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Tim Hammerich – The Future of Agriculture: Ag-tech, Farmer Profitability, and Sustainability

Feb 7, 2020

Tim Hammerich is a former ag commodity trader turned entrepreneur. He is now the host of one of Agriculture’s most popular podcasts, The Future of Agriculture, as well as the founder of AgGrad, an agriculture centric recruiting company. We chat with Tim about the trends, innovations, and challenges facing the agriculture sector.

“You can’t have sustainability without profitability”

This week in Agriculture Adapts:

– The process for change in a field with razer thin margins

– Tim’s take on agriculture and climate change

– How to attract top talent to solve some of the biggest problems of our time (food safety, security, nutrition, etc.)?

– Should farmers get paid for their “ecological services”?

– Build solutions with farmers, not for them

00:00 / 00:00
TRANSCRIPT

Borna (ClimateAi) 0:04
This is Agriculture Adapts by ClimateAi. Every week we speak with industry leading executives farmers NACA dynamics to get a 360 view of how the agriculture sector is innovating to stay ahead of a changing climate. I’m your host Borna Poursheikhani.

Himanshu (ClimateAi) 0:18
And I am your co host Himanshu Gupta.

Borna (ClimateAi) 0:20
We’re a team of climate scientists and agriculture entrepreneurs trying to make farming more resilient, profitable and equitable as we transition to a new age of agriculture. This podcast is our journey as we explore the hurdles and opportunities that lie ahead for the industry that feeds the world.

Tim Hammerich 0:37
Hello, and welcome to another episode of agriculture adapts. We have an exciting guest today. Tim Hammerich, he needs no introduction. Many of our listeners know him from his podcast future of agriculture. But those of you who don’t know him, he’s the founder of Ag grad and the host of future of agriculture podcast, weekly podcast and blog about Agricultural Cultural innovation. He has a degree in crop science and management from the University of California Davis and spent the first eight years of his career trading agricultural commodities, quite a shift them and will, you know, we’ll be like to talk about that. Tim is a former National FFA president. He lives in Boise, Idaho with his wife and two lovely children. Glad to have you here.

Hey, thanks so much for having me. I’m excited to be on the show.

Himanshu (ClimateAi) 1:25
The journey of our podcast goes back and I remember six months ago or eight months ago, when we started looking at agriculture as a space. You also the first podcast I listen to.

Borna (ClimateAi) 1:38
Yeah, me as well. I think separately, we both started listening to yours to try to get up to speed.

Himanshu (ClimateAi) 1:42
So you know, I’m sure like a lot of your listeners a lot of our listeners are very curious to know about your story and and how you came to start the future of agriculture podcast and, and also your farm grad?

Tim Hammerich 1:55
Yeah, that’s a good way to ask that question because actually, the two origins are somewhat intertwined. Add grad, because I had been in a commodity situation where I was with a small commodity trading firm. And that firm got bought by a private equity group and then flipped to a large multinational. And so most of the people that were originally my co workers decided to go elsewhere because they started working for a small company and found themselves working for a much different company. And so I saw an opportunity to maybe do some recruiting in the commodities space. And that didn’t happen for a few more years. I continued to trade for a while, but eventually went full time to recruiting and started ag grad, and thought, Boy, I need a way to kind of get my name out there. And so I knew I didn’t have the writing ability to be a top tier blogger, and I didn’t have the face for video. And so I thought I’d start a podcast. It really wasn’t much at that time. There really wasn’t much for ag podcasts out there. I mean, most of them were like small farm type podcast, kind of like Hobby Farm podcasts mostly. So I started the ag grad podcast thinking I would do stories of like talent in agriculture and what talent agriculture He was doing and talking about those issues. But I, after about 10 episodes, I was kind of bored with it. And I it wasn’t really growing. So I figured pretty much everybody was pretty bored with it. And so I actually just went after what I was most interested in, which is entrepreneurs and startup stories and stories of innovation. And it really took off on a whole different pace once I started doing that, and of course, that was when I rebranded to future of agriculture.

