Investing in Regenerative Agriculture and Food

269 Taimur Malik - From Wall Street through GM cotton to founding Drawdown Farm in the desert of Pakistan

December 12, 2023 Koen van Seijen Episode 269
Investing in Regenerative Agriculture and Food
269 Taimur Malik - From Wall Street through GM cotton to founding Drawdown Farm in the desert of Pakistan
Show Notes Transcript Chapter Markers

A conversation with Taimur Malik, founder of Drawdown Farm, a regenerative organic, biomimetic, no-till carbon farm in the Thal desert in Pakistan, about how they built one of the largest Johnson and Su compost facilities, plus the largest vermicompost in Pakistan. We talk about inputs, outputs, and why the timing is now for a regenerative transition in Pakistan and beyond!

This is a long and rich conversation: how does an ex Citi Bank investor find himself in a Pakistani desert to farm more than 600 acres? And what can we learn about all the mistakes they made and the hard lessons learned? 
We cover Taimur's journey with Elaine Ingham, John Kempf, Olivier Husson and, of course, Judith Schwartz, plus his interest in drones and, finally, what about water?---------------------------------------------------

Join our Gumroad community, discover the tiers and benefits on www.gumroad.com/investinginregenag

Support our work:

----------------------------------------------------

More about this episode on https://investinginregenerativeagriculture.com/taimur-malik.

Find our video course on https://investinginregenerativeagriculture.com/course.

----------------------------------------------------

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.

https://foodhub.nl/en/opleidingen/your-path-forward-in-regenerative-food-and-agriculture/

Support the show

Feedback, ideas, suggestions?
- Twitter @KoenvanSeijen
- Get in touch www.investinginregenerativeagriculture.com

Join our newsletter on www.eepurl.com/cxU33P!

Support the show

Thanks for listening and sharing!

Speaker 1:

Wow. Rarely we get into so many rabbit holes as in this conversation. So get ready, because it's long and rich. How does an ex-City Bank investor find himself in the Pakistan desert to farm more than 600 acres? And we learn all about the mistakes they made and the hard lessons learned, but also how they built one of the largest, if not largest, johnson Sue compost facility, plus the largest Fermi compost facility in Pakistan and much more. We cover his journey with Alain Hingham, john Kempf, olivier Housson and, of course, judith Schwartz and his interest in drones and spraying. Of course, biology and what about water? We talk inputs, outputs and why the timing is now for a regenerative transition in Pakistan and beyond.

Speaker 1:

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 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. 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 comroadcom slash investing in RegenAC, that is, comroadcom slash investing in RegenAC, or find the link below Welcome to another episode today with the founder of Drawdown Farm, an integrated regenerative farming system in the Tau Desert in Pakistan. Welcome, teymur.

Speaker 2:

Thank you very much, Corn. Thank you for having me.

Speaker 1:

And you listen to the podcast, so you know the drill and you know the first question. And I know in this case I mean all of our guests have a fascinating story, obviously, but this is definitely one of them. So how did you end up focusing on soil and how did you end up founding Drawdown Farm? Because there wasn't really what you spent your professional life on doing.

Speaker 2:

let's say, Absolutely far from it. I don't come from an agricultural family at all my sort of parents and their parents that have been urbanites for a very, very long time in South Asia. I used to be, you know, I used to work on Wall Street at Citibank, and I got to this in a moment of considerable mental let's say stress, but probably depression would be the better word for it. In 2015, I was blessed with my first child, and my first son, tahir, was born, which is a great blessing, really happy moment.

Speaker 2:

But what had happened was, you know, a few months before he was born, while we were still expecting him, I discovered something that now, of course, everybody knows about climate change, but at the time, that was pretty big news. And you know, I went to a university that houses some you know, a lot of people of the caliber of Jeffrey Sachs, and so, you know, sustainable development, climate change, was something that was, you know, you would think would be front and center, but in the time that I was there, from 2007 to 2011, climate change is something that never came up in any real meaningful conversation at the university at all. In fact, in 2010, when the devastating floods happened in Pakistan, nobody connected it at the time to climate change, which we now do. We have attribution science which says that you know that was the major cause.

Speaker 1:

Wow, that's only 13 years ago. That's crazy yeah.

Speaker 2:

And that's the only thing which left 20 million people homeless. I mean, it was really devastating with a capital D. And so, you know, when I suddenly found out about this, it was really depressing stuff and sort of. I have a habit of going down rabbit holes and that's going to come up again and again in our conversation today and I went down this really grim rabbit hole.

Speaker 2:

I read Bill McKibbin's Earth, that's E-A-R-T-H and it just blew my mind, you know, and all of the science that Jim Hansen has been talking about, which now again has become quite, at least in some circles, very famous because the accuracy of his testimony to the US Congress in, I think, 1988, and things have really happened pretty much exactly how he said they would, and he's considered the greatest climate scientist that the human species has ever produced. So you know, all of that stuff was really grim. Then I happened to discover that the run, but at the same time, a few months later, is something called the Six Mass Extinction, because we had that book as well, which is a really incredible read, grim, but really really good, and all of those things were sort of gestating in my head. And then, you know, all of these changes were happening in my life. I sort of was blessed with being a father, but then Do you remember what triggered that?

Speaker 1:

What triggered because you've gone to one of the best schools in the world, probably reading the proper newspapers, magazines, et cetera. How did what triggered the climate change rabbit hole? Like what opened it up, let's say, because it must have been around you all the time. You just didn't see it or you just didn't fall into it. Was there an article? Was there a movie? Was there a poster? Was there an extension? Rebellion Wasn't there. Yet Was there a slap in your face? Let's say.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, I mean none of these things, none of these great organizations the Sunrise Movement, the extension rebellion, et cetera, et cetera. None of them were there. It's funny you mention you read the right papers and you know. I did believe at the time that we live in financial times, as a salmon-colored paper likes to say, but there was no climate capital section, which has become quite popular. I'm referring to the financial times, considered by many to be the best newspaper in the world, but you know none of this stuff was there.

Speaker 1:

I love their weekend one how to spend it. Yeah, that's it.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, how to spend it. We find it fascinating that separation between Friday and Saturday.

Speaker 1:

Anyway, sorry, what was the rabbit hole?

Speaker 2:

So I actually, to be honest with you, don't remember what that first article was, but I do remember then that I started finding all of this stuff in the Washington Post, in New York Times, but it was just on like page 18. I discovered this quote years later, which was that the best stuff in the New York Times is usually on page 18 or something, so it's.

Speaker 1:

So suddenly you saw it everywhere. You saw like when you buy a red car, suddenly you start seeing everybody seems to have a red car and so six mass extensors sorry, that was another very green one, but you started to go into, say, the biological space or the life space and biodiversity space, with that rabbit hole, that part of the rabbit hole.

Speaker 2:

Yes, that happened later actually, so climate was very much front and center in the beginning Then. So there were life changes happening. As I mentioned, fatherhood and the burdens of fatherhood. You brought life into the world and then you start questioning the fact that we're actually seems like we're not really going to survive. Was that the most senseless thing that I've ever done? And that's a very heavy question to have hanging over your head like a sort of democlease and it really wasn't a fun space to be in. And then there were other life changes. We decided my wife and I had moved to Pakistan.

Speaker 2:

At this time we were in New York and an opportunity came up for me to take the reins of a textile spinning mill. And for those in the audience who might not know, a spinning mill is one of the earliest stages of making sort of clothes and other cotton products and that's when you make thread. So this was a coarse count spinning mill, so relatively coarser thread that's used in things like towels, denim, manufacturing things like that. And I knew nothing about textiles but I was like you know what I have the? I guess with experience in finance, you know, you know about the business side of things and that was, I guess, why I was hired as well. But as luck would have it, here we are. We've done this big move, which in itself was, you know, had its challenges. And then, you know, I'm in a new job in a space I know very little about, and then, low and behold, the mill shuts down pretty soon after I joined and that was also sort of, you know, a pretty devastating thing for the economy. And it was very disturbing for me from a macro economy point of view because tens of thousands of people were losing their jobs because mills all over the country were closing down. And the core reason for that was that the cotton price in Pakistan that here had dramatically escalated. The country had lost about 33% of its crop by a pest called the pink ballworm.

Speaker 2:

And that's basically how I started getting into agriculture and biology, because I had this fundamental question. Again, it's always about, you know, I try to probe deeper. What is the reason? For a lot of people they just accepted it. Oh, the farmers did a boo boo or it's just bad luck, we had more pest pressures this year.

