Future of Agriculture

Welcome to the Future of Agriculture Podcast with Tim Hammerich. This show explores the people, companies, and ideas shaping the future of agribusiness. If you are curious about innovations in AgTech, rural entrepreneurship, agricultural sustainability, and food security, this is the show for you! For more details on the guests featured on this show, visit the blog at Or, to learn more about career opportunities in agriculture, visit Make sure you’re subscribed so you can catch another fascinating ag innovator next week!
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May 18, 2022

Thank you to our quarterly presenting sponsor, Merck Animal Health Ventures:

Jan Willem van Groenigan

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Jan Willem van Groenigan is a professor of Soil Biochemistry at Wageningen University in The Netherlands. He is a trained soil fertility specialist, and him and I originally connected about some soil carbon sequestration work that he was a part of. You’ll hear from one of his co-authors about that on a future episode. But when he told me that he was spending a lot of his time these days focused on the role of earthworms in agricultural soils, I knew I had to get him on the show to talk about that topic. He has been a part of several studies on earthworms such as their effect on crop yields, soil fertility, and greenhouse gas emissions, all of which we will talk about in today’s episode. I found his comments on phosphorous to be particularly interesting and important. First though, I’m going to drop you into the conversation where he gives you some more background in his own words, and we’ll take it from there. Enjoy this conversation about earthworms with Jan Willem van Groenigan. 


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May 11, 2022

Thank you to our quarterly presenting sponsor, Merck Animal Health Ventures:

Innovating Agtech:


Books: Adventure Finance, Farm and Other F Words, The Third Plate

Today’s featured guest is Hannah Senior. Hannah grew up in a farming community but followed a career into corporate life working with multinational companies, including 5 years with the retailer Tesco.  She completed an MBA at Stanford University before returning to the UK and agriculture, when she acquired PBS International, a company which makes products for plant breeders and seed producers around the world.   She describes her professional expertise as a stool with three legs, spanning agricultural technology, entrepreneurship & plant breeding.  Hannah holds Board and advisory positions with several AgriTech companies including Crop Health and Protection, the UK’s government-backed Agritech centre for Crops, and is Vice President of the National Association of Plant Breeders (although if this goes out in late August I’ll be President by then!). She is the host of two podcasts: Plant Breeding Stories, which interviews a diverse range of people in and around plant breeding, and Innovating AgTech is an audio documentary about how to better align interests in AgTech entrepreneurship between the environment, farmers, entrepreneurs and investors.  

I first connected with Hannah as she was putting together this Innovating Agtech documentary-style podcast, and was very eager to both listen to the six-part series, and share some of her takeaways and perspectives with you here today.

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May 4, 2022

Thank you to our presenting sponsor Merck Animal Health Ventures!

Loftus Labs:

FoA Community:

Today’s episode is all about farm business data and analytics. The story is different from others you’ve probably heard about though, in that Loftus Labs is not selling a product. They offer a service to help farmers to build customized processes to gain deeper insights into their unique business. Long time listeners might recall my interest in there being a “Geek Squad for agriculture”, this is like what I had in mind, but actually a lot better. 

Patrick Smith and Dan Maycock are two of the co-founders of Loftus Labs. Pat is a fourth generation farmer and the CEO of Loftus Ranches in the Yakima Valley in Washington state. They grow primarily hops and apples, and they are vertically integrated: selling hops to breweries around the world, and packing and marketing apples both in partnership with other growers in the area.

You probably know that Washington and apples go hand in hand, but you may not know that the Yakima Valley is the most important hops growing region in the world. The 50-mile stretch of the valley where Loftus is located grows 75% of the nation’s hops and about 25-30% of the world’s production annually depending on the year. 

Our conversation today is about the data and business analytics journey that Pat has gone down and what led him to form Loftus Labs with a cofounding team that includes our other guest today, Dan Maycock. Dan’s background is in data engineering with companies you will have heard of like Boeing and Amazon. Their business is really interesting, and I think directly addresses the some aspects of agtech that often get overlooked. Such as the fact that every farm is different and needs customized solutions, and that the many of the tools already exist and what are lacking are implementation partners and support.

