Financing Regenerative Agriculture

I attended one of a 3-part webinar series put on by the Ivey Academy entitled Regenerative Agriculture: The Role of Finance & the Value Chain. Thanks very much everyone who made this free webinar series possible.

Here are some highlights...

The presenters were:

  • Dr. Diane-Laure Arjaliès (The Ivey Academy)
  • John Uhren (BMO)
  • Charlie Angelakos (McCain Foods ltd.)

What is Regenerative Agriculture?

I'll let Dr. Arjaliès's slide show explain:

A slide from Dr. Diane-Laure Arjaliès's presentation.
A slide from Dr. Diane-Laure Arjaliès's presentation
A slide from Dr. Diane-Laure Arjaliès's presentation.

To paraphrase John Uhren:

Now seems to be a good time for the financial sector (private and Canadian government) to start helping in the transitioning to a more sustainable and regenerative agricultural model. Private investment should be following the growing trend of public interest in this.

The 30 by 30 commitment

The federal government has set the goal of conserving 30 percent of Canada's land and water by 2030, because science shows that nature needs our help in order to reverse the decline in biodiversity, better fight climate change, and maintain a strong, sustainable economy.

Our current agricultural concept is using industrial processes. We typically only think of farmers as people who grow crops, but they should also be considered land stewards

Nobody wants to pay for this, so a system of re-evaluation should be created. Hence this report by Ivey Academy and these webinar series.

As Charlie candidly mentioned, McCain Foods ltd got interested in doing something because they were seeing more frequent bad crop seasons with their farmers (with whom they have a direct relationship with, and not through a broker). They attribute this directly to climate change. And because of this direct relationship with their farmers, they are able to offer longer-term contracts for those who use regenerative practices.

Their hope is to mitigate climate change and build a resilient supply chain for the future.

Where is the financial incentive?

Simply put: agriculture is not a good investment in general.

Governments can give good loans, but there just aren't great private investment incentives.

Instead, the goal of these new initiatives is to bring everyone to the table (all parts of government, banks, indigenous groups, farmers, public sectors, food security organizations, etc.) in order to rethink how we value success. In the words of Dr. Arjaliès:

“If you want your real-estate investment to succeed, we have to be sure agriculture succeeds, which acts as the basis for everything else.”

Agriculture is less of a money maker in regards to investing, but more of a long-term insurance that not everything will completely go to s#%t. If agriculture crashes, everything else (stock market very much included).

This is still very much a work in progress. Nobody wins if we don’t get this right. All presenters seem to agree on this.

How does this relate to tech and innovation?

Dr. Arjaliès asks both herself and others openly “ How can technology and innovation help accelerate this transition?”

But more importantly, she recognizes that tech and innovation is worth nothing without the collaboration and discussion of absolutely everyone who is implicated. And since we all survive on the products of agriculture, that means literally everyone. Collaboration is vital.

Contact us to explore ways to collaborate.

In closing:

All the presenters admit that we don’t have the answers to how to implement the best regenerative agriculture model. One that is sustainable for generations to come, and one that will incentivise financial investments. But they all agree that we have to start thinking about it now.

I do admit however, it does seem a little sad that it has taken this long to realize the value of soil health. Not until we are threatened with the potential loss of return on monetary investment will we finally realize that we need to pay attention to giving back to the land, rather than strictly taking from it. But maybe it just needs a critical mass of participants to tip the scale and re-image what is valued in our society. Or to make saving the earth more of a valuable product/service. In short, making the earth more fashionable, more desired.

Hopefully these webinars (and this blog article) will help get the word out.

Some helpful resources: