Regeneration Newsroom – May 2019

Existing and potential forests on planet earth – Image from Tom Crowther, ETH Zurich.

Curated top stories in Regenerative Agriculture, Business, and Investing • ethansoloviev.com

Regenerative Alcohol, Carbon Negative Beef, and 1 trillion trees …

Want to hear the audio highlights of this month’s news? Listen to the Regeneration Newsroom Podcast, a joint venture with Investing in Regenerative Agriculture. Link

Regenerative Agriculture

“Are we entering a new era of regeneration?” Not fast enough. Link

Interesting place for Regen Ag to show up: Chemical & Engineering News. Mostly the article touts standard conservation and sustainability approaches, but it does have a nice little chart of different corporate strategies – similar to the “Regenerative Agriculture Industry Map” that I am building. Link

Source: Chemical & Engineering News

$9 billlion Alcohol company touts “regenerative agriculture”, but makes no public commitment to get started until 2025. Pernod Ricard, owner of over 50 brands (including Absolut, Jameson, Chivas Regal, Malibu, Kahlúa, and Beefeater) is aligning their sustainability goals with the UN SDGs. While I have a hard time believing they’ll make it anywhere close to net-positive if all impacts are taken into account, it will be interesting to see what they can push forward in agriculture. Link and Link

New York Times – Wine, Carbon Sequestration, and Regenerative Agriculture – Link

See also ‘The Porto Protocol’, a collaborative including Toyota, Marks & Spencer, PwC, and 100+ others in the wine industry who are working on climate change – Link

Carbon-negative beef – This Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) by respected international firm Quantis shows that holistically managed grass-fed beef production can capture more carbon than it emits. Note that General Mills funded this study — we’re beginning to see real ripples of their investments in the field. Link

Bloomberg – On the other hand, “Most grass-fed beef labeled ‘product of U.S.A.’ is imported” – a fascinating article focusing on chicken giant Perdue and it’s ongoing acquisition of higher-end meat producers: Coleman Natural Foods (2011), Niman Ranch (2015), and now Panorama Meats (2019), America’s largest producer of grass-fed, certified organic beef. Link

Fewer than 1 in 4 have heard of regenerative agriculture, says a new consumer survey of 1,000 people in the US. The actual number is 22% – which to me sounds shockingly high! Perhaps more interesting is that 55% of those surveyed have not heard of it, but want to learn more. Link

Regeneration Newsroom IFIC Regenerative Agriculture Survey May 2019

GreenBiz – “The fight to define regenerative agriculture” – So far, thankfully, it’s not a fight. This article does a decent job juxtaposing Process vs. Outcome-based standards. I also think it’s fascinating that Rodale Institute is quoted saying, “A lot of people are using the word regenerative… It’s the new buzzword. There is a danger of it getting greenwashed.”  Link

Fashionista – “The Next Wave of Sustainable Fashion is All About Regenerative Farming.” Good overview article with a balanced appraoch that covers most of what’s happening at the regen ag / fashion nexus. Link

El Pais – Great long-form article on regenerative agriculture and land restoration in Spain, combining philanthropic and investment capital to kick-start ecological entrepreneurship across more than 1 million hectares. Link

CNN – “The most effective way to tackle climate change? Plant 1 trillion trees” – Link

Two important and substantive articles on the edge between Regenerative Agriculture and Government Legislation:

  • Salon – Carbon Farming taking root in NY – Link
  • “A Green New Deal must Prioritize Regenerative Agriculture”. This article is fascinating because it shows a very different trend from the middle-America Soil Profits approach… Link
    • “But the fact that farming has become a major source of emissions actually belies an important truth that sets agriculture apart from every other major economic sector: It has the natural potential to become a massive carbon sink, rather than a carbon emitter.”

Plus, businesses worth $2.5 trillion with 750,00 employees are advocating for a price on carbon: Link

Podcasts

FoodTank – General Mills’ Carla Vernon on Regenerative Agriculture. Expect more media and coverage as the $15 billion CPG giant continues its push into the space. Link

Great podcast on the Bioregional Agroforestry Suitability Analysis (BRASA), a new offering from Terra Genesis International – Link

From the Carbon Removal Newsroom at Nori, “General Mills issues grant for regenerative agriculture training”- Link

A Geological Perspective On Regenerative Agriculture with David Montgomery, interviewed by John Kempf – Link

Agroforestry

“The ultimate agricultural practice” – I’ve heard great things about this year’s World Agroforestry Conference – here’s a sweet Q&A with the event organizers Link

1100 Hectare farm & “Regeneration Academy” in southern Spain, following the principles of Commonland. Looks like they’re just getting started, but someone’s got to be managing those 300 hectares of Almonds… Link

ICYMI – India’s President announces a National Agroforestry Policy – even though this is 5 years ago, don’t you think it’s a good time for other countries to follow suit?  Link

Special Section – Global Agribusiness & Land

This comes from a more activist angle than I usually cover, but the issues of land rights and global land grabbing are important to track. This article is a summary of the new Report from the Oakland Institute. Link

From Brazil, where Amazon deforestation is being enabled by the new government. I found the ‘commodities’ section of this report illuminating — How many of these ingredients do you eat? How many are in your company’s supply system?  Link

Jobs & Events

Job – Senior Colleague @ Systemiq – Regenerative Agriculture & Nature-Based Carbon Solutions – Link

If you want  a job in regenerative agriculture, you’ll need to learn the keys of integrative design. Probably the best way to do it is through the top-notch firm Regrarians, who are now offering  a new set of hybrid in-person and online courses around the world – not to be missed. Link

Save-the-dates for 2019:

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Regeneration Newsroom – March 2019

Curated top stories in Regenerative Agriculture, Business, and Investing • ethansoloviev.com

Food Companies Lead, $24 Billion in Regen Ag Database,  New Soil Carbon Standard…

Want to hear the audio highlights of this month’s news? Listen to the Regeneration Newsroom Podcast, a joint venture with Investing in Regenerative Agriculture. Link

Regenerative Agriculture

Regeneration Newsroom Soil Carbon Initiative

Important: A new standard for putting carbon in the soil. The Soil Carbon Initiative is backed by Ben & Jerry’s (Unilever), Danone North America, and MegaFood, and have just released their draft standard for public feedback. Comments are due by May 5th. Link 

(Note: If you weren’t at Expo, they’re doing a webinar to describe the standard – register here)

Newly released: A comprehensive global list of regenerative agriculture, forestry, and agroforestry investment funds. I worked with Gatherlab to build this list and a larger database connected to it. $200-400 million USD are invested by explicitly “regenerative” funds; the full list covers $24 billion invested by larger climate-change and forestry organizations. See anyone we missed? Email me. Link

AppleGate makes headlines last month for their “New Food Collective”. A few links:

  1. Their press release, highlighting new products with 100% pasture-raised meat certified by the well-respected American Grassfed Association
  2. The New Food Collective website, with sexy photos of their new sausages and their take on regenerative agriculture
  3. Significantly, Applegate is committing to source 100% of their meat from Savory Land-to-Market Verified farms. Here’s their VP of impact & Mission discussing Ecological Outcome Verification in a great interview

Danone aims for carbon-neutral by 2050, takes a “one size does not fit all” approach to sustainability. Aims for “regenerative agriculture practices” – which ones? Link

US Soybean farmers touting “regenerative agriculture”… continued evidence of the rapid banalization of the term. Brought to you by the U.S. Soybean Export Council. Link

I love seeing more job postings explicitly focused on Regenerative Ag. I’d say it’s still a few years till I can host a job board… but in the meantime, if you’ve got an open position, let me know.

