If you’ve met John Kempf you’ll bear in mind.
His look is one factor; he’s Amish and clothes accordingly. The silhouette of his boater kapp has develop into a trademark in a US agriculture trade characterised by plaid shirts and denims and, more and more, males in fits. But it’s additionally his ardour and deep understanding of regenerative agriculture that units him aside. When you discover out he began a regenerative agriculture business at simply 18-years outdated, fours 12 months after beginning to work on his household’s farm in Ohio with simply an eighth-grade training, he’s much more memorable.
By 2016, he’d labored with over 10,000 US-based farmers — positive, most have been comparatively small scale and inside the Amish and Mennonite communities he grew up in however that’s nonetheless a giant quantity. And at this time, as the scale and scale of farms he works with will increase, he counts among the world’s main agrifood corporations as purchasers in a footprint of over 4 million acres throughout North America.
He’s not stopping there. “My personal mission, which I’m passionate about, is having regenerative agriculture become the standard status quo for more than 80% of the world’s farmers by 2040 globally. I think this is a realistic goal,” he tells AFN.
Today Kempf and his crew at Advancing Eco Agriculture (AEA) have raised $4.7 million in financing — each fairness and debt — of their first exterior spherical of funding. The financing was led by New York impression funding agency Tree Trunk Light with different non-equity financiers. Tree Trunk Light’s founder and managing director Paul Bergman was already govt chairman of AEA earlier than the deal and can proceed in that position.
Why it issues
Regenerative agriculture is a system of rising meals that takes a extra pure and holistic strategy than that supported by massive agribusinesses promoting farming inputs like fertilizers, pesticides, and genetically-engineered seeds; it goals to eschew most of these merchandise.
Regenerative agriculture can be a return to a extra historic approach of farming that many indigenous populations pursued earlier than the Green Revolution launched synthetically-made fertilizers and pesticides, and a formulaic methodology for utilizing them to develop crops in abundance. The long-term adverse impacts of what Kempf calls “contemporary” farming (‘conventional ag’) are nicely documented: extractive, greenhouse gas-emitting crop enter manufacturing; suffocating algal blooms and soil degradation from the extreme use of such inputs; low nutrient density and style in meals; concentrated animal feeding operations and the ensuing air pollution, to call a couple of.
Various analysis has additionally proven that regenerative agriculture practices can produce extra nutrient-dense meals, and still have the potential to sequester (take away) carbon dioxide from the ambiance and retailer it within the soil inflicting many local weather activists to put it up for sale as an answer to local weather change.
For Kempf and AEA, regenerative agriculture is as a lot about placing more cash in farmers’ pockets by making their fields extra worthwhile.
In a press launch saying the funding spherical, AEA says it has “improved the agronomics and economics of North American farmers for 16 years by focusing intently on soil and plant health,” serving to farmers “reduce and often eliminate the need for herbicides and pesticides, while simultaneously improving the performance and profitability of the crop.”
How it really works
There are three pillars to AEA’s regenerative agriculture business: advisory, a line of crop inputs, and knowledge evaluation.
Technical crop advisory
- AEA’s consulting supplies farmers with the agronomic steerage they should transition to regenerative agriculture.
- This includes creating personalized crop applications, recommending soil amendments, microbial inoculants, crop enter merchandise, water high quality corrections, cultural administration practices, and canopy crops; all of the items that AEA says are applicable to develop an built-in system for every farm.
Plant vitamin and organic merchandise
- AEA manufactures and sells a variety of regenerative plant vitamin merchandise, some trademarked, which rapidly cut back the necessity for typical artificial fertilizers and pesticides, and might typically remove them fully.
- These embrace a nutrient product known as Rejuvenate to stimulate the soil microbiome forward of/with planting, micro and macronutrient merchandise similar to “SeaStim” which helps the expansion of helpful fungal populations, and a bacterial inoculant known as BioCoat Gold.
- AEA says its merchandise are meant to be plant obtainable with out being water-soluble, which prevents them leaching, and supplies vitamin when water provide is proscribed.
- Most of the plant vitamin merchandise are developed in-house by AEA in collaboration with different labs and corporations that manufacture its microbial inoculants.
Plant well being and soil evaluation
- AEA analyzes the well being of farmers’ crops primarily by plant sap evaluation, which Bergman likens to a human doing bloodwork.
