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Pitch

Farmer+ empowers farmers and consumers to reverse climate change by providing access to more sustainable practices of farming and consuming


Description

Summary

Regenerative organic farming is practices and methods, that regenerate soil and sequester CO2 from the atmosphere back into the soil. According to studies, if done comprehensively, regenerative organic farming does not only slow down climate change, but reverses it. In addition it results in bigger and more nutritious yields – free from synthetic chemicals.

We empower farmers to take the business into their own hands and take pride of their trade. We achieve this by creating opportunity and right incentives for farmers to move from conventional (carbon releasing) to regenerative organic farming (carbon sequestering). The impact we create is two-fold: we provide education and peer-to-peer support about regenerative organic farming, as well as create opportunity to reach the markets easily without the distributor through an online channel.

Currently the farmers’ biggest pain is low profitability due to the costly distribution channels that hammer down the price of the produce. We cut out the ‘middle man’ by providing an online channel that connects the farmers to producers. This changes the cost structure and increases farmers’ profitability.

The end producers compete of the high quality raw materials, which are hard to find from the markets. Another major struggle is securing a consistent supply of raw materials. For the end producers we provide a service to reach the farmers and a quality guarantee – of high end and more nutritious produce, as well as more consistent supply of raw materials, without the use of synthetic fertilizers and pesticides.

The markets create a pull to change from conventional farming to regenerative organic farming, and as a result increase the amount of arable land harnessed for carbon sequestration and increased climate impact.

The farming methods are easily approachable, as they do not require large investments. Furthermore, we tap on a necessity – food – that moves everyone. Through this we reach large audience and are able to scale fast.  


What actions do you propose?

1. Engaging & building a network of farmers

We are looking for early adapter, digital native farmers, with whom we will further define the needs of the farmers and the further steps more carefully.

Due to the fact that farming is highly dependent on the surrounding conditions, context & crops grown, we are acutely aware of the need for a strong and self-sustained peer-to-peer network of farmers to spread relevant knowledge by identifying challenges, sharing insights and methods to overcome those challenges, identify opportunities etc.

We have already started working with a local partner in the beachhead market, Finsect, that has 100 farms in Finland, doing ecological insect farming on top of traditional farming.

2. Developing a support network to encourage farmers to take concrete actions

  • bringing awareness and sharing the knowledge about regenerative organic farming and other sustainable methods

  • building a peer-to-peer network

  • engaging farmers to join formal process of transformation to regenerative organic farming

Collecting agronomists, farming specialists and ‘ambassador farmers’ to constantly build the knowledge base, and to establish trust and credibility amongst farmers and supporters of the cause. Planning and developing scalable best practices together with leading scientists and specialists, in order to create a viable system for farmers to adopt regenerative organic farming methods.

After validating the concept in Finland, we are planning to expand to easily approachable early-adopter markets such as Australia and US.

3. Building a process for long-term commitment to regenerative organic farming through building a platform & online channel for farmers to join.

We are making a process model for transformation to regenerative organic farming, with which we can help frame the commitment it takes to achieve regenerative organic farming and organic produce for one farm. The rough process model includes the following:

  • Commit to becoming a regenerative organic farm

  • Adopting concrete measures to start transformation

  • Measuring effects

  • Iteration of methods (if applicable)

  • Final transformation & Sale of regenerative organic food

The formalisation of a transformation model helps not only to commit farmers to a long-term goal, but also helps communicate to end users and producers what transformational stage each farm is in, communicating their commitment beyond a simple agreement. It allows for the cause to gain momentum and traction.

By developing this transformation process model we can categorise the farms by their respective level of advancement in regenerative organic farming. Some farms are starting out, others are already using regenerative organic farming methods but may not yet have overcome the starting phase and the resulting slump in production/soil recovering, whereas others are already well on their way: profitable and selling regenerative organic food.

4. Developing a network of producers & ‘end customers’ in order to provide regenerative organic food to consumers, thereby creating a need for it.

