Guest post by Kevin Kimle.
What do investors look for when evaluating innovative opportunities? It depends on the investor, but I am in search of surprise. Innovation cannot be predicted. Innovation cannot be planned. It is not foreseeable. So, when looking for opportunities with upside I look for the surprising, the unexpected, maybe even the strange.
At Continuum Ag’s June 2021 Field Day in Washington, Iowa, I kept hearing a word that I found interesting, perhaps surprising. The word? ‘Movement.’ Remarks from folks such as Continuum Ag Founder and CEO Mitchell Hora, Rick Clark from Clark Land & Cattle, Dr. Rick Haney and others all talked about regenerative agriculture as a movement.
Does agriculture have movements? I write that with some humor, but I still recall a magnet on my wife’s grandparent’s fridge. “Start a Movement. Eat a Prune,” it read. It sort of reflects a Midwestern ethos of not getting overly excited about much. Maybe football loyalties. But otherwise, not too much.
We talked to Mitchell and some others at the event in this video montage.
Regenerative agriculture is a set of holistic land management practices that leverage the power of photosynthesis in plants to close the carbon cycle, and build soil health, crop resilience and nutrient density. Regenerative agriculture improves soil health, primarily through the practices that increase soil organic matter. Integration of cover crops, new crop rotations, integration of livestock, and many more practices represent activities that are a part of what these folks call a movement.
Certainly the Field Day held evidence for me of entrepreneurial and innovative activity.
- Community Building – It takes a diverse group of talented people to figure out new and innovative things, and it was present at the Field Day. Farmers, agronomists, land owners, technologists, advocates, scientists, and maybe even a professor or two were represented.
- Learning By Doing – The only thing you know when you try new things, is that often they will not work. So you need to try things, fail fast, learn and build toward success. There were many examples provided of past and present trials, experiments, failures and successes. And fields to tour.
- Peers and Mentors – Mentoring is a key activity to learning new and complex things, and there were many examples of this present at the Field Day. And part of the purpose of the event was to bring people together who would not otherwise meet.
- Language of Aspiration – The word ‘movement’ indicates higher aspiration. And motion and action toward that aspiration.
For his 7,000 acre farm, Rick Clark commented that he had not purchased synthetic potassium or phosphorus in eight years, synthetic nitrogen in three years, that he no longer purchases crop insurance and he does not take government payments. The crowd applauded. Many, myself included, purchased all those and took government payments. The applause comes from an aspiration to farm in new and surprising ways.
It was a good day for the culture in agriculture.
Kevin Kimle currently serves as the Rastetter Chair of Agricultural Entrepreneurship at Iowa State University, Director of the Agricultural Entrepreneurship Initiative, and Associate Teaching Professor in the Department of Economics. This story was originally published on ISU’s Agricultural Entrepreneurship Initiative site.