- Undertaken in a lab, plant sap evaluation exhibits crops’ mineral ranges and highlights dietary deficiencies and excesses that might impression a plant’s immune system and subsequently its potential to withstand pest and illness strain.
- This is a substitute for plant tissue testing which AEA says is much less particular or correct and subsequently presents a extra restricted image of the well being of a crop.
- AEA’s web site says: “Monitoring the nutrients in plant sap provides some in-depth, practical insights into the factors which influence nutrient mobility at different stages of growth while providing the grower with information to empower data-driven management decisions.”
- AEA additionally makes use of soil microbiome evaluation, and several other forms of soil dietary testing to precisely consider a soil’s capability to ship vitamins and suppress potential pathogens. Growers generally cut back fertilizer purposes by as a lot as 30-40% whereas sustaining or rising yields, on account of deeper agronomic insights.
“When you increase plant health, you can’t prevent yields from increasing,” says Kempf.
Results and differentiation
Increasing numbers of agrifood corporations are hiring regenerative agriculture business consultants like AEA to assist them transition the farms they work with to regenerative practices, and whereas the general mantra is comparable, the approaches can differ in addition to their goal purchasers.
While AEA works with all crops at this time, traditionally it has targeted extra on fruits and vegetable farms the place incorporating soil health-boosting livestock shouldn’t be sensible, for instance. Kempf says that AEA has subsequently needed to make investments extra deeply in amassing knowledge and measuring soil microbiome regeneration.
Other regen ag practitioners, such because the well-known Gabe Brown together with his firm Understanding Ag and Allan Savory of the Savory Institute, have tended to focus extra on what Kempft calls “cultural management” of farmland, i.e. apply implementation similar to cowl cropping, rotations, and, particularly, mob grazing cattle.
Kempf believes that specializing in plant vitamin and crops’ deficiencies and excesses as deeply because it does can speed up the advantages of regenerative agriculture quicker than different approaches. The firm provided the next case research as examples:
- James Johnson (cotton/onions, NW): reported 1,490 lbs/acre for Pima Cotton on the finish of harvest season 2020 whereas the County common was 880 lbs/acre
- Greg Pennyroyal (wine grapes, CA): reported a median 27% yield improve, a 50% discount in fungicides, a 40% total discount in water perton utilization, and a rise in grape high quality main to higher wines.
- Dan McClure (brassicas, WA): didn’t share numbers however stated his crops have been “growing much bigger and we seem to be having earlier harvests.”
AEA’s strategy to innovation can be fairly novel in regen ag. Aside from its clear affinity and use of novel organic and nutrient inputs, the corporate is eager to discover how digital applied sciences may play into its mannequin. While its plant well being knowledge evaluation is at the moment based mostly on lab-based outcomes that are comparatively “analog”, the corporate is exploring different methods to seize knowledge and can be curious about working with different exterior corporations’ applied sciences the place related, says Bergman. Part of the proceeds of at this time’s funding will even go to “building AI and tech platforms that will bring regenerative agriculture decision making and best practices directly to farmers,” reads the press launch.
Kempf provides, nonetheless, that AEA’s mission is to speed up all forms of regenerative agriculture, which all have an vital and efficient position to play, and that the motion must work collectively to realize his formidable 2040 purpose.
“We understand that we can’t have that impact alone as one organization, but what we can do is set an extremely high standard and bar of excellence and deliver agronomic results that force other agronomic companies to change how they do business as a result of our presence in the marketplace. Collectively we can create significant change,” he tells AFN. “I think [transitioning 80% of the world’s farms to regenerative agriculture by 2040] is a realistic goal and we’re well on the pathway to achieving that. In order to have that kind of implementation at scale, there needs to be a clear economic incentive; you achieve what you incentivize.”
What they are saying
John Kempf, founder AEA: “We don’t aspire to be the next Bayer or Nutrien; we aspire to be the leader in the field that sets such a high bar that the Nutrien’s and Wilbur Ellis’ of the world have to change their business because we are in the market.”
Paul Bergman, govt chairman, AEA, and founding father of Trunk Tree Light: “We are very excited to make this investment that will accelerate the expansion of AEA’s geographic footprint and outsized impact on food quality, yield and farmer profitability, through a holistic approach that combines regenerative agronomy expertise, with actionable data and ecologically minded plant nutrition products and solutions,” stated Bergman. “John Kempf’s vision of transforming global agriculture is now embodied by AEA’s growing and most impressive team of regenerative agronomy professionals, who are collectively revolutionizing farming.”
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