Muir Glen, stalwart organic tomato sauce producer (owned since 2000 by General Mills), lists “Regenerative Farming” as their top “principle”. Unclear what they mean, beyond a few basic practices that are already followed by most organic farmers… Link

From the “Soil Profits” lineage, here’s a free online class by the American Society of Agronomy – “Regenerative Agriculture: How to Work with Farmers to Improve Soil”. Interesting to note this is also sponsored by General Mills.  Link

Forbes: The Caribbean has a “Dirty” Solution to Climate Change. Surprisingly good article quoting Terra Genesis International and the leader of Walkers Reserve, a 200-acre sand mine regeneration project in Barbados. Link

Regeneration Newsroom Corn Soy No Till
Corn sprouting through no-till soy stubble. Photo courtesy NRCS

“Regenerative agriculture could save soil, water, and the climate. Here’s how the U.S. government actively discourages it.” Link

“Three Takeaways On the Nexus of Food Companies, Climate Change and Regenerative Agriculture” – A new post from the folks at the Regenerative Food Systems Investment Forum taking place this fall in Oakland CA. Nice summary of regenerative at the 2019 Natural Products Expo West earlier this month; also includes a number of statistics and quotes from my presentation on the market performance of the most regenerative food products. Link

From our Europe desk: Regenerative agriculture in Belgium. Link

Free 109-page report from the J. Walter Thompson Intelligence Innovation Group: “The New Sustainability: Regeneration”. There’s a lot in here, from Green AI to Regenerative Business. Worth a skim. Link

National Regenerative Agriculture Day, anyone? Link

This is from 2017, but worth a read as a manifesto/white-paper hybrid on carbon drawdown “Regenerate Earth” by Walter Jehne of Healthy Soil Australia. Link

Former Blue Apron CEO launches a new “regenerative agriculture” business called Cooks Venture. Here’s the press release and their website. I’ll admit I’m skeptical. Their “definition” of regenerative agriculture is weak. They tout scientific proof but don’t offer any. I definitely want to support the scaling up of regen ag, but I want it done with integrity instead of hype. Link

Regeneration Newsroom Cooks Venture
Founder of Cooks Venture

General Mills announces that they will “advance” regenerative agriculture on 1,000,000 acres by 2030. Here’s coverage from:

On a contrarian note, here’s an excellent article from AgFunder News calling into question the motives of large CPG moves on sustainability & regenerative ag. Link

And here’s another one from Grist. “Regenerative agriculture’: World-saving idea or food marketing ploy?” Link

Podcasts

Three top podcasts for this month:

Investing in Regenerative Agriculture: an interview on water & water cycles with Zach Weiss Link

Shift to perennialization in agriculture & culture – longer form interview of the Land Institute by Nori. Link

Tech accelerator seeking carbon drawdown – and other stories. From the new(ish) ‘Carbon Removal Newsroom’ (I wonder where they got the name;) Link

Regeneration Newsroom Terra Mera

Investing

Terramera snags another $10mil investment. They claim “regenerative solutions”, but it looks like they’re firmly focused on conservation – they want to reduce synthetic chemicals in agriculture by 80%. Their two main products are broad-range biocides. Link

Financing Regenerative Agriculture – London April 2019. Jeremy Grantham @ GMO, Satya Tripathi @ United Nations, and Christian Didier @ Danone. If you go, I’d love to hear a summary for the next newsletter. Link

Events

There are a lot of awesome events happening this year. I’m speaking at a few of them.

Regeneration Newsroom - Living Soil Symposium

Living Soil Symposium: March 28-31, Montreal. I’m on a panel Saturday, speaking about: 

  • Quantitative data on regeneration: How are the most regenerative products performing in the marketplace?
  • Comparing and contrasting the new ‘regenerative’ standards and certifications that have popped up this year
  • How can we reconcile local food systems, transparency, and blockchain technology in an age of online shopping and eroding consumer trust?

Transform: Climate, Capital, Communities – Regenerative Agriculture, Investing, and more. From the folks who started SOCAP and built it into a behemoth. I’m hosting a panel Regen Ag Investing, plus a private gathering for investors. Link

Other save-the-dates for 2019:

  • Natural Products Expo East: September 11-14
  • SOCAP 2019: October 22-25
  • Regenerative Earth Summit: October 28-30
  • Regenerative Business Summit: November 12-14

Ethan Soloviev’s big-picture interpretation of this month’s news:

Companies are leading the move towards regenerative agriculture. Other food movements (e.g. organic, Biodynamic) have been pushed forward primarily by farmers and consumers. They grew more slowly, with grassroots organizing and farmer-led furor, slowly building alliances with small food companies and local retailers. Eventually larger companies began buying up smaller organic brands, using acquisitions to get ahead of consumer demand.

So far, the story is unfolding differently for regenerative agriculture. Starting in 2016, food companies have been more active than farmers in promoting regen ag. Consumers seem to be almost left in the dust, wondering, “WTF is this new term?!?” just as they were getting used to “organic.” 

Not-for-profits have played a role in catching up consumers, especially Kiss the Ground, the Rodale Institute, and At the Epicenter. But their primary focus (and funding?) seems to be CPG companies, who are clearly (based on this month’s news) leading the way.

Companies doing the work that citizens and farmers have done in other movements leads to several interesting dynamics. One is the danger of marketing hype overpowering on-the-ground impact (highlighted in the Grist and AgFunder articles). Another is that product-creating businesses are investing big bucks to help “train” and “educate” farmers in the methods they want them to use. It remains to be seen if this approach will generate real improvement in soils, ecosystems, or farmer livelihoods – I am hopeful that it can, but wary of the many pitfalls on the path.

                           – Ethan Soloviev

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Regeneration Newsroom – December 2018

Curated top stories in Regenerative Agriculture, Business, and Investing • ethansoloviev.com

Global Land Degradation, Gucci Goes Regenerative, and Why Certifications Don’t Work…

 

Land Degradation - Regeneration Newsroom

Land Degradation – Image Credit Tomasz Stepinski, University of Cincinnati

Want to hear the audio highlights of this month’s news? Check out a new joint venture between Koen van Seijen and Ethan Soloviev, the Regeneration Newsroom Podcast!

Regenerative Agriculture

New map of global environmental degradation in a peer-reviewed journal – important up-to-date information for arguments about WHY regenerative agriculture is important – Link

30 for 100: Savory launches a new global campaign to transform landscapes. Link

The four E’s: “ethos, economy, elegance and empowerment”. It’s been curious not to hear much from Joel Salatin in the recent hype around regenerative agriculture. Glad to see he’s making the rounds in North Dakota and beyond –Link (P.S. Joel Salatin and I will both be speaking at the 2019 Living Soil Symposium in Montreal – this will be an awesome event!)

These small but steady mentions of regenerative agriculture are important: Tri-state Livestock News (Montana, Wyoming, and South Dakota) promotes the “Western Dakota Crops Day”, which focuses on “Regional agronomy research results, dealing with saline and sodic soils and the latest research on regenerative cropping systems…” Link

Glad to see Pipeline Foods getting Rabobank’s attention. Their notion of “regenerative” is from the ‘Soil Profits’ paradigm and is not particularly nuanced, but their work as a broker for organic commodities is great. Link

Land to Market™ takes another big step: first EOV™ (Ecological Outcomes Verification™) Wool goes to market in South Africa. I think this is important, and worth watching – what will the market say about ecologically net-positive practices?!? Link

Gucci Goes Regenerative? Regeneration Newsroom

Towards Regenerative (Luxury?!?) Fashion – Kering, who owns brands Gucci, Saint Laurent, Balenciaga, and others, is teaming up with the Savory Institute to develop supply chains for grass-fed Land to Market™-verified leather and other raw materials. With most Gucci purses costing more than  $2,300 USD, it would be great for some of that margin to support regenerative agriculture. Here’s the Kering Press Release, and more coverage from Sustainable Brands.

2 million chickens a week: Great and nuanced coverage by Civil Eats on Costco’s move to vertically integrate poultry production – and “RegeNErate Nebraska’s” opposition and proposed alternatives. Link

Also from RegeNErate Nebraska, check out this Resource Guide. As I’ve commented elsewhere, I think the use of “regenerative” to describe many of these organizations is dubious – they are and have been doing great work, but adding the word “regenerative” does not change much. On the other hand, I greatly appreciate the Native American voices and perspectives in this document – more dialogue and cooperative development with indigenous communities could be mutually beneficial for people working towards regeneration.

