Investing in Regenerative Agriculture and Food

260 Thimm Zwiener - Using chat GPT and the best regen advisors to create a regenerative hotline for all

November 10, 2023 Koen van Seijen Episode 260
Investing in Regenerative Agriculture and Food
260 Thimm Zwiener - Using chat GPT and the best regen advisors to create a regenerative hotline for all
Show Notes Transcript Chapter Markers

A conversation with Thimm Zwiener, co-founder of FarmOn, a regenerative hotline for independent farming advice, about how to give everyone of the 600 million farmers in the world access to a trustworthy and regenerative field experience when they have questions, the role of technology, especially the newly hyped large language models like ChatGPT, the risks, and much more.

It is safe to say we will never get there with our current approach, having amazing consultants and advisors who are usually overworked and can never reach enough farmers to really have a large impact. How do we make the knowledge accessible to all while creating a self-sustaining business and not falling into the trap of gatekeeping, plus on top of that rewarding the people who have assembled this knowledge in the first place?
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Speaker 1:

How do we give every of the 600 million farmers in the world access to a trustworthy regenerative hotline when they have questions or are stuck? It's safe to say that we'll never get there with the current approach, having amazing consultants and advisors who are usually overworked and can never reach enough farmers to really have a large impact. Is there another way? What's the role of tech, especially the newly hyped and very capable, almost magic-like large language models like JetGPT? What are the risks? How do we make sure this knowledge is accessible to all while creating a self-sustaining business, and not fall into the trap of gatekeeping? Plus, on top of that, how do we reward the people that have assembled this knowledge in the first place? This is the investing in regenerative agriculture and food podcast investing as if the planet mattered, where we talk to the pioneers in the regenerative food and agriculture space to learn more on how to put our money to work to regenerate soil, people, local communities and ecosystems, while making an appropriate and fair return.

Speaker 1:

Why my focus on soil and regeneration? Because so many of the pressing issues we face today have their roots in how we treat our land NRZ, grower, food, what we eat, where and consume and it's time that we as investors, big and small and consumers, start paying much more attention to the dirt slash soil underneath our feet. To make it easy for fans to support our work, we launched our membership community and so many of you have joined us as a member. Thank you. If our work created value for you and if you have the means and only if you have the means consider joining us. Find out more on gumroadcom slash investing in Regen Ag. That is, gumroadcom slash investing in Regen Ag, or find the link below Welcome to another episode today with a co-founder of FarmOn regenerative hotline independent farming advice anytime, anywhere.

Speaker 1:

Welcome, tim hey there. And starting with a personal question, because it's not such an obvious journey, let's say, from the tech world, I mean from the tech world. You're still deep in the tech world, but combining the tech world and the farm world in one startup, in one venture, what brought you to focus on soil and regenerative agriculture?

Speaker 2:

Well, I'm actually a software engineer by training and I've been working in software for the last almost like probably like 10 years, and I think what we have there is like we have like a thousand iterations a day. We can literally like go through, tinker around, try out things, and I think this is also exactly what we need when we be working together with farms, and everyone needs to kind of like try out things, experiment, yeah, and so bringing this kind of mindset to problems that really matter, I think, is what really motivated me to switch into this direction. So, previously, working with AI, machine learning it's also nice, but sometimes the problems are small, like working with soil, and working with nature is, I think, one of the most important problems of our times.

Speaker 1:

And I mean I think not many people would disagree. Let's say, listening to this, if you are in this rabbit hole and listening to this podcast, but what was there a moment that triggered you or a process into applying that knowledge you have and the experience you have and not? For instance, I'm curious about if there was a moment or a trigger, and also why not, let's say, start a farm or really leave the tech world for that? In that sense, Was there a trigger that made you see soil in a new light or made you see soil differently compared to you before? Was it always there and you were just waiting for the right moment to jump.

Speaker 2:

No, to be honest, it has not been there like that. So I was studying geography before as well and I worked with satellite data. I worked with like a nature context, I'd say. But reality is that my now partner actually contacted me and was like hey, do you want to be part of this like accelerator program, which is fresh ventures? And so we got in touch and I got interviewed a couple of times for it and then I joined this accelerator program and in which we basically got a masterclass around the food system, about regenerative agriculture etc. And it has been a very interesting experience for me and I also met my co-founders there and I think it's really like the moment when I also started to understand the vastness of the system, of the problem itself.

