Investing in Regenerative Agriculture and Food

275 Nicolas Enjalbert - Let’s disrupt the oligopoly seeds industry, currently bad for everyone, people, planet and flavour

January 09, 2024 Koen van Seijen Episode 275
Investing in Regenerative Agriculture and Food
275 Nicolas Enjalbert - Let’s disrupt the oligopoly seeds industry, currently bad for everyone, people, planet and flavour
Show Notes Transcript Chapter Markers

A conversation with Nicolas Enjalbert, CEO and Co-Founder of SeedLinked, an innovative company digitizing collaborative breeding and a seed breeder, about our current seed system, flavour and nutrients, collaborative seed research, and much more.

Seeds, it all starts with seeds (and soil) but mostly seeds. And our current seeds system is structurally not able to grow seeds that are adaptive to local niches, weather, let alone flavour or nutrients etc., but only able to grow seeds for large large monoculture agriculture systems. But 97% of the global farmers aren't large monoculture farmers, and 70% of our global food is grown by them. Who grows seeds for them, and how are we going to innovate and adapt there? This interview takes a deep dive into the world of collaborative seed research, about yields, nutrients and flavour? And yes, we also tackle thorny topics like GMO, CRISPR and your favourite heirloom tomato.

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Speaker 1:

Seeds. It all starts with seeds and soil, but mostly seeds, and our current seed system is structurally not able to grow seeds that are adaptive to local niches, wetter, etc. Let alone flavor and nutrients. But it's only able to grow seeds for large, large monoculture agriculture systems. But 97% of global farmers aren't large monoculture farmers and 70% of our global food is grown by them. So who grows seeds for them and how we're going to innovate and adapt there?

Speaker 1:

This interview takes a deep dive into the world of collaborative seed research and what about yields, nutrients and flavor. And yes, we also tackle the topics like GMO, crispr and your favorite heirloom tomato Enjoy. What are the connections between healthy farming practices, healthy soil, healthy produce, healthy gut and healthy people? Welcome to a special series where we go deep into the relationship between regenerative agriculture, practices that build soil, health and the nutritional quality of the food we end up eating. We unpack the current state of science, the role of investments, businesses, nonprofits, entrepreneurs and more. We're very happy with the support of the Grandham Foundation for the protection of the environment for this series. The Grandham Foundation is a private foundation with a mission to protect and conserve the natural environment. Find out more on grandhamfoundationorg or in the links below. Welcome to another episode today with seed breeder and co-founder of seedlinked. Better seed decisions start with seedlinked 8500 expert growers and 300,000 insights, plus 3000 varieties from leading seed companies, reviewed for performance and flavor. Welcome, nicolas.

Speaker 2:

Hi, thanks so much for having me. Sorry, nicolas, because you come from.

Speaker 1:

France.

Speaker 2:

That's right, I think my name is Jean Nicolas.

Speaker 1:

So welcome and thank you so much for taking the time to share about a topic we don't talk about enough. I say that quite often on the podcast, which is a bit contradictory, but in the case of seeds, I remember a conversation with Chef Dan Barber a long time ago. I will link that below, of course and of course, conversations where seeds come up, especially in this nutrient density series. But we'd never go deep into the world of seeds. We always sort of keep it there as ah yeah, something should be done about it and it's very important, but that's sort of it. So I'm very happy to have the chance here to unpack some of the world and what people are doing about it. So first of all, I would love to ask a question we always ask is why did you end up working on soil, in this case, specifically seeds?

Speaker 2:

Yeah, such a big question and it didn't come directly. It's kind of a long journey, but I grew up in central France, actually in a world of community, with this baritonic farm in nature, and this really shaped me in terms of being connecting to nature, good food and being passionate of outdoors. And then, through my journey, I really wanted to then focus on ag and end up doing a PhD in plant breeding. I many times being passionate by nature and being rock climbing, being fly fishing and seeing the impact of ag in our food system and looking at and also later on seeing like the impact of chemical I was working with with Pioneer and I have vivid memory of field after slug spray and where all the insects and everything is dead and it was just like what the hell are we doing here? Like well, then later on I was in Davis and constantly smelling California chemical all day long and we need to.

Speaker 2:

We need to change things and and really our food system, start every seed, like, if you think about it, like all the food we have is, and like if something we can, we can do, is really we need to start with seed and our current system in the seed I mean 90 percent is highly focused on a modernist system, high input system, and if we want to bring diversity into all our food and ag system, you need to start the seed and and so that really, really like.

Speaker 2:

My journey was nonlinear, but realizing that, well, a lot of our challenge of our ag and food system really started with the seed and and really bringing diversity on up of ground will definitely shape the ground and soil, and so it's all interacting and and boosting the diversity to our agro ecosystem I strongly believe is one of the essential thing we need to do and I think region ag is really boosting for that. But the thing is our whole structure system go at the total opposite direction and, like I, after my PhD I had the opportunity and it was to work in large seed company.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, I was going to ask that. Have you ever joined the 90 percent of the seed world, let's say after your, your PhD?

Speaker 2:

Yeah, I, it was interesting because I came out of my PhD and I was like, ok, I really want to work in innovative, organic or more, and it was. I really struggled finding job. I mean that was in 2011 and I even starting to work as a carpenter with a friend until I received this job for his pioneer and I was like, ok, and I decided to jump in full on in, like the traditional Large corporations seed company, as a breeder and I learned a ton. It was just amazing. I was just amazing people. I was able to do a lot of things.

Speaker 2:

And pioneer is part of one of the big ones right, the part of Corteva which comes out of Dow, I think, if I'm not, exactly yes, so pioneer was under DuPont at the time and I was a calendar breeder in France, then pioneer and would dial, and DuPont merged to the Corteva and now pioneers under the umbrella of Corteva and the just a.

Speaker 1:

Paint a picture Before we get to seed things. Or maybe it's better to go to seed linked first and then paint the picture. Through that, paint the picture of the current industry, which isn't pretty. Listeners, buckle up, but let's go to seed linked first and, like you, could have stayed in the easy corporate world. Easy, between quotes, I mean, of course it's not always easy, but I think there's there's plenty of work in the 90 percent seed companies for the next decades. They will make stuff more efficient, they will come up with with even more complicated GM seeds, etc. Like there's, there's work there if you want to stay in that. But you decided no, I will leave. And. And then what? Like what?

