting land, leasing land with this crop on it, and then developing it both of those are possibilities and happen routinely. So essentially, you you need to control the production, and operate most likely operate and manage that production, or hire that management to be done in a certain way. So those are two areas. I realized I'm I'm perhaps going into this into too much detail because I think there are other areas. So these are both areas within production itself. So when you look at the ecosystem around this, when you seek to identify strategically, what are the barriers to adoption of regenerative agriculture on scale, and how can we invest in removing those barriers to adoption? There are a number of different barriers that come up in conversation routinely with growers and with people that I ask these questions because I'm also constantly asking the question of what, how can we produce a change in the in the landscape and a change in the ecosystem. And one of those barriers to entry. I'm, of course, I'm most familiar with the Western world, specifically North America. That's the context, the domain that I'm most familiar with. But I, I know that there are also going to be similar, and in some cases, different barriers to entry and developing parts of the world. One significant barrier to entry in North America right now is market access, are having the right infrastructure for market access. So it's very difficult for growers to grow crops that are non GMO, for example, or even organic and certified or we're now getting requests to be connected with growers who are producing grains in a regenerative manner. But finding storage facilities to separate out and store these grains separately, and then get them to the market separately is a significant problems, they tend to all be put together into the same pool. That's one example of, of infrastructure that is needed for better market access. meat processing is another developing parts of the world to be refrigeration. So these are all different aspects that I think, can lead to significant adoption of regenerative agriculture if we remove some of these roadblocks. Another pathway that I believe we could have produced, significant change is facilitating farmland succession, we know that in the United States, we're going to have the biggest turnover of farmland in recorded history in the next 10 to 15 years where as much as 50 to 60% of all the farmland is going to change hands.
John Kempf 46:41
Because of retirement, I think the average age of a farmer is very close to 60. And maybe even in some countries above 60. Which means that, yeah, they're gonna change hands if we like it or not, or be abandoned, which is happening, actually, surprisingly often as well.
John Kempf 46:57
Yeah, that is unfortunate. So when we think about facilitating succession of farmland, there's an opportunity to invest in land again. But in reality, that is, again, that's a very expensive way of deploying a billion dollars, and you wouldn't have near the significant impact in producing change, what we really need is, we're going to need to develop and train 1000s millions, really, of young farmers. And so we have an opportunity by providing the education and the development of changing the narrative away from mainstream chemistry, pharmaceutical based agriculture to a regenerative agriculture, when we support and train and coach the young, emerging generation of farmers that is going to be needed for this succession. So there's both academic learning, there's peer to peer learning, and then the other opportunity is to facilitate the transfer of equity. So you could invest in farmland directly,
John Kempf 47:59
yeah, which you can, I mean, you can use 2 billion or part of that billion, because obviously, you're looking at it from a portfolio approach. So you're splitting it up in terms of diversification. But err, you can use part of that billion to give access to younger farmers without buying the underlying land forever, and somehow leverage that and do a lot more hectares or acres than you could have done if you just bought the land and rented it out leased it out to some young farmers.
John Kempf 48:24
Exactly right. That's exactly what I had in mind. There are ways to leverage money to use it, and deploy it on a lot more acres rather than fewer acres than just by purchasing it outright.
Koen van Seijen 48:34
Yeah, there's very interesting by the agrarian trust, we interviewed Ian A long time ago, I will make sure to link it below to take a lot of the land off the market, obviously, that's another discussion in terms of land ownership. And in terms of the infrastructure discussed before pipeline foods is doing some of that work, Eric Jackson, who we had on the show twice, but there's an enormous need for separation, basically, of the streams, because otherwise you become de commoditizing. These enormous infrastructure streams that we have set up around certain crops, and the access fees, I think to young farmers is something we don't think about often because many of these young farmers don't come from a farming background, which means they're not going to inherited farm. And so they're cut out because with the current farming price, farmland prices, they would never be able to buy anything big. And so they are often either stuck on a very small one or they give up altogether, which is an enormous loss for because we need this young energy. Absolutely.
