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.
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?
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An interview with a VC investor who, after reading the omnivores dilemma by Marco Poland, got bitten by the regeneration bug. He fell deep into the rabbit hole, going from attending courses at Joel Salatin's farm and bringing him to Germany for the first time, organizing a big conference where entrepreneurs and larger family businesses were exposed to regeneration for the first time, to Gabe Brown in trying to bring the full understanding egg squad to Germany Unfortunately Covid happened, but it will happen one day All the way to Ernest Gertsch and going deep into Centropic Agroforestry. This led to buying a masseria, a small farm in Puglia, the region battered by monoculture olive trees, where now more than 15 million trees are dying because of modern agriculture, plowing, chemicals and, of course, xizela fastigiosa, a virus which seems to be the last straw on the camel's back for these poor, suffering trees. Most of the trees not all under masseria he bought are doing well, mostly because of our guests of today, managed to convince Diane and Philippe, the oldest students of Ernest Gertsch, to come and help regenerate his farm and much further. 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 to begin, or should we say coming back, because there are records of the Romans already farming olive trees in a very diverse agroforestry system. Why is our guest so hopeful about the future and what is accounting to do with it? 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. 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 and our sea, grow our 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 Jan Gisbert Schulze, who is a friend of the show I can say has never been here but has been in the orbit of the podcast for a long time. We met through Benedict Beuzel a long time ago was before the series. I think we did with Benedict before he became famous with a book and a series on Disney Plus, and you've been working a lot in this space. Bring a lot of experience to the regenerative space and come deep down the rabbit hole of Syntropic, deep down the rabbit hole of grazing, and it's been an absolute pleasure to meet a number of times in amazing locations. We're currently in Thépresse-Sapuia. We've met also on the farm of Benedict. We've met in Munich. We've met in Domodossola. We always meet in interesting places. So I'm very happy with this moment and to record this interview here on a very hot summer day at the end of August. Welcome, jan. Welcome. I know, of course, your story into soil, but I think it's a very recognizable one for many listening. I would love for you to unpack that a bit, because you don't have the. It's not that you grew up on a diversified farm and you were an apprentice of Joel Salatin or something like that. No, you had a quote, unquote, awakening later, and I would love to unpack that journey a bit. You were an apprentice of all the other career paths and you're doing a few still. Why soil and how did it come about?Speaker 2:
Well, it came about really through a book which many people know, it's the Omnivore Dilemma by Michael Pollan.Speaker 1:
Which one inspired many people.Speaker 2:
This journey, yeah, it's amazing, and this book was recommended to me by a friend Because that's also interesting.Speaker 1:
it's one thing of reading the book and getting inspired, which we hear a lot, but also somebody has to. It's not a book that's on the best seller list or something like that. Somebody has to give it to you and then you don't put it away. You think, oh, this is interesting, let's do it. There's a process there. So a friend recommended it and you sit down and you're busy day and opened it and then thought about it.Speaker 2:
Exactly, I was in my Easter vacation with my family and had some relaxed time and I was starting to read the book and, as you know, it has several chapters and the first chapter is describing the conventional farming system in the US, the second the organic, and then it touches upon a farmer in Virginia, a famous Joel Salatin, and I hadn't heard nothing about him before. I hadn't really touched the whole subject of farming for a long period of time. I have indeed been on farms when I was a kid in the summer, and I actually spent a year in the United States as a foreign exchange student in Minnesota on a pig farm which was a really classical farm with 600 acres corn, soybeans, and we were breeding 2000 pigs a year. I loved it. I enjoyed it. I thought I would become a farmer and then my life took a totally different direction. But when I read the book, and when I particularly read the chapter about Joel, I realized that farming can actually help to rebuild soil. So I was aware that soil has been massively destroyed on this planet. I was very concerned about it because my understanding was that it will take lifetimes for that to be regenerated, and suddenly I'm reading that a farmer in his lifetime has rebuilt, basically from 1% to 8%, and that was organic matter. And