Speaker 1:

And I'm interested. When that call came from your now partner but then I'd say the venture lead, or looking for recruitment for fresh ventures, which was already focused specifically on the food system when that question came like, look, would you be interested in joining, and joining a venture studio focused on one theme, basically, what was your first thought? Like yes, but there's so many other things. Or yes, I've been waiting for this call sort of to happen. Or food, interesting, but because you, it wasn't that you were looking for this in the sense we're looking for a venture studio focus on food and ag. It was more that the venture studio focus and food and ag found you.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, I think it's a serpenti piti and I don't know like it just how to say that I was always ready to start a startup and I've been always working in that field and seen and, and I've been doing things before, also independently, together with others, and I I just saw this like great opportunity to do something that could potentially have some impact and and, yeah, like since then, I've been super grateful that I've been able to go on to this journey right Like it's been. It's been now almost two years that this call came and I never came and I never looked back. So it's great.

Speaker 1:

And you definitely put the link links below actually to the previous interviews we've done with with part of fresh ventures, where we go deeper into the model and also talking about after the first cohort, which you were part of and for the clergy. I'm an advisor at Fresh and always like to hang around, but then you went into that sort of pressure cooker, learning an incredible amount in a very short time about the food and agriculture system and at the end, or sort of through the process, found your co founders and farm on was born. How does that happen? Because I know it's been a meandering river, like it's not that you from the first second thought, okay, this makes so much sense, let's build a hotline for our gender farmers.

Speaker 1:

What was that process like and what was the process like to get to the current shape? Of course, in a startup, things always changed or might maybe in a year or two years of re interview and farm looks very different. But like, how does it get to the current shape that we're talking now, september 2023, of farm? How does your mind work when you're with your expertise and with your co founders to get to this?

Speaker 2:

It's a very good question. So my background has a lot to do with satellite image analysis and doing that at a large scale and previously for risk assessment. So, coming from that angle, we also started and we're really looking into measuring outcomes, measuring practices from space. That is nice and beautiful and there's definitely some use cases for that. But I think one of the key realizations for us was if you have a trusted relationship with a farmer, you can just call them and just ask them what is growing on the field. So basically, how much information and how much you can communicate is so much higher when you just start, for example, a hotline. So the impact that you can have on a field level is also just much higher. So I think that is really the key realization we had.

Speaker 1:

The relationship and so far that you can literally call a farmer and take a picture of this or what is growing. Now, how is it going? Instead of relying on the eyes in the sky and the software and the eye and to turn it into saying something you said, what if we just call the?

Speaker 2:

farmer, he or she would know Exactly. And I think there's also another big one that is very motivating for us If you think about who you're building monitoring and verification tools for, it's like you build a business model on mistrust, and I think what is relevant for us is actually to also what we realize over the time, I think, is to build a business model that is based on trust and untrust with the farmers and us, and so this is really what we are aiming for in this key of our vision now how we want to go into the future.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, and then, for sure, you came to the realization as well that independent farming advice, which is like your tagline, isn't very easy to come by For farmers that are stepping outside. I'm going to use quotes here. Our air quotes the system and want to change. It's very difficult to find independent farming advice. Do you remember when that hit you? Actually, there's a huge need for knowledge here, and it's not easy to get it in a consistent way, because a lot of farming advice is paid for by input companies rightfully so, but of course they want to sell inputs. So do you remember when that piece of the puzzle hit you?

Speaker 2:

There's no key moment. I think that we really had like, oh yeah, this is what we need to do. But what happened is that, through talking with a lot of farmers and also talking with a lot of experts and pioneers, we realized that their time is always scarce, right. So building basically like a co-pilot, like a tool kit for people who have been trying out things and also willing to share, that is what the system actually needs. We don't need another FAQ or knowledge database or so. What we actually need is like applicable knowledge that is context, specific, and that's where experts and pioneers can really play a role. You can, of course, read everything online, etc. But making it applicable, making it like an intelligent action that you're taking I think that is what we identify as really missing.

Speaker 1:

And why do you see that not happening at scale? Like you mentioned, I'm a farmer that has made some small changes or has made some changes sort of is fuels. I'm in the dark, like the next steps are tricky. What are the current options? Without farmland? I have to feel comfortable and confident to take next steps or to answer some of the basic questions or questions I have.

Speaker 2:

So, if you're lucky, you know someone that you can contact, and we think that there's like so there's WhatsApp groups on which you're going to get help, and that's the one side of things, and there's telegram groups, in Germany, for example, and then on the other side, there's an expert that you can contact that then comes to your farm, but it's very pricey, right. And so there's this difference between a very pricey solution and a free solution, where you're at mercy of somebody answering to you and also it's precious time also for them to answer right, and so more often than not, it's only a very short answer that doesn't maybe take into account your context, because they have been doing it somewhere else and they don't just quickly write something. And so what we want to introduce, and what we're already introducing, is a tier in between, where you can get context-specific advice by having a conversation with someone, with this expert, but you don't maybe have to pay all this money that you would have to pay otherwise if this person comes to your place.