Speaker 1:

what triggered that decision or triggered that stop, which is quite a big one If you're in a company it's very easy to stay with your lease car to stay with Because maybe have a mortgage at the time, like at some point you're stuck.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, it was a weird journey. I had this idea emerge, like in 2012, and it was just growing, growing inside of me and realizing the structure of the actual system could not work to fulfill where we need to go, and realizing that constantly in pioneers and I work for Dow and then at Coteva that locally adapted seed with small niche markets, small volume, with low margin, we never go through the those current systems. Those company won't limit enough crop, limit enough product, maximize margin. The whole structure is for that, for the large market, meaning the homogeneous market. And so I was at the point like we need to switch, that we need to do breeding not only for corn corn as king and everything else is called orphan crop but we need R&D for literally 100,000 of other crop and within those crop, we need breeding for niche market.

Speaker 2:

Like many more region. We not only need to breed for the Salinas or Sacramento Valley and Almeria or the Midwest for corn, but for many other region that we are not breeding. And so, but how do we get there? Like this is the biggest challenge. And I was looking at digitalization and the way we with data science and the rays of AI and I was like why can't we find solution where we can remove friction, drop the cost increase and the collaboration like I was looking at Airbnb and Uber is like with Airbnb it was just so easy to just put a room and then on Airbnb and then you can generate an income. You don't need to build a 50 million dollar hotel. And why can't we do the fine similar structures that can unlock this capacity to breed locally adapted seed at a lower cost and economically efficient? Because, of course, the counter would be.

Speaker 1:

The big companies would say, yeah, but you need a very fancy lab and a lot of money and huge research budgets. And just like the counter argument of the hotels was and partly is, yeah, but for a good experience you need a concierge and you need a huge lobby and you need the 50 million, like you said, for a building and real estate and all of that. Of course you cannot just put a room or even an apartment and have guests and of course I know all the issues with local legislation and tourist overrunning cities etc. But the core idea is very interesting as a challenge to our idea of a hotel. In this case, are you saying that it is possible for local seed breeders? Like, how difficult is it to breed seeds? And of course, difficult to find a market, but how difficult is it to do that on a smaller scale if you're not selling to millions of acres of corn? Or the Sacramento Valley, where every salad grower is more or less located, or in some other super industrialized regions Like, how is this more?

Speaker 2:

It's extremely hard. It's extremely hard because if you follow the conventional system, I mean it can take eight to 10 years to develop a seed, a new variety. So imagine you develop. We have big challenges with broccoli. Where we are, with climate change, we have a lot of humidity and a lot of disease, and okay, we're going to work for eight to 10 years to develop a new broccoli for a market that is, let's say, maybe $30,000 and it's going to cost you $100,000 to develop the seed.

Speaker 1:

So nobody does that. Basically, yeah, so it doesn't make it.

Speaker 2:

It's not economically feasible. And some people are trying to but fail because developing locally at a seed I mean it just takes time. And then let's say you have this new broccoli and it takes maybe four or five more years to reach peak adoption in the market. So it's not only breeding it, it's just the adoption curve, because you need to find, you need to find dealers, the grower need to find this variety, you need to test it and trust it. And so you have all this trusting that, an adoption curve that is very long. So at the end it's just purely impossible to do it.

Speaker 1:

So you thought, let's just wrap that let's make it possible. Yeah.

Speaker 2:

So let's. I was like I was looking at the numbers and I was looking like, okay, this is like 500 million grower who produce 70% of the fruit globally. That's 97% of the farmers that are small, that are largely non-untab by the large industry. Most of the time, and when we survey a lot of small grower, I realize that 80% of them are doing their own research. You are trying it because they need to know. They need to know what to plant because nobody is really helping them.

Speaker 1:

So you're saying let's completely ignore the huge monoculture industrial space, because actually most farmers aren't, and also most food also because most of these farms don't grow any food. They grow feed, ethanol and all of that, but actually the majority of the food, as we know, comes from smaller scale farmers that cannot access seeds, cannot access any of that, and are doing most of their own research because they need to know and they need to be sure, or as sure as possible, that something works next year and the year after.

Speaker 2:

And they are innovating, and imagine all their insight, the knowledge there, If you connect them together. What could be the power If you connect. I mean, this is a huge number of people. If you include even gardener, it's close to a billion people that you can connect knowledge.

Speaker 1:

I mean gardeners, yeah, everybody that semi not professionally but takes, let's say, their garden seriously.

Speaker 2:

It's yeah, it's a community that is so, so engaged.

Speaker 2:

The garden community has a lot of knowledge also and are very, very serious and it's the number one hobby in all the developing country.

Speaker 2:

And so it was like okay, with digitalization, imagine if we can connect their insight, one to develop seed at a much lower cost, because trialing and testing is the highest cost of doubling seed. But now, if you do this together, where your future customer and global are testing with you, then imagine the vast amount of knowledge that is generating in this innovation. You connect it and then you use that to help any other grower find your innovation or find your seed. So you, while you make, in one hand, the development of seed cheaper and faster by just doing with your customer, and on the other side, you use all this knowledge from grower to help other grower find the seed, so you drop the adoption curve. You explode the trust, because a farmer trust vastly more insight from other farmer on what do well, and so if you develop seed with other, then you we saw like that's a yes, that was just a drop and so, and so that was really the big drop.

Speaker 1:

Because that's of course important. As farmers have limited seasons, as everybody does, they won't risk too much unless they trust and they know enough, which means it can take a long time, even after the seed is developed and tested and selected, etc. To go to the highest potential market or to a significant amount of hectares or acres. So if the adoption curve can go faster, that's a huge, a huge win.

Speaker 2:

Exactly and that's really shrinking the whole building cycle. And as a farmer, you have to understand you have pretty much like 40 shots in your life right Of testing, so you can't, you know, yeah, taking a risk when you test and you see like you can't deploy into all your acre. You have to do this testing but if suddenly you can see dozen of farmer in the same conditions and you, when you can see their, their performance and what they think about the seed, you really do risk so much the adoption. And so really at the end, seed linked is a community of thousands of growers and really literally in the future, potentially a million of growers connecting with innovator via this infrastructure ceiling as a platform that allow collaborative innovation and research together and with all the features to do that.