“Regenerative agriculture is actually a native concept.” –Vincent Bass, Winnebago Vice Chairman

NextFuel - Regeneration NewsRoom

Too good to be true? Nextfuel promises to replace fossil fuels with… Elephant Grass. While it may capture carbon, the whole pitch is from the “extract value” paradigm – there is no shift evident to regenerative thinking. But interesting nonetheless – watch the video! Link

Podcasts

This month on Investing in Regenerative Agriculture, Koen van Seijen interviews Chuck de Liedekerke of Soil Capital. I disagree with how he defines “regenerative ag”, but he’s taking an interesting approach with larger-scale growers. Link

Investing in Regenerative Agriculture Podcast - Regeneration Newsroom

“An Underground Insurgency: Regenerative Agriculture & Human Transformation” – Interview with Charles Massy, author of the number one regenerative agriculture book in Australia, “Call of the Reed Warbler“. Link

David Bronner on Food Tank – apparently Dr. Bronner’s has donated $8 million to regenerative organic agriculture, perhaps through the Regenerative Organic Alliance… Link

Fascinating podcast from John Kempf that breaks the mold of his agronomy-focused offerings – this one explores 5 characteristics of exceptionally successful farm managers. Very interesting. Link

Agroforestry

Kyrgyzstan & Tajikistan: Unlikely locations for agroforestry? It’s actually been here for thousands of years. This duo of articles highlights the practical application of integrated tree crops for land restoration in arid mountain climates: The Innovative Polyculture Farmers of Tajikistan and the Apple-Walnut Forests of Kyrgyzstan

Tajikistan Agroforestry - Regeneration Newsroom
Respected farmer Gado Kayumov in front of his Tajik agroforestry-apple gardens. Image by Daniyar Serikov, courtesy Mongabay.

“Profit changes minds” – I love the no-nonsense practical points made here. Not all the farming described is regenerative, but it’s aiming in that direction, and go figure – it’s more profitable. Link

“Ghanaian Farmer Urges Others to Adopt Regenerative Dynamic Agroforestry” – the clearest explanations come from farmers on the ground – Link.

Are there trees in your carbon sequestration plan? Regenerative agriculture focused on soil just can’t keep up – LinkClimate Mitigation Potential - Regeneration Newsroom

Source – Negative Emissions and Land-Based Carbon Sequestration, Rocky Mountain Institute

Business 

Why Certifications Don’t Work Are you considering one of the new “regenerative” certifications for your product or business? Read this first – a comprehensive dismantling of the underlying reasoning behind certifications. There’s a podcast too if you want to listen. Link

“Value Change in the Value Chain” – New guidance for corporations to track Scope 3 greenhouse gas emissions. Put out by the Gold Standard and Science-Based Targets Initiative, there’s just a few small companies who have signed on to try it out – Mars, Danone, Barry Callebaut, Ben & Jerry’s, Cargill, General Mills, L’Oréal, McDonald’s, PepsiCo and Target 😉 Link and here’s a Sustainable Brands article with a faster overview: Link

Part of the preceding release but worth it’s own note: Value Change /Gold Standard has realeased a 40-page document to help make decisions about how to design and quantify projects that aim to change Soil Organic Carbon (aka carbon farming, or as most people mis-label it, regenerative agriculture). Nothing ground-breaking, but organized with precision and clarity. Link

Forbes – “How Investing In Regenerative Agriculture Can Help Stem Climate Change Profitably” – (I’m not sure what “stem climate change’ means;) We’ve already covered the Ecosystem Service Valuation Report and the other key farm profitability study cited (NOT regenerative agriculture, despite their use of the term), but if you’re interested to learn more about the Farmland LP Business Model this is not a bad little video to watch. Link

Fast Company – Exclusive interview with Patagonia’s Yvon Chouinard. Urgency and action are front and center. Regenerative Agriculture is touted, but primarily related to a project in India growing cotton… this is a very very difficult crop to produce with a regenerative effect. Perhaps the folks running the project (Metawear / RESET) can provide more information? Link

If we have just 11 more harvests to transition the global agrifood system, this 2.8 million ha project in Fiji is not a bad example of how we can organize multi-sectoral financing for regenerating landscapes. Link

Government & Policy

US Farm bill passes with bipartisan support, miraculously containing a new program that will focus on soil health and soil carbon sequestration. Coming from an unlikely coalition of the NRDC, National Corn Growers Association, American Coalition for Ethanol, and Environmental Entrepreneurs, this provision is the best thing I’ve heard about a farm bill in more than a decade. Link

Punjab cabinet approves policies for… Regenerative Agriculture? Link

“How Regenerative Agriculture Could Be Key to the Green New Deal” – Brief high-level policy article, decent, though coming mostly from the ‘Rodale Organic’ lineage and missing the (mostly conventional, industrial, large-scale) farmers who are quickly growing a “regenerative agriculture” that works for them.  Link

Here’s a great example of government getting out of the way and supporting citizens to craft their own food systems. And it’s a boon for small business. Will more lawmakers follow Maine’s example? Link

COP24 concludes with a lowest-common-denominator agreement, but an agreement nonetheless. Not a lot of agriculture-specific discussions that I saw covered, though these two side-events each brought their own angle on soil carbonization to “Speed up the cool down”: CGIAR Event and IFOAM / Biovision / Regeneration International / Shumei

Special Section on Blockchain

Report: Navigating Blockchain and Climate Action. Interesting report, a bit more restrained than most of what’s coming out of the blockchain community but highlighting some clear characteristics and opportunity areas. If you read the full report and have deeper analysis to share, let me know.  Link

Industrial agriculture digital farm operations carbon market blockchain mashup – Nori (decentralized carbon markets on the blockchain) announces a new partnership with Granular (farm management software bought by DuPont in 2017). I’m very interested to see what comes from this, and which of Granular’s users will want tiptoe in the carbon markets. Link: “Turning Carbon Into a Cash Crop”

Regen.Network Regeneration Newsroom

Excellent new video from Regen.Network: “The Balance Sheet for Earth”. Regen is a decentralized ledger technology designed to track positive changes to ecological systems. Link 

“We’re reinventing the economics of agriculture by realigning short term economic gains with long-term ecological health” – Regen.Network CEO Gregory Landua

 

Ethan Soloviev’s big-picture interpretation of this month’s news:

Many of this month’s stories came to life for me at the Regenerative Earth Summit, where I spoke along with major brands like Patagonia, Kashi, Applegate, Eileen Fisher, and The North Face. To here my reflections from the event, you’ll have to listen my discussion with Koen van Seijen – available for free at the new Regeneration Newsroom Podcast                         

– Ethan Soloviev

 

If you enjoyed this issue of Regeneration Newsroom, please forward this to a friend that would find the information valuable!

 

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Regeneration Newsroom – November 2018

Global Soil Organic Carbon Map - Regeneration Newsroom

Curated top stories in Regenerative Agriculture, Business, and Investing • ethansoloviev.com

The Future of Carbon Measurement, Regenerative Meat, Australia Rising

Global Soil Organic Carbon Map copyright FAO 2018. With new tools, enhancing the spatial resolution of this map should be possible at 100x speed.

 

Want to hear the audio highlights of this month’s news? Check out a new joint venture between Koen van Seijen and Ethan Soloviev, the Regeneration Newsroom Podcast!

Regenerative Agriculture

Epic: First product with ecologically regenerative meat hits the market. As I covered last month, Savory Institute has been hard at work for 2 years prototyping it’s Land-to-Market™ verification program in close collaboration with hand-selected brands. Now you can taste the results. Link

“Turning around 4 disastrous years with regenerative agriculture” – Dakota Farmer. Have I mentioned how important it is that folks are reading this in the Dakota Farmer? Link

Gabe Brown’s book Dirt to Soil released! Koen and I discuss it at the end of our Regeneration Newsroom Podcast if you want a sneak preview. Link

As I discussed last month, one strain of regenerative agriculture is quickly spreading in mainstream US farming circles. Want more evidence? Just head on over to the Beef Daily column in Beef Magazine, “Did grandpa have a better way?” Link

Cows - Regeneration Newsroom


Trio of stories on regenerative agriculture in Australia:

1. The Guardian continues its excellent coverage on regenerative agriculture, this time focusing on the potential for Australia. Interesting focus on education and removing vested interests from the industry. “If we don’t go to regenerative agriculture, we will continue to mine soils, particularly of carbon. This is the great loss and it is not being admitted. If you continue to mine carbon, you are shot” Link

2. Restore the Soil, Prosper the Nation. Big-thinking policy paper from the former governor general of Australia. Link

3. Soils for Life Case Study: “Returns in excess of 8% on capital invested per year” on 8900 hectares. Very interesting investment & land acquisition model with a real focus on profit & impact. Link

Regenerative Agriculture Case Study - Regeneration Newsroom

To round these out, see the recent review paper “Conservation and Regenerative versus Intensive Agriculture” from Future Directions International. While overall the positive and research-directed tone is welcome, the author confuses regenerative and conservation agriculture, citing the paper I covered in August with terrible methodology for defining “regenerative”. Worth a quick skim, though nothing revolutionary here. Link


Very Important: This is the future of carbon measurement. Instead of expensive & slow soil testing, simple reflectometers measure soil carbon based on how dark a soil is. Eventually these will embedded in IoT sensors for real-time data streams. Several outfits are working on this, I like the tone and open source hardware approach of Quick Carbon. Link.