Speaker 1:

And then the second thing is and time as well, because if I have a question before one of the top gurus, advice, consultants, has time to come to my place, the problem might have already or the question might have already been either irrelevant or I lost a crop or a season. In some cases there's a timing issue there as well, and the chances of me calling somebody and he or she coming to visit tomorrow or today are near zero, probably Absolutely.

Speaker 2:

So nothing that costs itself.

Speaker 1:

But also the timing is, I think, a big piece there.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, and it's a big piece for the experts as well. So essentially they need to go into a car, take a car, drive sometimes four hours, or even have to take a plane to come to your place. How often can you do that in a year? Maybe 200 times if you're like busy as a technical person.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, that must sound crazy. But then how do you get over that context specific piece? I think it's a big question we'll get into. But for your tech brain and I've known you a bit and know not how it works, but seeing you approach problems that must sound like, yeah, you can do max 150, 200 of these visits consultants, maybe a year, and like, yeah, that's just, that's the limit of scale, because you have 24 hours in your day and even the best one will be booked all the time and just never have the impact he or she can have.

Speaker 2:

Exactly and like. So really scaling these ideas that are currently locked into people's brains is what we need to do to make regenerative agriculture actually a thing for many people, and yeah, so how does it work?

Speaker 1:

Let's say, let's take me as an example again. I'm a farmer starting to apply some practices to regenerate my soil, and but I'd like to take it to the next level and I have some questions. What does the process look like?

Speaker 2:

It's very, very simple. So, essentially, if you know about us, then you come to our website, farmandappcom. There's a big button, you click on it and it brings you to your favorite messaging app and then in this messaging app you can just record a voice message, write a text about your problem, your context, et cetera. Then we will take this on you give me a prompt.

Speaker 1:

What should I do? To answer Like do you give me a script, Make sure you at least discuss x, y, z.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, so exactly, we are guiding you through that process and then, essentially, we are asking important questions so to actually know, for example, where you are because your location matters a lot and what your farming methods are, maybe, if it's necessary, like what kind of machinery you have. So all these questions that add enough context so that then the experts are able to answer this question adequately. And so we basically take on these questions and then we match you to someone who had a similar experience or who has been doing exactly that already previously, and yeah, they can then, together with you, assess your options. And I think this is also really important to see. We are probably not able to answer every question directly and say this is the answer, but it's more like how likely is it?

Speaker 1:

But so you connect directly me with an expert and maybe with a conversation like that, it triggers the questions and frameworks I need to think about before applying whatever in my context.

Speaker 2:

We are really seeing that more like a process than really trying to lay flat the options or give a second opinion. I think that's also a really important aspect of it. Like I'm having ideas, and my neighbors maybe also are doing this similar thing, but I just want to have someone else that basically tells me, yeah, this is probably good. I have to thought about XYZ, and this is really where farmland then comes in, and there's limitations, of course, to not being on the field and being able to smell the soil, et cetera. But I think there's this back and forth of a conversation that actually enables someone who's maybe not directly from where you are to step into the shoes of you and go on this journey with you together. And from?

Speaker 1:

where are you now in terms of September, 2020, 2023, when you'll be listening to this in May or October or somewhere far in the future? But let's say we released this early October. What is farmland currently? How many of these matches have you made Like? What are you measuring as success in this case? How many of these conversations have happened? What have you seen there? Learned there? Surprising, has it been working? I think it's the underlying question here.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, that's a good question. So we started this hotline a couple of months ago and so far, we had maybe 60 people like farmers we're working together with. So these questions are either very specific or they can also be very strategic, and sometimes it's hard to, of course, know how good the actions were that you were taking after you got our advice. So I think we need to really run through an entire season to properly assess that. But, of course, since we have this direct connection with people, we can also get feedback, and so, after we answering a question, we've been asking people to rate us, and so far, we only got positive results, which is, of course, very nice, but it is not the true measuring, the true thing that we would like to monitor. But the true thing we would like to monitor is how well did this help you in the long run, and that just takes time.

Speaker 1:

It takes time for the season, or seasons, to evolve and, in terms of business model, who's paying for this or who will be paying? Is it the farmer paying per question or per connection? What's the model behind that, or the model you're thinking about?

Speaker 2:

So we are assessing two models at the moment and right now, during our proof of concept phase, how we are doing it.