Speaker 2:

How do we overcome this? In a very narrow way, that's how most textile managers were thinking and of course, I had to think about it in the narrow way. How do we reduce costs? How do we you know, better our energy efficiency and we worked on all of those things at the time. You know getting our entire mill, led lights, things like that. We started working on a bunch of those types of things as well.

Speaker 2:

You know the micro, but on a macro level it just wasn't sitting well with me Because I thought that if this is going to happen regularly or semi regularly, for an economy that is entirely dependent on textile exports to stay afloat because that is by far maybe something like 80% of Pakistani exports are textiles and the economy would collapse if the country is unable to meet its you know, sort of exports or export targets. And then the impacts on jobs and families and food security, all of those things is just so profound. So I started really getting deeper into why this happened and I discovered that Pakistan uses a genetically modified seed called BT cotton. And basically what Monsanto did was they inserted the bacillus thuringensis bacterium into the gene of this cotton seed.

Speaker 2:

The BT exactly, and the BT is toxic to insects. So, interestingly enough, what some people don't know is that and obviously you would is that BT is one of the original organic pesticides, because it's just a microbe and if you apply it as like a foliar it kills pests, but it doesn't create the kind of systemic resistance that happens when you insert it in the gene. And that's what happened here Over time. The ping ball worm more. In the beginning it was extremely toxic to the ping ball worm, but evolution always wins and the ping ball worm developed a resistance over the years.

Speaker 1:

And when I discovered the biology Evolution always wins. Yeah, Exactly.

Speaker 2:

So that was the big light bulb moment for me, because growing up I was not like a science buff. I didn't enjoy it as much. I was the kind of kid who was really into things like current affairs and I would be reading endlessly on world history, but science was never something that enthused me. But this was really. It's the curiosity here that was the hook and that's how I got into the biology side of things.

Speaker 2:

So then I was put up by the system, because what happens is in the GM realm is that a seed starts failing, usually because of evolutionary resistance to weeds and sex, whatever and then a newer iteration comes that's even more toxic. And we're seeing this with superweeds as well, where you have After glyphosate resistance, you have like dicamba and so many other types of GM-modified weeds that are coming into the market, and we'll continue to do so because evolution always wins. So I was like is there an alternative system or model, or are we doomed into this cycle where every new iteration is more expensive, it's harder for farmers to meet it and it really impacts economic security? And lo and behold, as I started, so one of the things that I was exposed to living in New York, or the privilege of being exposed to was organic foods, and organic foods, intuitively, everyone can understand that. Look, pesticides are toxic. You just look at the warning labels. And therefore food grown without synthetic pesticides is bound to be healthier for you, just based on the fact that it doesn't have those toxic momentum.

Speaker 2:

So, however much I could patronize, I would try to get organic fruits and vegetables, at least while I was living in New York and I was exposed to this.

Speaker 2:

But they were more expensive, usually on average about 30% more, and so, just based on the price tags, I assume that organic always means the cost of production is much higher and we cannot feed the world that way. It's a privilege for the few. But as I researched and researched, and so I started looking at organic cotton, how does organic cotton do it? Is it possible? And I discovered, oh look, india's the largest organic cotton producer in the world and Turkey is the second largest. So then I started looking at how the farm is doing it there. I discovered a very fascinating study out of an Indian state called Madhya Pradesh, and this study was done by a local ag university and they looked at data for side by side farmers in Madhya Pradesh who were certified organic versus their neighbors literally side by side farmers who were still doing BT, cotton GMOC and the results they came with were really surprising for me. And 10 years later, the organic farmers had higher yields than their GMO counterparts.

Speaker 1:

Let me repeat it oh, whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa, higher yields. Now we're going from like hi, I'm high here, and like we're diving the deep end in terms of GM, and now we're talking about higher yields After a transition period. That's, I think, the crucial piece here and, of course, well, probably well helped, but the yields are definitely possible. That's what you're seeing in cotton at least, and we know that in other places because you studied, because I think that's where you're going with your piece. Also on organic produce, it's not necessarily the production costs, it's the system that comes after it that dictates the premium Exactly.

Speaker 2:

To a large extent, and those premiums. By the way, before we had this inflation Armageddon of the past couple of years, the cleavage between, in many parts of the world, including developed countries, the cleavage between organic and inorganic was significantly reducing. And there are theses of investment in private equity firms that are doing more regenerative investments, such as agriculture, capital management, which is that that cleavage? So they're organic blueberries they're like it's part of their thesis that cleavage they expect ultimately will disappear, but the cost side of theirs is lower. So the thesis still bears out for them and we'll get into that.

Speaker 2:

And with transition, by the way. So initially I came to the conclusion that with transition there is a heavy cost, but I don't believe that now you can actually get to start getting. Depending on the systems that are being deployed for conventional and depending what part of the world you are countries in the global south with poor soils you can actually start to get alpha from day one and we're going to talk about that and that's a big corner to my thesis, I think, shout out to take Love Grounded.

Speaker 1:

They've seen that as well in Sub-Saharan Africa, east Africa, like, the starting point in terms of soil life and health and productivity is relatively low and but also the addiction to heavy chemicals etc is relatively low. So you can actually kickstart it very quickly and from year one have, or even season one or growing season whatever have a massive impact. But we hear the same honestly from from John Kempf that says if in year one we're not performing and our farmers are not making more money, we have done something wrong and it's bad agronomy. So there's, there's a which is an interesting sales strategy, of course, but very like it's just bad agronomy If you, if you have a very heavy transition period not saying everywhere that's the case, there are caveats etc. But it's definitely possible to to get results very, very quickly.

Speaker 2:

One million percent and John Kempf has had a huge sort of impact on my own thinking is what I call precision. I don't think that's how they call it, but I call it precision regenerative agriculture. I think it's revolutionary and due to and we'll get into the weeds of that as well, if you'd like there are some family health issues that have popped up over the past many years. I lost my own father to brain cancer when I was in college, so I've always had a huge interest in nutrition human nutrition side of things as well and enzyme cofactors for all of these. All of biology runs on enzymes.

Speaker 2:

Doing different things and not having those cofactors is is a recipe for disaster, and that's the case for biological systems in agriculture. So you know the crops were growing plants, and then it's also the case for humans, and so the similarities are incredible, and that's why precision science is so important, and I agree with John Kempf that it's not just, you know, microbiology. That is the only solution, because you know, me and my team were trained now in the Aleningham soil food system as well, and that's an incredible system, without a doubt. But I like the synthesis, which is why I use the term integrative, you know, using precision nutrients in the right form in the right place at the right time and we'll get into the details of that is also really important.

Speaker 1:

But going back to your content. Yeah, sorry.

Speaker 2:

To the story exactly. Just wrapping that up. So that just blew my mind the Madhya Pradesh study, because that was the first time in my life I discovered this idea that organic and biological agriculture could be more profitable and could be higher yielding. And this, this entire story that we've been fed that organic and feed the world is completely hot wash and again you give me so many perfect titles for this, for this interview already.

Speaker 1:

Yeah.

Speaker 2:

And then what happens after that? Because it cannot stay.

Speaker 1:

With what? Because you're curious. You go deeper, you think potentially that's just one study, maybe it's only cotton, probably not, it's all biology. But still like, where do you go after that?

Speaker 2:

I go into a series of rabbit holes upon rabbit holes, and then, lo and behold, I discover all sorts of research, whether it's Carlo Leifert in the UK that organic produces 40 times more antioxidants, or you know. So everything from nutrient density to even yields. In fact, there was a UMish study I then discovered soon after, which said that in the global south, transition to organic can actually lead to higher yields as well in many cases, and they did a crop by crop analysis for the crops that they had data for. So this was a meta study and again sort of was feeding into what I had just learned. So with each new day I was learning new things which are just blowing my mind.

Speaker 1:

So put all of these studies in the in the description, in the show notes below. People don't have to take notes, we'll put everything down there.

Speaker 2:

Sounds great. And so, you know, I was just obsessed with this stuff and just the hope. And then, of course, the Rodale study was a key because, remember, at the back of my mind, climate change was a huge pain point for me, for my mental health. And then I discovered the the version 1.0 Rodale study that organic agriculture can take all the excess carbon in the atmosphere and put it in the soils and we can reverse climate change. Of just 50% of global ag lands transitioned and now they call it regenerative organic, after you know the founding of the ROA and so on, which is the regenerative organic alliance for those listeners who might not know, and so you know that again was just hugely inspirational. And then I was, just, like you know, beyond obsessed.