John Kempf 49:29
Going back again to when we look at the overall ecosystem, and what are barriers to adoption barriers to entry. I think there are other this is from my perspective as being very closely engaged in the agronomy, I see several areas where there is tremendous, unrecognized opportunity. One of them is in developing appropriate plant genetics, our genetics have speaking in very broad terms, but the majority of modern genetics have been adapted to thrive. In a pharmaceutical model of agriculture, and these varieties, in many cases don't perform well, when they're put into biological agriculture systems. However, the inverse of that perspective is very true and very real. I've experienced this in several cases where crops were produced or genetic, or were bred specifically for biological agricultural systems. And these varieties that were bred for biological agricultural systems, they tend to have much larger, more robust root systems, much better plant structure, they're more disease resistant, they're more resilient in general. And when we put those into the present mainstream systems, they're significant outperformers. And this is actually plant genetics and breeding, it is a long term investment, it's not something that you turn around in the short term, but it has the capacity to be immensely profitable. When you look at the large corporations that are involved in seeds and pharmaceuticals today in agriculture, there's a reason that they are the most significant players, because these are very profitable pathways. And it is possible to monetize the production of genetics in ways other than just genetic modification and patenting and that pathway of intellectual property protection. So when I look at the fruit and vegetable production space, it is the nurseries and the breeders that by and large have, they have some of the highest returns in the agricultural space in general. So there is an opportunity here to produce exceptional genetics for this ecosystem, and to also have very strong returns. Then another opportunity is if you if you want to produce wholesale change, you asked me the question in our previous conversation, I could wave a magic wand and produce one change, what would I do or something along those lines. And I answered that I would remove the capacity for people to use nitrogen fertilizer. And I still believe that if we were to heavily tax nitrogen fertilizer, that one change could or that one lever of influence could facilitate tremendous change. Because nitrogen, nitrogen is to crop production, the equivalent of what Red Bull is for athletes. It covers up a lot of flaws. And it has the potential to cover up a lot of damage that is happening in the ecosystem. It is in and of itself damaging to the ecosystem. So I believe it would also be valuable to invest in alternatives to the mainstream synthetic nitrogen fertilization, develop alternatives to nitrogen and phosphorus fertilization, for example, which are things that we are working on have worked on at AEA, and we have some successful products. But there's always the opportunity to develop that more and to develop products that can out compete and outperform what is available in the current mainstream. And that could facilitate massive adoption as well. Similarly, developing and investing in producing effective bio controls. This is something that various organizations are already working on Pam marone, from Maryland bio innovations being one that I know well, and I'm sure there are also others. But when you develop effective treatments, biological type treatments that can compete and displace with pesticides, then that removes the need for pesticides and again, changes the conversation away from pharmaceuticals to a more holistic and integrated approach.
Koen van Seijen 53:35
But it's still input based, right. So it does, because I see a lot of two questions. So it's still input based let's let's first tackle that. Do you see that as a transition? I would say few because that's that's but is it transition towards healthier plants that don't need it anymore, which is sort of bad for your business. So these companies might be incentivized, even if they really don't want to make sure that you keep buying, even biological,
John Kempf 53:59
they can facilitate the transition, that as I see them as facilitating a transition period to the point where you no longer need inputs. The challenge with the chemical applications is that this is something that even many farmers don't know is that when you apply an insecticide or fungicide onto a crop, it actually increases that plants disease and insect susceptibility into the future,
which means you need more. Yeah,
John Kempf 54:25
exactly. The more of them you apply, the more of them you need in the future. The advantage of a bio control is that they don't have this effect. They're naturally occurring materials. And when you apply them you can temporarily control a disease or insect that you perhaps haven't developed the nutritional integrity to resist yet, but you don't increase susceptibility into the future. So there are transition tools that can help growers get to the point where they don't need those inputs into perpetuity in the future. Okay,
Koen van Seijen 54:53
that's clear. And then the second question because I get quite a few emails and and maybe other people in this space as well with companies that are claiming a lot of things in this space, especially in the, let's say, the more regenerative inputs, biological inputs, etc. I have a very hard time because I'm not a farmer, I'm not a biologist, I'm not a soil scientist to see through the noise and to hear through the noise and see what is real there. What kind of questions should I be asking them? Because I've on purpose not interviewed many of them on the podcast? Because I simply don't know how to filter and how to screen for what is noise? And what is actually interesting. What would be a good set of questions or a good question, I should ask them to sort of start filtering there.