Speaker 2:

Right now we are running a model, as that is, pay as you want. So, after you've sent a request, we ask you to if it was useful for you to also contribute to the system or to us. Basically because we are paying the experts, so they are paid no matter what. So that is the first one, and then the second one is organizations who work together with farmers transitioning towards regenerative agriculture, and these organizations are paying a flat fee and based on that, then can we get access to our regenerative hotline for the farmers that they're to be working together with. But, yeah, the idea is truly to have it somehow open and if we can keep the pay as you want model as an option and truly enable everyone who needs it to get access to such advice, that would be our idea, and this is also something yeah, we are a company of purpose, I think, and the purpose of distributing this knowledge seems like a very good purpose to have.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, Until now, the pay is as you want or pay what value it created for you. How has that been going as an experiment? I'm asking because we've been running most of that honestly on the podcast. This has always been free and open to all and if we created value and you have the means, we always invite you to support and to contribute. And how has it been going with you Until? Now, it's a small sample set, of course, to be honest, not very well.

Speaker 2:

Not very well. I think we have still a lot to learn to truly understand how we also communicate our service. What a good answer is how we create this continuous engagement. Maybe, if it's needed, we don't even know if this is something people want all the time, if it's just for specific aspects and so it's not like that, it's a business model yet where we would say, yeah, we can go on that and this is how we were going to make our money. The other direction working together with organizations much easier to envision a future in which Farm One is profitable.

Speaker 1:

And what is in it for the expert side? No, expert is not the practitioners that help answering these questions. They get paid, no matter what you said. Is that the ambition for them to be a significant part of scalable revenue compared to farm visits and consultancies, or is it more, potentially, they find more people where they can do these farm visits Like? What part of? Why would they contribute to this and why would they be part of the answering machine? Let's say not the answering machine as in your phone, but literally answering machine.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, so if they want to, I think they should be able to make a good living out of what we are paying them. But what we actually want to see is we're talking about practitioners, and I think we would love to see everyone being able to do on-farm experiments and get somehow compensated for that, and so Really meaning that you're the farmers that are also asking the questions at some point, will be answering some other questions.

Speaker 2:

That would be ideal, like if somebody basically implements something successfully and has really learned and went through these iterations of learnings to then being able to answer other people and like, but honestly, there's no end to knowledge, there's absolutely no end.

Speaker 2:

And ideally, what happens is that the practitioners who are answering the questions on our platform are actually going further than they've been while answering the questions that people are having, and so we see it really as a collective intelligence system I think it's a name that we have been, how we are phrasing it where knowledge gets part of it and gets also applied, and then extra new knowledge will be developed from the people who are interested in doing so. But, yeah, it should be definitely like an attractive way for someone to make an income. Yeah, and that is, I think, also very nice about it we are giving them we can maybe go into that a bit more detail but we give in a lot of tools that simplify the process of answering, like, for instance, so, because, for sure, they used to like be in in WhatsApp groups and Facebook groups and have endless questions and photos and, let's say, chaos.

Speaker 1:

And how do you make my life as an advisor or a practitioner that wants to share easier?

Speaker 2:

Yeah, so essentially like first of all, we are buffering everything right, like like nobody gets their Phone number and nobody like contacts the people directly, so it's farman that gets contacted. Farman is doing the conversations with everyone, and only when we think like okay, now is the point that one of the practitioners and experts can intervene or can go into the conversation, then we start contacting the person and then, based on previous answers and praised on like satellite data and things that we have developed previously for our monitoring verification process, we give these tools to To the experts to get additional context on the farm and that's like climate data how was the weather the last two years? House the weather in the next two weeks? And so like basically basically really get like an idea of what is happening. And Then we use large language models and chat to PT to generate answers based on the previous answers People have been giving, and we let them then modify these answers and so right now, let's say and 30% of the cases I think it's even lower Chatterpity or large language models are able to actually produce an answer. That is good, and the other 80% are kind of like taken on by the experts right now.

Speaker 2:

So they are, they're answering this question and they have to modify a lot, right, but over time, maybe for certain parts, on certain aspects and certain questions that came up, a lot like actually the just has to be reviewed and so, but like, no matter what is happening, there's always like a human that basically looks over it and at the moment they have to do quite a lot of work, but over time this is maybe reduced and we're seeing business models for experts as well, like when you contributed to knowledge and it's becoming part of the entire like intelligence system and it's been like reused more often.

Speaker 2:

That then we can compensate, compensate you for that as well. So, yeah, your time actually reduces over time for certain aspects of two questions that you've been answering Over and over again and you get already like bored of answering them because, like, everybody has like the same questions when they go towards their transition to regenerative agriculture and you're like no man, like I don't want to do this anymore and so like, but you can still get a compensation through us, right, but that, I think, is really the beauty of it and you can actually then start to taking care of like more and more difficult and like questions that come in and that you would like to also develop your own expertise, and, and so, yeah, I think that's a very nice value proposition for for experts working and practitioners working together with us.