Apr 27, 2022

Thank you to our presenting sponsor Merck Animal Health Ventures!

Floating Farm:


We have a fascinating story today about the world’s first floating farm. To some of you that may sound far fetched or maybe even like a gimmick, but I assure you it’s anything but. And it can open our minds to new possibilities for what and where a farm can be. Even a livestock farm. 

Today's episode features both Peter and Vincent van Wingerden. Peter has a background in engineering and started his company to build large buildings on the water. His experience in New York City in 2013 prompted him to focus full time on the concept of a floating farm. He’ll talk more about that in the moment. Joining Peter is his son Vincent, who also happens to work in agtech with Microsoft. Vincent is a Technical Architect for data and AI and ag is one of the sectors he is working in. It was so great to have both Peter and Vincent on the interview to talk about the floating farm, and about agricultural technology and sustainability more broadly. 

Stay tuned to the end of the episode for a short profile on Vence, a company we featured by in 246 and has since become a portfolio company of Merck Animal Health Ventures. 

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Apr 20, 2022

Thank you to our presenting sponsor Merck Animal Health Ventures!

Unfold website:

John Purcell LinkedIn:

Unfold Twitter: 

John Purcell, Ph.D. has worked in agriculture for over 30 years, including  long career at Monsanto and then Bayer. For the past dozen or so years before leading Unfold he worked in their vegetable seed division. His earlier work led to innovations for crops such as corn, cotton, and wheat. John earned his Ph.D. in Molecular and Cellular Biology from the University of Massachusetts in Amherst and worked as a post-doctoral researcher at the USDA before going into industry. He is also part owner of a family ranching operation in Montana. 

John started thinking about genetics for vertical farming while still at Bayer, but they decided that the vertical farming industry was so different, it not only needed it’s own products, but it’s own company focused on it. It was at that time that Bayer and investment company Temasek formed Unfold as it’s own independent startup focused exclusively on vertical farming. John was tasked with building this company from scratch. 


Apr 13, 2022
Thank you to our presenting sponsor Merck Animal Health Ventures!

StockCropper website:

StockCropper YouTube:

Zack Smith Twitter:

Today’s episode really speaks to the core of what this podcast is all about. We look at the current trajectory of where agriculture is headed, identify some of the negative outcomes associated with that trajectory, and explore how people and technology can play a role in creating a better future. I’m excited to share with you today’s conversation with farmer and Stockcropper co-founder Zack Smith.

If you’ve listened to the episode with Joe Bassett, or the recent episode with Paul Greive of Pasturebird, or if you spend any time on ag twitter or ag youtube, you probably have an idea of what the StockCropper is all about. But today’s episode goes deeper into why these types of innovations are important. We talk about consolidation in ag and its impact on rural communities. Zack shares about his journey into soil health and how that’s changed his operation and led him to the point that he felt it was critical that he find a way to incorporate animals onto his crop land. And we talk about these two diverging paths of being the low cost producer vs being a value added producer. A lot of great stuff in today’s episode. 

It used to be common practice for farmers to raise a diverse mix of animals and crops in a somewhat integrated system. Over the years through technological and policy changes, most farmers became more specialized, and today the majority of our crops and livestock are produced separate from each other. However, this creates other challenges that Zack will talk more about, and there is a growing push to try to integrate crops and livestock more for the sake of soil, the environment, and rural economies. StockCropper is creating a system to help with this. Their first product is the world’s first multi-species, solar-powered, electrically-driven, autonomous mobile grazing system, called the ClusterCluck. Zack’s going to talk a lot more about the system and what it represents for the future of agriculture.