Borna (ClimateAi) 3:23
So what types of roles are you recruiting for? And how do you reach such a broad audience?

Tim Hammerich 3:29
Yeah, that’s a good question. Because it is very different in agriculture. You know, and, you know, Silicon Valley Tech, maybe a Google is, is hiring a recruiter because they really want to poach somebody from Facebook or somebody else in agriculture really different in our biggest challenge is not trying to poach somebody from the direct competition, its location and saying, Well, how can I get an experienced feed yard manager in southwest Kansas or how can I get an ag tech salesperson in you know, northwest Iowa, when in so location is really a big reason that that companies are coming to me My core clients when I started, we’re all in that commodity space. Everything I was doing was merchandisers, traders, grain elevator superintendents, commodity accountants, that that’s really what I was recruiting for. But when I started the podcast, and you know, without really realizing that this would happen, a big chunk of my business started shifting towards ag tech. And the big narrative there is we have a great product or service. And we have a few users. And we want to get a lot of users. So we need to hire a team in sales, business development, account management, marketing, that sort of thing. And so that’s, it’s about half and a half now, the commodity side and the ag tech side that I’m doing recruiting.

Borna (ClimateAi) 4:34
So when I was trying to think about like, what are the key things I want to dig into with you, because you’ve been through your podcasts, you’ve gone into a lot of different topics. And you have kind of become, at least in my head, someone who has a pretty good pulse on what’s happening in the industry. So with that in mind, I’d be very curious to see what you see as the biggest trends or the biggest problems that we need to put effort towards solving and backspace.

Tim Hammerich 4:59
You know, I think you It has to start with profitability on the farm level, you know, you cannot have sustainability without farm profitability. And I think that that’s we spent a lot of time talking about innovation both in terms of inputs and technologies, everything from you know, shifting from chemical inputs to biological inputs to incorporating IoT and blockchain on to the farm level and seeing what you know, what can that do for farm profitability. But you know, a lot of times is, and this is what I’m running into more and more as a farmer is saying, look, we we see the billions of dollars that have gone into ag tech, you know, since 2013, or so, and I’m less profitable than I was back then. So who is this really benefiting? So it really has to start with farm profitability, what what are these technologies are really making the farmer more profitable. And it also can can be on the other side, it could be in terms of business model innovation, so we spend time on the podcast talking about direct to consumer or trying to capture some more of the value chain from the producer level. So I really think any talk of agriculture has to start with farm profitability, because if they They start going out of business. You know, it’s not good for anyone’s sustainability, and it affects all all rural economies as well. So I think that’s definitely a big one, then then from there, and this speaks to more the thesis of your show, it’s it’s sort of resource allocation and resiliency to changes in terms of the environment. It could be climate change, it could be water. I’ve spent some time as of recently doing more episodes about water and water innovation in water economics, and how do we how do we manage our scarce resources, both in agriculture and outside of agriculture to continue to produce our food and so I’m kind of starting at a high level, and I’m sure we’ll kind of zoom into maybe more more on a real specific level, but I think that’s where you, you really have to start. But the four main buckets that I explore on the show are ag tech x, sustainability, food security and rural entrepreneurship, and those two things, you know, the the profitability of the farm, and the resource allocation span, you know, all four of those kind of buckets.