Speaker 1:

Extremely nice and, at the same time, it raises a Copyright or like, who owns that information or data question, which is a very big one, with large language models that have Soaked up, let's say, the internet until, I think, 2021, and now it triggers a massive like if it then we Distribute that or rearrange is that into an answer which is, in many cases, almost magical who owns the data underneath? Like, is it me? That? Whoever uploaded that stuff in on the internet to begin with? But it's a big Question around large language models, which we're gonna figure out in a messy way for sure. In this case, do you get some questions around? Yeah, but if I keep adding to the system, to this, this collective intelligence system, my Unique quote-unquote because not this knowledge is really unique, but my unique knowledge, my unique answers, and will I be out of a job at some point? Like will I, because you, of course, paint a picture.

Speaker 1:

Then you can work on really difficult ones and not the boring questions, but at some point, maybe also Some of these collective intelligence systems are able to answer the more difficult questions, like what do you say when somebody says, yeah, we'll basically answer myself out of out of a job?

Speaker 2:

Yeah, I mean, gatekeeping is the evil of all, scalability, and I think we really want to make Regenerative agriculture the norm. That's the first thing like. So I think, like Sharing knowledge is, at its essence, like the most important thing. But you're right, like I think the number one concern people have working together with us is exactly that. Like I'm giving away my like knowledge that I've been working on for like the last 10, 20, 30 years to that to acquire right, and and we are, and we are looking for business models and for intellectual property models that Allow sharing revenues based on the knowledge that somebody has gathered over these years. And I think, yeah, honestly, like we need to.

Speaker 2:

We are talking with, with people exactly around that topic, because that's the number one thing that is coming up, and but I truly believe that there is ways to to share all knowledge that you have ever gathered and still make a profit out of this, maybe, and Without gatekeeping your knowledge. And I think we need to. We need to find a Future in which this is possible. Like it can't be that there's like a few practitioners and experts who then do webinars or something for like a small group of people, because, like, how many webinars a year can you do Like 200, but like we need to. We need to transition 600 million farmers in the world right. Like Until you reach 600 million farmers. With all this, with your webinars, and like with your Um, with your course, that's it's gonna.

Speaker 2:

It's impossible and um and there's, yeah. So I think that the one answer I can give you here is like we need to find Business models that work also for the people who are willing to share their knowledge with us, and and that's that's what we are working on, and we are in discussions with every single expert and practitioner that we are working together with.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, no, I think it's. It's the um, the crucial question here in the whole large language model world at the moment, but in general as well how do you create this collective intelligence system and make sure that the people who helped create it? But then, of course, you get the argument, and it's a very valid one what about the people 100 years ago? What about the indigenous knowledge we build upon? What about, etc. Etc. Etc. And but it's a it's a valid point.

Speaker 1:

But at the same time, your point of 600 million farmers like we'll never get there with, even if we have 10,000 amazing advisors with, just Physically it's just impossible.

Speaker 1:

And this is a a way to use, potentially use technology In a way to to scale that knowledge and to get access to it. So it's, but it's that tension that makes it makes it interesting, for sure as well. And I can imagine some of the advisors see that potential, like they can suddenly reach basically infinite amount of people and infinite amount of farmers. Um, but I can also see the fear reaction from some others. I can imagine the fear reaction, but at the same time they they probably potentially realize this might lead to and first of all, an interesting income stream, maybe interesting potentially equity or part of a company or somehow, um, copyright in a certain way but also to maybe way more interesting farm visit clients that that reach out and that the read like you can potentially pick and select the really interesting and difficult ones that work on those and, wow um you, you keep a nice steady or base income through Through this piece without ever leaving your farm or ever leaving your, your context.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, let me. Let me say one more thing about that, and I think, like just thinking about, um, I need to gate keep my knowledge comes with like scarcity or abundance, yeah, yeah, exactly like that is really the idea of like just resource, like knowledge is finite, but it's not. It's like, I mean, like we've been developing things over the last 10,000 years and there's no reason to believe that like we Like in a in a, that the next thousand years on shouldn't be the same when it comes to agriculture as well, and like we know so little about nature and like nature's complexities are so big, and like that, um, yeah, I think there's always ways to optimize things and always ways to find ways, um, yeah, to to Be at the pinnacle of knowledge, and I think that's also where we want to be. We must be exciting for some, for some of us like whoa, finally I can tap into.