Speaker 2:

A fully integrated social media where people can talk among each other, ask questions, interact, because seed discussion is the number one discussion that farmer has. And lastly, a search engine, prescriptive engine, where you can go and as we scale in North America, we're scaling in Europe now, thanks to the European Union, to India, africa and other. Imagine the vast amount of knowledge that you can tap and look at non-contiguous environment and see, okay, what seed will do best for me. Power by collaborating fans inside, so those are seeding is really a three pillar platform that is really built collaboratively and to really fulfill innovation and to tackle some of the biggest challenges of our time.

Speaker 1:

And how are farmers or professional growers, let's say, using seedling currently, even if I'm at a certain scale? Is there certain things you cannot do because somebody needs too many seeds or like what's the current? I mean, I understand the type, the super series gardener, but what about the professional people that have to live of their land, basically as a farmer?

Speaker 2:

How would you use seedling, for example? You see, yeah, so, like I started mentioning, in broccoli, so many growers like professional growers and organic. In the upper middle west we had much higher humidity so we had a lot of alternaria and black rot and pretty much organic grower could not grow broccoli anymore like professional grower, but it's not the main broccoli region area.

Speaker 1:

So nothing would be developed for them. Basically, even organic seed companies wouldn't look at that, even if they were interested.

Speaker 2:

No, and organic seeds is very limited amount and a lot of organic company or like. Let's look at Enza Saturn, vitalis, the branch of Enza Saturn, who develop organic seed. Really, in a lot of the time we use seed developing conventional and look at which of those conventional will tend to do a little bit better in organic, but it's still, for most of the organic is producing in those large industrial place in the niche market, which means there's a huge potential there as well.

Speaker 1:

To like, a lot of the yield gap discussions and true or not true also come from the fact that the seeds used in large especially large organic, but organic in general haven't been bred for that soil at all. So of course they're not going to perform the best they could. So the bro, sorry. Back to the broccoli, the broccoli growers.

Speaker 2:

No, but it's exactly you're right. It's exactly what you're saying. But it's go back to the initial problem and I will go back to the broccoli example. But how do you breed niche seed for niche market? That it's a small market, it's a small volume, small margin and 90% plus of all those companies will not do it. And when we work together in those niche market and develop seed or look for seed that are already bred, but we find the one we see 30 to 50% increase in performance of like because that seed is laying around or you're able to find it and then unlock it.

Speaker 1:

There's like there were empty rooms in the Airbnb example. We keep coming back there, but like as sort of places that haven't been discovered as as potential. So stay places to stay, in this case, seats that just aren't on the market because there has never been a market place. There's not. There's a market but there's no marketplace. Is that what happens?

Speaker 2:

then it's two. It's really good question. It's two way. One is some are we don't know, some are there, have been developed, not for this region, but they might be adapted. And so for me, this example of broccoli is what we did, like we're seedling, saying to see, in few click you were able to gather 85 growers in the scene of this region testing more than 25 different broccoli and with very limited amount of resources in we were able to find couple really well adapted seed for organic, and so those were already existing. But that can be the foundation of okay, now we see those are really adapted. But what could even do better? Let's do some crossing and start breeding, and start breeding together. And so that's what we are pioneering with Dr Julie Dawson at UW Madison is not only characterize what is existing, but let's develop the new variety, and then when we do that, yeah, we really change the full paradigm, like we do crosses, and then at F3 or third generation, where we still have so much diversity.

Speaker 1:

This we need to add back for people. If you say F3, I think people look at their laptop Like what is F3? Okay, what's F3?

Speaker 2:

Yeah, so you know when you start breeding. Let's say you have two parents. That one let's say one tomato has excellent flavor, another one has amazing disease, and you want to combine those traits and create disease resistance.

Speaker 2:

Let's just be clear yeah, amazing disease resistance and and so we want to combine those characteristics to develop, let's say, tomato that has high flavor, high disease resistance, maybe early maturity for northern latitude. And so we cross those two parents, we created F1. So that's the first generation of cross. And to where diversity explode in crossing is at the F2. So we replant this F1, we let them self pollinate together again and create the F2. And then we're going to have an explosion of diversity then of this population, and then we're going to take this huge diversity and send it to grow by random sample and we're going to let them select with a platform that allows data tracking, picture and information.

Speaker 1:

And so, if you can, use AI to understand with the picture. So we're going on all kinds of records here which you can, like, start to follow. Yeah, okay, so do you send it out to this collaborative grow, which greatly reduces the costs because you don't need a massive laboratory with I don't know many fields and like, because you don't do this in house?

Speaker 2:

Yeah, exactly the price per plot doing a collaborative model drop for 150 to $150, plot of research to $25 to $4, depending on the scale, to four to $25 plot.

Speaker 2:

So again from $150 to all the way to $4 plot by a collaborative model. So we drastically drop the cost of experiment experimental unit, which is a plot like when you trial and test, and so by dropping the cost to five to 10x of experimentation, what can you do? And that is the R and D level. Then, as I mentioned earlier, this is also the adoption that we're shrieking, because we are not taking all this data and not and keeping it for us and not sharing and just controlling every single piece of information. No, we are fully transparent and share this because of this new tomato that we developed for years with Grover. All this information is going to be the powerhouse for this product to be sold and find.

Speaker 1:

Because then, when it needs to be sold, let's go back to, for example, the broccoli. And then what happens? Who's going to make sure we have enough consistent seeds is going to be shipped on the right moment? Who becomes the every host that manages that?

Speaker 2:

Yeah, for example, some are more professional others, of course.

Speaker 1:

But how do we? Because it's not, then everybody can send 10 broccolis to another one, so just to. If we somehow agree at some point, we have something that works in this region against the humidity and it's much, luckily, much faster, because otherwise the climate has changed again already. Then how do I make sure, or how do you make sure, the broccoli?

Speaker 2:

grows. Yeah, the example of broccoli we were creating already commercial variety and just pre-commercial that were soon going to be commercial, and so there was already a breeder seed company and, for example, this was Bejo Cidre is also really engaged in organic seed from, I believe, the Netherlands, and this broccoli was already commercialized for organic and so Bellstar Broccoli was one of the best, and so in this instance there was already a supply chain and it was already available. In this example of tomato that we work with the group of Dr Julie Doughton and we already work with independent breeder and seed producers. So, like when we are developing this seed and we're going to release the new amazing tomato next year, we already have seed producer and then and dealer that say, okay, I want, this is amazing project and I want to support it.

