A conversation with Keith Agoada, CEO and co-founder of Producers Trust, a global network of farmers, farmer groups, and producer groups, about indoor greenhouse growing, aggregation, sorting, quality control, packaging, processing, and more.
LISTEN TO THE CONVERSATION ON:
From indoor greenhouse growing to founding a company, which is now turning into a regenerative landscape orchestrator, and why we are in the perfect storm at the moment. In the last 12 months, or even the last 6 months, we have seen an explosion of interest from corporates in value chain regeneration. Why now? A mix of shifting consumer demand, an European antideforestation law, and genuine massive long-term supply chain issues.
What does that mean for small holder farmers who are generally completely excluded from these global markets, how can they participate and benefit?
THE IMPORTANCE OF PROCESSING, SORTING, AND PACKAGING TO BRING MORE MONEY TO SMALL-SCALE FARMERS
Keith highlights the challenges small-scale farmers face in post-harvest processing, packing, and marketing and how cooperatives can help alleviate these issues.
”There are barriers in terms of logistics and aggregation. There are barriers in terms of local market access, and there are barriers in terms of just cash flow. When there’s uncertainty about needing to harvest and bring it to market, there are losses, which can be an issue for a lot of farmers. And so, knowing that there’s a secured purchase, even if they’re not getting good value for their goods, it can be better than the uncertainty of not knowing where your goods are going.” – Keith Agoada
”If you’re a small-scale producer, the idea of having a multi-100,000 or multi-million dollar infrastructure in order to add that value and to keep that infrastructure operating, in order to have a thriving, post-harvest, processing, packing business, that adds a whole other level of complication that smaller-scale farmers usually can’t do […] But for the most part, these are activities that are challenging for small-scale producers, and then having to pay a third party to go do that, then having to go make the sale, and then waiting for the terms that can be 30, 60, 90 days to get your cashback. Most farmers are worried about how am I gonna invest in my next crop. So, there are a lot of infrastructure, logistics, marketing, and finance complications that allow for these more direct localised or even international transactions today.” – Keith Agoada
WHY INTUITION IS SO IMPORTANT
According to Keith, intuition is ultimately the greatest tool he possesses when choosing an investor.
”Intuition, the gut feeling, the intuition that goes beyond all the other variables that can confuse you, all the other disguises. So, getting very in touch, in tune with your intuition, and just the feeling space of knowing when something feels right or not right. That’s ultimately the greatest tool I feel I have. I’d say, secondly, look at the track record; what other things are the investors investing in? If you can get in touch with those entrepreneurs that they are currently working with to see what it’s like with them as an investor. – Keith Agoada
”I think anything that sounds or looks like or is a VC or venture capitalist is very important. I find that those folks often have a lot of pressure to show returns and to have a certain way of doing their investing. I find that family offices, high net worths, foundations, and just people who literally care a lot about the topic, who, in their free time, go to farmers markets, or have their own regenerative farms, or invest in farming—these are the folks that tend to usually be there, not in a short-term mentality, but understand that if you’re applying the regenerative principles into business and venture, it’s going to take some time to build that healthy soil, and to bring to market the right product in the right way could take time; you know, some trees are 10 years and some crops are 6 months.” – Keith Agoada
The concept of the regenerative landscape is a conceptual development, which they are very excited about.
”You see now that corporate brands, alongside nonprofit partners, consulting partners, and governments, are looking at: how do we, as buyers of commodities or products, start to look more holistically at networks of farmers or larger geographies of land? And together start to say, well, on this property of coffee, there’s also black peppers, there’s also bananas, there’s also root crops, there’s also carbon credits, and we all need data. And how do we start to work together to invest money, unlock resources, build capacity, and engage these networks of farmers? And how do we measure the outcomes more holistically? And how do we incentivize, purchase, and work together to drive this change? So, I think the willingness of public and private sector actors with brands and commodity traders, saying we need to work together to help farmers get access to better markets across all of their goods, if we want them to switch from a monoculture to polyculture, an agroforestry system, how do we guarantee the purchase of all these products? How do we incentivize them with carbon credits or other ecosystem services? And how do we unlock public-private financing grants and other instruments to help them in these transitions? I think that’s the conceptual shift that we see happening—these types of landscape commitments.” – Keith Agoada
OTHER POINTS DISCUSSED
Koen and Keith also talked about:
- Investing in supply chain infrastructure
- Localized input production for sustainable agriculture
- Using data to support sustainable farming practices
- Dan Barber, great flavour, health benefits and healthy ecosystems can only come from healthy soils not a lab
- Emma Chow and Eliot Beeby on how circular design for food is crucial for regenerating landscapes, and how large food companies can lead it
- Gijs Boers on why the biggest drive to the growth of regenerative agriculture is quality
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.