Speaker 1:

But I can see, yeah, that it's really that fight or flight response, like abundance or um, or like restricting, holding on um, what, what's this is? I've developed this over time and now, etc. Etc. And I have it's just already an interesting sentence there. So it's that um, that tension that you must be dealing with constantly but, at the same time, this unlimited potential of, of unlocking this knowledge and the realization we only scratch the surface in terms of this knowledge, like we're really at the absolute beginning and having that whole group of uh practitioners practicing um and monitoring and observing and connecting and seeing Uh connections. There is going to be um, it's going to be extremely exciting and extremely necessary, fully agree. And so what? What is the biggest bottleneck? What's the most difficult piece? Um, I mean you're, you're raising a, a round is, I mean maybe, business model? What do you? What do you see as the um the biggest barrier or bottleneck at the moment and again, we're talking September, october 2023.

Speaker 2:

I think for us, the biggest bottleneck right now is to truly understand, like, how to create value on a farm. Um, and that might be an answer and that might be like what we're doing right now, but um, the eternal answer.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, yeah, like, like, no, like, literally the answer to the farmer, right, like, just giving an answer might not be enough, like and um, and so I think, truly figuring out how we can create a service that continuously, on every day of your, of your, of your farming, um season, um how we can provide value there. And I think that is um the biggest bottleneck right now, because we see that farmers are interested, farmers are asking a question or two, and then I also say that they that they really like the question and the answer or the response that we gave, but many of them are not um coming back yet, and so our like, what that means to us is like okay, people are generally interested, but, um, maybe it's too difficult, for example, like to always come up with like a well polished question, right, like, like it takes me effort and like, so sometimes, um, we're seeing like it's very much like people who are already having a good idea who then are able to formulate the question, and I think we need to find ways to ease this process. Yeah.

Speaker 1:

It's like with big language models prompting it is probably the most difficult thing, and there's now a whole industry starting of how to really ask good prompting questions. And the same was with Google in the beginning, and still now Most people just don't know how to ask questions to Google or, in this case, to chat to GPT or to how to have that conversation and get most out of it. It's very difficult, and so I can completely imagine if I'm a farmer I don't even know what I know partly my problem. But I don't really know how to translate that into a clear, understandable, well-defined question. Yeah, that's an art of craft actually.

Speaker 2:

Exactly. And then I think for us really there's this idea of black box. At the moment still, you ask a question into the void and then there's something someone answering back. But we have profiles for every expert that we're working together with and they know who they are talking with and it's important for us that it's not far on that it's necessarily answering. At the moment, it's literally it's this person and this person is responsible for this question and they own it. But, yeah, I think we are exploring now, right now, different ways of triggering.

Speaker 1:

They don't own the answer, right, they own the. You own the information. Owning here means a different thing than ownership.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, ownership in this case it doesn't mean that we own the answer. We, basically it's our responsibility that it's a good answer, but of course they are the ones responsible for formulating yeah for sure. And so ownership, I mean you take it on and it's your responsibility to make it, to make sure it's about you.

Speaker 1:

Sorry, but I interrupted you on your working with triggers.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, and so we are looking basically for other ways of triggering people asking the right questions, and I think so the transition starts anywhere. You can be a fully conventional farm, you can be an organic farmer or something, and at some point you just want to do something differently, and I think having this step already is really important. And once people have been doing this step, I think it's great to find ways to make sure that thinking the next steps etc is also rewarding as possible, and I think that is really our bottleneck. Yet People come up to us with a very specific question and then they're like okay, this is answered now, but then I think they are still forgetting about us or they think we may not be able to answer these questions as well, and I think that is. It's really like how people see us, and I think that's.

Speaker 1:

How do you become part of their daily thinking and daily questioning, and daily, yeah, I mean, we don't need to necessarily.

Speaker 2:

We don't need to be part of their life, like that's not what we want. We want to be part of the decisions and actions they are taking that they think are relevant and they want to have like a good feedback loop around that, and I think that's really where we want to be.

Speaker 1:

And you said something very important about the farmer or land steward already have made the decision that they want something. Is that a potential risk or challenge? When you start working with these organizations that want their farmers to transition, but the farmers that really want to Like, how are you going to end up working with a lot of reluctant farmers that don't really want to move? Or how do you work with that, as in this case, the farmers come to you and say I want this question or I want to change this and this, and I mean there's a different energy to it. If you want to work with a large cooperative that works with, I'm saying, 200, 500,000, etc. Farmers, how do you make sure you're not trying to drag them or nudge them or pull them or push them too much? Let's say that it's more a pull than a push.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, it's a very good question. I don't think we are right now really in the business of changing people's minds, like people are. We are far away already from some people, and so ensuring that is something that we are not focusing on yet and also probably not in the near future, but indeed that this key is key for us that people are already thinking in a different way. Let's see what the next couple of years bring us and if we maybe are soon also in the business of doing that as well.