Supermarkets, microorganism trade systems, and super-high-phenolic olive oil. All from… Cyprus? Link and here’s the farm itself Link

This young australian farmer won an award for no-till grain growing, inspired by regen ag principles. Link

Australia: The State of Global Food Security and Implications for Rural Communities. Nice tight summary of the global food security landscape with good references. Link

Apparently, the big General Mills / Gunsmoke project will train young farmers and… robots? Link

Ecosia, the search engine that plants trees every time you search, shares its thinking on regenerative agriculture. Basic, but good.  Link

Ecosia Eco Search Engine - Regeneration Newsroom


From Andre Leu and the good folks at Regeneration International: “Reversing Climate Change through Regenerative Agriculture.” Good general article, summarizes climate change logic and makes some rather remarkable claims of what soil carbon sequestration can achieve. Main tools listed are composting and grazing; I think de-emphasizing agroforestry like this is a mistake. Link  [photo available]

Candidate running with regenerative agriculture as part of their platform. Small-scale politics, but expect to see more of this. Link

Cute little Forbes/Quora mashup: how regenerative agriculture can improve meat. Link

Great in-depth article on the first new perennial starch crop – Kernza. High Plains Journal article highlights some of the real challenges with scaling up supply, especially in the face of skyrocketing demand (which I discuss at length on this podcast). Link


Soil and Seaweed: Farming Our Wayto a Climate Solution on Scientific American. I wish I could post more about regenerative oceans – the potential is HUGE, but so few folks are working on it. Good intro here. More context over at OceanCollectiv, and amazing work on 3D ocean farming at GreenWave.Ocean Collectiv - Regeneration Newsroom

“I began questioning if I was a farmer, or a mere pawn for Big Agriculture” – Part of a great article on farmer Luke Peterson of Minnesota. He offers up my favorite quote of the month:

“So what is regenerative agriculture? Though he can easily illustrate the practices and goals, Peterson is reticent “to try to define regenerative agriculture because it’s a way of thinking that is creative, expansive, holistic, open and alive,” he says. “I’m afraid that once we think we have it defined, it will be limited or compartmentalized.”

In contrast, from Alberta, here’s an article on a 2,000-acre farmer who gives a (common) mis-definition of Regen Ag that does not actually describe regeneration: “We’re trying to practise what we would call regenerative agriculture — trying to build a profitable, resilient system that’s maintaining a good level of production while reducing the amount of inputs we’re relying on.” Reducing inputs does not equal regenerative. That said, there are some tactical intercropping gems in here. Link

I love the fiery political commentary coming out of Australia. “The froth and bubble buffoonery of political opportunity… suggests that the National Drought Summit will be largely a waste of time and result in…” Regenerative agriculture?!? Link

Third General Assembly of Regeneration International happened in India. Doesn’t sound like a lot happened? And the organization’s newly clarified mission is to promote organic agriculture? Link

I think the nascent inclusion of regeneratively produced ingredients into health & beauty products is incredibly important. See short interview with the folks at Kaibae over at Beauty Independent – Link

Videos & Podcasts

A Regenerative Secret - Kiss the Ground - Regeneration Newsroom

A Regenerative Secret” – New mini-film by Kiss the Ground, focused on the science and practice of regenerative grazing on Joyce Farms. Awesome drone shots of rotating cattle, those alone make this excellent 8 minutes worth watching. [screenshot]

What do Baobab, Seaweed, and Cacay have in common? Check out Lost Crops – The Documentary. In just 14 minutes you can see beautiful and important footage from Ghana to Colombia touching the community economic empowerment potential of regenerative agriculture and mariculture. Link

Kaibae - Lost Crops Documentary

Cute but strange video from Patagonia Provisions. I find it a bit heavy-handed and fear-driven despite the regenerative agriculture message and digitized watercolor. This video is not going to get any large-scale farmers I know to change their practices. What do you think? Link

This farmer’s got 23 more inches of topsoil than his neighbor. From John Kempf, an interview with Gabe Brown. Link

“The Next Frontier in Regenerative Agriculture & the Power of Stories” – Poultry-centric pioneer and Ashoka Fellow Reginaldo Haslett-Marroquin offers great insights on his Regenerative Agriculture work. Link

(Top podcast this month) Investing in Regenerative Agriculture – Koen van Seijen covers a new $30 million fund creator Victor Friedberg of FoodShots Global. Their first focus? Soil. – Link

 

African Forest Landscape Restoration Initiative R100 - Regeneration Newsroom

Agroforestry

AFR100: The African Forest Landscape Restoration Initiative aims to bring 100 million hectares of land in Africa into restoration by 2030. Excellent project. Link

California indigenous groups’ revive their fire and agroforestry traditions, upending years of ill-conceived management practices. Yurok and Karuk peoples are collaborating with California and US Forest Service to restore 5,700 square kilometers. Great article. Link

Sweet little Forbes interview with Reginaldo Haslett-Marroquin, 2018 Ashoka Fellow and creator of the “Tree-Range™” regenerative farming model. Link

Agroforestry gaining traction among mainstream timberland investors. First of its kind Report from leading forest products advisor RISI. Link

Free book from the World Agroforestry Centre on Climate Smart Landscapes. 445 Pages of multifunctional agroforestry in practice. Great academic resource with some fascinating practical details from around the world. LinkClimate Smart Landscapes - World Agroforestry Center at Regeneration Newsroom

Business & Policy

First in the US Carbon Fee – $15 per metric ton of carbon emitted, increasing by $2 per year. Could raise $2.3 billion for clean energy investment and other carbon-reduction measures. – Link

Corporate Carbon: This Australian organization has developed over 100 projects focusing on building soil organic matter. Though it looks like a journal article, this is an interview with the founder – fascinating. Link

This Bangalore-based business just won a Goldman Sachs and Fortune Global Women Leaders Award for making a turning a farming video game into real life. Link

Important Event: The Regenerative Earth Summit is in less than 3 weeks. Leading businesses like Patagonia, North Face, Danone, Epic, Kashi, Lotus Foods come together with the the worlds 5th-largest commodities trader (Bunge), indigenous leader Winona LaDuke, regenerative ag pioneers (Fibershed, Savory Institute, Rodale Institute) and many more! I’ll be speaking on the panel “Growing Traceability and Transparency”. I look forward to seeing you there!  Link

Kiss the Ground Meme - Regeneration Newsroom
#Media is trending. Simple and stark regenerative agriculture meme from Kiss the Ground.

Ethan Soloviev’s big-picture interpretation of this month’s news:

As Koen van Seijen and I discuss in our audio highlights, the key trend to watch this month is the role of media in shaping public perception of regenerative agriculture.

With the quickly-growing number of consumer products making “regenerative” claims (see Epic’s product this month, North Face’s last month), more and more people will be looking or bite-sized information in the form of Youtube videos and Text/Image Memes.

Kiss the Ground is at the forefront of this media wave, consistently releasing high-quality and easy-to-digest documentary- and explainer-type videos.

But expect to see larger players with their own particular interests getting into the media game as well. See for example this meme produced (apparently) by General Mills earlier this year… look familiar?

General Mills Regenerative Agriculture - Regeneration Newsroom

The vast majority of General Mills’ products still come from farms that look like the one on the left. And “protect soil” comes from the Conservative agriculture paradigm, but is masquerading here as regenerative (I’ll write more about the distinctions in an upcoming paper).

Don’t get me wrong – I am overjoyed that General Mills (and soon, I predict) other large agriculture players are beginning to shift their paradigm towards regeneration. I just hope they can help uphold and evolve the integrity of a truly regenerative agriculture, instead of degrading it in their bid to profit from this year’s regenerative hype.

                           – Ethan Soloviev

Questions? Comments? Leave it below or send me an email – e@ethansoloviev.com

 

P.S. Two books I’m excited to read: Gary Paul Nabhan’s Mesquite: An Arboreal Love Affair and Leah Penniman’s Farming While Black. Have you read them?