Borna (ClimateAi) 6:54
Yeah, I like the way that you phrase that. I mean, a lot of times the people that we’re talking to say kind of the same things, probably affordability has become a very difficult problem in the ag space. And I think that is one of the key drivers for kind of the issue with labor. Like, if you look at the 1900s, I think about 40% of the US was working in the agriculture space. And now we’re down to like 1.3%. And of course, there’s like different variables that are that are pushing this sort of a trend. What do you think is the best way for us to bring in top talent, there’s a lot of problems to solve. We need food to feed our growing population, it’s going to become harder to to do that as climate change makes weather more variable. And we sort of start establishing this idea of like a new norm in an area like what is the new climate? What is the new weather in my region? In a world where like, 80% of US citizens live in cities, and are just completely disconnected from agriculture? How do we pull smart people from across all demographics into solving some of the biggest problems that we have at hand today, instead of going to work for, you know, making Facebook more ad revenue for like $500,000 a year? I mean, for us, we have a similar thing like we have we’re very mission driven company. So we try to sell a component A lot of millennials. And I guess Gen Z now as well are motivated by that. And we say, look, we’re trying to solve a big problem. Come join us for that.

Tim Hammerich 8:09
This is such a smooth transition because those four buckets of Ag tech sustainability, food security and entrepreneurship come from my thesis of that’s how we get talented problem solvers into the industry. We’re not going to connect with them by saying, hey, go out there and start farming radishes, because we need more farmers, it’s going to be, hey, let’s connect on technology. Because you’re passionate about technology. And we need technology in this industry, let’s connect on sustainability. Because I would argue no industry is more connected to environmental sustainability, then our agriculture industry, you know, let’s connect on entrepreneurship. Everybody likes to get out there and put their ideas out into the world and potentially make money from them. And then let’s connect on food security, because I find that a lot of people come to agriculture because they hear about the people who still live in food insecure environments, and they want to do something about that as one of the biggest problems, you know, that face our population today. So, you know, definitely that’s where those come from. And that’s How I think we get problem solvers in here. The fact that you mentioned about, you know, we’re approaching 1% of the world that is involved in production, or of the US that’s involved in production agriculture, you know, that’s often cited as part of the problem is also an indication of how efficient The industry has has become over time, you know, the technology, especially in terms of genetics, has made it to where, if you were born onto a farm, and you want to be an artist, you can go be an artist, because you’re not needed necessarily on that farm, you know, for the farm to survive. And that’s happened, of course, you know, exponentially over time. So I, you know, I think production agriculture, it’d be great to get more people into production agriculture, and I love whenever I see, you know, beginning farmers, but we also need people all along this value chain that can solve these these complex problems.

Himanshu (ClimateAi) 9:47
I’m glad you does the point of profitability, as well as increasing efficiency of agriculture in the US. I was, you know, as an outsider coming from India, I was looking at the statistics in the US. That’s in 1970s. Agriculture efficiency and productivity in the US measure in terms of years per acre, have gone up by five times. But when we look at the research produced by these professors from University of Iowa, they talked about how an average corn grower in the Midwest is still incurring a loss of around $20 per acre. So the years have gone by five times, but still a grower is incurring losses on his farm. So where is sustainability with regards to financial sustainability being discussed?

Tim Hammerich 10:28
Yeah, I think it’s a really, really relevant time to have that conversation. Because, you know, five years ago or so, that wasn’t the case. You know, think things were in the we’re in a positive commodity cycle. And now we’re now we’re not in and so it’s definitely good time to be having that conversation. Like, okay, we’re still just as productive. And we are, you know, really striving to be efficient and be the low cost provider. But if the farmers are making money, where’s it really getting us? And that’s certainly something that that conversations happening right now. I don’t know that there’s any one answer to it. I think it’s a really complex problem. You know, I think there’s a lot more talked about in terms of biodiversity. And could you bring something to the farm that maybe provides a commodity crop but also a sort of value add crop? Most likely, you’re not going to get your typical Midwest farmer to convert from from corn and soy beans into growing, you know, millet or something like that man in North Norwood, the markets supportive. But can you grow a little bit on the side and perhaps get some added revenue there? There’s also a conversation I’m sure we’ll get more into this. But the term ecosystem services or ecological services is being kicked around agriculture more, I’ve heard it more in the past six months than I ever have. In fact, I think it may been six months or a year ago when someone mentioned that and I go, I better look up what the heck they mean by that. So I think that’s coming up to is like, Okay, well, could a farmer potentially be paid not only for their production, as you pointed out, which is, you know, has grown astronomically but also for what they might do for for the planet.

