Thekla Teunis and Gijs Boers, The Good, the Bad and the Ugly of regenerative agriculture

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Regen ag is really really really hard, something we don’t talk about often enough, when we see the shiny farms, pictures, movies documentaries. So today an interview with the founders of Grounded, Thekla Teunis and Gijs Boers, founders of Grounded ― a company whose goal is to restore landscapes by giving power to farmers and consumers. We already interviewed them 4 years ago.

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Nowadays, when envisioning regenerative agriculture, people picture shiny farms mirroring what they have seen in movies and documentaries. Unfortunately, beyond the glamour, there is not much conversation of how difficult regenerative agriculture truly is.

This is a conversation with Thekla Teunis and Gijs Boers of Grounded about the good, the bad, and the ugly of regenerative agriculture like a 5 year drought, losing 70% of crops, as well as buyers who don’t honour agreements. 

Additionally, Thekla and Gijs share the lessons they have learned, what is currently working well, what Grounded is launching soon in the regenerative ingredients space, as well as their big realizations when it comes to working and investing in smallholder farmers. 

Partnering with Small & Upcoming Brands is Key

Grounded has progressed and changed through the years. They still stay true to their goal of working with farmers to enable them to transition into regenerative agriculture. Partnering with small and upcoming brands in South Africa is key to transitioning the farming system since this allows a better price for smaller quantities and better pay for the farmer’s qualities and stories. 

“The bigger and established brands want to have exactly chemical specifications because their product has to be uniform all the time. Whereas the smaller brands can offer a lot more flexibility, which also provides great opportunities for these producers. Plus, they can pay a better price, often, because they will value the impact that’s been created.” – Thekla Teunis

Transitioning in Regenerative Agriculture is Challenging

Thekla and Gijs then discuss the challenges they’ve encountered in their respective journey: buyer agreements, the 5-year drought resulting in losing 70% of crops, and irrigation systems. Though the road has not been easy, they found strength in their vision of providing producers with support towards better regenerative agricultural practices. 

Grounded hopes to fill the gaps and play a role in the transition to regenerative agriculture. 

“It is difficult to get through the transition. It is super hard. I think if we all keep on voicing the benefits, the end system, that is amazing, and we believe in all the benefits that it brings for nature for people, but that transition is hard. We have to acknowledge that and be open and transparent about it because if we do not, we will lose a lot of farmers.” – Gijs Boers

Focusing the Energy on Promising Entrepreneurial Farmers

A lot of people want to see millions of farm programs but not all farmers want to become a full on regenerative farm. Hence, they decided to invest more on promising entrepreneurial farmers who have experience in regenerative farming in order to achieve the transition. 

Grounded invested $10 – $15,000 packages in high variety farms and found out that some of these farmers were able to effectively utilize the bigger packages and really yielded high production. 

“We say rather than doing it from scratch in the most degraded areas, like you start a car dealer on an island where there’s no roads, it’s super difficult. It is moving more into finding other entrepreneurs in Africa that have already taken some steps in our support and lessons.”  –  Gijs Boers

Coming Up Next for Grounded 

Lastly, Thekla and Gijs walk everyone through their partnerships with companies in Tanzania and the learnings they have acquired in the process. Together with these companies, they believe that in five to ten years, Tanzania can develop and leverage an amazing spice industry. 

Grounded plans to continually support and learn from farmers through the hurdles and hopefully deliver on impact what regenerative agricultural space promises.

“In order for us to really scale this movement, we need to make sure that together, we learn. We don’t get stuck in saying ‘this is fantastic’ and only showing photos of landscapes that went from brown to green, basically. We need to also show more of the nuances and the things which are hard where we are thinking about how we can overcome those. I think that’s how we can take the next step in these fields.” –  Thekla Teunis

Other Important Points Discussed 

Koen, Thekla, and Gijs discussed also:    

  • What Thekla and Gijs would do if they were in charge of a $1 Billion investment portfolio tomorrow morning
  • What Thekla and Gijs would do if they were given a magic wand that could change one thing overnight in the agriculture and food space
  • What Thekla and Gijs believe to be true about regenerative agriculture that others don’t

To know more about Thekla Teunis and Gijs Boers and Grounded, download and listen to this episode!

Bio:

Thekla Teunis & Gijs Boers are the co-founders of Grounded, an organisation that seeks to restore African landscapes by giving power to farmers and consumers to invest in their soil, the health of their landscapes and in each other.

Links:

Linked interviews:

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Feedback, comments, suggestions? Reach me via Twitter @KoenvanSeijen, in the comments below or through Get in Touch on this website.

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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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