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Regeneration Newsroom October 2018

Curated top stories in Regenerative Agriculture, Business, and Investing • ethansoloviev.com

$72 Million Ecosystem Benefits, Regenerative Fashion & Cosmetics, and Tickling Trump’s Ear…

Regenerative Grazing vs. Monoculture Corn - Illustration by Matt Kenyon

Regenerative Agriculture

Who slashes farmland acreage by three-quarters, jettisons a machinery fleet, and upends field practices, yet watches profits rise by 70 percent?” This is  my top article for the month, for 2 reasons:

1. Farmer Del Ficke has an emotional story of personal trauma and regeneration that fed his family farm transformation. His awareness of culture is more nuanced and engaged than most I’ve heard about.

2. The story is emblematic of the “new” face of Regenerative Agriculture, the one that is growing the most quickly with large-scale farmers across the heartland of the United States and farming country in Australia. I’ll write more about this in my final note at the end.

Get ready to get geeky. Farmland LP has released their 2017 Impact Report, which goes deep into Carbon accounting and Ecosystem Service Valuation for their funds. Sneak peak: $74 million in ecosystem services generated since inception… Link – Also written up nicely here: (Organic and Regenerative Agriculture Study Funded by USDA Demonstrates $21.4 Million Ecosystem Benefit on 6,011 Acres Over Five Years)

Very important: Detailed overview of Savory Institute’s Land to Market™ program, the first outcomes-based regenerative ag standard. I think this is the best standard available and the one I recommend supporting. Link

From the Savory Land to MarketTM website; however this graphic was developed by Bill Reed of the Regenesis Group - I saw it in 2009, discussed in my post on the Regenerative Agriculture Continuum here.
From the Savory Land to MarketTM website; however this graphic was developed by Bill Reed of the Regenesis Group – I saw it in 2009, discussed in my post on the Regenerative Agriculture Continuum here.

Australian Farmers Driving Up Profits Through Regenerative Agriculture. “While debt has crippled many farmers over the past 12 years, NSW grazier Martin Royds increased his farm’s profits 230 per cent…” Link

Taking natural and organic cosmetic ingredients to the next level – “The ingredients that sustain and enhance people’s lives should also sustain and enhance their planetary home”. Great 3-article series on tropical regenerative agriculture at Finca Luna Nueva in Costa Rica – videos interviews included. Part 1, Part 2, Part 3

Towards Regenerative Fashion: “The North Face Adds Products Made Through Regenerative Agriculture.”  I appreciate the clarity that North Face is using to describe the line of Fibershed-sourced wool: They’re still doing a full LCA, but they know the sheep & grazing capture carbon. Link

In case you missed it: The White House’s Deep Decarbonization Plan for the United States, which includes Carbon Farming and Agroforestry. Published 2016… I wonder if anyone in the current White House has read this;) Link

“The Future of Flavor” is regenerative agriculture. I completely agree. Link

Sustainability isn’t enough” says Minnesota Ranching family. Aiming towards regeneration with no-till, cover crops, and grazing. Also see (despite the reporter’s grimace;) a pretty good video on the same farm on AgWeek TV (skip to 23:14) Link

Regenerative Farming on AgWeek TV

Regenerative agriculture gets a nod (albeit a strange one sandwiched between techno-fantasies;) in Fast Company: “It’s the year 2038–here’s how we’ll eat 20 years in the future” – Link

Regeneration Canada launches new website, starts planning for 2019 Soil Summit. Link

Conflicting perspectives on drought in Australia – One farmer describes what regenerative grazing and tree planting have done for her land. Link

New book exploring path to regenerative agriculture – I’m looking forward to reading this! Link

One Size Fits None A Farm Girls Search for the Promise of Regenerative Agriculture

Singer-songwriter Jason Mraz practices… regenerative agriculture?!?  Link

From the Guardian: “If you want to save the world, veganism isn’t the answer”. While the biodiversity and economic results noted in this piece are impressive, I can only imagine what would happen if the farm used Holistic rotational grazing instead of extensive permanent paddocks. Link

Most people continue to use term “regenerative agriculture” to describe these 3 basic tenets of organic farming. Interesting little video. Link

Regenerative Agriculture and Racing Cars?

Verizon Indycars and agriculture? “It will be an organic regenerative farm right outside the raceway gates.”  Link

Short and interesting definition of Regen Ag from Modern Farmer, along with  a bunch of short and interesting definitions of other ag terms. Link

“We’ve encountered active hostility from conventional farmers; but the regenerative techniques and science are coming out of both the organic and the conventional sectors. This is a huge opportunity to start bridging that gap.” Nice interview on soil, and the potential for transforming agriculture. Link

Regenerative agriculture is gaining momentum in Australia. A state Agriculture and Food Minister officially launched a Regenerative Farmers Network, saying “What I see very much from the farmers in the regenerative space is they’re not out there preaching to other people about what they should do, they are leading by example.” (Plus some harsh zings at Biodynamics;) Link

Tickling Trump’s ear – a fascinating editorial in a small-town USA newspaper tackles national politics, international trade wars, and (!) the promise of regenerative agriculture. Fascinating to see how far and wide the meme is spreading! Link

The Garden at the End of the World – Patagonia’s new piece promoting Regenerative Organic Agriculture in name, though mainly a sweet little story of a biointensive garden in Patagonia, Chile. Link

Podcasts

(Top podcast this month) Investing in Regenerative Agriculture –  Follow-up on a story from last month Koen van Seijen interviews Satya Tropathi, chair of the board of the Sustainable India Finance Facility, a partnership between the United Nations Environment Programme, World Agroforestry Centre and BNP Paribas.  Link

GreenBiz talks to Regen Network CEO Gregory Landua about blockchain and regenerative ag (skip ahead to 29:30 to hear this segment). They’ll be pitching at VERGE 2018. –  Link

Exploring the connection between Organic and Regenerative Agriculture – Supplyside West Podcast with Jeff Moyer of the Rodale Institute – Link

Kiss the Ground on Food Startups Podcast – how to reverse climate change! Link

Agroforestry

Hot not-even-on-the-press yet: Agroforestry Standards for Regenerative Agriculture. Journal article, pre-peer-review, very cool and important – Link

Innovation Forum: Mars, Nestlé, Unilever, Olam, Coca-Cola, and L’Oreal – At least on paper, these companies are beginning to explore regenerative agriculture and agroforestry – as they should be. Any deeper investigation I’ve done have indicated that their aspirations are far beyond their effects, but perhaps things are changing. Many will be speaking at the “Sustainable Landscapes Conference 2018” – Link

“6 reasons why the practice of Silvopasture will help save modern farming” – It’s important to see agroforestry systems that produce animal products getting more attention. With increasing global demand for meat, and the “animals are bad” narrative continuing to gain momentum, a third viewpoint can help reconcile the situation. Well worth the read. Link

Enhancing cacao production through regenerative agriculture. Great to have agroforestry & regenerative agroforestry integrated around a cacao cash-crop. Link

California Almonds and Regenerative Agriculture?
Photo: California Olive Ranch

Regenerative Investing & Business

Impact investing plants seeds of growth for small-scale farmers – some decent coverage from the Financial Times, more on ag-tech but with a regenerative farming mention for SLM Partners. Link

Nearly 400 investors with $32 trillion in assets step up action on climate change – Link and Link. Good start.

1/8 of Global Market Cap Now Committed to Science-Based Targets. An international collaboration between CDP, the United Nations, World Resources Institute and WWF independently assesses and verifies company emission reduction targets. Eventually, this group could even assess the positive carbon-sequestering activities that companies will integrate into their systems of supply. Link

With new $35m equity investment, California Olive Ranch says it’s looking towards Regenerative Agriculture. Olive trees do indeed have carbon-sequestering potential, but given the long-term drought situation and the predilection of California olive producers to plant massive monocultures (see photo;) it seems like a stretch. But I’d love to be proven wrong! Link

California Almonds and Regenerative Agriculture?
Photo: California Olive Ranch

A new proposal from the editor of ImpactAlpha: Rename ‘Generation Z’ to the “reGeneration”. Plus 6 investment trends to watch – Link

Breaking News from AgFunder: FoodShot Global Launches Multi-Stakeholder Platform to Invest in ‘MoonShots for Better Food’” There’s a lot more capital flowing into ag tech than regenerative ag. Will regen ag entrepreneurs rise to take on challenges like these? Link

Dear Paul Hawken, I disagree: Regeneration is not “all about meeting current human needs.” Regeneration is much more than that, focusing on the potential of whole living systems. Aiming for people get to some minimum set  of needs met is not enough. Nevertheless, I’m excited to see the next book:) Link to Interview

Management & Governance: Do you know how Holacracy is different from Regenerative Business? Link

Ethan Soloviev’s big-picture interpretation of this month’s news:

There are 5 primary intellectual and practical Lineages of people who are using the term “Regenerative Agriculture”. Each Lineage has a different definition, farming philosophy, and approach to growing their community. In the last year, one of them is quickly (but quietly) out-growing the others. I’ll write about these in more detail in another post soon, but here are the Five Lineages of Regenerative Agriculture:

1. Rodale Organic – Basic organic agriculture practices promoted by Rodale since the 1970s, re-dubbed “Regenerative Organic” in recent years and requiring the tenets of organic agriculture as a baseline. The focus is soil. CPG brands have been strongly promoting this lineage, most notably through the Regen Organic Certification.