Borna (ClimateAi) 11:53
That’s really interesting story. Are you talking about things like carbon sequestration or like people getting some compensated for using less fertilizer and thus having less like nitrogen emissions. Is that is that kind of what you’re talking about?

Tim Hammerich 12:07
Yeah, that would definitely be along the lines. And, you know, as far as the in the individual tactic, I’ve got kind of thoughts on both sides of how feasible that, you know, feasible they are. But yeah, but I think it’s a perspective shift of, instead of just production, what externalities, positive externalities might come from agricultural production as well.

Borna (ClimateAi) 12:26
Yeah. And just just to hone in on the point of, of profitability. One of the main things that we’re trying to do here kind of AI is to basically like provide tools that are not going to be expensive, that can help people optimize what they’re doing on their farm. So if you’re getting squeezed from both sides from the inputs, as well as from whoever you’re contracting with to sell your product, you’re kind of left in a pretty difficult situation. We’re trying to figure out how we can create tools that will help them better understand the weather that’s coming up better understand the current progress of their crop, and to sort of make decisions around what they can control. I think there’s large problems to be solved and how things are set up today, and the way that the value is distributed across the food system. But you know, you can only do so much as one company. And I think one of the parts that we’re trying to focus on is kind of optimizing for what they have in their control today.

Tim Hammerich 13:14
I think one thing that that shouldn’t go overlooked is, a lot of times when we think about solutions for a farmer, even with the best of intentions, let’s take let’s take profitability, and we think, oh, how can we make the farmer more profitable? Sometimes, those of us who are not farmers, which I’m not try to think of what might be best for them and almost apply those solutions to them. And I really think for real change to happen. It’s got to be a partnership. I think a lot of times farmers end up being on the receiving end of solutions, whether they, they like it or not. And you know, if you’re a farmer and something’s been in your family for five generations, and all of a sudden somebody comes along with, you know, saying, Hey, here’s how you’re going to be more profitable. It’s not a surprise, it may be a little bit hesitant to adopt those little off the bat. So, you know, I’d point to examples such as food companies that are partnering with their supplier to say like, Hey, we’re going to share in the downside risk with you as well. One of those, you know, Dan does that with with some of their dairy producers, where they get a kind of a cost plus type of arrangement, and in return, Dan and gets to share in some of the decisions of exactly how their supply chain is, is produced and managed. So anyway, I wanted to point that out as part of the profitability conversation, I think making sure that it’s a partnership with farmers and and not just something that we’re going to sort of create and reveal to farmers and tell them that, you know, hey, this is the better way of doing things.

Borna (ClimateAi) 14:38
Yeah, I think that’s right. I think there’s a lot of problems with how ag tech in general or a lot of it has gone towards like providing some of these solutions and they’re just like throwing these tech solutions at farmers and sometimes it’s for the better sometimes it’s for the worse sometimes those companies don’t exist in two years and the farmers are left out in the dry so definitely trying to bring people into the conversation and the parallel that pops into my mind. I used to work in the clean energy space and the parallel is like people who would build solar farms or wind farms in areas without really consulting the local constituency. And it’s like, well, do we have the sand if we wanted you to save us? You know, it’s so it’s, it’s a very similar situation. I think it’s important in any sort of training, any sort of movement to bring those people into the discussion. And to make sure that you’re a solving a problem that actually exists and doing so equitably.

Himanshu (ClimateAi) 15:20
This podcast is on climate adaptation and resilience. And you have when we first met him, you had an interesting story to share. And you grew up in Sonoma, I guess, your family’s from there. And tell us more about like, you know about your childhood and what differences have you seen now? was it like when you were a kid in Sonoma County?

