A check-in interview with Marcus Link and Mark Drewell, founders of New Foundation Farms (NFF), about how they went from trying to raise £20M to buying 1000 acres in the UK, building their stacked enterprise on leased land and ending up going almost full circle back to the beginning.
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Having learned a lot in the past 3 years, Marcus and Mark realised that in order to build a highly profitable and ecologically sound business, they don’t need 1000 acres, but only 250. So, they are back in fundraising mode to raise £5m and to show the world that we have passed the iPhone moment of regenerative agriculture. What if they are right? What if we can build profitable abundant regenerative companies? If that is the case, that will put the food and ag world upside down, and those are enough reasons for us to follow this story closely.
NFF NEEDS 250ACRES, NOT 1000ACRES TO START
The NFF initial idea was that they needed 1000 acres in order to make their plan work. They then recognized that much of the magic in their 1000-acre model was happening within 250 acres.
”You have to spend time and go through the details and have people on the team like we’ve got Dr. Annie Rayner and Ali Murrell, on our team now who have dug deep into that data and given me a very hard time and questioned many things and made it so that we didn’t need a bigger model, we developed a model that was capable of showing we can do this on less land.” – Marcus Link
”Some of the aspects that have come up for us as we dove deeper if you want, it’s been a journey of the soul. It’s been a journey of the spreadsheet. And it’s been a journey of thinking through different ways of doing business, and what disruption can mean.” – Marcus Link
”So, you’ve got this disconnect between small and big, both in terms of the finances and in terms of how people go about the practice. And so, it’s very difficult to find a lever point in that to change it. So, the lever point that we’ve been focusing on with New Foundation Farms is how do you take something like this and develop an enterprise that’s scalable both in operations and impact.” – Marcus Link
FROM BUYING LAND TO LEASING
According to Mark, in 12 months from now, they will have acquired a 250-acre farm, started their operations, and will be starting the process of engaging with local people who will become customers.
”The first phase is 250 acres, second phase is to expand that through leased land so that first hub becomes bigger, and to develop partnerships with other farmers. And I would say that the second phase is grow that 250, to pick a number, 1000. And as we grow partner with other local farmers who then go on the journey with us.” – Mark Drewell
”The third phase is then where we go to a much greater scale, with visible proof that this is starting to happen on the ground in one hub. […] each of 10,000 acres of scale spread around the UK. And at that stage, we’re starting to make a serious dent in people’s understanding of what the food system can look like, and in order to do that, we then have a series of different financial solutions for each of the three phases. But it’s a combination of operational planning and financial frameworks that will allow us to build an enterprise from 250 acres to 60,000 acres over 10 years in a three-step process.” – Mark Drewell
WHAT IF THEY ARE RIGHT AND YOU CAN BUILD A PROFITABLE AND ECOLOGICALLY SOUND BUSINESS IN AGRICULTURE
According to Mark they are a much bigger and stronger team now. And they’ve found themselves being able to attract really talented people across the spectrum of the expertise that they need to execute this fully.
”We’ve got the expertise to do this. It’s a different thing. What if we are right? Because if we are right, then we are talking about a future food system that is so much better than the one we’ve got. And we can have rewilding and regeneration, because we’ll need a fraction of the lands for food that we currently use. We can have local food, we can have resilience, there’s so much we can have that comes with this iPhone moment.” – Mark Drewell
”We have now been through an external funding round. And that process of going to market, which we did last September, October, for a convertible loan, was for us a wonderful expression of confidence. And that, as you know, of course, in any new enterprise, there’s a quantum leap in the journey between being a bunch of people with a nice idea and a bunch of people with a nice idea that has now received funds.” – Mark Drewell
”So, I’m very, very positive that business is a suitable organizational structure that can bring together capital, organizational capacity, technology, equipment, and land in order to bring about the much-needed rural regeneration that we’ve all been waiting for.”- Mark Drewell
”From our point of view is a very impressive list of people who are at the forefront of building this new regenerative food system. And so, yes, it absolutely does change things, because we’re essentially saying, we’re in now at the stage where we’re saying we’re inviting more people to come on this journey with us. This isn’t just about putting some money to work, it’s an invitation to co steward with us, the future of the new food system, it’s much more profound for us, we’ve dedicated our lives to this, and a growing number of people are doing it. […] In a sense it is a journey of belief about something that’s possible that could be completely different from the world we live in today. And that’s really exciting to be part of.” – Mark Drewell
OTHER POINTS DISCUSSED
Koen, Marcus and Mark also talked about:
- What’s happening in the food sector right now
- Collaborative farming
- Home delivery of food
- New Foundation Farms
- Riverford Farm Box
- New Foundation Farms funders and investors
- The Balbo group
- The radical natural podcast by New Foundation Farms
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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.