Speaker 1:

So then there was one you didn't really connect it to to carbon yet, right Maybe to the carbon piece of less fertilizer, chemical fertilizer, fossil fuel based fertilizer, like less input based but more you were much more on the yield and land, but not necessarily like this could be a very important, if not the most importantly lever in terms of climate.

Speaker 2:

Exactly.

Speaker 1:

That's a good day when you found that study.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, oh, you have no idea, good day and then bad, in the sense that I was like this is what I want to do right now, right here, right now.

Speaker 2:

Only one to see little problem is that I don't have any agricultural land, and so, you know, I started. So then, you know, what also happened was that my father-in-law, who's a very, you know, dynamic, lovely human being and a very dynamic person, he has a hobby for agriculture. So he's a captain of industry actually in Pakistan. But he has a hobby for agriculture because ancestrally, his family for hundreds of years were in the farming profession and the farming business, and so what he'd done was that and of course, with time, you know, those lands sort of get smaller and smaller and smaller. But as a captain of industry, he had the ability and privilege to buy a plant and he bought it. So he's from southern Punjab and the Tal Desert is in the southern Punjab province of Pakistan as well, and so, close to where his ancestral roots are, he started buying up really cheap land in the Tal Desert starting in the 1990s, and it was really cheap land because it's just pure desert soil.

Speaker 1:

But like with a plan. Like with a plan, or like knowing that something would come up at some point.

Speaker 2:

I think it's, you know President Eisenhower. Well, general Eisenhower used to say the plan changes on the first day of battle. And so I think there was a bit of an original plan of eucalyptus plantation, because somebody was setting up a factory for paper, for making paper, and eucalyptus was is great feed for that. It grows really quickly. This is a species of eucalyptus over a vital called eucalyptus camaldi lensis, which is everywhere in Pakistan. It was brought over in the 1960s from Australia, but that plan sort of didn't pan out really.

Speaker 2:

So then, you know, farming of other things began and it was all very experimental. It was, you know, sort of a hobby, a passion, a side passion, because obviously that was not nearly his main sort of profession by any stretch. And so he, you know, very kindly invited me to come and visit his farmlands with him, and so that happened as well. And that got me thinking, because I was doing all this research as well. So then I started pitching to him what if we take? And he has a few different pieces of farmland that are relatively close to each other, usually about 15, 20 minute drive from each other. So I asked him, what if we take one of these parcels and we converted to this new, these newfangled ideas that I'd be reading about this like regenerative, but then I'd also discovered the term regenerative. So you know this more organic, regenerative, biological type of agriculture, and in the beginning you know. So it took a few conversations.

Speaker 1:

How does it go? Because what is his response? As a captain of industry that's seen farming but potentially also escaped that, or has seen the not working of farming? I think in many cases I don't think it's he has come across regenerative. We're like what does somebody in that position responds to a sun in law, basically pitching it's going to regenerate organic in one of these plots.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, so it was too. You know this is a thesis is too good to be true. Like you know, he was. I'm pretty sure he was unconvinced by this factoid that organic agriculture yields can be the same or even higher.

Speaker 1:

He's like in you say, look, I have a paper. And he's like, yeah, but that's somewhere else.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, exactly, and he's like, you know, is the world mad? How come nobody has? You know, he didn't say it in so many words, but I could, you know, read his eyes Like why wouldn't the entire world have converted? You know, these Western countries are so much cleverer, like you know, they're always on to the new, cutting at science. How is it possible, you know? But I think that, and then, of course, I was giving the climate change arguments as well, and for the sake of your grandchildren, and you know, so on and so forth.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, you push the right buttons yeah.

Speaker 2:

He's a thorough gentleman, so I think that he he's like. You know. There's no harm in doing this experimentation. This is a hobby anyway. So let's, let's, let's do a little bit of this.

Speaker 2:

And so, on one of his farmlands, he very kindly agreed to give me the reins and to sort of implement these practices, which again I must thank him for.

Speaker 2:

It was mighty generous of him and, and that's when it began, and of course, as luck would have it have it, in the first couple of years we disappointed him greatly he never said it, but disappointed ourselves really, because this stuff was really hard. I mean, making compost without knowing the science of it was really really hard. And we probably made some not probably, I'm pretty certain we made some really bad, bacterially dominant composts and then we went cold turkey, no fertilizers, and that was a recipe for disaster. And of course I'll never do that. And people who I mentee now farmers, you know I always tell them never go cold turkey in the beginning. It's a gradual process and but you'll get there and you'll start seeing really high yields or better yields, a better productivity and performance from season one, from, you know, crop number one, but just to get the picture, you were still managing the meal, or that it would have closed at that time already, or like you didn't.

Speaker 1:

hopefully you didn't have to live off the farm like from day one, because if you had a first few years of horrible results, that that, that's the scary transition Most farmers that are very thin margins are scared of. So you were. This was a hobby on the side as well, or you were full in, but you had some savings. Like how did you manage that transition for yourself?

Speaker 2:

That's a really good question. So I stayed on in the mill for for about a year, also a little bit less, but you know, ultimately I left that was my day job for a bit and sort of devoted myself more full time to this. But having said that, the farm on the farm line itself, we didn't convert the whole thing and so these disastrous results were just on little pieces. So, for example, if we have a center pivot, that's growing 100 acres of sugar cane, and sugar cane is the was the mandate. It's the largest acreage on the farm even today. Because that's the mandate, because one of the principal businesses of my father in law is sugar milling and and so you know we grow cane that goes to the mills as well. I mean, it's a very tiny percentage of the overall milling that they do. But you know it's one of the things. One of my father in law's passions became growing high quality sugar cane and then making it a sort of research as well into how we can grow better cane and then work with the farmers to help them as well. So when on this 100 acres, for example, patch, we did a five acre trial without fertilizers, just composting things, and obviously that was a disaster and that was the first searing lesson that in these really poor soils with really high nitrogen deficiency you have to have some nitrogen in the system and we can get into you know more granular details of what that looks like and what some clever fermentation strategies are to get the right amount of nitrogen in like micro doses. Even if it's synthetic, if you ensconced in biology and this is what John Kemp says as well you can dramatically reduce its negative and deleterious impacts, but you can get the nitrogen the plant needs.

Speaker 2:

So I've now changed my opinion on urea quite significantly, compared to, you know, a few years ago. I'm obviously extremely opposed to you know all the biocides, but I think urea can be quite useful in micro doses in the right forms, especially in the beginning as farms transition and move to from conventional to regenerative. Ultimately they can go to regenerative, organic. But it's a process unless you have organic sources of nitrogen which are available or unless Kula bio becomes the norm globally. Until you have something like that, you need urea, but you just need much less of it and there are clever ways of delivering it which farms aren't doing.

Speaker 2:

So you know, farmers like the Dutch farmer protests, for example, when the EU said by 2030, we need to reduce nitrogen fertilizers by I don't know what, is it 50% or something like that. That's unfortunate because the media doesn't highlight, you know, cutting at science. And we'll get into that same with Sri Lanka, like the story about how organic fields Sri Lanka and the sensationalization was just so bad and it really set the movement backwards, the regenerative movement, and I was just very disappointed with the New York Times. I'm disappointed generally with the New York Times, but that was yet another testament, like just the sensationist headline that they had for on Sri Lanka when that was happening was just, you know, really yeah, at length, it is so, and the Dutch farmers protest I mean, being Dutch, like it's.

Speaker 1:

It's very interesting to see those movements and see in terms of the Dutch farmers protest. Nothing against the farmers protesting, but definitely against the ones that set it up and paid for it, which are agrochemical companies in the Netherlands and not even hiding it, like that's. And also the farmer's party that now no, actually last election not won so much, but before like it's not a farmer's party, it's an agrochemical party, like literally set up by not not even hiding the fact that they've been set up by by the input guys and girls, which is fine, like they need to protect their, their, their business, which I understand, but it's definitely not cutting at science and cutting edge. Farmers are way beyond that. But if you put some tractors on the highway, it gets a lot of attention and get some easy headlines like, oh, the farmers are, like, yeah, not really there, they are, but they're pushed by. And there's somebody scared of of these regulations which have to be put in place because we have been overusing it for for century not for a long time and it will be other regulation coming on water quality, air quality, like it's not. This is not the end, this is just the beginning. So you better, like, figure out the cutting edge piece and what are you going to do about it, or otherwise we keep being in that cycle that you mentioned with with BT cotton. Just the next one will come out which is going to be even more expensive and more toxic, and the next one and the next one. And where's that going to end? I mean, we know it's going to end. There's no more cotton Like that's the a number of farmers growing cotton, and so it's just very frustrating for the headline media to grasp that depth.