Tim Hammerich 15:40
Yeah, definitely. You can look at the data behind, you know, changing climate and believe it, but it’s a whole different story once it kind of hits your doorstep. Right. And that’s sort of what happened. I grew up in Santa Rosa well, outside of Santa Rosa, a little town called Fulton, California, which is as the crow flies about a mile from coffee Park, which some might remember fires a couple years ago. Took out coffee bark leveled coffee Park, I went back and it was unrecognizable. I went back months later, and it was unrecognizable. My aunt and uncle lost their home. several friends and family either completely lost their home or had severe damage that needed to be reconstructed. My parents home, like I said, it was about a mile from from that neighborhood that got leveled. And so they were very concerned, evacuated in the middle of the night, and very concerned about losing theirs. And this is something where the possibility of this when you grow up in a place, you know, live there my whole life up until when I left for college, and it never crossed my mind. California has had wildfires for a long time, but nothing. I had never seen anything like this. I got a call early morning. I think it was a Monday morning early in a Monday morning that my parents had been evacuated. And that just, I never even considered the possibility. I mean, it’s it’s one of those things. It’s kind of like when you get in a car accident, and then all of a sudden you’re like, Whoa, I was just going through life without even thinking like, that was possible. You know, you drive you drive that route every day and you just become numb to it. And then that’s how that’s how it was for me. And, and I had, obviously, I consider myself a pretty data driven person. And I see the data on on climate change, I believe the data on climate change, but that’s kind of when it became real for me. And since then, that sort of life altering experience they had, even though thankfully, their house didn’t burn down. They’ve already been evacuated once again. And that’s it’s been within two years, I think. And so that’s twice Anyway, you know, I there’s no data that says, hey, this is happening because of climate change. But certainly, you start to really embrace it on a whole different level when it hits your doorstep literally.

Borna (ClimateAi) 17:35
Back when I was in university, I did my senior year project on this and the fires in California have become five times more frequent, they burn five times the land, and they burned for five times as long as they did like 20 years ago. So that’s just what we see here. I think in your area, you guys have had some different problems, I guess, what are some of the key climate induced or like occurrences that you’re seeing that are causing people to have Sort of this paradigm shift and to start considering it more seriously, what is the general consensus that you’re getting from, from the Tim hemorrhage post on on the agriculture sector?

Tim Hammerich 18:08
You know, the biggest thing that I hear because I’m working in ag every day is is you know, the wetter wet areas and the drier dry areas and definitely you know, what come to mind or kind of the, the western part of the Corn Belt, western Nebraska, Western Dakotas, western Kansas, West Texas, extremely dry, and then of course, your Midwest where, you know, they’re they’re laying drainage drainage tile as fast as they can lay and they still can’t keep up with the excess moisture at inopportune times and then what goes along with that is flooding in certain areas and you know, people are certainly seeing the effects of climate, you know, where you know, on the ag side you run into a big difference of opinion is is you know, is in man you know, man caused or not man caused climate change. And I do think there is a challenge in this perspective of there are some people who have an agenda against agriculture say animal agriculture, that See that see climate as an opportunity to further their cause against things like animal agriculture. So if you’re in agriculture and you’re trying to defend your livelihood, you end up finding yourself maybe inadvertently, on the opposite side of climate change because you feel like people are using what’s happening with the climate against you as as a weapon, not as a scientific discussion of whether it’s happening or not.