Speaker 1:

Because when you say we release, it's not you releasing it right.

Speaker 2:

No, in this case actually this product is amazing is going to be released under OSSI, open Seed Source Initiative. So it's going to be open source release variety that everybody's going to be able to use, commercialize and do further breeding with it. So it's going to be a total open source variety. But in other instances it will not be open source. It will be an independent breeder that will be the owner. Yeah, so when I was mentioning the example of, we are breeding with 50 growers in the middle west here and with Dr Julie Doughton at UW Madison and two independent breeder, a tomato that will be much better flavor. So we're working also with Chef and this tomato will be released under OSSI, which is Open Seed Source Initiative. It's will be released under an open source status, meaning this variety will be accessible to all, will be able to use for further breeding, as ever you wish, and so that's one pathway, more like an open source pathway. And we have local seed company who are going to distribute it and multiply the seed and make a profit and being able to have a really good, locally adapted tomato offered to their grower. And but we have also independent breeder who will use seedling to develop new cabbage, cauliflower other that they're fully the owner of it and they're going to use grower to characterize them. Then they're going to find a dealer, let's say maybe in the US, haimoing organic seed or jolly seed or other, who are going to carry their variety and sell it. And so a different pathway. Or we are working in a amazing project and I'm really, really excited.

Speaker 2:

When back in the day was alpha alpha breeder I I studied to have many side project, even if I was working with large seed company. I was amazed like within those large seed company I mean there's amazing people working in those large seed company and I was amazed they let me play with weird mix system Like. And so one of them, I was working with the people in the USDA on developing alpha alpha that could withstand corn shade. So we were planting corn, silent corn and alpha alpha all the way together, obviously the conventional variety of alpha alpha which is dying because there was lack of resources of sun and so they were not at all suited for growing with corn. And then when you harvest the corn, then the alpha alpha takeover is like a cover crop and then you go on a full on silage of forage, harvest and production system. But what we did? We developed a shade tolerance alpha alpha that could withstand the pressure of corn like a mix system, like we were.

Speaker 2:

Regenerative ag is going to to make species together and and so we bred a variety alpha alpha that allowed to to to this, coexist in this pressure and survive. And now we are using seed we're going to use seedlings in the future to test with many grower, the system, those varieties that we develop, and then we have already a dealer and seed comment company, like Albert Lee seed that is, are super excited of those varieties that are going to distribute it. And so, and this variety, the current seed industry we are not at all interested is, like, seems to be a niche market, it seems to be a mainstream and nobody were going to commercialize it. But the impact such innovation can have in in in ag and like in this case, in soil and erosion, and is tremendous. But that's just an example of so many innovation that the mainstream seed industry, the structure, is not down to to carry on those innovation due to the margin, financial structure. They are on and and so forth.

Speaker 1:

And to come to that point, what is your financial structure Like? How do you make sure it is possible or how do you keep the lights on?

Speaker 2:

Yeah, well, yeah, it's been a wild journey.

Speaker 2:

So seedlings as a platform.

Speaker 2:

To date we, our business model, has been software as a service and so, for example, we have independent reader or we have a lot of university or seed bank who pay annual subscription to use seedling to run collaborative trialing and breeding, and so that's the phase one. We are innovating into multi seller marketplace where then those product can be all seen on seedlings with all the data and we will take a small fee of the transaction. And really, as a long term goal, having seedlings almost as a decentralized seed company where we provide services to all those innovator, where we can help from from eight to really to the beginning, to the end, where you can start developing your product, leveraging this giant network that we are carrying. We have close to 10,000 growers, but in the future, if we have 100,000 of people, you can leverage this and then all this data allow to power the commercialization and then and so forth. So really as a more decentralized company where revenue will come from different channel, from multi marketplace to SaaS, description, to data as a service to marketing.

Speaker 1:

And how does the traditional or the current seed world see these kind of things? Do they still completely Like? What's their view on regentive in general, although I saw a few chemical companies claiming their chemicals were absolutely essential part of Regen egg. But what do you see in the conventional seed world?

Speaker 2:

Yeah, what I see is that even some commercial always started to play a little bit with organic. They're pulling back because the market is in tough situation and again, their structure is such that when we keep talking to them they really struggle and they cannot reach those more micro market and developed product and so they're going to leverage their mainstream breeding for those QEGEN and take advantage of maybe let's try to see if this corn or this tomato can fit a Regenative model, but it's never going to be an optimization. But I think that we start to see a lot of emerging seed company, a lot of emerging initiative that are absolutely amazing.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, I do feel like the tide is not changing or turning, but what do you see on the emerging side of the system? Change picture.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, we see many small seed companies that are coming and their market share is growing and growing and people want to find more technical product and technical partner to work with, and so I believe that we need to give the capacity, which is a mission, of sitting how to make those small seed company profitable, because that is really one of the biggest challenges, like how to make them profitable, and until we find an economic model, it's going to be extremely hard.

Speaker 2:

And it's why I'm fascinated to see where row seven is going with Dan Barber like a Madurek who was the connection with Whole Food and row seven, and how they are looking at different ways to not only sell a seed but it's really selling a story. A novel beats or Badger Flame is not just a beat, it's just a full story that you can find all the way to the shelf, and the consumer is not talking about beats, he's talking about Badger Flame and how this added value can trickle down all the way to the seed company and the breeder, creating more value, and creating more value I mean be more economic sounds and so on.

Speaker 1:

So is that really underlying or not? The underlying goal, sort of a big lever to pull, is to make these new, emergent or older emergent, older seed companies that are doing things fundamentally different and looking at nutrition and breeding for flavor to make them more economically viable, because that would sort of keep them alive and thus doing more research and thus producing more seeds and etc. Etc.

Speaker 2:

That's my, that's my belief.

Speaker 2:

That is really where the friction is like to find, to innovate in business, one structure to really make them thrive, because you know, I don't see how we can move forwards. And like the whole cover crop for example, like all the traditional seed company in Iowa is part of them, working at Dow and Alpharex was online down. We were doing a lot of breeding of of crap for cover crop early on but the margin and EBITDA was, it was profitable but it was not the 10% EBITDA that investor wanted to. All this program would kind of shut down because producing and breeding cover crop is not profitable. And so now we have initiative with Cornell and other university to to create a national breeding network and leveraging seedling and really, and again, it's just we are doing this because the traditional seed industry is not doing it, because it's not economically sound, and so how to find different way to make this efficient and profitable and, yeah, and resilient over time.