Apr 6, 2022

Thank you to our quarterly presenting sponsor Merck Animal Health Ventures:

I’m very pleased to welcome the leader of the Merck Animal Health Ventures Team, Stephen Murray, joining me on today’s episode. Originally brought up on a sheep and beef farm in New Zealand, Stephen spent the first part of his career as a dairy veterinarian in that country. He decided to leave private practice for industry, which led him through a series of roles and acquisitions to working for Merck Animal Health in 2011. Stephen built the animal health ventures group from its foundation in 2016 - developing the team, ways of thinking and processes that are needed to invest, partner and work with young technology businesses that are of strategic interest to Merck Animal Health. 

Today’s episode covers how an established industry leader embraces technology as a core competency, what the acquisition of Antelliq meant to that end, the role of strategic investors in the early stage startup ecosystem, and his thoughts for where the future of animal agtech is headed.

Mar 30, 2022

Today's episode is brought to you by Sound Agriculture:

The Yield:

"From Farms to Incubators" book: 

Joining us on today’s show is Ros Harvey, founder and CEO of The Yield, which is an Australian agtech company that focuses on leveraging data science to provide large specialty crop producers with digital playbooks to improve farming operations and supply chains. The Yield is planning an expansion into the U.S. market this year after establishing themselves in Australia over the past seven years. We have an interesting conversation about their approach to farm data, why their playbook is a different approach from other digital ag companies, her thoughts on data ownership, and the need for more holistic approaches to agtech. 

Mar 23, 2022

Kristjan Hebert Twitter:

Kristjan Hebert website:

Hebert Grain Ventures:

"Traction" by Gino Wickman

"Get a Grip" by Gino Wickman

"Rocket Fuel" by Gino Wickman

Joining me again on today’s show is Kristjan Hebert. Kristjan is the managing partner of Hebert Grain Ventures (HGV), a 30,000 acre grain and oilseed operation in southeast Saskatchewan. If you listened to the last episode, you already know that this is part two of the interview, and I highly encourage you to go back and listen to part one if you haven’t done so yet. Kristjan talked in that episode about his transition from working in accounting to coming back to his family’s farm, the business principles and processes he has put in place to grow his operation, and a lot of just great business advice relevant to not just farmers, but anyone who is trying to run their business better. 


We continue that theme today as we dive into the operating system that Kristjan uses to run his company. When I say operating system, some of you might think I mean software, and that’s not what I mean at all. This is adapted from a program called the Entrepreneurial Operating System or EOS. We talk about the principles involved which include vision, people, data, issues, process, and traction. 


Kristjan describes his scorecard of 15 key metrics that he tracks to make sure his business is performing well and headed in the right direction. In the last episode he talked about some of the financial metrics that are included in the 15, but today he’ll go into some of the other important metrics he tracks.

Mar 16, 2022

Today's episode is brought to you by Sound Agriculture:

Kirstjan Hebert:


Maverick Ag:

Kristjan Twitter:

Joining me on today’s show is Kristjan Hebert. Kristjan is the managing partner of Hebert Grain Ventures (HGV), a 30,000 acre grain and oilseed operation in southeast Saskatchewan. After a brief stint at accounting firm Meyers Norris Penny, he came back to farming with a focus on profitability. He is a graduate of Texas A&M’s The Executive Program for Agricultural Producers (TEPAP), which you will hear reference a couple of times today.  Danny Klinefelter of TEPAP, whose name will also come up in the interview, refers to Kristjan as “one of the most progressive young farmers he knows”. On top of all of that, Kristjan is also the co-founder of online farm labor platform WorkHorse Hub as well as Maverick Ag - providing custom designed lending, accounting, and insurance solutions to producers.


For this interview, I’m doing something I almost never do: I’m splitting it into two episodes because I thought there was so much here worth your time. In part one today, we talk about the financial lessons he learned from being a CPA that he now applies to his farm, the importance of building a team, dealing with landlords, how is thinking about policy and sustainability, and more. Next week we will go over the operating system he uses to do all of this as well as some of his views on agtech - so that’s just a teaser to listen in again next week. 