Himanshu (ClimateAi) 19:25
Yeah, that’s the unfortunate part of how climate change has been communicated in the US and back in you know, back home in India, we are also seeing those impacts on agriculture, on water systems and, and whatnot. And instead of forcing and instead of creating a narrative of us against them, we are trying to bring farmers and other companies coal companies as a part of the solution and presenting them as an opportunity and I and I totally agree with you going out there and telling a farmer that okay, you know, your cow is fighting so much and that is contributing to so many emissions. You need to pay tax on that or move to some other form of farming is is a very unfair ask. I’m also curious to know, like, you know, in this background where climate change is, is is becoming a very politically sensitive issue is already very politically sensitive issue in, in some parts of the US man made or not man made, it’s happening and we need to adapt faster. So what kind of, you know buzz you have heard from from the growers in the Midwest, you know, regarding to their consensus around climate change their preparedness for what’s coming next. Is there some optimistic way of looking at like, okay, there’ll be solutions which will be bipartisan in nature and which will bring growers together as a contributor to those solutions rather than forcing something down their throat.

Tim Hammerich 20:47
I think, in general, you know, the people that I’m talking to are, they see the changing climate obviously has an issue, especially if it’s hit their particular operation or their customer base, you know, a lot of times, I’m talking to People who, who work with farmers and maybe don’t farm necessarily themselves, they they see the issue. But I don’t know that they’re really clear ideas about what can be done, you know that a lot of the farmers have been around on the land long enough to see almost everything happen. Now, of course, the events of recent years, in a lot of cases are unprecedented even in their eyes, but they’ve seen so much that they kind of take it in stride. And and that’s sort of been the approach that I’ve seen more than anything, mostly because if they were to come to ask me like, hey, how can I prepare myself for climate change? I wouldn’t know what to tell them. I’m hoping you guys can tell him here on this podcast because I I wouldn’t know what to tell him how to prepare. Now, policy wise, I’m not much of a policy wonk. But uh, but getting back to what we talked about earlier with kind of the ecosystem services or ecological services. I wonder if we won’t see more policy that is out there to try to promote practices that might make them more resilient or, you know, help. Overall to be more resilient, maybe that’s carbon sequestration. Maybe that’s precision agriculture. Maybe that is, you know, through the CRP program, which has been around a long time, I’m not sure. But I could see where policy wise, you know, if they created incentive where it’s both profitable for them and, you know, a public good because of the service they’re doing, that might go certain a certain direction. But to your question about how prepared are they? Boy, I don’t know that anybody or very few people seem to know, well, you know, what can be done? It’s kind of looked at as as mother nature, you know, taking her toll.

Borna (ClimateAi) 22:34
You can forward them to us Tim weekend, we’ll say. But no, I mean, and just going back to this point about, like taxing them on their cow farts as Himanshu so graciously put it, the narrative as it is right now oftentimes goes that we should tax them for what they’re doing. If you look at like, the US databases, you’ll see it like it says that 25% of our emissions in the US come from it. Culture, forestry and land use. And that’s, of course, three different things. But that’s putting a lot in agriculture sector. But people don’t realize that agriculture can also be used as a huge tool. And you’ve talked about regenerative agriculture quite a few times on your podcast. But the ability for I mean, plants consume carbon and turn them into matter, be it in the soil, or be it in the plant. This is an insane opportunity. And this has come up in other episodes as well that we’ve recorded is that it’s a very underutilized resource. And people seem to think that policy is the right lever to be pulling it. I’m curious to get your take on that like a, what is your view on, you know, these Carbon Farming or regenerative agriculture practices that could sequester more carbon? Do you think they’re scalable as well? And also, what is the right lever to pull? Is it policy? Is it more education? Is it some sort of compensation, you know, like a carbon tax that will allow them to make X amount of dollars per whatever tonne of carbon dioxide sequestering.