Speaker 1:

I think in the same with Sri Lanka and I read the reports on not what really happened, but like the nuances there and it's it's a very different story.

Speaker 1:

I'm not going to say conspiracy theories, it's just much easier in a headline story to put a headline and a few paragraphs and just follow the the easiest story, because otherwise people have to go to page 18 to get the real one and that's just too far from us for most ones. So you were experimenting there and like when did you feel like I'm imagining you get more desperate and hopeless, almost like in this situation of them painting the hero story here. But, like, at some point you feel like, okay, we got something here that actually works, even on fear, like we, we made a few horrible mistakes, but we at least understand why and how and when did you feel like, okay, we, we, we start to slowly get a bit of grip, have a bit of grip of the situation, what we're dealing with here, and there might be actually possibilities to to grow sugarcane in a regenerative way of with practices that lead to like was there, because how long this is, did this desert of hopelessness last? Let's say.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, that's a really good question. I think that it lasted probably about a couple of years because you know things. So actually it's, it's a bit of a mixed bag because the horrible failures were happening for row crops like sugarcane I mentioned, and even some wheat trials where the yields were lower, but actually for our fruit trees they weren't doing so poorly, or just compost, and so we have just to give a brief overview of our farm. It's a very diverse farm. It's about 600 acres. We have center pivots where we predominantly grow sugarcane, but we also sometimes grow other crops like silage maize or, and of course we have cover crops and things like that. We'll talk about that, but that's primarily. Usually after the cane harvest, we do a cover crop before the next cane is planted, and then we have orchards of different citrus varieties, sweet limes, we have orchards of various mango varieties, we have some grazing zones.

Speaker 2:

We are now doing some other experimental crops, oil seeds, we're thinking of potatoes, and we can talk about each of those as well. So it's very diverse and sort of things feed into each other. That's the idea and the design flow of it, and we're also trying to bring in as much diversity if we can't do it from a crops point of view while growing it. So we're increasingly trying to do inter crops and we're also bringing in agroforestry systems, whether it's shrub based agroforestry systems like leguminous shrubs, sometimes trees although there are issues with trees in our setting, but we can talk about some of those things as well.

Speaker 2:

So we were seeing that our fruit trees weren't doing too poorly and we were just getting better and better with compost. Initially our compost were drying out a lot, so then we created sprinkler systems to keep them sort of moist enough, because in the desert when it gets really hot in the summers, it's just the compost was just drying out too quickly and then it was becoming hydrophobic. So with each iteration we were just doing things better and better. So it wasn't one failure meant that we're just keeping things static. It was a constant evolution. But I think that a lot of the learnings out of John Kempf, whose podcast I again religiously, would be listening to and just following, and then Dr Ellingham created the Salt Food Web School and just learning about that and then also learning, and our mutual good friend Judith Schwartz introduced me to the Johnson Sue composting system.

Speaker 1:

Shout out to Johnson and Sue and shout out to Judith.

Speaker 2:

Absolutely. I've met Professor Johnson and Sue as well, and they're fantastic, really amazing human beings. And today we might have the largest Johnson Sue bioreactor operation in the world. We have about 250 large bioreactors. So you know, this is a modified bioreactor. This is much bigger than the original one, so this is a system that actually was invented by or, to my knowledge, by, a person called, forgetting his name as a YouTube channel oh my God, it's something. Foot Diego foot. And so you know it's a more modified, larger version so you can you have higher volume. And so Johnson was, you know, a game changer. And you know, first we built like one or two reactors and the results we got. And it's a year long gestation period, so it's a very long wait, but the results we got from that were just mind blowing and very quickly we realized. And then, of course, we started the soul food web school began, or I got myself and my team trained in that and then we discovered the science of fungally dominant compost.

Speaker 1:

And you were like that's why our composting work, yeah, that's why the biology, yeah.

Speaker 2:

Exactly so. The power of fungi was was a real sort of story of hope. We started using I started getting from abroad some mycorrhizal fungi inoculants which are also sort of helpful. So we started doing, you know, the systemic changes. And then you know it was just aggregating one thing on top of another, on top of another as we were learning more and more things. Then we started doing bioferments. We started incorporating some KNF techniques, korean natural farming, certain fermentation techniques.

Speaker 1:

We started making many of our own.

Speaker 2:

Exactly A lot of our own amendments. You know fish hydrolysis, so the problem solving part of it was overwhelming, even when we had failure any sort of you know negative mental health aspects, because the problem solving kick is unbelievable. It's unexplainable. There is no other thing in the world that gives you this kick. And just a few days ago one of your latest podcast episodes with the German venture capitalist who's young is a spirit.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, yeah, exactly, and he said that Exactly.

Speaker 2:

And he said and I love this quote he said my thesis is that the smartest people are increasingly going to go into agriculture and forestry. Because it's just the high that you get from resolving problems. It's, there's nothing like it and working, and so how?

Speaker 1:

many years are you in it now, like just to fast forward to, let's say, we're at the end of 2023 in this calendar? I mean, depending how you count your calendar, I don't want to exclude anybody. What would you give us an overview of if we would walk the land? I mean, unfortunately, we have to do this remotely. I mean, you're not on the farm right now and we will do this hopefully at some point in person if we would like, as a small drone maybe, overview the land. What do you see right now? What are things that that we should, as a regenerative focus podcast, should really notice?

Speaker 2:

I think the greenery would be something that would be quite apparent from the drones. And part of it is shout out to my father-in-law as well, because when he bought the land, on many of the sort of pathways, they started planting trees. And then we've escalated that since I got involved as well, and we've added thousands and thousands of trees, and we plan to add tens of thousands more, or hundreds of thousands even. Actually, we've built a tiny forest, a Miyawaki forest, and we're expanding it. The idea is to make the largest Miyawaki forest on a farm in the world. To our knowledge and we hope that somebody beats us, because that's that's exactly what we want so we want to make a two acre Miyawaki forest but then also have other tiny forests strewn across.

Speaker 1:

But then we're doing just what is a Miyawaki forest?

Speaker 2:

After that. So Japanese botanist who just passed away, I think maybe a year ago or a couple of years ago Akira Miyawaki. He created a system of a forestation which is now commonly known as the Miyawaki method, and in this method you plant three to four trees per square meter, so it's extremely dense. You use native tree varieties and you harness the power of biology in an extraordinarily clever way and actually sort of show that humans as a keystone species where stewards can actually do good for a change. So if there's a manifestation of that, you know, one of them is certainly the Miyawaki forest.

Speaker 2:

Miyawaki forest, when you, when you do these very dense plantations and a forest, by the way, can be a tiny forest, In this case it could be 30 square meters is how small you can make it, and then upwards it can be acres as well. It's extraordinarily dense. You have so many trees planted together and that competition, but no, two trees are planted together, because that's not good. But when you have all of these different varieties of trees planted together, the there's competition and cooperation happening at the same time in this very mutualistic kind of way, and what that does is that the trees grow really fast because they need light. So they need to grow vertically very quickly to capture that light and and they the, it really speeds up the process of growth very significantly. So in 10 years you can have a forest as tall as what, in nature, would take 100 years.

Speaker 1:

So it's a very clever strategy from your world Three times, that's 10x.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, exactly. And then biodiversity, apparently, is even higher. It's like 40x. So put something below.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, there's a New York Times article. He died 93 in 2001. But I will put something below, because you need to see this, you need to, you need to walk through it. Maybe I'll try to find a YouTube video or something to make it visual, because to describe it and not see it like I think you need to to see the pure power of biology, which is like tiny, but definitely also a larger scale. Wow and sorry. Let's go back to the drone. You see a lot more green than you would see maybe X years ago, 10 years ago, etc. And what else is really apparent for, let's say, the, the region focus eye.

Speaker 2:

What else is really apparent from a drone? I think that the greenery would probably be the main thing and the stock contrast to the desert landscape around it. I think that would be a key sort of thing that would be apparent from a drone when you're on boots on the ground. You'll get to see a lot more things. You'll get to hear birds and see some of the most stunning birds that you probably didn't think were possible. You know that would be possible in a desert Things like the Indian Roller, the Greater Cooker it's a long list at this point which, again, all of this stuff also created a side hobby for me, which is ornithology, which I share with my sons as well.