Speaker 1:

And you're mentioning, I mean you as now, and expanding into Europe like, what's your geography plan or geography work? Let's say, and footprint looks like now and how is that changing over the next, over next month, over next year? We're talking at the end of 2023, probably just comes out early 2024. So just to put a stamp in it, what? What are your geography plans?

Speaker 2:

Yeah, we I mean, like I said, this platform has been a collaborative effort and thanks to amazing people like Monica Messemer at Fibyl, which is a European organic research Institute based near in Switzerland, we got a large grants it's called life seeding project really boost organic seed development and thanks to this four years grants we are developing seedling in Europe and so it just been translated in eight language and it's available now in 22 country.

Speaker 2:

And then we starting to build collaboration to work in organic cotton in India and Africa. Organic cotton Is again is the same seed is one of the main issue of organic cotton on the textiles. So there's like a consortium called Oka and so we're using seedlings to boost the development of organic seed. And then South America we start to have some partner in Argentina and Chile and it's very exciting to see A lot of those initiative and that all need similar capacity and so it's an exciting and scary journey as we really the financial is still A struggle we also paving the way in different model of doing breeding that some people struggle, believing in struggle. See that is possible to.

Speaker 1:

What's the main doubt?

Speaker 2:

Well, we are shifting from the highly controlled, where I'm a breeder or a company and I control everything I'm doing. I'm assessing my plot, my new variety and it's highly.

Speaker 2:

Trust is the exact To a model where you have to trust a grower and and does a grower, I realize is the most of the most amazing. Knowledge is so untapped and they are much smarter than me as a breeder and their knowledge is incredible. But it's required to let go and to work together instead of Just controlling everything and and working a more noisy Kind of environment, because we see only work in many conditions that you cannot control. But it's with the power actually at the end, because we allow to crowd through the data in a much more diverse set of system that allow to develop more adapted variety at the end.

Speaker 1:

And what's the role of technology here? You mentioned I am that could also just be a buzzword, as we're in 2023. Probably you didn't mention it in 2012, but what, beyond of course, using the power of the Internet to connect all of this? But what, what other layers or what other Things and putting my investor had on could be possible now because we have a different type of technology we didn't have five or ten or even two years ago. Like, or maybe in two years, x, y, z is possible that we cannot even imagine now. What, what, what things do you see on the horizon, or are you already using technology that really excites you?

Speaker 2:

Yeah, I mean in the seed and in the kind of the architects.

Speaker 2:

There's a lot of excitement I would see in the traditional side of the seed industry in terms of like using gene editing and more and more drone and imagery and high capital type of technology.

Speaker 2:

But again, going back to a more decentralized, hyperlocal, diverse system I believe will be the future right now is this technology are not economically sound to use and so for more decentralized side, I think AI and figuring out using those vast amount of data crowdsource from grower to build model to, let's say, you in southern Italy find the best carrots according to who you are all the criteria.

Speaker 2:

I think that is really an area that I'm so excited to put more resources in it and this is really areas that we want to explode and as we grow and we potentially do a larger round in the next 12 to 15 months to work on and we are building the foundation right now our seedlings be fully interoperable to being able to bring soil and climate data and all those passive data that we can combine with, crowdsource information from grower and feed this to model to look at by a region.

Speaker 2:

And also we have like question, like we have state, like California or Colorado and other who are asking us okay, we have climate model for 2050. Can you use the LinkedIn help us figure out? What are they going to be, the crop and the variety for those climate model, because we need to make decision now to develop the fruit system of the future and that, I think again, different AI model and order to allow to combine with very large crowdsourcing trial that we're doing with passive data and model to be able to look at, okay, what crop, like cow, p O, crowd or southern crop, and what genetics and so forth would be able to fulfill this need.

Speaker 1:

And you mentioned raising Do you look at a different model of investments and finance and also structure in the company? Because would it be a bit odd if you're all about collaboration and then have a very, let's say, hierarchy or very or publicly traded company like? What are your thoughts on the company itself and the structure in terms of collaboration, in terms of structuring, in terms of raising money, in terms of organizing, let's say, not not only the research in a different way, but also the company?

Speaker 2:

Yeah, that as an entrepreneur and wanted to change system is. It's a wild journey, you know. You want to change scientific system. You want to change structure and business model. You want to change.

Speaker 1:

You cannot do everything at the same time, of course.

Speaker 2:

Yeah and it's, yeah, it's. It's wild and really early on I was like I was fascinating about fascinating by more platform co-op type where really user could be partially owner as well as co-founder. You have multi type of co-op and a lot of advice was like create a kind of a show startup corporation to move fast and then switch later on. And so we started to create we have we are a benefit corporation and so triple bottom line social enterprise to date and we are looking at really how to bring more stakeholder within the company and that can go through more crowdfunding type. I really excited especially you also create empowerment and engagement into really we are building a community of innovator and so having them engage into it will also boost the engagement and so we are really looking at a mixed model of potential foundation and as well as crowdfunding investment. Also there the trust is interesting.

Speaker 1:

Of course Investors want, want, control, but they're stepping into potentially more messy, noisy, sorry used or noisy noisy model where, where not all the power is is there. And I remember having the founders of Stuart economy and Stuart ownership not the founders of that, but one of the main pushers, armin, like asking the question, armin Storinago, who owns, at the end of the day, owns the steering wheel of the company. Is it the investor or is it the company or is it the governance structure? And that's big questions that we rarely, because we have 10,000 other things on our plate. Very question because. And?

Speaker 1:

But then, at the end of the day, what happens if seedling explodes like super successful in two, three years and one of the large ones puts an insane amount of money on the table to to neutralize it or to buy it and maybe run it in for sure? A different way, like, how do you make sure that doesn't happen? Because you are playing in a world where maybe a lot of seed companies aren't so commercially successful, but a few are very commercially successful and they might at some point see the potential there or just want to shut it down. So how do you make sure you can ever be then forced by your investors and your shows to sell even though you really don't want to.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, it's a very good question, I just it's not really a question.

