Wayne Gibbins on the role of tech in regenerative agriculture from gene editing to nanotech soil sensors

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Why is it that even when AgTech investments have exploded over the last few years, most of them are not focused on helping farmers build their soils? What is the role of technology in the regenerative movement? With Waybe Gibbins, Chief Technology Officer (CTO) of New Foundation Farms, we discussed these topics and much more.

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THIS EPISODE IS PART OF THE NEW FOUNDATION FARMS SERIES. FIND OUT MORE ABOUT IT HERE!

The conversation dives deep into the role of tech in regenerative agriculture and the darker side of technology such as gene editing and marker-assisted breeding. 

We also welcome back Mark Drewell as he joins us at the end to share fundraising updates and how investors have responded to the technology angle of New Foundation Farms. 

Recognizing the Role of Tech in Building Soils

New Foundation Farms sees technology as a mean to help farmers look into their farms on a field level while minimising social disturbance and optimising diversity. They aim to achieve this with their innate knowledge of cycles such as energy, carbon, nutrients, and water.

“Whilst technology might not be agriculturally focused, it can certainly be used by agrifood businesses to accelerate their growth.” – Wayne Gibbins

Working with Nature, Tech, and Farmers

Maximizing the available technology, New Foundation Farms aims to integrate trees using agroforestry through RFID tags and GPS to improve efficiency. Beyond that, they also want to look into mobile fencing and poly pipe water systems for cattle for holistic planned grazing.

“The technologies looked at initially would be based on the farm. So tree integration or agroforestry might come later down the line. It might be a planting process over the first five years..” – Wayne Gibbins

Knowing Gene Editing and Marker Assisted Technology

Wayne shares the scarier side of AgTech – the genetic manipulation of agriculture. The first modification of gene editing is CRISPR CAS 9, the precise cutting and altering of DNA almost emulating mutation that could happen by natural selection or random mutation. But caries risks as we don’t fully understand genetics, should we be altering them?

The other modification which seems less scary is the Marker Assisted Technology, which looks at traits at the DNA level, allowing desirable traits to be bred based on its DNA markers. Without making changes into the genes, simply making it a lot easier and faster to identify and ‘follow’ desirable traits which show up in ‘naturally’.

“I think there will probably come a point where we should not be against plant breeding. Right?.” – Wayne Gibbins

Sharing Updates on Fundraising and Investors

Mark Drewell shares that New Foundation Farms is raising £20 million, marking that they are halfway towards their goal. New Foundation Farms’ philosophy is to make their findings open-source, hoping to inspire people’s insights and helping future developments. 

“You need this breadth of expertise where we are sitting on the farmer’s side of the fence, looking at that world of technology and hopefully making better choices about what we deploy when and how. ” – Mark Drewell

Other Important Points Discussed 

Koen and Wayne discussed these points in this episode:     

●      What Wayne would do if he were in charge of a $1 billion investment portfolio tomorrow morning

●      What Wayne would do if he could wave a magic wand and change one thing in the agriculture industry from a sustainability point of view

●       What Wayne believes to be true about regenerative agriculture that others don’t. Inspired by John Kempf

To know more about Wayne Gibbins and New Foundation Farms, download and listen to this episode. 

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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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