Speaker 2:

We found this incredible book called Birds of Pakistan, which is a WWF-sponsored project. Very long time ago, some of the best ornithologists in the world came and mapped out all of the birds in Pakistan. I keep that in my hand when I'm on the farm because there's always a new bird. You know Gray Frankolans, you name it, and it's incredible. So you get to see this biodiversity.

Speaker 2:

You get to see ladybugs and all manners of stunning insects and butterflies. You'll get to see the largest honeybee in the world that has made these massive hives. It's called the Apus dorsata. It is the largest honeybee on our planet and thankfully, knock on wood, we've been able to create this haven for the Apus dorsata and they've made these huge sort of D-shaped hives and you'll see them across the farm, you know, on mulberry trees, eucalyptus trees, etc. So all of that biology will be really apparent if you're walking through the farm, and I would love to have you there. Hopefully one day we can maybe do an episode at the farm as well, but otherwise, you know, always most welcome to just come and chill.

Speaker 1:

And how do you? I'm going to get to water in a second, because I'm sure some people are thinking, yeah, you must be drilling up a lot, you must be like compared to the desert around, but we'll get to that in a second. What if he's still there with you? What does your father-in-law think now? Or thought now, depending on where he is now. What does he when he walks the land, if he's still able? What does he think of your regenerative hobby? But this is way more than that, obviously. Now, as we speak of, what is he seeing? What does he think? Does he like birds?

Speaker 2:

Because that would help. He likes birds, he loves trees. He says that and I love this quote by him. He says that the trees are the I'm trying to translate this word Like is the other word he uses but they are the life and joy of a farm. I love that. He loves trees. But I'll give you a couple of examples.

Speaker 2:

Recently he was on a tour of this farming operation. As I mentioned multiple farmland pieces when he was on this farm in Rahimabad, he saw our large vermicomposting operation. We also have the largest vermicomposting operation now in Pakistan. He was just looking at the quality of the vermicompost and he really enjoyed himself. He asked the overall farm manager why aren't we doing this on all of our farmland? He's the overall general manager for all the farms. Mr Asafani says well, we always do our experiments here at Rahimabad first and then, if they succeed, we take them to the other farms. He's like well, it's quite clear that this has succeeded, so that was a great vote of confidence for us. Then he saw our brand new built composting room. So we made this room where we created permanent structure.

Speaker 1:

We're improving the Disneyland for region farmers there in the desert. This is at scale that very few people have, let alone put together. All of these are the largest acts, the largest acts and they're all in the same property.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, I'm very privileged to have been able to do this. Really, it's a great gift. There's been a lot of soiled sweat, blood and tears, but we've gotten to a place where the stuff is working, ensuring results. We've been able to scale things up from tiny experiments, making them bigger and bigger and bigger. We've been at this for seven years at this point, and so it's taken time, but we've learned how to work.

Speaker 1:

Which is sort of the magical seven years. I think many people I don't want to say biggest little farm per se, but also others it seems like this cycle of seven years is needed to start getting some grounded and getting results in and getting a bit of clarity of the future. I don't know why, but that's fascinating. We're seven years into the podcast actually, so that might be an interesting piece.

Speaker 2:

Not that we know what we're doing but that's something else.

Speaker 1:

You're fine and all. Definitely sees the potential and does he see? Because his farms are hobbyism. But does he see the financial side now as well, the entrepreneurial potential now? Is that a breach you have crossed or discussion you've had with him?

Speaker 2:

Absolutely. I think that it started off as a hobby, but now it's not a hobby for him, and it's not just because of the work that we've done, but generally he's very bullish about the thesis for farming, and this is across Pakistan. This has happened, although he obviously recognized this before, but in the past year and a half I've seen a sea change in Pakistani mindsets. China was never talked about by government. It was always about industrialization, the high statuettes of government and the economic thinkers. That's all they were thinking about.

Speaker 1:

Even the textile was such an important piece, or then the textile processing piece maybe got much more attention.

Speaker 2:

The industry part was getting far more intense sort of focus. The energy part was getting some focus, which is very important. By the way, pakistan has botched its energy. It's botched its agriculture, but agriculture is botched in most parts of the world. Energy is not botched the way it is here.

Speaker 2:

Pakistan is generating extremely expensive fossil fuel energy, whereas renewable energy is so much cheaper. Obviously it's better for the environment, we know that, but it's also so much cheaper. So from an economic standpoint it doesn't make sense either, and neither does our agricultural system. So anyway, my father in law recognized that agriculture for a country with a growing population where now 230 million people expected to be 350 million people in as early as 15 years, that's massive and because of that, food security is already a really pressing issue. The country has to import a lot of food and now there's a lot of focus on food security and for the first time over the past few months the government is really focusing on agriculture and it's changed the conversation. Industrialists are getting involved. They're getting ag lands. So Pakistan has a very fractured agricultural land holding, so it's mostly really small landholders. The average land holding is less than five acres and that's the case for more than 90% of farmers in the country. So it's very hard to buy ag land and just agglomerate it. It's not really possible. So what the government has done is that they've opened up lands in the Cholistan desert and said that you know, and it's invited investors and industrialists etc to go and set up farms there using high efficiency irrigation only Ocean.

Speaker 2:

Pakistan is really important because the country uses flood irrigation. 91 to 92% of Pakistan's water goes to agriculture, whereas the global average is 70%, and I believe that and we'll talk about water. I'm really glad you brought that up, because how is it that in the desert we're able to do this farming? And I'll get to that. Pakistan is a water abundant country that is physically facing water scarcity in its cities and many other parts because of chronic and pathetic water management, and we can be a water abundant country that becomes a major exporter of agriculture, ideally with value addition, and my thesis is that regenerative agriculture is the tool that allows you to do this.

Speaker 2:

Pakistan is basically a semi-arid landscape semi-arid to arid, right, barring a few temperate forests in the very north and northeast of the country. So it does have an incredible diversity of biodiversity with these incredible biomes it has the most diverse biomes of any one country in the world and despite being so narrow vertically, it has all of the biomes. But the vast majority of the country is arid to semi-arid, and what that means is that it would look more like a Saudi Arabia, much more like it, if it did not have this great gift of the heavens, which is the rivers that flow in from the Himalayas, primarily the Indus River, and that is what brings life and that's what allowed for the oldest civilization in the world, the Indus Valley civilization, to be formed there as well, thousands of years ago. And we are able to do. Oh yes, another factor that most people might not know is that the largest canal irrigation network in the entire planet exists in Pakistan, and this has been built up over, you know, technically, thousands of years. It started with the Indus Valley civilization and then, you know, over time, it was added onto the creative process.

Speaker 2:

The Mughal Empire built a lot of it, then the British built a great deal of it. For them it was colonial extraction, getting the cotton grown so it could be exported to Manchester, where the mills were. And then, when Pakistan was created as an independent country in the 1960s, with World Bank funding, that canal system was even further expanded. There were dam systems that were built, and so we are able to farm in the desert, also because of this canal irrigation system. So we are legally allotted a certain amount of water.

Speaker 2:

This is water from the Indus River, and there's a canal that connects the Indus River to the Channab River and our land is located on this canal. So we draw a little bit of a certain amount of water from that canal and then we also draw water from the underground aquifers for our center pivots strip irrigation systems in our orchards and for our sprinkler systems in the sprinkler zones in practice, the sprinkler zones and this was sort of happening anywhere, going to happen anywhere, had I not joined. So my mandate, as I saw it, was how can we increase our water usage efficiency and reach a point where our soils become so spongy that we dramatically reduce the need for water? Because is there an issue?

Speaker 1:

in Pakistan, like everywhere else. Of course I understand this works as long as this meaning the full agriculture system and also going into the desert and increasing food security, et cetera works as long as the river flows and not floods, which we've seen in the last decade, I think at least two. That's where global news and for sure there were more that we didn't see. So has that been like that conversation changed as well, or has that been people starting to realize the river might not flow as we need it to be, either too much or too little, is that, or is that front of mind of like? So let's say, the circles you talk to?

Speaker 2:

The circles. Well, I talk to many different circles.

Speaker 1:

The industrialists are going into the desert because you build a system there that might not have water in five to 10 years, which could be an issue.