Speaker 1:

I'm going to get emails about this, or it is was a comment disguised in a question, or the other way around, anyway yeah, oh sorry.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, you're right. The thing is like seedling core is a trust and it's this community that are working together to build, you know, to bring new seed, and trusting the information and and trusting this collaboration, and so if you break this trust, you break seedling.

Speaker 1:

I mean really so yeah, but I think that's what I thought at Etsy and some other companies as well, like a lot like when public and patron had a bit of that as well. Like how, and and I think many cases it comes from pressure from investors that have a impact quote, unquote VC fund that needs to exit after six, seven years if you're lucky maybe less and then suddenly there's pressure and valuations need to go up and all of that. So, with short advice, stay out of that, because then it's not going to, because seeds are way longer than the seven years and so your, your, your business cycle is going to be super long, and thus you need a structure that and a financial structure that makes sense for that as well. And, ken, not not saying you shouldn't raise money, you should do everything on a shoestring budget, but it's very, very important to pick the right type of money.

Speaker 2:

No, it is and it has been a big challenge for us as, like you say, take time and we are your five and we are paying with very low burn rate and low money and that brings so much pressure on everybody working in it and many of the co-founder just burn out, like it just intense, like you're just changing the system and how to keep going. And so really, our strategy, you know, kind of short medium term we were lucky to do the huge need. The need is just enormous, and so we are lucky to have so many institutions that are willing to step in, and just revenue is right now our strategy, even if it's low revenue.

Speaker 1:

But that's such a nice book. Revenue is our strategy. But many companies should have that tagline and not like next round, next round, because, yeah, it's brutal fundraising at the moment. But revenue as a strategy I very much like.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, I mean, it's like ultra marathon right now is just like the longest we still alive and we have and we slowly increase our revenue. We also are increasing insight. We are close to half a million insight Now. We also are increasing our grow and network and we are increasing our trust by having more and more trusted partner and all that kind of build a foundation to be able to scale further and further in the future. And so right now we have contract for multiple years and, okay, our burn rate is very low but we are. We're sustainable financially with revenue and so we're not starving for investments and we want to take our time to sink where we're heading. And so, and yeah, I don't have all the answer and I think we're going to fail again and reiterate and try again, but we have a good product, we have a good platform that is working. We have amazing project that come together and that bring amazing variety and it's working. And and so it's moving.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, that's kind of where we are and this whole conversation that seems, I'm saying, relatively fresh, but at the same time it isn't, because we've talked about it forever and you actually have flavor in your, in your tagline, like nutrient quality or nutrient nutritional density in product. We mentioned seeds every now and then. We've actually a long interview with every investors and, now that I think about it, a grower in northern northern islands that is now selling seeds because he couldn't get his amazing tasting carrots sold to the supermarket because they want a cheaper organic from somewhere else, and so he turned into the seed business where quality is rewarded. But do you see that nutrient density as a, as a discussion point? Is that synonymously, in your case, with flavor, or is it a separate discussion? And how do you like on your social platform with the growers and the breeders, is that a? Is that a thing or not?

Speaker 2:

yet, yeah, I mean, flavor is a thing. I mean I like you.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, I like you.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, and flavor has been.

Speaker 2:

we have featured to crowds with flavor like we have like Stoneborn Center and Dan Barber team, who finally use seedling to lot to crowd, to take flavor of all those different varieties are traveling, or Lane Salmon with the culinary bringing network, or Julie Dawson at the City Kitchen Club and many other, and in Italy with Sumi, raleigh and many other places and and so flavor is now at parity with yield. In this space we are in performance and flavor hand to hand. And then now we knew where I'm trying to find partner and this side. I just shut out to hear to everybody listening and I'm starting to build collaboration.

Speaker 2:

But let's look at, ok, flavor and crowds of information. What can be a predictor to nutrient density? And so can we crowd source information from growers or from consumer at a fraction of the cost that? What chemistry lab, analysis of nutrient density information or analysis could give us? But can we do a model that we can crowd source of information and either marker or signal that we can do and starting to discuss with different university, like UC Davis, with Barbara Blanco who is leading some of those initiative and and other of like? Could we look at nutrient density? And so, yeah, that's kind of a next journey and I'm really hoping that soon we're gonna we're not gonna dive into this and we are already looking at, like like Lane Salmon and the dry farming network in Oregon, looking at tomato grown under more dry land, low input versus irrigated and higher input, and what the impact on flavor. But I'm convinced so many fly flavor marker are also associated with nutrient density and so.

Speaker 1:

But we haven't done the research yet, so that's very interesting because, do you see I mean people are that's already a huge point actually that flavor and performance are parity in your group of growers and the people are asking for that, and that wasn't always the case, I'm imagining it was not at all.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, and what has changed and how come? Well, I think this, you know, was this whole movement working with chef and and everything you are doing, and all those people are doing and, like people, I think, are realizing more and more that never, we're still a tiny bubble like.

Speaker 1:

I thank you for the compliment, but at the same time is like really small and if you see what crap most people throw in their their supermarket chart, like I'm I always hope that this now it's different and like we're on a different wave and I think we are in terms of soil, etc. Flavor to a certain extent, but you say like that that's. There's some of the last few years that has been shifting, because also 10 years ago we talked about actually be different organics each a bit like this. This is not a new, completely new discussion.

Speaker 2:

Here. It's a great point. I mean. One signal I haven't talked yet about it, like how seedling is starting to get used to is used is education, and so we have organization like Edible School, the other, I think it is led by Alice Walter, and we work a lot with SeedServe Exchange, and so we have this literally thousands of schools in agent who want to leverage this diversity and tasting and growing and looking at diversity of color, the carrots and including this in curriculum and seeing this drive from our educational system. I think it's also a signal that this is really this desire of change and awareness, and so this is an angle that Seedling is starting to get used, with students at school to access diversity and super excited in terms of really bringing this into the mainstream in education.