Know some other strategic, forward-thinking, unconventional producers that should be featured on this show? Email me:

Mar 9, 2022
Today’s episode is brought to you by Sound Agriculture:

Suma Reddy LinkedIn:

Future Acres:

Wavemaker Labs: 


Joining me on today’s show is Suma Reddy, the co-founder and CEO of Future Acres. Suma’s company builds advanced mobility and AI solutions for farms, starting with a robot called Carry, an autonomous harvest companion that increases production efficiency, improves farmworker safety, and provides real time data and analytics. So think like a fully autonomous cart or wheelbarrow that transports table grapes from where they are picked to where they are loaded out of the vineyard. 

We definitely talk more about Future Acres in this episode and Suma’s vision for the intersection of people and technology in agriculture. We also talk about the labor problems that technologies like this help solve. But mostly, we talk about ideas for funding companies like this. Especially, the venture studio that Future Acres was born out of, what they’ve learned from equity crowdfunding, and a tiny little bit on leveraging communities of people to form special purpose vehicles or SPVs which are ad hock groups of investors that participate alongside VCs or angel investors. So much fascinating stuff covered in this episode. 

Suma’s career got started as a Peace Corps volunteer in Mali working with smallholder farmers. From there, she joined a high growth microfinance startup in India which IPO’d and eventually sold for a couple billion dollars. Then she returned home to the U.S., and after business school jumped into climate and agriculture with renewable energy projects followed by cofounding an indoor ag startup called FarmShelf. But she felt pulled back to outdoor agriculture and she found this opportunity to start Future Acres at a venture studio, and that is where we dive into today’s episode with Future Acres CEO Suma Reddy. 

Mar 2, 2022

Previous guests featured: 

Richard Waite

Dan Kittredge

Jason Persall

Paul Winters

Xin Yi Lim

Mark Remmert

Sarah Mock

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For most of the history of industrial agriculture, consumers demanded of the food system four foundational criteria: price, safety, taste and convenience. This has not changed, nor do I have reason to believe it will in the future. What has changed is that we have realized that if we make those our only criteria, we fall victim to a host of other problems: health problems, climate change, environmental degradation, inequities, and unfortunately the list goes on. 


New values have emerged from consumers that want more out of our food system beyond just the price, safety, taste and convenience which of course remain vital. 

After spending some time reflecting on the past 300 episodes of this show, I’ve compiled a list of seven consumer values that I think will continue to shape the future of the ag industry, and I’ve drawn from former guests to share them with you today. 

Now I realize fads come and go. But I don’t think we’re talking about fads here. I think we are talking about underlying values that will continue to inform the way consumers eat, buy, and vote in the future. And we as an ag industry ought to be aware of them and factor them into our strategies for the future of agriculture.

  1. Climate Impact
  2. Nutrition/Health
  3. Connection to an Authentic Source
  4. Fun & Social Experiences
  5. Hunger and Poverty Alleviation
  6. Waste Reduction
  7. Social Impact
Feb 23, 2022

Pasturebird: Prime Future newsletter: 

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Paul Greive and his in-laws decided to raise 50 chickens in their ¼ acre backyard, when those sold quickly he bought more, eventually becoming the largest pastured poultry producer in the country. 

To scale Pasturebird, they built their own automated range coop to autonomously move 6,000 birds to new pasture every day using solar energy. This growth and innovation caught the attention of one of the largest animal protein companies in the country, Perdue Farms, who acquired Pasturebird in 2019.

Janette Barnard returns to co-host today’s episode which is an incredible story of entrepreneurship, technology, regenerative farming, and a glimpse into the future of agriculture.


Feb 16, 2022
Farmland LP: Join the FoA Community: 

Today’s episode is a unique approach to farmland investing. Farmland LP buys farmland and adds value by doing things like planting higher value crops, converting to certified organic, and implementing regenerative farming practices. The company then leases the land back out to farmers who agree to maintain these practices. Joining us on the show today is Farmland LP founder and managing partner Craig Wichner. Craig founded Farmland LP in 2009 and is responsible for day-to-day management, business strategy and all investment activity. He is a seasoned executive with nearly 30 years of experience building companies and investing.  Craig has also helped to manage his family’s real estate portfolio of apartment buildings for over 25 years. He also serves on the board of BN Ranch, Bill Niman’s successor company to Niman Ranch. 