John Kempf 55:34
I think one most powerful question. And this is in terms of product effectiveness and performance, which you asked about. It's not a question of how much did it increase yields in the best case situation? But the question is, in hump of all the various trials that you ran, what percentage of the time did you observe a crop a beneficial crop response? That's the key question, because agriculture is so variable, and it's so context dependent. It's unrealistic to expect any product even the very best products to perform 100% of the time, unless they are a synthetic material. roundup can have a 100% performance, biological materials, seldom if ever have 100%, performance 100% of the time. So it's really a question of what percentage of cases could they improve crop performance? And the better the product is? Obviously, the higher the percentage of cases that will be?
John Kempf 56:37
That's a very good question. Thank you for that. I'm gonna I'm gonna use it. The next time these these emails come in.
John Kempf 56:43
You You will be surprised.
John Kempf 56:45
Yeah, by beta noise. I think. That's my that's my hunch already. But I'm gonna I'm gonna report back to see if that's true. In terms of the portfolio. Do you have anything else you wanted to invest in? Or have we reached the end of the diversified because I think that's crucial.
John Kempf 57:05
Yeah, I will add two more important pieces that I think can add to this ecosystem and add to a diversified portfolio. The one is facilitating the development of a brand that describes nutritional integrity and compensates nutritional integrity similar to what blue blonde core has done in France and surrounding countries. Because, again, this speaks to producing change in the world by incentivizing people to change if you can give growers an economic incentive to produce healthier, higher quality food. And they will most certainly do that. And that almost invariably, the only way that that can be accomplished is in a regenerative manner. So what Blue blonk core is doing is they're specifically for animals.
John Kempf 57:54
Just for people that don't know what is blue bunker.
John Kempf 57:57
blue blood core is a nonprofit organization in France that has conducted hundreds if I'm not mistaken, I should say, maybe it conducted dozens of studies and published hundreds of peer reviewed papers on how the nutritional quality of food produces inflammation or anti inflammatory reactions in the human body. So they measure the fatty acid profile of animal products, whether this be beef, or poultry, or eggs. And all of the food that is produced under their label that receives their approval, their certification is documented to have this it's actually measured and tested to have a certain ratio of omega three to omega six essential fatty acids, and is known to reduce inflammation, whereas mainstream produced meat that doesn't have this, a fatty acid profile is known to enhance inflammation. So it actually they're healthy animal products actually have an anti inflammatory, it is food as medicine. They've documented that it is food as medicine. Wow, I didn't
John Kempf 58:59
know that it was already there. I need to get them on the show. That's amazing.