Speaker 1:

And now Techling, one had on, I think, because in the world of and not to pick on them, but slow food and others, and especially the early, some early pieces of the movement, we didn't talk a lot about performance. Like we just said, we have to go, not back to, but we have to innovate. And somehow always the discussion became, especially on big stages, like okay, but how are we going to feed the world? You mentioned, but we didn't really dive into it before Like there's so much untapped potential there. Like this is not yield, performance and flavor and a potential nutrient density are not. You can get one of the two. Like it's not that they are, they could travel together. Let's say that's what we have to focus on, because otherwise we easily get put in the corner with oh yeah, but that's great for a few people on the farmer's market that can afford, but the yield is so much lower. We're all going to starve if we go in that direction. Oh, this is an elite thing which is a very nice framing and narrative, but very wrong. But I just want to double click on that with you. Like the yield and performance traveling together now or being equally important to growers.

Speaker 1:

Just again on the performance piece and the yield piece, or the flavor and performance. Sorry, like again on the performance and yield. This means we can still feed the world, right? I'm just, what is your answer when somebody throws that at you? Yeah, this is all nice for a few hobby gardeners that don't have to live of it. What about feeding the world? Again? Long comment in a question. This guy's don't eat that.

Speaker 2:

Oh yeah, I mean that was a constant rhetoric in big, large seed companies, like we are feeding the world and we need to do that. But like again, if you look at back, the number, 70% of the food produced by 500 million growers.

Speaker 1:

This is FO data. Guys like, let girls listening. This is not somebody that made it up.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, yeah yeah, yeah, and that's 97% of farmers and it's. Those are very interesting number to look at. You can, and when you look at all those niche markets I mean it's this long tail of microenvironment niche and stuff and we can boost in all the specialty crop market, like boosting yield of 30% of performance when you work locally, it's achievable and that's huge. Like I mean, when you're working, when I was working as pioneer order, and you look at corn, and when the next variety of one and a half yield increase, it was huge and actually now One and a half percent, sorry.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, one and a half percent more.

Speaker 2:

We're talking a third on average, which means like because you know, like you have billion of dollars invested every year and you get one and a half percent, and but you have zero or very little in all the specialty crop, and so the potential I mean one is on the specialty crop, two is on different market or different region, and so you have all those aspects that are not yet really on the tab. Like, and so you can. You can do so much already, like you know this amazing project, the utopian seed project. By Christmas he has amazing piece on the garden around seed I put a lot of this in the show notes below.

Speaker 1:

Keep on description if you want to.

Speaker 2:

Christmas and do a lot of readings like kind of initiative, like in we work on collards and I love some of his quote and what he's saying about like even okra, which is, I would say, an orphan crop, considering in the commercial industry, like that. Many people know okra and there's really one variety used most in most of places and in seed bank we have thousands and thousands of variety, but now we have just one variety used.

Speaker 2:

Imagine the potential so potential is huge and this is a project we are doing with seed service. Change is the largest non-governable seed bank in North America. We have more than 30,000 accession and we are using 700 grower to characterize with seeding the whole seed bank and we are laying the foundation to build upon, like by characterizing this enormous germplasm we are giving tool for I love how Christmas meant talked about this innovator like the seed sci-fi or science fiction of this innovator who gonna build the next okra collards, kind of you know. We're talking about heirloom, right, we're talking about heirloom seed, but let's build the heirloom of the future upon the heirloom of the past. If we don't know well the heirloom of the past, we cannot really build the heirloom of the future. And so, yeah there, sorry with a little tangent about fitting the world, but we have so much potential and capacity and a highly optimistic together. There's so much we can do.

Speaker 1:

And then you see people going getting very excited about the latest genetic modification technology, crispr and others. My normal answer to go is like we don't need that. Look at the variety we have and we have untapped. Why would we play God to a certain extent, with things that we just don't really know the effects? And time and time again, research come after five, six, ten years later Like we missed something, like guess what, because we didn't understand the system.

Speaker 1:

So, but that's my like, my easy answer, like we don't really need it because look at all the natural varieties, all the varieties that are stored in seed banks, in rice and other places, that why would we bother? Especially as it's very expensive and very risky. But then, of course, everybody says, yeah, but it's safe and it's researched, et cetera. What is your normal response to that? For people say, yeah, but we have this other technology not a website, not a platform, not a SaaS, not AI, like seed link but we actually can change things and now it's a perfectly safe way of doing that. What do you normally tell people when somebody at a dinner party something says, something like that?

Speaker 2:

Yeah, it's a vast topic, but let's look at traditional GMO. How traditional GMO is used is used for very large market homogenous, because to release a variety with a GMO I think from BladDao or Corteva it was more than $200 million to release a variety.

Speaker 1:

Maybe what you could do with two other varieties. Anyway, that's a different, yeah.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, but also this technology. If you want to release a variety that has a market cap of $30,000, this technology are totally non-suited. I mean, nobody's going to play around and put a million dollars for a market that is so small. I think gene editing in CRISPR has definitely a way lower cost compared to the older technology, but still it's very targeted gene and traits. Let's say, okay, we have this specific disease and we can integrate this specific gene and traits to this specific crop with, let's say, crispr, but still the overall broad adaptation of this seed is not going to be changed by CRISPR. You need to do the conventional, the traditional work of adaptation for this microenvironment or this complex system and that gene editing is not going to do that. It's going to be working in a single fix. Let's say, okay, let's bring this disease, but it's not going to do the broad adaptation and the cost is again we go back to kind of the limitation, like to who are going to deploy this technology to micro market and niche market or for crop and I think it's a.

Speaker 1:

Really that's going to be my go-to answer. Don't bother, it's not useful for broad adaptation, which is what we need. I warned you before we started recording that this could be a long one, in a sense, and we didn't even get to Some of the questions we like to ask, because we don't talk about seeds enough on this podcast, which we have to change Because there's so much to explore and to do that. But let's get to some questions. You're listening as well. We like to ask some of these questions and so, hearing all of this, what should smart investors or people listening that want to make put their money to work? Of course, this is not investment advice, but what would you If we do this in a theater?

Speaker 1:

I always like to say, let's say we do it in a theater, we do this live in the US or in Europe or in India, and the room is full of people that want to use their financial knowledge, but also their financial wealth or the wealth they maybe manage for other people. What would be your main message to give? I think there's a message of hope here, there's a message of potential, but if there's one little seed you want to plant in there. There's so many jokes we didn't make. Yet. If there's one little seed you want to plant in there in their brain, what would that be if they walk out? And one thing they should really remember or should start developing, let's say in them.