2. Permaculture/Regrarians – Permaculture as a global movement loves the IDEA of regenerative agriculture, but for the most part fails to achieve significant levels of agricultural production. Regrarians, emerging from permaculture, has for decades integrated Holistic Management, Keyline, and ecological design processes at farm-scale around the world.

3. Holistic Management – promoted by both the Savory Institute and Holistic Management International, focusing on a comprehensive decision-making framework designed for animal-centric ecosystem regeneration. Last month Savory released their Land to Market Ecological Outcome Verification system, with backing of some significant food brands.

4. Regenerative Paradigm – over 50 years ago, the term ‘Regenerative’ was developed by Charles Krone to describe a radically different paradigm of approaching human and systems development. Guided by the Carol Sanford Institute, a small but effective community of practice including Regenesis, Terra Genesis International, and others has applied the paradigm to Business, Design, Planning, Education, and Agriculture.

5. Soil Profits / No-Till / NRCS – Typified and led by Ray Archuleta, Gabe Brown, and others, this lineage draws practices and inspiration from other Lineages but appeals strongly to conventional farmers by eschewing the dogmas of organic agriculture and focusing on bottom line profits through increased soil health.

This final Lineage is the one that I see quietly experiencing exponential growth – dominating the Regen Ag mentions of middle-America newspapers and actually being adopted by mainstream conventional farmers.

By bypassing prejudices against ‘organic’, and allowing farmers to still use synthetic inputs, this lineage is received openly enough to then show the economic arguments for decreasing inputs and improving soil through good crop rotation, no-till, and grazing practices

The narrative that something as effective and sexy as “Regenerative Agriculture” is available  to conventional farmers is a big deal. While I think this lineage misses opportunities through its incompleteness and dis-integrative approach, I believe it is incredibly important for the world to watch and support its growth and evolution.

                           – Ethan Soloviev

P.S. If you’re interested in some in-person learning, I recommend the upcoming Regenerative Earth Summit – I’ll be speaking there along folks from Patagonia, North Face, Eileen Fisher, Savory Institute, Fair Trade USA, Rodale Institute, and the American Sustainable Business Council. I hope to see you there!

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Regeneration Newsroom August 2018

Indian Farmland - Transitioning to Regenerative Ag Soon?

Curated top stories in Regenerative Agriculture, Business, and Investing • ethansoloviev.com

20 Million Acres Transitioning to Regenerative Ag, World Bank Promotes Agroforestry, $40 Million Raised…

Indian Farmland - Transitioning to Regenerative Ag Soon?

Regenerative Agriculture

Carbon Farming Works. Can it scale up in time to make a difference? – Link

Towards Regenerative Fashion: Stony Creek Colors grows Indigo for blue dye on former tobacco fields in Tennessee USA, scales up operations, and claims to improve the soil. Read more at https://stonycreekcolors.com/ and even buy their dye on Amazon!

Here’s a short & sweet primer on carbon farming, mislabeled as regenerative agriculture:) Larger and larger venues picking up on the concept, exploring it with great interest and low rigor. – [Link]

Succinct introduction to regenerative agriculture in ‘The Conscious Carnivore Guide’ from the New Food Economy. – Link

There’s slow but steady news of small farms aiming for regenerative agriculture trickling into mainstream press: Like here from western Canada, here from southern Minnesota USA, and here from North Carolina USA.

This industrial greenhouse operation growing growing mostly non-organic with chemicals claims they will go regenerative… I’ll believe it when I see it! – Link and Link

Ben Dobson and the good folks at Hudson Carbon offer a new write-up (kind of like their extended definition) of regenerative agriculture. Includes some interesting ecosystem-derived insights. The group’s practical on-the-ground work and scale are outstanding, though I think their mostly-soil focus misses the deeper layers of Regenerative Agriculture that are possible. – Link

You can now grow monoculture corn, till, spray pesticides, not be organic, not necessarily increase soil carbon, and still be a “Regenerative Farm”. Amazing how fast the watering-down is proceeding. – Link

Aside from the flagrant mis-use and banalization of “regenerative”, the results from this peer-reviewed article are awesome and encouraging! Turns out basic conservation ag practices increase farm profits and have some positive effect on biodiversity. – Link

Some quotes from the article [brackets are my addition]:

  • “Pests were 10-fold more abundant in insecticide treated corn fields than on insecticide-free [so-called] regenerative farms,”
  • “[So-called] Regenerative fields had 29% lower grain production but 78% higher profits over traditional corn production systems”
  • “Profit was positively correlated with the particulate organic matter of the soil, not yield”
  • “Simply applying individual regenerative practices within the current production model will not likely produce the documented results.”

Are 20 million acres of land really going to transition to regenerative agriculture? Here’s a UN project scaled with massive government support and an innovative public/private financing system. World Agroforestry Centre involvement; key will be “placing farmers at the forefront of knowledge creation and dissemination.” – Link

Podcasts

(Top podcast this month) Investing in Regenerative Agriculture –  My friend Koen van Seijen interviews up-and-coming organic grains powerhouse Pipeline Foods. I recommend listening to his whole series. – Link

Investing in Regenerative Agriculture Podcast

Rodale Institute scientists explain their case for regenerative ag. Rodale’s perspective is mostly focused on tried-and-true organic farming practices that produce small increases in soil carbon – there’s a lot more that can be done if trees are added to the mix through agroforestry. – Link

Ecosystem Diversity Prevents Insect Pressure with John Kempf. – Link

A Cattle Farmer & Consultant jam on regenerative ag. – Link

Agroforestry

World Bank leads an effort to promote agroforestry for major commodity crops (Corn, Soy, Palm Oil), also explores crops that should be grown in agroforestry systems (Cocoa, Coffee, Shea). – Link

Propagate Ventures Interviewed on their agroforestry investment model. These guys are fun. – Link

Investing

Food Tank interviews Wood Turner of Ag Capital, who have recently adopted the term “Regenerative Agriculture” without any apparent change in their large-scale monoculture operations. The perennial nature of their crops (Hazels, blueberries, citrus) does indeed make them more likely to have a net-positive impact — but as far as I can tell they haven’t documented it, or done anything deeper than using a new word. Nevertheless, this is a good read. – Link

3 Trillion committed to invest in “companies that factor climate risks into their strategies”. While at first glance this might seem great, it will not lead directly to regenerative agriculture or even much change from business as usual – many global petroleum companies put a lot of focus on upcoming climate risks… – Link

Wide Open Ag raises $5m (AUD) in IPO on ASX exchange. Company claims to be doing “diversified, regenerative agriculture”. They use the “4 Returns” Framework developed by the Commonlands Foundation. – Link

$15m Raise – Midwestern Bio-Ag is a stalwart in good organic agriculture practices, products, and support. They’re partnering with General Mills (including a multi-million dollar investment) on the Gunsmoke Farms project, which while touted as “regenerative.” Looks like it will basically be organic. – Link

Six Lessons from Investor Survey As land-grabbing continues and local communities fight back, it is imperative for investors to consider land rights when making agricultural or natural resource investments. USAID surveys the field and presents 6 key findings. (They’re kind of obvious :/ but it’s a good start.) – Link

Related, and more interesting:  Indigenous peoples manage or own more than 25% of earth’s land?!? Thank goodness. – Link

Carbon Negative Sail Cargo

Sail Cargo – Here’s a far-out investment opportunity from the past, for the future. Carbon-negative sail-trade of regenerative agroforestry product. I recommend going through the investor booklet. – Link

Regenerative Business

Leadership is not about motivating or inspiring people. Wait, what? – Link

This business has been rocking it for a while. Great article on Dr. Bronner’s regenerative agriculture work – Link

Herbal infused drink-maker REBBL raises $20 million to continue growing – Link

Competition for regeneration – Still a long ways to go until a functional business sprouts here, but the initial numbers sound good… Link

Ethan Soloviev’s big-picture interpretation of this month’s news:

“Regenerative” Agriculture has within the last 6 months exploded beyond it’s previous audience and advocates, who were primarily in the permaculture and holistic management communities. With its quick expansion has come immediate watering-down, with most people now thinking that regenerative agriculture just a few basic conservation agriculture practices. (I beg to differ – see this white paper for details.) Even non-organic farms practicing tillage, using insecticides, and not certified organic can be “regenerative” – without regard for whether or not they are actually regenerating anything.