Craig and I have a fascinating and wide ranging conversation about investing in farmland, their strategies for acquiring property and adding value, and how he is thinking about the future of agriculture and this asset class of farmland. As you’re about to hear, Craig’s not afraid to call it like he sees it, especially when it comes to sustainability related topics. He sees a lot of greenwashing going on in agriculture and wants to see more data-backed metrics of improving the lands in which we farm.

Feb 9, 2022
Leaf Agriculture:


FoA 238: 5 Barriers Limiting Agtech:

FoA 275: Digital Infrastructure for Ag Supply Chains: 

Bailey Stockdale is the CEO of Leaf Agriculture which builds developer tools for agriculture. What that means exactly is what we’re going to spend most of today’s episode talking about, but in the meantime, you can think of them as the company that enables integrations between technology providers so that the user experience is seamless. In other words, technology users will never know they exist. Their customers are technology providers in the industry. 

People like Brendan Bachman, who joins Bailey and I on today’s show. Brendan is the Senior Agronomy Technology Manager at GROWMARK/FS, which is one of the largest producer owned coops in the U.S. Brendan has worked there for about 16 years in various agronomy and technology capacities. For the past five years he’s been in thor sole working in strategy and implementation of different ag technologies with their various member companies and working with agtech companies to help them find market fit with growers.

After Bailey’s first appearance on this podcast in episode 238 we also featured Bushel in episode 275 diving deeper into the concept of digital infrastructure. Both of those would be great to re-listen to with this one. Today you’re going to get something though that you didn’t get in those past two episodes: a tangible example of why digital infrastructure is needed, how companies like leaf work with technology providers, and we’ll end with a deeper exploration into how an infrastructure provider makes money, differentiates themselves, and deals with competition. This is a different episode, but one I found really fascinating. One technical note: Bailey’s air pods failed us towards the end of the interview, so you’ll notice his audio quality change pretty drastically. But stick with it: he has some really interesting comments towards the end about how all of this plays out for the future of agriculture. 



Feb 2, 2022


Building a startup in ag? Email me: 

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A point we try to drive home as often as possible here is that innovation on its own doesn’t really get anywhere until it can be implemented. For agriculture, that often means that the ideas we talk about here on this show need to actually work for farmers. So for the future of agriculture to be more data-driven or more technological or more regenerative, the tools and practices will have to be executable. And for farmers to find this out, they will need to experiment with them. Which is very risky.

Luckily there are programs to help absorb some of that risk. A lot of them involve free money in the way of grants, or very cheap loans. But to access these programs requires an often tedious process of seeing if you are eligible then applying then waiting to hear back then keeping up with the ongoing reporting. 

Lowering these barriers is exactly where FarmRaise comes in. Jayce Hafner is the co-founder and CEO of FarmRaise. What’s interesting about this episode is not only the impact they are having for farmers, nearly 10,000 so far and $9M in funding applications, but also where they hope to take the company. Today, they offer a freemium model where a farmer can check their eligibility on 15 programs for free or pay $25/month to check eligibility on hundreds of programs, apply to them in less than 15 minutes, and get ongoing support. 

Jayce sees this as just the beginning. This valuable service can grow into many more financial services including lending, ecosystem services, and even tax support. In the interview I compare it to H&R Block for farmers, but she quickly corrects me that it’s more like TurboTax. Which is fair. FarmRaise just announced they closed a $7.2M seed round led by Susa Ventures as well as angel investments from some notable names including former podcast guest Zach Johnson (The Millennial Farmer). They also have some really interesting distribution partnerships with Corteva and Cargill with others scheduled to be announced this year. We talk about that as well. There’s so much here to dive into and I think you’ll find this full interview to be well worth your time.  