Speaker 2:

I see too much investment in technology that are really made for homogeneous, large, broad-scale system in Actac, even if they want like I would really, really really push to challenge that and shift this totally around look at technology solution that are scalable to complex, small, diverse local system like, okay, I'm investing in this automaton equipment can scale can be flexible in ultra complex system, highly diverse? Well, I have personally some doubt.

Speaker 1:

But that really where I would challenge investor and in your portfolio decision to look at those innovation and because, that's what the future looks like I believe so let's say, if the future looks like that, you better prepared at least part of your portfolio for that, because, exactly if Nikola turns out to be right, then you don't want to have invested in Robotica or other technology that can only be used on large-scale monoculture fields, even though they should also change, but they might look different. Yeah, and so what would you do if we flip the question? You be in charge of a large investment portfolio tomorrow morning and let's say a billion dollars, what would you focus on? I'm not looking for dollar amounts exactly, but I'm looking. What would you focus on when you had those kind of, if you had those kind of resources?

Speaker 2:

yeah, I I would not chase the unicorn.

Speaker 2:

I would look for micro initiatives that are doing dressed, amazing change locally and really boosts those innovations that I feel a lot of the time is bottom-up.

Speaker 2:

It's like former as ours greatest innovator and there's so many initiative coming out of the farm, and so I would look at more micro initiative. I will also put money into regenerative farm and people like creating web of more forms that are really an example of what you need to look like in the future. I will also look at, like I mentioned, this alpha, for example, not tolerant to shade, and that can really change this cropping system of corn in a much more resilient way, like a few days that are investing, still laying on a like catching dust somewhere on the development arm of somewhere, and like this could be a game changer for anybody growing corn and alfalfa yeah, game changer for soil, for climate erosion, for water and so, and those initiatives, initiative need this investment and and I think now we start to see like we're talking to organic value with a very large organic co-op that are becoming very interesting to this type of model.

Speaker 2:

But I'm convinced there are thousands of those type of micro innovation that could be really exponentially grow with some investments and especially breeding need. You can take seven, eight years plus, and so I, yeah, sometimes I want just to dream about what about if I have a pool of capital to invest in so many micro breeding project and have a pay-forward mechanism where once those variety come to market, then we can pay back to this fund and have kind of this fund that allow to create a system where we can invest in the future with all those micro investor developing the seed of the future. And obviously it's a long term. It's it will not be a three to four, five years investment and 10x right away, but, yeah, but a potential is there.

Speaker 1:

I think that, like, especially if the path of commerce, commercialization through things like seed link there may be others in the future like if you know you can reach the market, then it becomes an investment decision and then we can discuss on the return of what is fair and extractive and not, and all of that. But then it becomes okay, I'm investing now acts and I know, if we're successful down the line, will reach X amount of farmers relatively quote, unquote easily. Of course, never easy, but at least there's a market there, people we can, we can test in public, collaborative people start following and once it hits potentially the market, there will be people they are ready to buy and will be distributors and dealers ready to supply. That changes completely different. That changes the game completely. Some imagining people will start doing that as you become more successful because it just makes sense to start putting some money in these, these research cost that are significantly lower if you do it collaboratively. But still you have to fund it for five to seven years. That doesn't get faster unless we invent some super good predictive technology which may be shortened that even a bit, which would be great.

Speaker 1:

And then in the seed world and the open source seed world, in the collaborative seed world, where do you think differently? This question comes obviously from John Kempf that always ask what do you believe to be true about agriculture that others don't? I like to ask it what do you believe to be true about regenerative agriculture, in this case, seeds that others don't like? Where do you think contrarian?

Speaker 2:

yeah, I, I believe we can breed locally adapted variety in economic more low and that's pretty where my colleague in conversional seed system came challenging me about. Well, it's never gonna be possible to carry that many inventory and product and it's never gonna be physically kind of possible. And but I now is, I think five years of research and data. I've shown that it is possible in the project with with dawn to decrease five to ten X the price of development. And so I, yeah, I believe we can develop as a seed that gonna really shape our food system in the future in a local way and so, and especially, like you mentioned, innovating in business model and partnering with distributor to all the way to the consumer to really captures this full story and value, and we have to do that and then, as a final question if you had a magic wand and you could change one thing overnight, what would that be?

Speaker 2:

yeah, I really love this question in your podcast and something I I love, the book ish mail from dental Quinn keep. I don't know if you've read it, but what the?

Speaker 2:

cold kind of challenge, mother culture or culture voice behind our head our constantly there is. I would change the value of our culture, to put way more value into agriculture and farming as much as we put into medicine and order, and to really and I think it's changing, but I think that would be a big one because I think it would shift a lot of also business model and other things. But and second would be really shifting how we allocate tax, perium money and subsets and really shift drastically from large conventional ag like corn and bean to really micro, initiative and organic and regenerative and really to boost them because they're not only bring all those value of high quality food but also there's a steward of the land, the environment. And yeah, why not even pushing to have a UBI for university, the universal basic income?

Speaker 1:

for I gave you one magic one that this always happens like an aladin. Then you do go for three. I think the first one leads to the others. So I think that the shifting consciousness, then we'll figure out that actually all the other things make. I mean, the subsidies currently don't make any sense, the way we tax work and and share the benefits of that and rent seeking don't make any sense and UBI will probably, or some kind of form of UBI will come into play.

Speaker 1:

But I really like the answer of the culture shift, because this is a culture shift that is incredibly difficult but incredibly necessary and we're potentially at the cusp of that, which is very exciting times to to be alive, and I want to thank you so much for coming here and sharing. If you're still, we only scratch the surface I say that in many interviews but at least learned a lot on the potential of seed and we might have to unpack somewhere in the future more and more on the seed side of things. So thank you so much, nicola, for coming here and taking away some hours of your valuable time and, of course, good luck with what you're doing. Thank you for what you're doing and we definitely keep following that yeah, thanks so much for having me.

Speaker 2:

And if you're listening and working in many different seed project or funding project, please be proud to us and we'd love to collaborate and further develop, yeah, the seed of the future together.

Speaker 1:

Thank you so much for having me yeah, I'll put all the links obviously below, but it's seedlinkedcom. You will find it online. It's impossible to miss and thank you so much for for coming here for the pioneering work, thank you. 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 regenderagriculturecom. Forward slash posts. If you liked 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.

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