John Kempf 59:03
Yeah, they're doing absolutely incredible work. And what really impresses me, what they have accomplished that I don't know of anyone else that has accomplished is that they have brought together a collective of people within academia, government, medical institutions, and the population at large that they have been able to produce this collective effort where the farmers are compensated for producing higher quality that is tested and measured. And yet, the cost to the consumers remains unchanged. It costs exactly the same to the consumer as the conventional product does. And they have been able to produce so much momentum around this that the distributors were actually willing to take the cut to make up the difference. So the farmers now have an economic incentive to produce higher quality and yet the cost of the consumer is the same This, to me is magical. It's incredible because they have now created an engine to like no downside. Yeah, there is no downside. So if we can expand the work that they have done to include not just animal products, but also to have a conversation about fruits and vegetables, and to expand that, to, we could begin by expanding it to the developed world and then gradually, globally, now you have tremendous incentives, not just for the farmers that you're working with directly, but in your own portfolio, but globally to really produce massive change. And then there's one more piece that I would invest in, and then I'll stop at that part of the list. we've observed that a significant barrier to entry for many existing farmers who desire to adopt regenerative agriculture practices is that they are locked into a banking structure and insurance structure crop insurance structure that gives them no opportunity to to experiment with different practices and develop regenerative practices on their farm. They get a bank loan operating loan from the bank to purchase seeds and fertilizers. And as a contingency for the bank loan, they are required or as a covenant for the bank loan, they are required to follow the recommended USDA practices. So the crop Scout, in order to qualify for insurance, they're required to have crop insurance. And in order to get the crop insurance, they are required to follow USDA standard practices for the local region. So a crop scout comes out to scout their fields and say that you have this insect you have corn borer, and you need to spray this insecticide or you need to spray this fungicide. The farmer has no alternatives, he is forced to spray the insecticides or fungicides if he wants to keep his crop insurance and if he wants to keep his bank loan. And the same is true of cover crops. Many farmers would desire to plant cover crops and experiment with with cover crops and their operation. But cover crops are disallowed in the fields within certain time windows, in order to qualify for crop insurance, they have to be out at a certain time in the spring. They can't be there while the crop is growing because the USDA considers them to effectively be a weed and to limit plant productivity. And as a result, the bottom line is that the farmers which are dependent on bank loans are by default, also dependent on crop insurance. And that really limits their capacity to develop regenerative systems on their farm, they're kind of locked into the status quo. I would also use some of this billion dollar fund to facilitate the development of alternative crop insurance that enhances regenerative farming and actually rewards regenerative farming practices rather than suppresses them because there are many rewards. We know that when you develop soil health, you have better water infiltration, you are more climate resilient, you're more resilient to drought, which is
John Kempf 1:03:10
something an insurance company should love.
John Kempf 1:03:13
Exactly. You're more resilient to drought, you're more resilient to excess of rain, you're more resilient to frost, you're more resistant to disease and insects. These are practices that should be incentivized in the insurance world rather than de incentivize. And so there is an opportunity, from an insurance perspective to and from a banking perspective, to actually be more competitive than the existing insurance and banking landscape.
Koen van Seijen 1:03:37
That sounds like way more than a billion dollars. But thank you so much for probably it's the most it's the most profound answer I ever got to to this question. You definitely give it a lot of thought. And I think every single one probably can absorb, or hopefully can absorb more than a billion. So there is space out there. So for anybody listening and somebody has it laying around, definitely go back to the list and get to work. If you would like to learn more on how to put money to work in regenerative food and agriculture, find our video course on investing in regenerative agriculture.com slash course, this course will teach you to understand the opportunities to get to know the main players to learn about the main trends and how to evaluate a new investment opportunity. Like what kind of questions to ask, find out more on investing in regenerative agriculture.com slash course. And with that, I would like to ask a new question in the podcast that I've never asked before. And that's to do with priorities. So I really like to see briefly how you pick your priorities and what you focus on and whatnot. So I'm sorry, we're taking away your fund for now. And it's no longer your jump camp, investor hat. You know, first thing you have to put that off, but I see that I can learn a lot from people if I'm asking about their decision making framework and I'm using a specific one and ask you to look at it before which is ITN so importance tractability and neglect Which is a difficult word to say in a podcast important? What's the scale of the problem in the area? If all problems in this area could be solved? How much better would the world be? tractability? Like, how solvable is this? And how can we actually trace that and see done? and neglect sickness, obviously, is how neglected is this area? So I would like to ask you, if you had to pick one thing you can be working on now, but in general to focus on how to make region Eric the norm in 2014? Don't consider the budgets don't consider them the billion dollars, etc. I mean, I'm sorry, you lost it. But if you look at in terms of importancy, like, what's the scale of the problem? Like what's the highest importance? The highest tractability? So how the highest solvability? And the biggest neglect, like where nobody else is looking? What would you look at? What would you focus on? If you look at that framework?