that was a moment which really hit me. And when I was in school, I had a speciality in the last few years in biology and I learned everything about photosynthesis. But I cannot remember that I was taught the so-called carbon cycle and the symbiosis between the plants and the soil, and I was totally fascinated by this understanding that there is a way of farming which can actually rebuild soil and, if I would put it today, a regenerative farmer for me, as someone who maximizes photosynthesis on a certain piece of land through using all the dimensions and thereby reviving soil life. And, of course, if I think about regenerative, in the end I think it needs to be organic, because everything else just doesn't make sense. So that was the moment that struck me, and then I drove my family crazy. I was so excited about it because for the first time, I saw there is maybe a solution to all the issues that we have created. I then understood that the carbon cycle basically means you sequester carbon dioxide, of which we have too much in the atmosphere and in the oceans, back to the soil. I understood that actually, by having more organic matter in the soil, you can store more water and you have a better infiltration rate of water, so the resilience of the place is improving. I understood that there is a direct relationship between the soil, life and my health the biome and the biome I carry on myself. So if the soil is sick it will influence also my health. I understood that if the more organic matter is in the soil, the nutrition value of the food actually improves significantly. So it was almost like this is too good to be true. So win, win, win, win, win. And yeah, and so three months later, after I had read the book, I learned that Joel is doing seminars on his farm. I went to Virginia. I spent two days with him. I was a little bit the odd guy. He called me the investment banker because I'm a venture capitalist and he. But we really got along well and so we stayed in touch. I really love the guy and I was so impressed about his work and how he was dealing with his family and the imprentices on his farm and so on his forest, and so at some point I asked him if he would like to come to Germany and present his knowledge to local farmers and he said yes, let's do a masterclass, which he is a three day course.Speaker 1:
It's the first time he ever was in Germany.Speaker 2:
It was the first time he was in Germany. He had been in the Netherlands before.Speaker 1:
I was there, actually, when he came to the Netherlands.Speaker 2:
And. But I said one thing to him. I said, yes, let's do the masterclass, but let's please also do one afternoon where I would like to invite business people and people from the farming world and see what happens and you give your presentation. And so in May 2019, we had this meeting and his masterclass. It took place on a farm near Munich of a friend he has become a friend a dear friend, zepp Braun, who is a regenerative farmer. He was very well known in Germany in this group of regenerative people, and so we organized this afternoon and we had a group of 70 people and it was an amazing mix of people, from the head of the organic movement in Germany to people who produce machine equipment and people who are involved in market gardens but also managing three, four thousand hectare farms, and people from the business world, from media, from finance, from your normal group yeah, my normal group your habitat. And the amazing thing was that for the people from the business side or the entrepreneurial side, it was very enlightening to understand that there is a different way of doing farming which actually protects the biodiversity. And, on the other side, it was also for the farmers, of great value to connect with people that they typically do not meet. So one of the very important themes that we came out of this or that was basically the idea from the beginning is to connect the unexpected, and that's when my journey started, or my journey started with the book, but after that it started to intensify, because your day job was and is very different.Speaker 1:
You mentioned venture capital. You're very involved in a number in the venture capital world in Munich, globally, but based out of Munich, so not daily managing a farm or land I mean now indirectly you are, but from there you met Gabe Brown as well. How did that happen? How did you go further down to rabbit hole?Speaker 2:
Well, that's interesting. I mentioned before that I was in in Minnesota on a farm and of course I had heard about Gabe Brown. When I started to, I got so much people who thought, who told me Jan, this cannot work, this is only for small scale farmers, this isn't productive, this cannot feed the world. You know all these arguments, you have heard them 100 times and of course they are all wrong. But when I wasn't that knowledgeable at that time, I started to read a lot. So growing a revolution of David Montgomery, Of course I read all these books and I came to the conclusion that all this is wrong and that this is really the way to go. And one of the books of course I read was Dirt to Soil and Gabe Brown, and I went on his website at some point of time and where he was giving the soil Academy and I saw that he was giving a course 10 miles away from the farm where I had spent my year in a near town called Redwood Falls with a family that has the wonderful German name the Breitkreuz family. And I said I have to go, and so I participated with 20, 30 other farmers. I was really again a little bit the odd guy in Gabe Brown's three day course and that's how I got to meet Gabe and he impressed me a lot, and his whole team, dr Alan Williams and Ray Archuleta, of course. Yeah, he's an amazing guy and sorry, I can't the fourth one, sorry, forgive me for not remembering the names. I'm very bad with names and so that connected me with Gabe and I have been in regular exchange with him and we actually wanted to bring him to Germany due to. Corona and COVID. It unfortunately never worked out.Speaker 1:
He was going to be there with the full team he wanted to come and do the full show, and that would have been amazing. And then, and then we get to the place where we're now. You somehow stumbled upon Agroforestry, and and then Sintropic as well. Do you remember how?Speaker 2:
well, you know, it's the air and a good connection. Connection. I do not exactly remember how I heard about Sintropic agriculture, but the first thing I remember is that I watched this video which Felipe Pazini and Diana had produced together with Ernst, which they presented at the COP meeting in Paris, and it's a 15 minute YouTube video and it's a lot of life and Sintropic, life and Sintropic. It's very inspiring.Speaker 1:
And again, you felt like it's too good to be true. Yeah.Speaker 2:
I really got very interested in what they were doing. There wasn't much to read about it, and then I learned that Ernst would do a conference in the fall of 2018 in Mertola in Portugal. So I immediately inscribed for the conference and that's how I got to meet Ernst and I see like a little who's here.Speaker 1:
You go to a conference of one of these people, then you meet them. You're the odd guy probably there and then I guess there's a theme here.Speaker 2:
Yeah, and I got to know Felipe and Diana, his oldest students and, in the meantime, in the meantime, world-class Sintropic experts themselves, and I was literally meeting Benedict I'm busy for the first time probably three, four weeks before I went to metal, and I knew that Benedict was in discussions with, and I'm creating the first centropic plantation in Germany. I of course told and you should definitely do this with Benedict, and in the end they did, and so we did. Even before, we did the masterclass which Joel Salatino workshop on Benedict's farm with science Gertscher, and we've done one more after that. All this, for all this, I created an association called the soil alliance and and that's how I got into a centropic agriculture and from the beginning I felt this is probably, this is almost like new and you will view on the world and it's a very comprehensive way of looking at things and it's totally in In tune with the principles of life, as I call them, and I was really fascinated by it and I felt this is, 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 in Puglia, so called mass area In the press beautiful place and you know, I think in the end this is all has been divine decisions, but I was so lucky that I was able to convince wonderful Philippe and Diana to come here to Depressor, and they are since two years. We're we're building a centropic farm here and it's absolutely incredible to see how things are evolving. And it's it's, you know, we when we when they started. The soils are so depleted here that we literally measured 0.2% of carbon in the soil and and the most recent Measurements show, at least where we put in the centropic lines, that we have tenfold the organic matter in the soil. So that's really very significant and and we are, in a certain way, we're doing everything that Traditional farmer would tell me is economic and I suppose yeah and. But you know, I'm a business guy and I'm I'm I'm certainly in love with this kind of farming, so there's a lot of idealistic view on it as well, but I think we'll, in the end, be able to show that being crazy actually could turn out very interesting results. So we're working on that and and this is a very interesting region because there has been a disease called Xilella fastidiosa, which is a bacteria which is transported by a fly, and this bacteria causes olive trees to dry out literally they die and this bacteria attacked olive trees here in the region and literally 15 million trees are gone or dead. You still see them. You see the skeleton of skeletons and in the landscape you drive and when I came here the first time I was shocked to see that, and One of our friends here in in in this region he's always referring to A famous film by Felini when he came to Germany after the war, and I think it's called Germany 0.0 or something like this, and he always refers to this film and says it's a little 0.0 and it's a little 0.0, and so we are reset exactly. It's a real reset and we are starting and you know this region really