Tim Hammerich 24:01
Yeah, first of all, I think it’s incentives. So if you know, a dangling incentive out there where Hey, adds so much money to, you know, per acre to what you’re making it if you do this and then allow them to look at the ROI of that does that does that return enough on their effort and the risk involved, you know, that I don’t think a lot of people understand the amount of risk that’s out there for for these farmers as far as borrowing millions of dollars to try to make thousands and, and then being asked to apply some of those millions of dollars of borrowing to something that that is brand new that they’ve never seen work on their farm. And I don’t think a lot of people appreciate that risk, because with the razor thin margin, if it just goes if it goes mostly right, it could sink them just because of the amount of leverage and the amount of risk that goes that goes along with it. So it’s got to be an incentives. And someone told me a long time ago and I wish I could remember who to attribute this to it’s said, if you put the incentives out there and sort of the rules of the game, so to speak for will amaze you at what the ingenuity and the innovation that they can do at the farm level. But you’ve got to be really clear on those incentives and what the rules of the game are. And I really I’ve seen that time and time again, where, you know, if it’s unclear, then it’s too risky. But if it’s really clear, they’ll likely find a way as long as they can make it work in their business. So number one, I think it’s absolutely got to be incentives to more specifically what you mentioned about carbon sequestration. One thing that has me just a little bit uncomfortable on that concept is we just haven’t been measuring it. So we don’t know how much carbon has been sequestered. And you know, the delta between how much carbon is being sequestered versus how much will be sequestered if they if they change these farming practices. And then what makes me even more uneasy about the concept is, I don’t know what the demand side looks like now maybe a FedEx and maybe a you know, a South by Southwest or, you know, maybe a large international shipping company. Maybe they’re just dying to offset their carbon emissions and just looking for this But I don’t see, I don’t know, from an agriculture standpoint, we don’t see that. So we’ve kind of got to take somebody’s word for it that tells us look, there are buyers, there are buyers out there. So those two kind of factors on, I don’t know what the supply is going to be because I don’t, we haven’t been measuring it on a farm level at scale. And then number two, I have no idea what the demand is gonna be. That makes me a little uneasy about that concept.

Himanshu (ClimateAi) 26:19
Right. I mean, we were talking to a Chief Innovation Officer of a major chocolate manufacturing company based out of Europe. And they seem pretty progressive on reducing emissions from their supply chain. And they were talking about how they are willing to pay a premium to a grower from a cow grower, and Coco is used for breeding chocolates, too, and you know, of the order of whatever the market decides. So there is there is demand and many of these food companies have committed to reducing their emissions by 50%, almost hundred percent by 2025 as part of their commitments to Paris Climate accord. But what worries me is how much of that additional dollar balance Go to the grower. So imagine, imagine in 1970s or 1990s, when there was a major improvement in productivity of seeds, because of gene editing and whatnot came in the conversation would have been similar that you know, you use these seeds, the yield will be higher, you get better pay. And yet what we’re seeing in the market today is growers still making losses in spite of having those increased yields. So how do we ensure that this time this scales up that growers are the ones who get the major value out of it?

Tim Hammerich 27:31
And I wish I knew the answer to that question. That’s a really good question. One thing that I’ve been focused on lately, in fact, you see it the podcast we just released this this week as we’re recording this and then the one next week are both about farmer farmers using open source technology and farmers opening up what they’re doing. I think that’s one aspect of technology that maybe hasn’t been leveraged as much as it should, where a farmer can exchange ideas. You know, we use they use Twitter, they use discussion boards there, there are ways but as far as like it saying like, Look, you can adopt this technology and make it your own and build on top of it make it better for the next farmer, I find that concept to be really, really fascinating now, how how could that apply to this is kind of what I’m asking myself, as you’re asking that question is, you know, how can we make sure that this comes grassroots from the farm up, the only thing that comes to mind, and I’ve already kind of alluded to it earlier is that chocolate company that you talk to, they need to have some sort of farmer partnership program where the money goes directly from them to the farmer. And they kind of if they really want that to happen, they kind of need to go direct to the farmer to make that happen, in my opinion, but that’s where it kind of gets a little bit muddled because they’ve got risk as well when their supply chain if they if they hone in on the amount of manageable farmers that they can work with on that. And then they get hit with a weather event or they you know, out of luck for their supply. So they’ve got to protect their own sustainable supply chain as well. And that’s a that’s an area outside of my scope of knowledge. But to me, that’s the only thing I could think of is if that’s where the demands coming from you They need to kind of go do that directly to make sure that what they’re paying for actually ends up in the farmers hands.