Speaker 2:

Exactly so. Again, this circle the economically powerful or better off, the educated upper middle classes this circle now is very concerned about this because climate change is even compared to two years ago. So last year's floods really changed the conversation in Pakistan, because the devastation they caused, the economic insecurity that they caused, has now meant that everybody's talking about climate change in these circles, because I've been advocating this stuff for a long time. Just side note. I had the great and profound privilege of being an advisor to Pakistan's former climate change minister, malik Amin Aslam, who came up with the 10 billion tree tsunami plan, where Pakistan was planning to plant 10 billion trees and they planted about 2.6 billion or something, in their short-lived government as well. It was the first time in the history of the country that a green growth plan was created, which I helped co-author with his excellency Malik Amin. It was trying to build a regenerative economy before Tom Steyer used that term. So we proceeded, tom Steyer, actually, in bringing that term to life, but we didn't get any media buzz or attention for it.

Speaker 1:

Shout out to Tom and the family.

Speaker 2:

Yes, absolutely 100%. I'm a fan. So again, as I mentioned a few years ago, nobody really cared. And now everybody's talking about climate change solutions. Everybody's concerned about glacial melt, because the problem is the glaciers in the Himalayas are melting at a very rapid clip, so a few decades from now, the amount of water that comes into the Indus River, the Chinab River and all of these other five great rivers. So Punjab, the province, literally means Punj, means five. Ab means Ab is the Persian word for water. So it's literally the land of five rivers. It's technically six rivers, but five main rivers, and so the rivers are coming up.

Speaker 1:

So are they coming up like knocking on your door now and saying, ooh, we heard this. Like soil sponge, like that kind of thinking that is drastically reducing and of course, not to zero, but like drastically improving your ability to withstand potential periods of way less and while producing a lot more, or producing at least the same like is that a story that's now hitting? That must hit? Like smart, well off industrialist entrepreneurs that are like, if that's true, like I can go visit something. If that's true, that means just way better business, regardless of the carbon piece, regardless of can we bring back water cycles, can we actually recharge the glaciers, can we make sure we get more rain or better, better, let's say, structured rain, et cetera. That's a whole. I think that's La La Land for many people. But like, do you get more people visiting, more people knocking on the door, saying, ooh, this stuff that I've been hearing from you for a couple of years now actually now starts to click in place?

Speaker 2:

Yes. So people who have farmland of a reasonable scale who I meet, they generally are extremely interested and they've started visiting us. So initially, you know, I also was not really talking about this stuff because I really wanted to have a very solid thesis and a showpiece ready and, as I mentioned, it was an iterative process and it took time. Now we have sort of I've really over the past six months dramatically or a year really dramatically increase the amount I'm talking about this stuff and we're starting to get media engagement in Pakistan on a small level now, but I think it's going to only increase.

Speaker 1:

Shout out to anybody listening. In Pakistan we have a few, I know, but this is not going to get you the biggest media outreach I think you need there, but we have a few people listening. Shout out to them.

Speaker 2:

No, thank you. Every bit, every bit helps. I think one of the big things, one of the very helpful things, was I had the privilege of appearing on Park Sun's most listened to podcast, and this happened about four months ago three to four months ago and a lot of people really listened to that and then reached out to me, and so I think things like these really matter. And now a YouTube channel which a lot of farmers watch it's probably the most watched YouTube channel by farmers In Pakistan. They want to do a documentary on us, hopefully maybe in Jan or Feb, and so stuff like that I think will really push the needle and I think that that's that's a good thing, that's what we want. We want to spread this, we want this thesis out there, but then we're thinking of how can we get it out there faster.

Speaker 2:

One idea is and that's a completely different kind of worms is can we build an extension services app? Can we start up? Can we start up out of this? And that's something a conversation that I'm having with a couple of people, because that could be game to my.

Speaker 2:

One of my great, one of the great problems I see in the world is that extension services all over the world have failed and in developing countries. They're especially poor in most developing countries, and so, if we can build an extension services system around an app or something where people can actually learn the bone in a very easy to understand way, the bones of regenerative practices, where they should start creating AI platform, people put in what kind of soils they have, what are they growing, I mean, what kind of yields they're getting, what fertilizers are they applying. The AI can then tell them how they should start making changes to start generating alpha from season one, because, again, we cannot push regenerative organic from the get go. That doesn't make sense. It has to be different shades of regenerative before it becomes regenerative organic, which is my beef with the ROC certification as well, because they want you to be organic certified and then go towards regenerative. That's the opposite. A farmer should be regenerative first and then become regenerative organic.

Speaker 1:

In my humble opinion, and there's so many other things like. I feel this needs at least a part two at some point, which will happen, but to ask a few questions. We always love to ask and you, as a listener, know they're coming. Let's say we're back in, or you're back and I'm there as well, in a theater in Wall Street. We're back with a group of financial minded people, let's say, or in the financial capital of Pakistan, and we do this live on stage. What would be the main message to people that are managing their own money or other people's money? What would be your main getaway? Like they walk out, of course they're inspired, they're a super company, but we would like them to do something the next day. What would be your main message you would like to do? What would be the seed you would like to plant in their head? Sorry, long way around to. What would be the seed you would like to plant in their head?

Speaker 2:

Right, I think I'll have to break that apart. Break that up, because Wall Street is not just one thing. And you know, and that seems pretty obvious, it depends who I'm speaking to, because if you're talking to a hedge fund, you know you're going to have to go to a hedge fund. If you're talking to a hedge, a group of hedge funders, their mandate and their mindset is very generally very short term, unless you're an engine number one or something. But that's really, you know, just a couple of. There are just a couple of shops like that. Everybody else is extraordinarily short term focused.

Speaker 1:

Longer term focused, maybe managing family office money, managing certain foundation money, managing your own wealth which could be in buckets and portfolios in different different return risk and also time perspectives. But people that come to this because they're interested in regeneration at large, but maybe not as knowledgeable and haven't done got to have. I haven't gone down the rabbit holes as you did, plus, for sure haven't managed the farm or for sure potentially maybe they have in the family somewhere summer states, etc. What would be the seed you would like to plan to the curious but not yet fully on board.

Speaker 2:

Absolutely, I think absolutely. Asset managers, pension funds these guys can be the heroes of our planet, or one of the many heroes that we need, that's the first time somebody ever said that on the podcast.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, go ahead.

Speaker 2:

Because they have a much longer term horizon and we're seeing this. I have friends actually most of my friends are in the private equity hedge fund Wall Street space, especially my friends in the US, Because when I was in New York, you know, I met a lot of Pakistanis who were in that realm, and people I clicked with ended up mostly being in that realm, and they keep sort of telling me that it's the LPs that are putting the pressure on them for incorporating ESG things. Many times the private equity folks are like oh my God, a 15% reduction in this aluminum company that we just bought. That seems really hard to do, but our LPs are pressurizing us so we have to do it. How are we going to do it Right? So LPs have enormous power and I keeps hearing stories like this. So the message I would give them is actually a message you know it's too pronged.

Speaker 2:

The first is just incorporating true costing accounting, because they have a much more long term horizon than any other investor. When they do that and they've actually started to do that I was reading an incredible Bloomberg piece yesterday the European carbon markets legislation that was just passed, with carbon taxes for imports, that is going to have ripple effects. So all the big asset managers have now started incorporating that in their valuations and in their calculations and that is going to be massive. And what other countries are going to be forced to now do carbon taxes because they don't want to pay those taxes to the EU? Because somebody is going to get that tax money, so it might as well be in your own country, unless it's going to go to the EU, right? Interesting.

Speaker 1:

You don't think about it that way. You want to keep it in stock.

Speaker 2:

This really blew my mind when I Exactly so it's going to have ripple impacts and I really hope it will.

Speaker 2:

So that's one thing, and then the other thing is a story of hope, and I think someone like Lombard Audia has taken with a chief nature officer.

Speaker 2:

They've really sort of incorporated this already, but it needs to be much more industry wide, which is the thesis that nature is an incredible asset class and also that regenerating it is both very profitable and also can be very fast based. And so what they should definitely have is an in-house chief nature officer and a team under them. One of them should be an agriculture specialist who really understands this stuff, because it's one thing to read the high level stuff and this is how we did learning by doing in many ways and in the beginning, because I'd read all of this high level stuff and the studies and I knew that, oh, it's possible, but I didn't really know how to do it. And a lot of people I've come across in who are not doing the farming aspect, they know the thesis, or at least some of it. They've read some of the books the Julius Schwartz books and many others and they're like, oh, this is totally possible, but they don't know how to do it.

Speaker 1:

And you really have to have someone.

Speaker 2:

No, I mean at this point.