Jayce grew up on a livestock farm in Virginia, where she saw first hand how these financial incentives can improve a farming operation. Before FarmRaise, she invested in agriculture with SLM Partners, completed a Fulbright Fellowship in Trinidad and Tobago, and worked on environmental sustainability at Apple. Jayce has led policy coalitions at several United Nations COP climate negotiations and founded a record-breaking conservation coalition that mobilized 100,000 citizens to advocate for the Arctic Refuge. She has an MBA from the Stanford Graduate School of Business, an MS in Agriculture from the Stanford School of Earth, Energy & Environmental Sciences. 

Jan 26, 2022

Sound Agriculture:

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Today, I’m excited to bring you an interview with a very interesting company in agtech, and a unique one in many ways. Adam Litle is the CEO of Sound Agriculture. Which is in the “sound science” sense of the word not the audio sense of the word. They have some really interesting scientific approaches to, on one hand, activating beneficial microbes to provide more nutrition to crops. And on the other hand to perform what they call on-demand breeding, which doesn’t actually change the genetics of the crop but blocks expression of certain genes by soaking the seed in a specific protein. Each of these individually is a pretty exciting innovation in agriculture, but I wanted to know where do they intersect? In other words, why is this one business instead of two? We get into that as well as some of the challenges of bringing innovations like this to the market, and much more on today’s episode. 

As CEO, Adam leads the company’s strategy and overall company execution. He joined Sound to help serve both producers and consumers with more sustainable, differentiated crops. Prior to Sound, Adam was on the founding team and served as Chief Revenue Officer of Granular, the leading farm management software company acquired by Corteva in 2017.

Jan 19, 2022

Grounded Capital Partners:

How would you rate the Future of Agriculture podcast using a scale of conventional (1) to aspirational (10)? Where along that spectrum do you think it should be? Email me at to let me know or send me a DM on Twitter or LinkedIn. 

Our guest today, Stephen Hohenrieder was first on the show back in episode 216 to talk about building a more distributed system. It remains one of my most popular episodes, and I still highly recommend it even after you listen to this one. In that interview in 2020, Stephen mentions that he is working on developing a more permanent investment vehicle to carry out some of his investment theses about the future of food. What he was describing is now Grounded Capital Partners, and I wanted to invite him back to talk about his work. 

Stephen has over a decade of focus on regenerative food systems, having invested, studied and collaborated across diverse categories of food and agriculture — proteins, fruits and vegetables, nuts and consumer packaged goods. His perspectives were shaped by a systems approach, the teachings of others, observations in exploring a thesis for how our food system is evolving, and a belief that all stakeholders are interdependent. Since 2017, Stephen has served as the CEO & CIO of Meyer Family Enterprises, an entrepreneurial impact-focused single-family office in the Napa Valley, where he oversees entities that include direct investments, real estate and farming.

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Jan 12, 2022


Platinum Ag Services: 

We have on the show Cassie Misch who is an independent crop consultant and the owner of Platinum Ag Services located in Northwest Indiana. As part of her offerings to farmer customers, Cassie is a Certified Services Agent for the Granular Agronomy suite of services. One of those farmer customers is Jake Smoker, who also joins us on today’s show. Jake farms with his father, Greg, in LaPorte County, Indiana where they grow corn, beans, wheat, non-GMO corn, non-GMO beans, cattle, and seed corn for Corteva/Pioneer. Jake and his wife Jill were also just recognized this week with the American Farm Bureau Achievement Award, so congratulations to them.

Cassie and Jake will talk about how they have worked together to leverage technology to improve yield and efficiency on the Smoker Farm. There’s some real insights here on what’s possible when the right ag technology is fully supported by the right people.