Following General Mills’ lead, other Ag & Food business conglomerates will also announce “regenerative” initiatives. I predict that Bayer-Monsanto and others will start promoting “Regenerative” agriculture within 24 months.

What does this mean? The greenwashing will continue to grow in scale and brazenness. The farmers and entrepreneurs working towards deeper levels of regenerative agriculture will continue their work with integrity, but it will be harder for them to stand out and differentiate their offerings. Certifications like the “Regenerative Organic Standard” won’t do much to help, because their checklist-format criteria can’t account for the unique brilliance of individual farms and farmers.

I hope I’m wrong. Stay tuned in the coming months to find out.

                           – Ethan Soloviev

 

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8 Forms of Capital

©2011 Copyright  Ethan Roland Soloviev & Gregory Landua

Author’s Note: This is the original 8 Forms of Capital article from 2011. My more recent book Regenerative Enterprise builds on the 8 Forms of Capital – you can download it at www.regenterprise.com, purchase a hardcopy, or get an ebook on Amazon.

Context: Financial Permaculture, 2009

In 2008 and 2009, I was part of the organizing & facilitation team for the Financial Permaculture Course in Hohenwald, Tennessee. Convened by the Center for Holistic Ecology, Gaia University, and Solari, Inc, the course brought together permaculture designers, financial planners, entrepreneurs, community activists, complementary currency advocates, farmers and government officials from around the country.

Financial Permaculture goes beyond the traditional permaculture approach to economics and asks the question, “What would it look like if we re-designed the global financial system using permaculture principles?” and “What if our financial system looked more like an ecosystem?”

In 2009, Catherine Austin Fitts presented  “Mapping Financial Ecosystems”. We mapped all the ‘capital pools’ in the local community. We explored the flows of money between entities, and discussed how vibrant local economies are more defined by the flows of money rather than by the pools. Something wasn’t sitting right with me. We kept talking about money as if it was the only form of capital, even though there was a growing awareness that acres of land, board feet of timber, and tons of carbon might also be part of an ecosystemic economy.

At one of the open space sessions I began to realize a more complete map of “capital.”

Eight Forms of Capital

The Oxford American Dictionary states that capital is, “wealth in the form of money or other assets” and a “valuable resource of a particular kind.” What are these ‘other assets’? I’ve never seen a whole map of all the different types of ‘valuable resources’. In the Permaculture Designers’ Manual, Bill Mollison offers and expands on a categorization of assets based on their potential: Degenerative, Generative, Procreative, Informational, Conservative (1). These always seem like a good way to think about things, but I don’t use them in any tangible way.

I wanted something that would be more helpful for understanding the complex transactions and exchanges swirling around me as a human being and us as a global community. As I considered the ‘mapping financial ecosystems’ exercise, a bigger picture began to emerge as I thought about the capital pools and flows of the Mayor of a hypothetical small town.

The Mayor might have some money (financial capital). A good Mayor would probably also have many friends in the town and some influence (social capital). The Mayor, who has a degree in economics, knows the stock market extremely well. S/he uses that intellectual capital to generate more money (financial capital) to run a re-election campaign, in which s/he works to transform financial capital into more social capital in the town.

I tried to enumerate all of the different ‘valuable resources’ which an individual or entity could gather or exchange.  “Eight Forms of Capital” emerged:

 

 

Social Capital

Influence and connections are social capital. A person or entity who has ‘good social capital’ can ask favors, influence decisions, and communicate efficiently. Social capital is of primary importance in politics, business, and community organizing.

Jason Eaton of Social Thread LLC explained to me that Capital can be in the form of equity or debt. In social capital, a person can ‘owe’ favors or decision-making influence to another person or entity.

 

Material Capital

Non-living physical objects form material capital. Raw and processed resources like stone, metal, timber, and fossil fuels are ‘complexed’ with each other to create more sophisticated materials or structures. Modern buildings, bridges, and other pieces of infrastructure along with tools, computers, and other technologies are complexed forms of material capital.

 

Financial Capital

We are most familiar with financial capital: Money, currencies, securities and other instruments of the global financial system. The current global society focuses enormous amounts of attention on financial capital. It is our primary tool for exchanging goods and services with other humans. It can be a powerful tool for oppression, or, (potentially) liberation.

 

Living Capital

A precious metal dealer who attended both Financial Permaculture courses advises, “Rather than U.S. Dollars, measure your wealth in ounces [of gold and silver]!” Recognizing that  “precious” metals are just another form of financial capital, Catherine Austin Fitts recommends that we diversify and, “Measure your wealth in ounces, acres, and hooves.” Living capital is made up of the animals, plants, water and soil of our land— the true basis for life on our planet.

Permaculture design teaches us the principles and practices for rapid creation of living capital. Permaculture encourages us to share the abundance of living capital rather than the intangible “wealth” of financial capital.

(Note: “Natural Capital” could be a synonym for Living Capital, but the 1999 book “Natural Capitalism” by Hawkens et al. focuses more on a slightly updated system of capitalism than on the true wealth of living systems. The current Slow Money movement is also making strides in a similar direction, seeking to transfer financial capital into the living forms of soil, animals, and agriculture.)

 

Intellectual Capital

Intellectual capital is best described as a ‘knowledge’ asset. The majority of the current global education system is focused on imparting intellectual capital — whether or not it is the most useful form of capital for creating resilient and thriving communities. Having intellectual capital is touted as the surest way to ‘be successful’.Science and research can focus on obtaining intellectual capital or ‘truth’, though it is often motivated by the desire for financial or social capital. For example, “going to university” is primarily an exchange of financial capital for intellectual capital. It is supposed to prepare people for the rest of their lives in the world.

Experiential (or Human) Capital

We accumulate experiential capital through actually organizing a project in our community, or building a strawbale house, or completing a permaculture design. The most effective way to learn anything comes through a blended gathering of intellectual and experiential capital. My personal experience getting a Master’s degree at Gaia University showed me that experiential learning is essential for my effective functioning in the world: I was able to do projects instead of take classes, and I’m now collaboratively organizing the local permaculture guild and co-running a successful permaculture design firm (2).

 

I can see that ‘Human Capital’ is a combination of social, intellectual and experiential capital, all facets of a person that can be gathered and carried in essentially limitless amounts. But there’s one more form of capital that a person can gather and carry inside themselves.

 

Spiritual Capital

As one practices their religion, spirituality, or other means of connection to self and universe, one may accumulate spiritual capital. It contains aspects of intellectual and experiential capital, but is deeper, more personal and less quantifiable. Manyost of the world’s religions include a concept of ‘the great chain of being’, a holarchic understanding of existence where spiritual attainment (in this context, the accumulation of spiritual capital) leads to different levels of being (3).

Buddhism even contains an explicit spiritual currency: Karma! This form of spiritual capital is tallied and accounted for not only in one’s current life, but (taking re-incarnation into consideration) also in all of the past and future lives of one’s soul. In spiritual capital again enters the concept that capital can be in the form of equity (gathering positive spiritual experience/understanding/attainment) OR in the form of debt. In some Mayan cultures (like the Tzutujil of Lago Atitlan), a basic understanding of existence is that humans owe a ‘spiritual debt’ to the magnificent beauty and complexity of existence. According to this worldview, the goal of one’s life in the world is to create works of unspeakable beauty and gratitude, thereby repaying the spiritual debt to existence (4). The Tzutujil also recognize that single human beings can never really be effective at gathering and flowing capital if they are separated from their community.