Speaker 1:

Definitely yeah. Go to the land and either do it yourself you have the means and the flexibility and the time and the blood, sweat and tears or be very close to the cutting-edge farmers that are doing this, because that's where the cutting-edge research is. That's the most exciting piece, like Jan was saying and you quoted, that's where the most exciting people are now like to figure that out.

Speaker 2:

Absolutely yeah. So if they have that, they'll become much better investors, because when you're investing in a food company or fiber company or you're doing other smaller principal investments in these cutting-edge Nuvo biologicals companies which I personally am quite obsessed with, so then you know what science, where the science is, what the science is. How is it practically going to be implemented? Does it even make sense?

Speaker 2:

Let's say, for example, you are thinking of investing in a company that says, oh, we're going to treat the phosphorus fertilizer you're applying and that will reduce I'm not going to take names and that's going to reduce your phosphorus need on farm by 50%. But let's say there's another biologicals company that's saying that, look, you've put phosphorus fertilizer for 50 years. You have 200 years worth of mineral. Assay shows that a farmer has 200 years worth of phosphorus. And our biological solution, when we apply it to the soil, means that you have to apply zero phosphorus and still get super high yields, obviously, which is a better investment, which makes more sense. So you have to know the science. You have to know how practically farming works at various scales, depending on different markets, and only then can you become a smart investor.

Speaker 1:

So every asset manager has to have an agricultural specialist in my humble opinion, and we've named him a few times John Kempf, and this question is definitely inspired by him. What do you believe to be true about regenerative agriculture that others don't? So we're in I was difficult to say York bubble, because you're part of different ones, as you already mentioned, but what do you believe to be true about regionic? You mentioned a few things, but if you had to pick one, what would that be?

Speaker 2:

So I'm not going to repeat what John Kempf likes to say, and many others as well, which is that you can have by growing regenerative, you can have higher profitability and even yields from the first crop. What I would say is that I believe that inoculants, microbial inoculants, prebiotics and perhaps even drones are essential for a transition to regenerative agriculture because they make everything much faster. Let's say, a farmer wants to realize that Johnson's Zoo composting, which is a very easy system of composting and for what you're getting bang for buckwise, there's nothing better is what I want to make. But it's going to take you a year gestation period and first you're going to do a trial before you transition the entire farm.

Speaker 1:

Before you build the ones you're building, which are gigantic.

Speaker 2:

Exactly. So what do you do for those two years? You have to get these inoculants and both probiotic and prebiotic, and that's just going to give you a result from crop number one. So it just makes perfect sense to do it. And drones are incredible, because some of these companies have engineered drones. So, firstly, when drones came out, by the way, I was super posted. I was like, oh my god, yet another technology that's been added to agriculture that we don't really need. But I've now realized that foliar applications, both biological and others, are essential. It's an incredible nutrient delivery platform and if you give biologically derived, reduced keelated, organically keelated nutrients in constant biology, whether inoculants, the results are mind-blowing.

Speaker 1:

We have to unpack that sentence. Can you repeat that sentence in plain English, because I'm not saying we're going to get emails, but I might, so let's do that. I get your thesis of, of course, the spraying drones we've seen you can use them much more wisely. We've actually talked about it with John Kempf as well, not on the drone side, but how important foliarism is? You spray on the leaves at a certain moment, a certain time. It's much more efficient or it has a different effect than spraying soil or the drip irrigation. And, of course, if you don't have to do that with a super heavy tractor, that makes a lot of sense for multiple places. But that sentence you said of what particular? Can you walk us through that one, just to get?

Speaker 2:

us up to speed With great pleasure. So first just to add one more thing about drones it's not just that you're compacting by bringing the tractors in as well. That's obviously really bad. The other great thing about drones is that you end up using a lot less product and water Because these new drones, such as the DJI drones so DJI has created an ag drone arm as well. By the way, most people know DJI as consumer drones.

Speaker 1:

They create microphones as well. Oh really, I didn't know that.

Speaker 2:

Ok, so they've come up with the best. They're considered the best ag drones in the world, to my knowledge, at least from the research I've done and the nozzles are designed in such a way that the droplet size is really really tiny, which is ideal Because you're able to get much higher penetration of whatever product you're applying into the leaf surface, the phylo sphere and the other thing is. And they're engineered in a way with airflow that they really quote, not just the top of the leaf surface, but the bottom as well. Wow, and the bottom is where 90% of your stomata is, so that's actually where you need the product to be for the highest absorption chances. So the science of drones from a delivery point of view is incredibly compelling.

Speaker 1:

This is not the Amazon delivery People just don't Like. This is delivery of way more important stuff to way more important beings.

Speaker 2:

Exactly. And then now coming to, yeah, exactly. So drones could be a massive game changer. And the good news is because a lot of people would be like, oh, this is great for rich farmers or relatively weather farmers with large land holdings, and, yes, those farmers should have their own drones. But even in a country like Pakistan, which is behind the curve of cutting edge agriculture and other things, there are actually companies with DJI drones offering services to small farmers drone as a service, which is fantastic. They're doing it more for pesticide applications and now for biostimulants, because biostimulants have started to inch their way into the Pakistani market, Courtesy of Quartiva and Singenta, because, as you know, they've bought Velagro and they've bought Simborg and so on, and because of their buying spree, they now have these incredible biologicos which, by the way, in some ways it's really bad from a monopoly oligopoly point of view, but from a market penetration to developing countries, it actually is good because nobody else is doing it.

Speaker 2:

These people already have a footprint. They're able to bring really cost-effective biologicos to developing country markets in ways that other players probably won't Like. I've been trying to get AA into Pakistan for a while, but it's really difficult, right, and it's really expensive. So anyway, that's a side point.

Speaker 1:

The A is advancing agriculture, Like just coming back to the sentence.

Speaker 2:

Yes. So nutrients have to be well, ideally, organically derived. Those are generally the best type of nutrients, but that's not always the case. The second most important thing is that actually, even more important than that is that they have to be in a reduced form. So here we're going to quickly talk about oxidation reduction. So most people are familiar with pH, what some of the science and John Kempff talks about this a lot, and Olivier Hussain is the scientist who's done the most cutting edge work on this so pH is the other really important thing. In some ways it's even more important than pH, and that is basically oxidation reduction. And briefly I'll talk about this from a human health point of view, because that's very easy for people to understand.

Speaker 2:

When things get oxidized generally, while that's important for different processes, they also get used up or destroyed. Think about a metal that rusts because it gets oxidized and then over time, it sort of withers away, and that's what happens in our body as well, which is why antioxidants that we eat they're basically reducing agents. So, on a scale, you have oxidation and then the opposite of that is reduction, just like you have acidic and the opposite of that is alkaline, and so what's happened in the world is that our soils. In Pakistan we have highly alkaline and Calcarea is highly alkaline soils, and that's really bad from a productivity point of view. In Africa you have the opposite problem. You have really acidic soils Again really bad from a productivity point of view. You want soils to be neutral and biology usually is the buffer that does that biology plus carbon. But the other great problem with both of these soil types is that they're extremely oxidized. The interaction of the sun and the oxygen has destroyed and depleted these soils, made them super oxidized, and that is really bad.

Speaker 2:

You want reduced soils and we also want our nutrients to be in a reduced form for higher efficacy and absorbability. And that's why reducing them is really important before you deliver them and then to, because if you reduce them and you don't chelate them, then the reduction gets lost and as soon as they're applied, the oxygen is in the air. They get oxidized. So even before the leaf will absorb them, or if it's soil applied, before it gets absorbed by the soil or by the roots, it's going to get oxidized. So you have to chelate it to preserve it in that state. Now, with chelation, I would just like to quickly point out that there are a lot of synthetically chelated products out there. All the big fertilizer companies and small fertilizer companies are making them, but the synthetic chelating agents are really, really bad.

Speaker 1:

Because so let's take a little bit of it. This is like a layer on top of like. What do you mean by chelate? Like as a verb? But what does it do to liquid?

Speaker 2:

Right. So on a chemistry level so it comes from the Greek term, I think it means like crab claw it sort of holds that molecule in place and you need certain chemical compounds to do the chelation. For whatever compound you're trying to chelate let's say it's a magnesium or iron nutrient, or it's a copper nutrient whatever it is, it's done for metallic nutrients, by the way. So molybdenum, zinc, iron, copper, manganese, magnesium, and what happens is that the synthetic chelating agents like EDTA, edth et cetera, they're really, really strong. What happens is that when this molecule goes inside the plant, the EDTA will let go so that the plant can absorb, let's say, that nutrient, let's say the iron fertilizer you applied, but then it's so strong it needs to attach itself or latch onto some other compound. Usually it goes for calcium and what happens is that there's a calcium deficiency that can be caused in a plant, and calcium is a secondary macronutrient. By the way, it's not even a micronutrient. It is essential for plant growth and high productivity and performance, and so synthetic chelates are really bad from that point of view.