We aim at creating ‘a production loop’ of regenerative organic food, from growing and producing it to final consumption. We will do this together with selected customers (producers) of high-end products in order to attract end-consumers. Thereby we are also creating a demand for regenerative organic food, which will additionally increase the pressure and interest for farmers to adopt regenerative organic farming. The high-end products associated with regenerative organic farming increase the awareness of the benefits among the end-users, that will start looking for more regenerative organic food products as a result, and creating another level of pressure for the producers to use regenerative organic produce and to create new products.

Scalability

Farmer+ is a completely digital software solution, which makes it scalable and easily localised to most markets, where online technology is actively used. Farmer+ is transforming the food system by providing a digital home, or one stop shop for farmers to connect with other farmers, get information and help, and to buy and sell farm produce and equipment, charging a transaction fee from the sales. Joining the network will be an easy online signup for the farmers. Farmer+ offers better prices and the best services, which allow the farmers to concentrate on farming. We negotiate better deals for the farmers to sell their produce directly to producers, and they can more easily find buyers in the one stop shop. 

There are already many successful, new and starting, companies providing solutions to farmers, and our goal is to bring all those in one place easily to farmers. We act as the entity that collects all the farmers in one place (network) and provide a place for business and development to be found and happen. Building a farmer network of early adopters enables us to start the transition.

Science backs our holistic approach, and supports our plans to scale. There is already plenty of research and knowledge around regenerative organic farming, and successful farmers doing profitable business with these methods, but the knowledge hasn’t reached the masses yet. The ‘regenerative organic movement’ started partly in the US and Australia due to problems with droughts, floods and profitability, that led farmers to study soil ecology, which allowed them to overcome those problems. Therefore we see a lot of potential in scaling early to these countries, and they also have great business potential because they have big agricultural industries. Digitalisation is transforming agriculture, and we want to make the transition as smooth as possible and valuable for the farmers.

On top of scientific evidence, there’s also a first government level initiative led by France, the 4 per 1000 Initiative, that aims to increase agricultural soil-carbon by 0.4% a year in order to mitigate climate change and improve food security. It’s led by the French Ministry of Agriculture, and it’s a sign of the rise of the regenerative organic agriculture movement on political and international level, as the initiative has been supported by 40 states. Partners of the initiative are leading scientists and interests groups within the regenerative organic farming movement, validating our view of the future of farming.

There are several factors contributing to the scalability and potential of Farmer+. The timing is now ideal due to technological advancement and the greater understanding of agricultural climate impact. 

Financials

The Farmer+ model has great potential to succeed financially, as it is a digitally based solution with light starting investments. The revenue comes from transaction fees between the farmers and producers. If a farmer does transactions for 125,000€ annually, a 15% transaction fee amounts 18,750€ in total. 

100 farmers totals 1.875 million euros,

1,000 farmers totals 18.75 million, and

50,000 farmers totals 938 million.

The data amassed by Farmer+ will also bring great value, and potential development of the business model.


Who will take these actions?

We are creating awareness about regenerative organic farming and its positive impact on the environment and people’s lives. We achieve that by helping farmers take steps to reduce the huge climate impacts, that conventional agriculture has. In order to help people understand that Climate Change impacts are local, personal, and immediate, empowering them to be part of the solution we need to create awareness, which eventually results in creating a natural demand for regenerative organic food. The efforts to create change will need to be collaborative, a cross-sector effort including:

Farmers, agronomists and scientists

  • We build a network of farmers, agronomists and scientists

  • Farmers join the network

  • Scientists & farmers help spread awareness about regenerative organic farming

  • We create the process of transforming from conventional farming to regenerative organic farming

  • Farmers further spread the word among other farmers

Food producers/business sector

  • Food producers supply regenerative organic food for the end consumers

  • Productise regenerative organic produce, which we will help with

  • Businesses can engage stakeholders & customers directly

Consumers

  • Create & build up pressure on producers and farmers to offer regenerative organic food by building channels to directly demand those

  • Engage producers & farmers


Where will these actions be taken?

