Nicole Masters and Abby Rose on how tech can enable an army of creative thinking farmers

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A conversation with Abby Rose, co-founder of Vidacycle Tech and co-host of Farmerama, and Nicole Masters, founder of Integrity Soils and writer of ‘For the Love of Soil’. They talk about the Soilmentor Regen Platform, empowering farmers, mindset shift, observation and critical thinking.

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Did you know most farmers have never dug a hole to look at or smelled their soil? How can we change that and create an army of super curious farmers, and how do we empower them to keep asking themselves why? What role can tech play here, and how can it lead to the much- needed mindset shift to a more regenerative one, seeing the potential of abundance, not be hindered by competitive thinking?

EDUCATION IS ESSENTIAL

People dig a hole and they can’t see much there, they don’t know what they are looking at. We can use the software as a behavioural change tool. Having a process that walks people through the educational portion is very exciting and it is necessary to keep building on this educational space.

“If we’re not transforming this piece, which is that internal space and our mindset and our paradigms, then real change isn’t going to happen on the ground”. – NICOLE MASTERS

“I’ve been with producers that have never dug a hole. Or things like dung beetles, they’ve never even seen, you have five different species of dung beetles. And this is what they look like. And to see people just light up and connect more deeply.” – NICOLE MASTERS

THE SOILMENTOR REGEN PLATFORM

The Soilmentor Regen Platform provides guidance and a structure to what can seem overwhelming. It uses 10 indicators with the idea of providing valuable data that can be analysed and used. Nicole and Abby talk about avoiding bringing data just for data’s sake. To look at a hole and record how many earthworms there are isn’t enough, the next level is missing and that is what they bring with the Soilmentor Regen Platform. Asking questions from a regenerative standpoint is needed. It really is a huge leap when you compare where most things, especially related to data, leave you. This empowers farmers and takes them to the next step.

“People just have piles of information that doesn’t inform the future, or it lags too far behind to give you anything that offers real value. And I know people that have 30 years of monitoring data on their places, and it really means nothing. It’s just a navel-gazing exercise.” – NICOLE MASTERS.

“What Nicole brings essentially is: ‘Okay, your earthworm number is 20, is that pretty good or not so good compared to what we would expect from your soil type, your climate? And what might you do about it?” – ABBY ROSE

“You do need to find a balance of not oversimplifying things. So we were trying to keep the complexity there, whilst also coming with some form of simplicity.” – ABBY ROSE

THE REGENERATIVE MINDSET SHIFT IS KEY

We are now going through an evolution in terms of consciousness and how we work with landscapes, education, health, everything’s shifting at the moment. The platform is about asking yourself questions to continue to open up the observation and the critical thinking because that’s what’s required. For the last 120 years, we listened to people who would tell us the answer, but that model doesn’t work. We need to create adaptive creative thinkers, that is part of what the platform does, it feeds into your curiosity.

“We’re working away from this expert model, which is, I have the answer, and you should listen to me. Farmers have been trained to lose their curiosity, lose the art and the joy’. – NICOLE MASTERS.

HOW TO EMPOWER FARMERS WITHOUT ANY EXPENSIVE OR FANCY EQUIPMENT

The app Nicole and Abby have created shows you a soil health ScoreCard where you can see all of your results. Each of them will have a colour behind it, and, for instance, an earthworm score of 12, which in this type of soil, or for this type of climate is actually in the red colour. After that, comes the questions and analysis of that particular data and how that data can be applied to that specific context. It’s about taking farmers that extra step in going through the regenerative transition. The coach is a hugely important role, it is there to help guide you through that process and give you the confidence you need to ask yourself those questions to begin with.

“It’s not to tell you what to apply, but it’s to be there to support you through your questioning, essentially. So the app will start with these questions. It gives you some links. You can explore more, learn more, watch videos, read information, and then the coach is there to be”. – ABBY ROSE

HOW NICOLE WOULD INVEST 1B DOLLARS

Nicole sees more and more regenerative ag centres being set up and would like to continue to see that happening, and asks herself: with 140,000 people working for the NRCS, what would be possible if they shifted their context and their mindset?

“I think I would really like to invest it at some large-scale projects that really demonstrate how we can alter climate and the education piece.” – NICOLE MASTERS.

“It’s the same with the NRCS here in the US, I want to see them being trained in the mindset piece. So what does it take to get some of these schools of thought into the people that are already on the ground?” – NICOLE MASTERS.

“It would have to be absolutely collaborative. It would have to involve justice and equity and indigenous people in this space. So looking at what does it look like to restore these ecosystems. And there are so many partners out there right now that are asking the same question to develop a collaborative model.” – NICOLE MASTERS

OTHER POINTS DISCUSSED:

  • Abundance vs competition;
  • Taking a collaborative approach is needed to deal with complex issues;
  • Mindset based groups are forming;
  • Farmers should have some sort of financial remuneration for providing data;
  • Adaptive thinkers and thinking outside the box.

LINKS:

LINKED INTERVIEWS AND WEBINAR:

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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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