A conversation with Jan-Gisbert Schultze, a VC investor who turned into a regenerative enthusiast and bought a small olive farm, which he is turning into the first syntropic farm in Salento, in Puglia (Italy), a region battered by monoculture olive trees.
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After reading The Omnivore’s Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals by Michael Pollen, Jan got bitten by the regeneration bug. He attended courses with Joel Salatin, Gabe Brown and Ernst Goetch where he went deep into syntropic agroforestry. That led Jan to buy a masseria, a small farm in Puglia, in a region where now more than 15 million trees are dying because of modern agriculture, ploughing, chemicals and, of course, the xylella fastidiosa, a virus which seems to be the last straw on the camels back for these poor suffering trees. Finally, Jan managed to convince Dayana Andrade and Felipe Pasini, the oldest students of Ernst Goetch, to come and help regenerate his farm Amadeco.
The time of monoculture olives might be over in Salento, Puglia, but the future of olive trees as part of a diverse, extremely productive system seems just beginning, or coming back as there are records of the Romans already farming olive trees in a very diverse agroforestry system. Why is Jan so hopeful about the future, and what has accounting to do with it?
WHY JAN BOUGHT A FARM IN SALENTO PUGLIA
When Amadeco started, the soils were very depleted, they measured 2% of carbon in the soil and the most recent measurements show that they have tenfold the organic matter in the soil.
”I created an association called the Soil Alliance and that’s how I got into syntropic agriculture, and from the beginning, I felt this is probably almost like a new way view on the world. And it’s a very comprehensive way of looking at things and it’s totally in tune with the principles of life as I call them. And I was really fascinated by it and I felt this is something that I want to stay involved with, and for many, many reasons, I ended up with two of my partners to buy a farm here in Puglia, a so-called maseria, beautiful place. And, you know, I think in the end this all has been divine decisions. But I was so lucky that I was able to convince wonderful, Felipe and Dayana to come here to Depressa and, in the last two years, we are building a syntropic farm here and it’s absolutely incredible to see how things are evolving.” – Jan-Gisbert Schultze
”In a certain way, we’re doing everything that a traditional farmer would tell me it’s economically crazy, but, I’m a business guy and I certainly love this kind of farming so there’s a lot of idealistic view on it as well. But I think we will in the end be able to show that being crazy actually could turn out very interesting results.” – Jan-Gisbert Schultze
ROLE OF ACCOUNTING
There are initiatives in the EU and the White House has issued a paper and has started to look deeper into the natural capital accounting issue, and also on the level of the businesses, which are now forced to report on what they are doing in terms of sustainability measures.
”If you look at it from an economic point of view, and that is slowly changing, we know the story about the externalities, we know that currently an extractive business that is kind of harming the soils or that is harming nature, is profitable because it can actually externalize these expenses, they are not accounted by the player who’s actually causing them. And we have from a whole economic point of view, we have a GDP account, which accounts for the production, and the services and products that are coming out of this economy. But we do not have the counter account, which would be a natural capital account, which accounts for what probably has been depleted by this kind of production. And, I think, the awareness of this issue is increasing.” – Jan-Gisbert Schultze
‘’I am always saying these regenerative farmers like Gabe Brown, Joel Salatin, they actually have business models, which are in tune or aligned with the principles of nature. And this principle should be applied to the whole economy. So, we need an economy that regenerates life and doesn’t destroy life, because basically, we all depend on that. We have a healthy natural system.’’ – Jan-Gisbert Schultze
FINDING HOPE IN REGENERATION
If Jan would make a prediction, he thinks young and intelligent people will go into farming and forestry, and these kinds of things in the future, because it’s so exciting what we can change in the world from there.
”Connect the unexpected and start this transformation process where on the one side, the entrepreneur probably has a way to help the farmer with his transition and is just by giving funding for the farmer to be able to do this transition. Because in Germany, we have these wonderful family-owned businesses that are somewhere in the middle of the country. And they are very connected with all the people around them. And they know that their business will only strive if nature and everything strike as well. And so, they are sensitive and they think in long term and they know that things need to change. Everybody is aware of that.” – Jan-Gisbert Schultze
”For young people, I think it’s such an amazing field of inspirational work that they can do. It’s hard work, I mean, working on a farm is hard physical labour, but it makes a huge difference if you work in a syntropic orchard […] The kind of conventional farming is not attractive to young people, but this highly diversified way of farming where people really connect with the living system and try to learn from the living system how to adapt it to their own farming practices, is hugely inspiring, and we see it, we get amazing people who want to get involved.” – Jan-Gisbert Schultze
OTHER POINTS DISCUSSED
Koen and Jan also talked about:
- Sustainable olive farming and business potential
- Regenerative agriculture in Italy after olive tree disease
- Regenerative farming and its impact on the economy and climate
- Amadeco on Instagram
- Life in Syntropy
- Understanding Ag
- Joel Salatin
- Brown’s Ranch – Gabe Brown
- Agenda Gotsch
- Felipe Pasini – Trees bring water so when in doubt plant more trees and complexify
- Dayana Andrade – COMING SOON!
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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.