As you may recall with this tech-enabled advisor series, I wanted to hear from different types of guests who each are using different types of technologies. In order to do that, I have sought out companies to partner with on each individual episode of this series. Today’s show was produced in partnership with Granular. Many of you listening are familiar with Granular, and you may even remember the episodes I did with them back in 2019, which were episodes 135, 136, 137, 138, and 153. They’ve been some of our most popular episodes ever, so I highly recommend re-listening to those. Granular is more than just a Farm Management tool. They deliver science and service for successful nitrogen management, especially in a year where prices have gone up so dramatically. Granular’s Certified Services Agents, people like Cassie, are an incredible resource to help farmers explore and push the needle as they try new software. Learn more about them at and thank you Granular for partnering with me on today’s episode.

Jan 5, 2022

Dawn Equipment:

Underground Agriculture: 

Joe Bassett on Twitter:

Soil Sense Podcast: 

Joe Bassett is the president and CEO of Dawn Equipment Company. Dawn makes smart soil-engaging products enabling farmers to plant seeds more precisely and prepare the soil with greater efficiency while using less fertilizer. They specifically focus on row crops like corn and soybeans. You’ll also hear us mention their sub-brand Underground Agriculture which focuses on cost effective products for Regenerative Agriculture, making several novel mechanical devices that empower farmers to maximize profit through healthy soil and cover crops.

Joe strikes a balance between the hope and optimism of regenerative agriculture and the realities that adoption of these practices are slow and not a fit for many farm businesses in their current form. We touch on how well-intentioned programs can try to push practices on farms without empowering them to integrate into their businesses. I really think this is a conversation worth your time, especially as so many people out there want to choose sides on these issues without considering the realities. 

Dawn Equipment was started by Joe’s father, Jim, and two partners in 1992. Joe studied Physics at the University of Iowa and joined the company in 2003, eventually taking over in 2015. He founded Underground Agriculture in 2019.


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Dec 29, 2021

Semios (108):

Manolin (120): 

Harvest Returns (093): 

We are revisiting three different former guests from 2018 to ask the question “Where are they now?”. This is something you all have requested over the years, but I’ve never done until now. It was a lot of fun and really insightful to catch up with the three former podcast guests that you’re about to hear from. They are: Michael Gilbert of Semios, Tony Chen from Manolin, and Chris Rawley of Harvest Returns. 

So you’re getting sort of three episodes in one today. I think there are a ton of great nuggets in each of these segments, so I highly encourage you to stick around to listen to each of them. 


Dec 22, 2021


"From Farms to Incubators" 

This week we are exploring the concept of engineering a plant to provide signals of stress like pest pressure or disease pressure or nutrient deficiency. InnerPlant is developing traits that serve as biosensors for when each of these unique types of stressors occur. This can be monitored via satellite for early detection and hopefully swift and precise action by the farmer. InnerPlant founder and CEO Shely Aronov is joining us on today’s show. 

And when I say us, I not only mean you I, dear listener, but also my co-host for today’s episode Amy Wu. Amy is the author of the book “From Farms to Incubators: Women Innovators Revolutionizing How Our Food is Grown”. Amy and I teamed up earlier this year to produce some episodes together featuring women in agtech. This is the third of those episodes following Joanne Zhang in episode 263, and Ponsi Trivisvavet in episode 273. I highly encourage you to purchase a copy of Amy’s book, as it not only includes Joanne and Ponsi, but also several other former guests of this podcast: like Pam Marrone, Fatma Kaplan, Sarah Nolet, Mariana Vasconcelos, Christine Su, and others. 

So, joining Amy and I is Shely Aronov. Shely grew up in Israel and came to the United States to get her MBA at Stanford, where she chose entrepreneurship as her focus. After some entrepreneurial ventures including a hummus company, she was inspired by some work her father in law was doing in biosensors which eventually led to founding InnerPlant in 2018. 

I usually don’t feature companies on this show that are so early that they don’t yet have a commercial offering. But when Amy brought up the idea, the concept of communicating with plants was just too enticing for me to pass up. You’re going to hear a lot about how this works, why it could lead to significant improvements in management of these stressors, what it’s like to be a female agtech founder not from an ag background, and why farmers are paying to be part of this several months before there’s even a product available. 