Speaker 1:

Let's see. I mean, it also depends partly I don't know if your business was even possible a year ago with chat GPT. I think we're at 3.5 now, anyway the previous version. I don't know if it suddenly got unlocked now with large language models and all the excitement and all the development around it, and but who knows what happens in the near future with that.

Speaker 1:

I remember Marcel from the Berg I think, mentioning in the water cycle series the excitement or the interest now in the new computer power and the ability and this was a landscape skill to run different models and to run like a digital twin of a landscape and see, with many different variables, what would happen if you do XYZ.

Speaker 1:

And he said six months ago, or even in that case a few months ago, that wasn't possible, at least we didn't know it was possible. And now suddenly I went a whole different realm in terms of what we can show, what a landscape could look like with these interventions. And that kind of computer power wasn't just there and before. So of course it's impossible to to predict that over the next, over the next years. But what would you say now to if we do this, let's say in the fresh, fresh office or in plus city, with a room full of of impact investors and we talk about this the role of technology in the regenerative, regenerative transition. Of course, they're excited after, after our conversation, but what would be your main message to them, or what would you want them if they walk out of the city, in in Rotterdam, if they walk out of that, what would be the main thing you want them to remember?

Speaker 1:

And if we discuss this, this role of technology in this regenerative transition, Good question.

Speaker 2:

So we went as far when we went from measuring outcomes and move towards measuring practices, and then we went now to ensuring that practice are are actually implemented well, and we did that.

Speaker 1:

It was a fascinating journey because I remember the beginning with fresh you were really looking at cover crops and then outcome.

Speaker 2:

Then yeah, it's a journey itself, I think should tell and like, so basically.

Speaker 2:

I think what what I'm, what I really came also to realize, is like this is also looking at from it in a very engineering kind of way.

Speaker 2:

Like the KPIs, the things that you measure in agriculture have been wrong and like, for example, we measured yield in kilograms right and out of the sudden, the entire system optimizes towards yield and kilograms and what we end up with is watery tomatoes.

Speaker 2:

And I think, as an investor, I wouldn't focus too much on measuring generalizable KPIs or anything but really let like farmers and local people like set objectives that fit their context right and then measure these and that's fine. But don't try to like, yeah, find like ways to measure regenerative agriculture, because it's probably not possible on a generalizable large scale. But what is possible is that locals come up with their own experiments, with their own objectives that they maybe try to hit and then trust them that they're taking the right choice and like I think our system actually really embraces this idea that it's about the on farm context and that they cannot be just like an FAQ or like a like a YouTube video that is answering all your questions, but it always has to be curated in a way so that it's context specific and so going away from measuring outcomes to measuring maybe outcomes and whatever is necessary on a local level. I think that is really what, how I would like to see like investors go into in this direction. They should go into maybe, yeah.

Speaker 1:

Very, very, very interesting answer. And what if we flip the, the, the compensation in that sense, or put you at the driver's seat of a large investment fund? We usually say a billion euros or billion dollars, but in this case euros. And what would you? What would you focus on? What would you? I'm not looking for dollar amounts or euro amounts, but I'm definitely looking at what your priority list would look like if you had that. To invest again, to invest at some point could be extremely long, but at some point it should get back, preferably with a return, and we can discuss about non extractive returns, how high, how low, but at some point it should get back. What would you prioritize? What would you focus?

Speaker 2:

on. Yeah, I think one of the most important problems right now is also resilience of income, and I think climate change and many other like parameters basically let let these create like bigger oscillations, and I think these oscillations need to be somehow mitigated against. And so what I would love to see is like a real crop insurance for regenerative agriculture that basically takes on and distributes the risks and so that you, as a farmer, don't have to take that necessarily.

Speaker 1:

And I know there's things like you and me with that.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, I think that is still a problem because it goes exactly against, like what I just said about measuring outcomes. But I think with computation, with like certain, like localized ways of doing things, we can find ways to make agriculture more resilient and I think regenerative agriculture will be the norm and will be a non topic soon, because that is the way of how we're going to go forward and how everyone is going to go forward.

Speaker 1:

And to ask a question. I don't know what your bubble in that sense looks like, or your peers maybe within fresh in the cohort or, let's say, within the startup community of regeneration, regenerative food and agriculture when do you think differently? And definitely? This question comes from John Kemp what do you believe to be true about regenerative agriculture that others don't? He always asked about agriculture in general, but I'd like to ask it about regenerative agriculture, and I think it's very important when you meet your peers in this space.

Speaker 2:

I think just what I just said, like regenerative agriculture, will soon be a non-topic because everyone needs to do it and basically, if I think about the total address for farm on, it's basically every farmer who needs to do things differently, and this is going to be everyone, and I think that's kind of come rather sooner than later.