Speaker 2:

So they're organic chelating agents as well certain organic acids, and there's been a lot of cutting at science that's happened over the past decade on organic chelating agents, all of advancing eco-agriculture. Products, by the way, are organically chelated, which is why they're so effective. They're reduced and then organically chelated and then, if you apply them at the right time, the effects are incredible. So this is all, by the way, science I've learned from John Gempf. I consider him a great teacher of mine and I think he's one of those revolutionary and game changing people in the modern world, one of those unrecognized people, a sort of giants aside from a very small sort of community like people like you and I and others. So, anywho, this science is revolutionary, it's mind blowing and it's game changing. So that's what I meant by ideally, organically derived nutrients that are reduced and then organically chelated before delivery.

Speaker 1:

Thank you so much for that explanation. And then to finish up with two questions which could be other rabbit holes, but we'll see. We'll deal with them when we get there. What would you do if you had $1 billion to invest, because I'm guessing you haven't with your background? An interesting answer to that.

Speaker 2:

In my very humble opinion, I think that with a billion dollars that's a lot of money I could potentially start a revolution to change the world of agriculture, and what I would do is I would create an investment company that invests in world-class regenerative nutrient and biological companies, and you would go for the input side.

Speaker 2:

The input side, because it's not just biologicals A lot of biologicals you can make on farm. Regenerative nutrients are also essential. You need very tiny amounts, by the way. This is not like a super fertilizer heavy, but what sort of AEA has proven is that the right form of nutrients in the right quantities, microdosing at the right time and delivered in the right way, so things like foliar or right timing in the soil, those are essential. And so what I call regenerative nutrients which, as I mentioned, organically derived, organically chelated, reduced, those nutrients are essential. So I would invest in regenerative nutrients and biological companies Because the transition when I answered your earlier question, I think inoculants and prebiotics are also essential to help that transition happen much faster.

Speaker 2:

And then for a lot of biologicals, I think farmers can do on farm solutions over time. It just makes perfect sense for the biology side to be handled mostly on farm, but the nutrient side, you still might need to buy a few products here and there, and so that's what I would do, and then I would roll these, so I would create micro factories that are country scale in every sort of country by country, so starting in Sri Lanka, pakistan, countries like that, and then I would make this firm sign, the 1% for the planet pledge, I would also create a nonprofit and the profits from this company would feed or 1% of the revenues would feed that nonprofit, whose job would be twofold. One is to educate farmers on how to do regeneration. So in some ways, the extension question that I broached earlier, and also ideally an ancillary part of that nonprofit, would be, in every country that they operate in, to have to create an infrastructure that makes it affordable for farmers to plant more and more trees.

Speaker 2:

Trees are a big part of the solution to well, all global problems. Obviously, you have interviewed so many amazing people about the biotech pump theory and fixing our water cycles, and farmland can be a crucial part of that. Because you know, and I'll share some pictures with you when I drive through rural Pakistan, I see opportunities galore, because 80% to 85% of farmland does not really have trees. They might have a tree or a tree here and there and the boundaries even a two acre farmer can plant trees on the boundary and if you do it cleverly, you can have trees that can provide you for it Exactly.

Speaker 2:

Well, tiny forest style, or just even not monoculture, but like single trees in the regular planted way, because I think tiny forests are important. But that will be a small part of a farmland. So two acre farm will have maybe one 30 square meter tiny forest, but then the other boundaries can be other trees, because in a tiny forest you can't do harvesting. You can't harvest For deciduous trees, the leaves are just going to fall on the ground.

Speaker 2:

You can't really harvest them to make your Johnson's compost, for example. Similarly, you can't do harvesting of fertilizer leaves for example, a Moringa tree, to create your own biostimulants. So, for example, on our farm we've planted a very intense Moringa plantation and aloe vera to make our own biostimulants. So those are the things that farmers can do as well. So that would be the other part of what this nonprofit would do, which is to help make it accessible for farmers, to provide them seeds or saplings on the cheap. So because it's a nonprofit, it doesn't need to make a profit for this, and in developing countries usually doing these things is much cheaper, and so that would really kickstart revolution and there's an economic thesis in terms of the micro factories that are being built for regenerative nutrients and biologicals, which I think would be extremely profitable.

Speaker 1:

And then as a final I mean, you notice one's coming what would you do if you had a magic wand and you could change one thing overnight? What would that be?

Speaker 2:

I think I have to agree with. That's not going to be my answer, but I do want to reiterate that, had you know the gentleman from Germany, the VC, forget his name Schultz.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, so he I think he was bang on. True cost accounting will change the entire world. They won't just change Agriculture if you have bacon. True cost accounting into every single Accounting framework, it just changes everything. It changes evaluations, it drives the entire economy towards bio-based circularity, and that includes agriculture as a subset of the global economy, right, so that's a no-brainer. But I you know, because he's already given that answer and this is you know. This would have been my answer even if I hadn't listened to that podcast episode. But he's obviously bang on because that's not my answer. I would. I'll give you another answer and this will be more agriculture specific, I would. You know what? Actually it wouldn't be agriculture specific, I would.

Speaker 2:

My answer would be on the education side of things. I Would make it mandatory with this magic wand that every child in the world in school, starting from you, know Gonna God, in a grade one learns about human health and Nature, ecosystems, ecology, and on a level, obviously, that they can understand, depending on their grade. I think that would also Change the world. It would change how we see things, because understanding you know Human health, I mean, we're not talk basic things. For example, I have some family members who've been suffering from inflammatory issues. So I've gone down a lot of human health rabbit holes as well. It was a great dr Mark Hyman quote I or post.

Speaker 2:

I read the other day about the importance of Magnesium in our diet. And in order to so, you know, of course you have high foods that are high in magnesium, like pumpkin seeds and so many others. But then for the body to absorb that magnesium you need other. You need other enzyme cofactors, low and behold other Nutrients. You need your B vitamins, you need vitamin D, etc. Right, understanding this and this is something easily a sixth grader can understand, if you, you know, teach it the right way that dot connection means that they will start connecting so many other dots all around them.

Speaker 2:

And similarly, and Understanding overview of how ecology works, how a forest works, where do nutrients come from, how our soils build, how do the water cycles work? You know the plants build the soil and vice versa. So it's a mutualistic relationship, right. And then they also end up creating their own water, you know. So another mutualistic relationship. So it's the series of mutualisms that's what drives our planet. So I think, just understanding that if children, children, have that understanding, then every thing they do in life, whether they become doctors, whether they become engineers, whether they become entrepreneurs, that's going to stay with them and everything they craft, or investors, everything they craft in their lives, or farmers exactly, is going to be impregnated with that philosophical disposition.

Speaker 1:

I Think it's a perfect moment to end this conversation.

Speaker 1:

I think we could go and we'll do that at another time and down another 10 rabbit holes, but I want to be conscious of your time, conscious of the listeners time, and Thank you so much for this conversation. I really, really enjoyed it. I hope to do this in person Somewhere soon and somewhere, let's say, on the land walking a land would be absolutely amazing. Thank you for the work you do, thank you for going down and deep down these rabbit holes and and doing it in practice on the land and I was not going to say shouting about it, but shouting about it not only on this podcast, which is obviously the in crowd, but also on the biggest podcast in Pakistan, the biggest YouTube channel for farmers, because that's and in the captains of industry and in a political sphere, because that's like the attention is there. Now we need to put it to work, as why I asked the one viewing question. So thank you so much for the work you do and coming here to spend a few hours with us to share.

Speaker 2:

Thank you. Thank you for the work you do as well, by the way. It's been extraordinarily inspirational for me in my own journey.

Speaker 1:

By the way, 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 regenerate agriculturecom 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 you.

Why are you doing what you are doing? Why Soil?
What should smart investors, who want to invest in eeg ag and food look out for?
What do you believe is true about regenerative agriculture that others don’t believe to be true? Inspired by John Kempf
What would you do if you were in charge of a 1B investment portfolio tomorrow morning?
If you could wave a magic wand and change one thing overnight?