John Kempf 1:05:51
cone? That is an interesting question. And that is a hard one for me to answer you. Are you asking the question specifically in the context of the outline that I just gave of the different opportunities? And
Koen van Seijen 1:06:02
it could be general? Because you did outline obviously looks at how would you put money to work? In this case? It could be as an investor in this case, I would ask it broader. So actually, it could be I would lobby on taking away crop insurance, or it could be something absolutely not investor like, but where would you spend your time, your energy, your resources, your brainpower, let's say to get region activated normally 2040, if you had to pick a thing, what is very important, like what in terms of scale of the problem, and very solvable, at least from what you've seen, and very neglected? Because I think we often follow each other and go for the pieces that are, I wouldn't say fancy but more advanced. And all this thinking, I will link that below in the show notes comes from a framework that's widely used in effective altruism community. So if you want to play with that, if you want to play with how to choose your focus areas, in this specific way, obviously, it's a very specific way. And there's personal fit as well. Definitely, I invite you to look at that. But if I would ask you to for your goal, which is reenact the norm in 2014. What do you think is neglected? very important and very solvable?
John Kempf 1:07:07
So I'm going to answer your question, in this way, perhaps slightly different from the way that you've asked it. I think I'm, I'm very blessed, and very fortunate that I have the privilege of working in a space that I very much feel that this is this is what I am here to do. I have no desire to do anything else. And I'm here in this world to facilitate regenerative agriculture on scale. So within that context, there are two criteria one a bit more lighthearted. And then a question that I asked all the time, the question I asked myself, quite frequently, actually, because I, I just outlined the list of ideas of potential investment opportunities, and I have no shortage of ideas that is for sure. And I, I've been privileged to have experience, a lot of experience and observe a lot of things happening in the field that leads to generating lots of ideas all the time. So I'm constantly having to evaluate, what do I prioritize? And what do I focus on? And so the way that I've prioritized up to this point is by asking the question of what is it that I can bring? What is it that I can do, that other people can't do, or that other people are not doing? And so I guess that would speak to your aspect of neglect bigness? Absolutely. For myself, personally, I think there are, the strength that I bring, and the gifts that I have are the capacity to assimilate a tremendous amount of information in this economic context and the broader agricultural ecosystems context, and understand a lot of detail. And at the same time, see the very high level, I would say, 100,000 foot view, see kind of a global landscape of how these different pieces can produce tremendous change. And so within that context, specifically, when thinking about that gift, and that capacity, I asked the question, what are the pieces that I can bring to this regenerative agriculture conversation with this gift that others can do? And I try to focus all of my activities on doing the things that only I can do and that other people can't do or aren't doing? So that's the one question that I asked. And then the second, which is, this is perhaps coming from a bit of a spiritual place is I've observed. I've learned that when you are in the right frame in the right mental sleep space and the right spiritual space space, the right heart space, however you chose to define it. Things just flow projects flow smoothly, the right people show up to help bring a project to fruition when they are needed and not before the money show. Everything just flows very smoothly. And it's a lot of fun. So I try to pay attention to that I try to pay attention to the different projects and enterprises that I'm working on and just ask the question, okay, what is going really well, what is what is fun? What am I enjoying a lot. And invariably, I find that when I follow the flow, as I described, people show up, the money shows up things, just that there is a there is an element of serendipity and joy that happens when you allow things to flow smoothly, and don't try to force them to hard. And many times, there have been projects that I tried to force. And there were just a series of missteps. I put them on the shelf for a while, a year, or two or three later, I picked them up, and boom, away they go, everything just happens smoothly. So I don't know this may not be quite the answer that you were looking for. But in terms of how I prioritize, and how I focus on contributing, and producing the change in the world that I seek to make, I pay a lot of attention to those two things.
Koen van Seijen 1:11:07
No, I think it's a it's a perfect answer. And it's exactly why I think these frameworks and questions and criteria are so important, because we get bombarded with options, and optionality and shiny things that we could all work on. But I think the big challenge and opportunity is what to focus on and how to prioritize and how to choose and how to say no. And that's why I wanted to ask this question in the framework I use, personally, but I'm very thankful for you sharing the two main questions you ask when deciding to put your precious time and other resources into new projects. I think with that we reached a very nice end of the second interview. I want to thank you so much, john, for checking in, and going very deep. And I hope we will repeat this at some point.
Thank you for having me on Cohen,
John Kempf 1:11:58
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