Speaker 1:

Why is that, and how soon, and as soon as like months, years. What do you see?

Speaker 2:

I would say the next. Of course I don't know, but say 10, 20 years everyone, but in some areas already much sooner, and maybe it will be called differently, or like the focus is not so much on regeneration, not on resilience or so, but I think, yeah, like people are flexible and farming is flexible and farming has always been changing, and I truly believe that what we think about when we think about regeneration, like that, it is a way that will lead the future.

Speaker 1:

And if you could recall the magic wand question, if you could change one thing overnight, what would it be?

Speaker 2:

Let everyone do what they want to do, and so farming definitely needs to be super attractive, right, and I think that's really what we want. We want to have the professional like you're also talking often about lends, stewardship and I think it needs to be something people want to do and choose, and I think we need to change the incentives in a way that it becomes attractive and, yeah, it's farming is a sexy career path that people that maybe did not inherit a farm do anyways, because it's really cool. And so, yeah, letting everyone do what they want to do.

Speaker 1:

And what do you see as the biggest barriers for that to happen? Is it land prices? Is it the general margins on farming? Is it, like you said, with the align incentives differently? What are the big ones there for you that are holding us back? Is it the knowledge piece? Could be?

Speaker 2:

I don't think it's necessarily a lot knowledge piece. I think it's. I think for many it is, yeah, like how much money do I make and what is like the risk that I'm taking? And like if I think about starting a startup, like I also basically withhold myself from having a good income through a tech job and I'm expecting much higher risk like rewards in the end from doing that. And I think as a farmer, you basically have similar risks as, like someone who is creating a startup, or even higher, because, like I can always go back to my programming job and I am going to be well off, but you have these high risks and sometimes very little rewards, and I think we need to somehow work on that, like basically create higher rewards, and I think a lot of that has to do with money. So we need to find ways and business models that make farming very attractive.

Speaker 1:

And do you see that more in getting more of like, let's say, the food dollars and food euros to the farm, or and or maybe in how to reward farmers? And then search for other things and of course, you look deep into that, the other services they provide on a landscape scale and cooling the planet, on water cycle restoration, on water filtering, carbon biodiversity the whole thing. Which one of the two do you feel like is a bigger lever? Food or ecosystem services, which is a horrible word.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, I don't know, I don't know, man, like, I think talking like so wasn't the farm food climate festival in Germany the other week, couple of weeks ago, and then we had this discussion with quite some farmers who explained, like, what they think about ecosystem services, and the majority literally answered actually, I just really like making food, and I think this is again also let everyone do what they really want to do is like, if this is your objective and you really want to make food, you should make food, and so if that is what someone wants to do, they should do that, and I think that's also for me like a big lever, like everybody needs to eat and so let's focus on that as well. And all the other things are great, but we should accept that not everyone wants to be a lansdured in the sense of like taking care of some birds on a field. It's not everybody's thing.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, but I think you can argue if you do the food piece well, the others, I wouldn't say, come automatically. But it would be a shame if you have created other values to not capture some of that and make your journey easier. But you already have so many bulls in the air as a farmer that it's also could be a great distraction.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, I mean, I found it. I would find it's quite weird if, out of the sudden, like it makes more sense to not harvest from your land anymore, right, and it's more attractive to just let it rest or let it bear and not bear.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, of course. I mean, I think it's that intersection between biomass production, and part of it is to harvest and extract and part of it is not, and that's the dance. But at some point now you see, I end up being close but it's more profitable to rent out your land for solar fields than it is to farm. And then we get yeah, of course energy is important, electricity is important, but food probably a bit more.

Speaker 2:

So there's definitely some misaligned incentives, let's say, to you Absolutely, absolutely, and nobody ever said it's an easy question to answer, right. And yeah, if there's big and nice interesting business incentives, then I think people will change their behavior, like I truly believe so. So if it's attractive to do ecosystem services then people will do it.

Speaker 1:

And I still need the knowledge, which is the start and, in this case, the end of the conversation as well. A moment to wrap up. I want to thank you so much for coming on and share about your journey and, of course, the work you've been doing on creating this collective intelligent system for regenerative farming. It's early, but it's also very exciting. So thank you so much and hopefully we'll be following this story and this venture as it develops over time.

Speaker 2:

Thank you so much, Kun, for the podcast and everyone. Please try out the thing.

Speaker 1:

Ask difficult questions Exactly Any more important questions? Thank you so much for listening all the way to the end. For the show notes and links we discussed in this episode, check out our website investing in RegenerativeEgrCulturecom. Forward slash posts. If you like this episode, why not share it with a friend or give us a rating on Apple Podcast? That really helps. Thanks again and see you next time.

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