Dec 15, 2021


Tenacious Ventures:

SP Ventures: 

Merck Animal Health Ventures: 

Last month I gathered four agtech venture capitalists who all happen to be very popular previous guests of this show to talk about what they’re seeing in agtech investment, and to speculate about where things might go from here. What resulted was a great conversation talking about how areas of technology are making their way into agriculture, and how that’s made them feel suddenly like part of the “popular kids” of the venture community. 

The four voices you’re going to hear from today are Mark Kahn from Omnivore in India, Sarah Nolet from Tenacious Ventures in Australia, Janette Barnard with Merck Animal Health Ventures here in the U.S., and Francisco Jardim of SP Ventures in Brazil. I’ll link to each of their websites and the previous episodes where you can hear them in the show notes.

Francisco Jardim LinkedIn: 

Sarah Nolet LinkedIn: 

Janette Barnard LinkedIn: 

Mark Kahn LinkedIn: 

Sarah Nolet Twitter:

Janette Barnard Twitter: 

Mark Kahn Twitter: 


Dec 8, 2021

Hello Tractor:

Jehiel Oliver on LinkedIn:

Software is Feeding the World Email Newsletter: 

Today’s episode is about how Hello Tractor is bringing tractors to farmers in developing countries. This is a tremendous story of figuring out the logistics of how to maximize the use of farm machinery where it’s needed most, and deploying the technology and processes to make this happen at scale. At a real basic level, Hello Tractor is an agricultural technology company that connects smallholder farmers across the emerging markets with farm equipment owners that have excess capacity through technology. 

Jehiel started the company six years ago in Nigeria, and has since moved to Kenya. Hello Tractor is now operating in 13 countries in Africa as well as a few countries in Asia as well as Guatemala and Jamaica. 

Today’s episode is worth listening to all the way through, whether or not you think the problems of the developing work apply to you. It’s not only a great story, but there are some fascinating insights here about the power of fleet management technology, and how innovations in this industry can be applied to farms of all sizes. 

Jehiel grew up in Cleveland and started his career in investment banking. He started to become really interested in ways to use finance to work with more marginalized communities, and started volunteering his time and expertise in deal structuring to microfinance organizations. After the financial crisis he committed full time to this work, first in Afghanistan. He realized that the global poor work in agriculture, and mechanization is a key missing piece to helping to alleviate poverty. So he’s applying his finance background to pull commercial levers to address this really entrenched problem.

Dec 1, 2021

The Nature Conservancy: 

"Building Soil Health Through Innovation" 

Renée Vassilos LinkedIn: 

Today’s guest is Renée Vassilos. Renée manages The Nature Conservancy’s investments in innovative companies that will help scale regenerative agriculture production practices. Prior to joining TNC, she spent nearly a decade at John Deere, followed by leading her consulting firm, Banyan Innovation Group, advising growth-stage agriculture technology startups and investors. That’s where she was when we heard from her in episode 157 in 2019. 

If you’ve never heard of The Nature Conservancy before, they are a global environmental nonprofit working to create a world where people and nature can thrive. They have a strong reputation for working with private and public partners, including farmers and agribusinesses, to find practical and sustainable solutions to conserve the lands and waters on which all life depends. 

Since joining TNC a couple of years ago, Renée has led investments in seven different early stage agricultural companies. Four of which, you’ve actually heard about if you’ve been listening to this show for very long. Those four are: Grower’s Edge (ep 156 & 238), SwarmFarm Robotics (ep 271), Sentera (ep 255 & 264), and Vence (ep 246).  

The other three companies will be new to this show, so I’ve asked Renee to tell us a little bit about each of them during today’s show. They are: Kula Bio, Pattern Ag, and Stony Creek Colors

Renee and I also talk about how they’re measuring and evaluating the impact of their investments related to their ability to get closer to their soil health goals, and the chicken or the egg problem of whether the tools can change a farmers practices or if a mindset has to change first with the farmer to seek out the right tools for those practices. That’s toward the end and Renee and I disagree slightly on which has to come first. 

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