Himanshu (ClimateAi) 29:05
And this would also mean, revising the entire agricultural value chain supply chain, from growers to food companies.

Tim Hammerich 29:12
Yeah, so it may be is easier to do in chocolate really but but in but in corn or soybeans, it’d be a whole lot more difficult. There’s there’s a lot of detail there that that makes it not so simple as the end user going directly to the producer,

Himanshu (ClimateAi) 29:27
what our listeners who might be startup founders who might be wanting to start something of their own in ag tech space, can you highlight a couple of, you know, companies are models, you know, which have checked all the boxes, you know, in terms of the boxes you talked about, and have done really well provided value to the farmers in a way which is scalable and sustainable.

Tim Hammerich 29:48
Oh, you’re asking me to choose favorites. Let me give you one example that I think speaks directly to what we’re talking about here. One example that comes to mind is is a company called adventure What they do is they have a partnership model where they partner with local ag retailers to help them meet the buying the changing buying needs of their farmer customer. And so if you’re a farmer and you want to start buying digitally, but you don’t want to put your your local advisor who happens to sell you also your inputs, you don’t want to put them out of business but you would like the convenience of buying online. They offer a platform to allow you to do that. So the online component, they provide the technology, the local retailer, you know gets the sale and they may sell half of their products online half of them in person, they may sell some you know over the phone, they may sell some just you know showing up on a farm visit but allows the farmer to buy the way they want to buy so they can embrace new technology but they still get the benefit of that trusted advisor because sometimes people in agriculture don’t realize most farmers are getting agronomic advice from the people who are also selling them products and so it’s it’s it seems unique it’s like well wait a minute, you’re you’re the salesperson but you’re also my advisor. But But that is the way it works in A lot of agriculture. And so if you start doing things like, oh, we’re going to create a marketplace where a farmer can buy direct from the manufacturer, that sounds good. And this this is a good example for all like technology. That sounds great, because, you know, we’re gonna go direct, right? And there are some positive benefits to that. One negative aspect of that is what about when you lose that local advisor because what’s paying for that local advisor to be there are the sales of that product. So I think ag Ben’s a great example where it’s really thoughtful approach where the farmer gets to buy the way they want to buy. And also you maintain sort of the the positive aspects of the system as it’s been built.

Himanshu (ClimateAi) 31:36
This has been quite an interesting podcast, we have learned a lot i’m sure our listeners would have, would have learned a lot as well. We discussed topics from climate change to technology, transparency, how not all farmers are the same and every farmer is different. So it’s, it’s been, you know, thanks. Thanks for your time, and thanks for sharing your insights team. Yeah, and and is it Any way which we can, you know, can people support you and your work?

Tim Hammerich 32:04
Check out the podcast future of agriculture. And you can always find me via email Tim at grad Comm.

Borna (ClimateAi) 32:11
Awesome. Yeah, Tim, I just wanted to add, thank you. That was very insightful conversation. And, you know, as we start building a company here, it’s important for us to think about these things and who we need to bring into the conversation and the externalities of the type of stuff. We’re, we’re trying to do so. Appreciate your insights on that front.

Tim Hammerich 32:26
Yeah, no, I enjoyed the conversation, guys. It’s fun. It’s fun to be on the side of the mic. It’s a different, it’s very different.

Borna (ClimateAi) 32:32
Hey, everybody, thanks for listening. If you have any feedback, or you’d like to add your own two cents on the topic discussed today, or if you’ve just got your own ideas about someone that we should discuss in the future, please feel free to shoot me an email at podcast@climate.ai. At its core, this podcast is just a way for us to learn and we want to share our learnings as we go. So we’re always open to building on these conversations and hearing new perspectives. Thanks for your support and see you next time.

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