We are currently operating out of Finland where we started our efforts. We are already working with a local partner, Finsect, that has 100 farms in Finland potentially interested to join and learn more about regenerative organic agriculture.

Australia and the US are particularly interesting to us due to their advanced knowledge of regenerative farming, and are therefor on our roadmap for 2017. We are already studying these markets, and talking to potential partners.

As our operations grow, and when we have the ability to, we will instantly expand to developing countries where the need is much greater, as they are often struggling the most with droughts and floods. The climate impact is also greater in countries with hotter climates, and the greater the depletion of the soil - the greater the potential of regenerating it. 


How much will emissions be reduced or sequestered vs. business as usual levels?

Agriculture stands directly for 10% of total annual global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, while the food system at large accounts for more than 30% of total annual emissions. 

By restoring industrially degraded soil we can sequester 1-8 tons of carbon per hectare per year (Rattan Lal, Machmuller et al.) depending on the studies. 30 tons per hectare per year have been shown in outlier studies (Richard Teague). Our example uses 4 tons per hectare per year.

If all cropland switched to regenerative organic methods, we could potentially sequester more than 40% of annual emissions (an estimated 21 GtCO2 each year, while total global emissions of GHG in 2012 were about 52 GtCO2e). Furthermore, if all global pasture was managed according to regenerative methods, there’s potential to sequester an additional 71% (~37 GtCO2 ), bringing the total to a negative. Even if less arable land was transitioned, the potential of regenerative organic farming is huge. 

Reference: Rodale Institute, 2014.  


What are other key benefits?

Other key benefits are manifold and are listed below:

  • Better food security and increased food quality meaning more nutritious soils and more nutritious food

  • Increased yields and more consistent output for farmers

  • Increase in pride and joy for the trade of farming

  • Increased confidence in farming methods due to increased knowledge

  • Better time-management and potentially increased time-savings for farmers’ daily operations

  • Easier and more direct access to sales for farmers

  • Increased customer audience, as the ‘middle man’ is cut out

  • Increased control over farmers’ business and direct feedback loops

  • End-to-end turnkey solution for farmers

  • Peer support from farmer to farmer

  • Support from large partner network (scientists and agronomists)

  • Development of science-based methodologies (UN, World Bank references)

  • Contribution to the metrification of regenerative organic farming methods and impact

  • Better resistance to climate change & weather phenomena such as floods, droughts and other extreme conditions


What are the proposal’s costs?

The projected costs for the first year of operation amount to 587.000 €.

The projected costs for year five of operation amount to 9.532.000 €, as the following estimations show:

1. Staff – 2.100.000 €

2. Technology – 790.000 €

3. Expert consultancy – 650.000 €

4. Transport – 200.000 €

5. Equipment – 212.000 €

6. Research  – 1.080.000 €

7. Training and capacity building – 455.000 €

8. Investments – 1.600.000 €

9. Other direct costs – 520.000 €

10. Overhead costs – 1.925.000 €

 

The award of $10k would help jumpstart the first version of the map-based service to connect the farmers. It would allow the team to furthermore pursue additional sources of funding i.e VC funding or crowdfunding.

The only known challenge to us is a slump in the productivity at the start for the farmer, when methods are being changed from conventional agriculture to regenerative organic farming. Normally the slump period is 1-3 years, depending on the conditions and methods used. The productivity will eventually rise above the initial stage, when the soil recovers and returns to a healthier stage, where it is able to grow greater yields, as well as more nutritious food. We hope to minimise and address those by creating a system, that categorises farmers according to the stage they’re at in the transformation process, enabling end-consumers to find them and support them, and lift them up in the channel from the pool of farmers for the consumers to find. 


Time line

1 year

By the end of July 2016 we will deliver the MVP of the service and aim to recruit 20 farms. By the end of 2016 we have set up an early version of the channel, recruited 100 farms altogether, and closed the first sales.

Within one year we furthermore aim at establishing a spearhead contact in a beachhead market in order to validate and scale our model early on. At the end of the first year we have already established contacts in another country, where we are planning to expand our operations next.

3 years

Developing the science and proof. Investing in expansion to 10 new countries.