Cultural Capital

All the other forms of capital may be held and owed by individuals, but cultural capital can only be gathered by a community of people. Cultural capital describes the shared internal and external processes of a community – the works of art and theater, the songs that every child learns, the ability to come together in celebration of the harvest or for a religious holiday. Cultural capital cannot be gathered by individuals alone. It could be viewed as an emergent property of the complex system of inter-capital exchanges that takes place in a village, a city, a bioregion, or nation.

Properties of the System

These eight forms of capital help us map our understanding of the world. The map clarifies that money is not the only form of capital flowing around and through us. This map expands the concepts of wealth (and poverty) to include the ‘valuable resources’ of personal connections, natural resources, land, knowledge, experience, and more. It provides a language for permaculture designers to communicate the value of healthy soil and healthy communities to people immersed in the current mindset of global capitalism, where financial capital is the only reality.

There are two types of flow between pools capital:

  1. Intra-capital flows, between the same type of capital. For example, using US dollars to purchase a stock or bond, or exchanging heirloom tomato seeds for a carton of eggs.
  2. Inter-capital flows, between different types of capital. For example, paying for a 2-year apprenticeship with a master builder would be an exchange of financial capital for experiential, intellectual, and even social capital.

These properties of capital flow point to another interesting question and feature of this map: What are the mediums of exchange used for each form of capital?

Eight Forms of Currency

Although most definitions of currency focus on financial capital, the Oxford American Dictionary and the Princeton Wordnet (5) both include the definition of “the fact or quality of being generally accepted or in use”. For this map, I define a currency as the generally accepted (or in use) medium of exchange between pools of capital. In many cases, the currency is the capital itself — for example, items of ‘Material Capital’ like copper or steel, can be the medium of exchange. Currencies can also be “complexed” into more interconnected and functional forms, and still used as a medium of exchange.

Here are the eight forms of currency associated with each form of capital:

Practical Applications

Earlier this year, as my partner and I designed a four-weekend series of Forest Garden courses, we were having a lot of trouble with the budget. The costs of renting space and paying teachers combined with our desire to keep fees affordable for the local community made the numbers look unfeasible. No matter how we changed things around, we couldn’t figure out how to make a reasonable financial return. Then we realized that our thinking was too narrow — we were only looking at financial capital! When we considered the experiential capital we’d gain by running a course, the social capital gathered by planting forest gardens at a new education center, and the living capital of hundreds of useful plants going into the ground… it became clear that financial remuneration was only one facet of the system. Nonetheless, we still needed to balance our inflow and outflow of this one form of capital.

The eight forms of capital provide a clear path towards a small point of great leverage: Eco-social Investing. We can encourage individuals, businesses, organizations, and governments to mimic nature’s practices of investing: Locally, intimately, diversely, and primarily in living capital. The Financial Permaculture community, Gaia University, and a host of connected businesses and organizations are investing diverse baskets of capital, offering events like the Carbon Farming Course in Tennessee and the thriving eco-social chocolate business BooyaCacao.

I’ve outlined a set of principles for Eco-Social and Ecosystem Investing, which you can find on my blog at www.appleseedpermaculture.com/blog One of the most useful applications of this map is for growing and shifting our own understanding of the world and the transactions we engage in. When I volunteer time working on my friend’s organic permaculture farm, more than just ‘free labor’ is taking place:

  • I’m gaining experiential and intellectual capital about the farm’s soil, crops, and management,
  • We’re supporting the growth of healthy living capital in the soil,
  • My friend gets help producing products to exchange for financial capital (her right livelihood)
  • We both build social capital through positive interaction and connection with each other.

This amount of clarity can lead to a whole new level of transparency in our work as eco-social-cultural-economic designers. It can guide us towards an ever-deepening practice of the third ethic of permaculture.

The Third Ethic

Although Bill Mollison originally stated the third ethic of permaculture as “Setting limits to population and consumption,”(6) many of us (especially in the more recent waves of permaculture) have been taught different forms of the third ethic. Some learn “Fair Share,” a toned-down and friendlier version of “Limits”. Others learn “Resource Share,” which directs attention away from scarcity and towards re-investment of abundance. And more recently I’ve seen Starhawk refer to the third ethic as “Future Care,” which synthesizes the call for “Fair Share” and “Resource Share” into a focus on creating thriving inheritances for future generations. The eight forms of capital can and should be considered in terms of each version of the third ethic.

Fair Share

When people and the businesses, organizations, and governments understand the eight forms of capital, they may find that financial capital is not the whole system. This can lead to decreased consumption of non-essential goods and services that fuel our infinite-growth-based financial system.

A truly just society requires fair and equitable distribution of all forms of capital. While financial capital is important, non-financial capitals offer pathways to empowerment for the oppressed communities of our planet. In communities I’ve visited (Kazakhstan, Chile, and Latin America), the abundance of cultural capital often outweighs the financial capital, regenerating into a wealth of experiential and living capital that I’ve never seen in my northeastern-USA home. Any of us in the over-developed world can follow this modeling, working to end oppression caused by our current financial-capital-centric systems.

Resource Share

We can use the eight forms of capital to include resource sharing in our projects. AppleSeed Permaculture has set a new Carbon Policy, whereby 5% of our revenues will be dedicated to offsetting our carbon footprint through  carbon-farming projects (living capital). The Permaculture Activist’s tree tax functions in much the same way, transforming financial capital into living capital for the good of the planet.

AppleSeed Permaculture is also inspired by our friends Shabazz and Josephine of Greenway Environmental Services, who explicitly donate 10% of every work week back to the community through education and consulting. They share their intellectual and experiential with urban youth groups and rural permaculturists alike, generating social capital for themselves at the same time. As an upper-middle class white male from the northeastern United States, I am seeking ways to transparently and joyfully use my multi-layered privilege to effectively share resources with those who have less power and freedom than I do. This article is one manifestation of my sharing of intellectual capital. I will also approach this goal through my work with eco-social investing. After seeking out leadership from people and communities who have been targeted by the oppressive effects of sexism, racism, and classism, their projects can be empowered through flows of multi-capital investment.

Future Care

To care for future generations, we need to move beyond finance into living and cultural capital. Of all eight forms, these two have the greatest potential for positive systemic change. Mollison writes, “We should develop or create wealth just as we develop landscapes, by conserving energy and natural resources [and] by developing procreative assets (proliferating forests, prairies, and life systems)”(7). Only through the songs, stories, and shared ethics of cultural capital can a focus on living capital can be sustained for the seventh generation to come.

Some pieces are missing from the map: where does “labor” fit into the picture? What form of capital is “time”? There may be some dangerous implications: this map could commodify ecosystem services, spirituality, and culture. To care for the future, we must think more holistically about our current capital system.

Let this map be a first draft. We don’t know what will happen in the future, but if a complex set of changes and capital flows appear along the way, I offer the eight forms of capital as a new map for the journey.

©Copyright 2011 Ethan Roland & Gregory Landua

Gratitude & Resources

I offer my deepest gratitude to Catherine Austin Fitts, Andrew Langford, Bill Mollison, Jason Eaton, Gregory Landua, Dyami-Nason Regan, Connor Stedman, Mai Frank, and Rafter Sass for their specific contributions to and reflections on this evolving map.

References

  1. Mollison, B. 1988. Permaculture: A Designers’ Manual p. 534. Tagari Publications, Tasmania, Australia.
  2. Roland, E. 2008. Gaia University Master’s Degree Portfolio, http://gel.gaiauniversity.org
  3. Wilber, K. 2001. A Theory of Everything: An Integral Vision for Business, Politics, Science, and Spirituality p. 66-69. Shambhala Publications, Massachusetts, United Staes
  4. Prechtel, M. 2009. Saving the Indigenous Soul: Derrick Jensen Interviews Martín Prechtel. Sun Magazine, December 2009
  5. Wordnet: A Lexical Database for English. http://wordnet.princeton.edu/, accessed 5/31/09.
  6. Mollison, B. 1988. Permaculture: A Designers’ Manual p. 2. Tagari Publications, Tasmania, Australia.
  7. Ibid. Permaculture: A Designers’ Manual p. 534. Tagari Publications, Tasmania, Australia.

 

 

Thanks for Reading! This is the original 8 Forms of Capital article from 2011. My more recent book Regenerative Enterprise builds on the 8 Forms of Capital – you can download it at www.regenterprise.com, purchase a hardcopy, or get an ebook on Amazon.