dependent on the olive, so it's a great shock for the region and so my hope is because a lot of the farmers here are small scale, which I think is perfectly suitable for Centropic concepts that we are able to show something that could be an alternative way, because the landscape is literally idle at the moment and I think we, if we can show that we can replicate the kind of Concept we do on our farm. Our farm is a small farm, it's a nine-hectare farm, but the productivity per hectare will be Significantly higher than what they used to produce when they were just having olive trees here on the on this land, and Traditionally the olive trees were standing far, fairly wide apart, like 10-12 meters between the trees. So, yeah, that's that, and you know I always felt I'm talking all the time about this thing, so at least I should be involved with the farm.Speaker 1:
Now you can go to your conference and not be the odd guy, because you're also farmer.Speaker 2:
They cannot say well. I must admit I wish I could be more involved in the day-to-day work, which I actually like, but I'm not so involved in it because I have so many other things to do. But it's Wonderful to see how this place is evolving. It's really quite amazing and we we already get Visitors from all over to see what's happening here.Speaker 1:
Yeah, we recorded an interview. It could be out when you're listening to this depends a bit, of course, when and with video actually, so you can look for that. The farmers philosophy series with Diana. You can see a bit of the first plantation, how it looks in August, and there are many. I will put the links below, of course, on the social media channels of this Maserilla, where they're beautiful drone shots, beautiful before and after and in the middle. To really document, to see the change and the Productivities of is not the right word, as you see the change in life, like I, yeah, we were very lucky to be here the moment you bought the place and to see the trees in very dire Circumstances. As Diana mentioned, they're mostly planted here in monocultures, even though relatively extensive, relatively far apart, but still there. There trees that are where which used to have two, three times a year plowing next to them, a lot of spraying and and they are barely hanging in there. They're sort of hanging there and now, of course, a bacteria comes and kills them off, but you see the trees thriving here. Now, in a couple of years later this was 2020, we were here now 21 and the beginning of the year and two and a half years later, you can see, not all of them made it, of course, no, and a number of them are really, really thriving and with life, and that's very different from Just a few hundred meters from this place, where you see them see, yes and and to be very clear about it I still don't know if these trees will survive in the end.Speaker 2:
Of course I would love to see them survive. But you know, philippe, I think, has a very good point. He says nature is is circular and things come and go and we probably need to accept that these olive trees will never come again. But what I really like is that the way Philippe has designed the centropic lines, he has integrated the old trees into the lines and we are actually trying to rethink On how we could grow olives in this region. So we definitely want to stick also to the olives, maybe not these specific trees? Yes, could be yeah, could be other species, but it fits in a system we certainly you know, one of the tragedies is that, I mean, this has been a region which basically has monoculture olive trees and and the farmers here get money for from the European Union to cut down the old trees. And Unfortunately, often these are external companies who cut down the trees and turn them into wood chips, and then these wood chips are actually taken out of Puglia into other regions of Italy. So Already the, the biomass that they could provide for regenerating the system, is taken out because that's Economically much more viable for the farmers, and I understand what they're doing it. And the second thing is that they, the, the local farmers are. Now the way they get these subsidies is to replant, but with intensive lines of olive trees like we see them in Spain. So we are actually intensifying the monoculture and I mean sorry, I don't want to get into it because it's really Look at the numbers of this year in Spain of the olive production.Speaker 1:
I think it collapsed 60, 70, 80% because of intensity and the prices are gone through the roof. So we should really question.Speaker 2:
No, I mean we see worldwide the breakdown of monocultures. We see it in Florida with the orange trees, we see it With many other trees. There's hardly any Deciduous or conifer type of tree that doesn't have a disease in in Europe. So nature is telling us the monoculture is not the way to go. We need to go into diversified systems and even more intensive is probably even worse.Speaker 1:
That's even worse.Speaker 2:
That's, that's the best way to get into a desert, and and we are. We are hopefully being able to show that our systems actually will be very productive. I think they will produce a very high quality of fruits, and so, yeah, it's, it's. It's something that my partners and I believe in, and and and we're. We're convinced that once we can produce the kind of quality we think we can produce, it will also be appreciated in the market. So that's.Speaker 1:
Because you said I'm I'm a business guy and this is a lot of idealism, obviously, but I also see potential when you put on your, your business glasses. Let's say you look at your journey as well. You're a Saladin gay brown and it's good of course. The project of Philippine and Diana, they're amazing examples. We haven't seen it scale beyond that in many cases. I mean gay, of course, with the, with the crew and is working with, with general mills and others and the known and Scaling that to a certain extent, but it hasn't really been like that. Meeting with the business world, as you did with with Joe, hasn't really Happened beyond that. Maybe the meetings yet, but we don't see like a full on Roll out yet, simply between brackets, on business terms. And do you feel we're getting closer to that, like it's becoming more obvious? Are we still many steps away, especially in something relatively extreme as a synchropic when? Where do you feel we are? Your business glasses on?Speaker 2:
I mean, if I, when I read the story of Joel for the first time, that I forgot to mention because we were just talking about the soil part there was, of course, also an economic part that really impressed me, because he was able to basically catch the whole value created in the value chain. So he's selling his products, he's producing his products and he's selling them directly to the end consumer, and that is, of course, something that Not many farmers are able to do Gables being able to do it and others but it requires personalities who are great farmers and, at the same time, also greats marketeers and and, of course, they sell a fantastic product, but still you need to promote it and talk to customers and you need to enjoy that and need to get the distribution organized and so on and so forth. So that has been certainly a hindrance for maybe other farmers who don't have that capacity. But 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 enterprise, an extractive business that is probably actually or that is that is kind of harming the soils or that is harming nature, is profitable and not really still profitable because it can actually externalize these expenses. They are not accounted for by the Player who is actually causing them, and we have, if we have kind of on on an economic from a whole, from a from a whole economy point of view we have a GDP account which is accounting 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 that is, I think the awareness for this issue is increasing. We we now have Ways of. There are initiatives in the EU. The White House has now issued a paper on starting to really look deeper into the natural capital accounting thing and also on the level of the businesses. Businesses are now forced to report on what they are doing in terms of sustainability measures, but they are not yet forced to put it into their PNL, and I think the moment we will do that and I think we have to do that, it has to be accounted for Things will change significantly.Speaker 1:
Would it be your answer to a question we always like to ask and what if you had a magic wand? You could change one thing overnight, would that be?Speaker 2:
that would probably be my I would really change the accounting system. I would introduce on on the whole economy level but also on the business level, a system which you probably would need to reduce over a certain span of time, where people really start to account for all the expenses and and then certain procedures just don't work anymore and then suddenly a regenerative farmer will be actually be very competitive, and so that's what I would do from an economic point of view, and I see you know, if we have a few more of these kind of summers, people will simply realize we cannot go on like this. I mean, if you look at the South, spain, portugal also, italy was hit badly again this year.Speaker 1:
Grease. How many people got evacuated from the wine harvest? Is they lost?Speaker 2:
60 percent, and it's. We need to build more resilient systems. We need to see agriculture, forestry and the water management as a whole. We need to have a far more holistic view on these things and if we do, I think we have all the opportunities to create a whole new economy. I, I'm always saying these regenerative farmers, like a brown, joel Saladin, sepp Brown in Germany, they are actually having business models which are in tune or aligned to the principles of nature. And once you do that, you, you, you, and this principle should be applied to the whole economy. So we, 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. We human beings are the, the, the, the, the last in the food chain. So if we, if we don't manage it properly, we will, we, we will lose out and and I think we kind of consciousness is starting to increase at the moment at quite a rapid scale, I must say. Actually, is it surprising? You know I, you know I, I, when, I, when I got interested in this. I think I got interested because also my sensitivity level was somehow higher than it was, probably before Easter holiday. Yeah, exactly and I think this is happening to many people at the moment.Speaker 1:
And we see that a lot. We see Nothing exponential growth in the podcast, etc. But a lot. I mean it's definitely growing. Funny enough in ways I didn't expect, like a water series episode that goes viral. That Was amazing, super interesting, but didn't have a big name on it, or somehow suddenly it hit a nerve on LinkedIn and the algorithm picked it up. Probably also in the same weeks of there was massive drought, heat waves in Europe, fires in Greece. I mean water was in, let's say, the mind space of many and, but especially many people that want to start to become aware of food and agriculture, soil and want to transition into it. I want to. What's my role in this space? What we be your? We're not giving career advice here, that's not a show for that but what would be your main message if we do this in Munich, in your, your hometown, in front of in a theater? For sure you have a beautiful theater, which I'm sorry that we do the name, but there's a beautiful theater. I'm sure there are many there, many. We pick one, you pick one. We do this in front of an audience of people that are working in business, and maybe in finance as well, and want to do maybe not necessarily with their own money, but want to do in this space. What would be your main? Of course, they get. They walk away excited, enthusiastic about the space. But if you want them to remember one thing when they walk out and they do something the next day, what would you like them to do?Speaker 2:
Well, let me tell a little story, because I set up another organization which is called regenerate for home, dot dot org. And After the meeting with Joel Salatine, my friends said to me young, we need to really Think how we can repeat this. This was so powerful to bring these people connect, the unexpected and he was actually suggesting we should do a conference. And I thought about this conference for quite a while and it's in fact, we're still moving in that direction and but as a step in between, because of corner, we couldn't think about a conference. We did something which we call the regenerate retreat and we brought people from entrepreneurial people from entrepreneurial families, entrepreneurs, two generations, very important to regenerate the farm. In fact, it was Benedict Bösel's farm and remember there's a place right next door. He has a very nice hotel next door so we could host everyone, because it's really a little bit in the middle of nowhere there.Speaker 1:
It's quite remote and but in a good way, but it's close to Berlin.Speaker 2:
I mean, it's not, this is and. And we showed these entrepreneurial People the farm and they. They got presentations by Benedict's amazing team on the on the compost on the synchropic systems, tree nursery exactly amazing tree nursery and and it was totally inspiring for them the light bulbs were crazy. And the next day I was talking a little bit on how we need to think the economy from the soil up, and then we had a discussion on what does that actually mean for the businesses of these entrepreneur families, and because I think that a regenerative farmer is highly inspiring for an entrepreneur, because the principle said he applies, the entrepreneur should apply in his business as well. And that's actually what I founded Regenerate Forum for to 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 be just by giving funding for the farmer to be able to do this transition. Because if I'm in Germany, we have these wonderful family-owned businesses who 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 strives as well, and so they are sensitive and they think in long term. They're not stock listed companies who think short term. They think long term and they know that things need to change. Everybody is aware of that. And so if I would talk in the theater to a group of entrepreneurs or financiers or whatever, I would tell them really start thinking about how you change your own business. If I would talk to young people and I make a prediction and time would prove me right or wrong, I think the most intelligent people will go into farming and forestry and these kind of things in the future Because it's so exciting what we can change in the world by really starting there. We have to start in agriculture, forestry and water management. We was a friend of mine, stefan Schwarzer. He created a conference called Climate Landscapes where we explain how, if you improve the soil, how this actually influences the water cycle through the vegetation. You can only improve the soil by diversified vegetation. If you have diversified vegetation, it actually fosters the water cycle, the local water cycle, and it's actually fostering the cooling system of the planet, which are the plants. If you go into a forest, it's not only cool because of the shade, it's cool because the plants transpire and this is something nobody is talking about. But this is probably the biggest lever of getting climate change under control. I always say to business people it's not the economy stupid. It's nature stupid. And that is what business people slowly but surely need to understand and are better understanding now. And for the 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 labor, but it makes a huge difference if you work in a centropic orchard or if you drive 24 hours with a tractor over thousands of hectares of wheat and wheat field or whatever kind of field. And 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 on 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.Speaker 1:
And I want to be conscious of your time and ask a final question, which usually leads to other final questions. But to start with this one and you are used to deal with large numbers, so it's not such a because sometimes we ask this question and people never thought about a billion euros. But in this case I know you thought about these things and you manage quite a significant sum. What would you do if you were in charge tomorrow morning of a fund of a billion dollar or a billion euro? Sorry, that could be invested, doesn't have to be VC, could be any type of investment any length as well, but it has to be invested, so it has to be put to work. I'm not looking for exact euro amounts and three numbers behind the comma, but I'm looking for what would you prioritize? Would you buy land? Would you buy land in Puglia? Would you focus on machinery? Would you focus on software and education? What would be your main investment angles or thesis if you had a billion euros to put to work?Speaker 2:
That's a good question. I would invest in agricultural and forestry land, but it has to be an investment which is for the children of my children. Now you say the grandchildren. So it has to be a long-term investment, it has to be a generational investment, because the interesting thing is, if you do it right and you do work regeneratively, you improve the value of your land with each year. It appreciates. It never depreciates, it appreciates, so it's a long-term thing. I would do, I would not leverage it and I would find a way that I don't create huge farms but that I create systems where young families can actually specialize on a certain regenerative practice, like mob grazing, like regenerative dairy, vegetable fruits, wine, and do it in a collective and do it together so that you kind of replicate the circularity of the system, including forests. If you take Salatin, 2 thirds of his land is forest actually and of his original land today he has more land, but Benedict the same. Benedict the same, and so I would create platforms that allow young people to strive on and really become innovative and create a new food system, because we need a new way of producing food that is in tune with Mother Nature, and do that, hopefully, in a very productive and force coming way. And so I'm, and I would like to start with a billion, I would like to start with probably a hundred million and and take it from there and see how it evolves. I think the classical private equity model was 10 years at five years investment, five years nurturing and then selling, and and a two percent Management fee and a 20 percent carry is the wrong model for these kind of investments. It should be something which is equity based, which is long term, which is something for people who really understand that this is not about Buying and selling. It's. It's something that needs to be really stabilizing and where these owners of this land really feel the responsibility for this land.Speaker 1:
And when do? How far are we away from from that IDU, moving into that or others? Have you seen Signs yet that we get to a to that kind of scale? Hundred million here, hundred million there?Speaker 2:
well, I, Think the world is slowly discovering that there is this kind of asset class. There are, particularly in the US, a number of these funds who are moving into this direction. For my taste, they are still too much leveraged and too short term.Speaker 1:
Is it a fault of the funds or of the LPs? No, I think it's a it's.Speaker 2:
It's basically, you know, if you introduce such a long-term idea, it doesn't speak to the market yet. So the way the institutional money is organized, it's their preferred model, the ten-year 2-slash 20 model. But I think these things are slowly changing and personally I think the next years will Speed this up because we will learn a few lessons.Speaker 1:
And that's one for another episode. I want to thank you so much and be conscious of your time, because I know you need to go to a Call on on some other investment, had that need to happen or shouldn't happen. And I want to thank you so much for for your hospitality and for coming on here and share about your journey and for allowing us to Follow this along the last few years and keep following it into the future.Speaker 2:
Thank you, corn, and please continue your amazing work.Speaker 1:
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 regender agriculture. Comm 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.