Have the first farms successfully started and committed to the transformation from initial conventional farming to regenerative organic farming, on the road to producing regenerative organic food.

5–15 years

Within the next 5–15 years we will be expanding heavily to developing countries (together with intergovernmental organisations such as the UN, the World Bank and governments in order to prevent large scale crises). Furthermore we will be collaborating with other businesses in order to transition economies towards more sustainable ways. We’re operating in 29 countries in 15 years time.  

15–50 years

In the next 15–50 years we aim for a transformation of 60% of all farming to regenerative organic farming, within the limitations of political forces and challenges such as property right issues and volatile governments. The threat of climate change has been avoided due to changes in agricultural practices and with a move to a low-emission economy along with changes in consumption behaviours and use of resources. Carbon Food is recognised for spearheading the conversation and driving the science around regenerative organic farming, guiding the conversation and actions towards a global change.

50–100 years

In the next 50–100 years all farming is regenerative organic farming and climate change has been reversed.


Related proposals

Preservation + restoration of blue carbon ecosystems require immediate attention

The proposal tackles the same challenge as we do – but in the mangrove forests. They suggest a “ridge to reef” approach. By combining these two initiatives we could gain synergies and approach the challenge holistically. 


References

Rattan Lal, study Ohio State https://sustainability.water.ca.gov/documents/18/3407623/Soil+carbon+sequestration+to+mitigate+climate+change.pdf

Machmuller et al. 2014 https://www.researchgate.net/publication/275667488_Emerging_land_use_practices_rapidly_increase_soil_organic_matter

Rodale Institute White Paper ‘Regenerative Organic Agriculture and Climate Change: A Down-to-Earth Solution to Global Warming’ http://02f.e55.myftpupload.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/03/Rodale-Institute-White-Paper-1.pdf

Rodale Institute ‘The Farming Systems Trial’

http://rodaleinstitute.org/assets/FST-Brochure-2015.pdf

The Carbon Underground ‘The Formula is easier than you think’ https://thecarbonunderground.org/the-formula-is-easier-than-you-think/

Carbon Underground ‘Science’

https://thecarbonunderground.org/the-science/

New York Times ‘A Boon for Soil, and for the Environment’

http://www.nytimes.com/2016/05/18/business/energy-environment/a-boon-for-soil-and-for-the-environment.html?smid=fb-share

French Government ‘4 Pour 1000’ Initiative

http://4p1000.org/understand

United Nations Conference on Trade and Development ‘Trade and Environment Review 2013’

http://unctad.org/en/PublicationsLibrary/ditcted2012d3_en.pdf

The World Bank’s ‘Carbon Sequestration in Agricultural Soils’

https://openknowledge.worldbank.org/bitstream/handle/10986/11868/673950REVI

SED000CarbonSeq0Web0final.pdf?sequence=1

Acres USA’s Interview with Dr. Christine Jones

http://www.amazingcarbon.com/PDF/Jones_ACRES_USA%20(March2015).pdf

Centre for Food Safety’s ‘Soil Solutions to Climate Change’

https://soilsolution.org/watch-the-film/

Kiss the Ground’s ‘The Soil Story’ narrated by Larry Kopald

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=08TI1RKj54g

Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations’ ‘Soils: Our ally against climate change’

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8_69vy7ZBxE

Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations’ ‘Let’s talk about soil’

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=invUp0SX49g

Peter Byck’s ‘Soil Carbon Cowboys’

https://vimeo.com/80518559

TedXGrandForks by Gabe Brown ‘Regeneration of Our Lands: A Producer’s Perspective’

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QfTZ0rnowcc

Ted Talk by Allan Savory ‘How to fight desertification and reverse climate change’

https://www.ted.com/talks/allan_savory_how_to_green_the_world_s_deserts_and_reverse_climate_change?language=en

The Carbon Farming Solution - A Global Toolkit of Perennial Crops and Regenerative Agriculture Practices for Climate Change Mitigation and Food Security By Eric Toensmeier

http://carbonfarmingsolution.com/