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7 insights from the regen ag conference circuit

Updated: Dec 19, 2023

Top 50 Farmers is scaling regenerative agriculture by spotlighting the farmers leading the way

To provide the best possible support system for farmers in our network, the Top 50 Farmers project team has been connecting with farmer networks, corporations, non-profits, investors, startups, and farmers who are working on regenerative agriculture in Europe.

We've also attended a lot of events.

From conferences to seminars, workshops and debates, we've been building relationships with key players across the European regenerative agriculture ecosystem.

Here are 7 of the key findings our project lead Analisa Winther had on the state of the ecosystem:

1. More university education is needed

There is no regenerative agriculture bachelors program in Europe, but there is ONE masters program. This means that most agriculture students are going to school for 3 years only to unlearn everything they were taught in their master's.

If you know of a regen ag school in Europe, please send us an email and let us know about it. We've compiled a list of institutions teaching regen ag here.

2. Machines are not designed for women

An awesome female farmer told me she wouldn't be able to run the farm without her husband's help. Most farm machinery is designed for men and doesn't fit the female body.

3. Corporations define regen ag as cover cropping 3. The corporate definition for regenarative agriculture seems to only include cover cropping and no till. This is just the tip of the iceberg and won't move the needle. 4. Since regenerative agriculture exists on a spectrum and there is no common definition, it's important that all parties share how they engage in the practice to ensure a fruitful & honest discussion. 5. A lot of corporations have made 2030 claims, but when we look at the number of hectares under transition the math doesn't add up. If corporations are serious about transitioning their supply chains, much more investment is needed to transition cropland and make these claims a reality. 6. Many regen farmers that are profitable have a D2C business model and are skipping over the middle men. TBD what other profitable business models could be and what this would look like at scale. 7. Many corporations have big issues around traceability and transparency in their supply chains. They have no idea who the farmer is that supplies them. This makes cooperation difficult and is a challenge that will need to be overcome. A la point #7, the reality is that farmers and corporations aren't talking to each other. This was evident at both conferences. At the corporate one, there were no farmers. At the farmer one, there were no corporations and yet the whole time they talked about each other. So many great solutions and innovations could be unlocked if executives and pioneering farmers actually sat in the same room and listened to each others challenges. Which is why we’re doing something about it.

across Europe and in September, I embarked on 3 intense weeks of travel including 2 back-to-back conferences on regenerative agriculture in Europe. I wrote up my findings as well as my critiques, which I wanted to share with you too. One conference took place outside in the countryside of Germany and was filled with people who work with the land. The other conference was in the historical Amsterdam trading hall and filled with corporations. While many of the same issues were discussed at both conferences, the settings and attendees couldn't have been more different.

At the corporate conference in Amsterdam, they spent a lot of time talking about producers with next to no producers in the room to share their view. At the producer conference in Berlin, they spent a lot of time talking about the structural challenges of industrial food with next to no corporations in the room. I think it's about time that we stop talking about each other and start talking to each other. I recognize that breaking down silos is hard, but we know that the best ideas are born out of diversity and we could use a lot more intentional diversity at these events. I'm very pro gathering communities, but I'm also pro us stepping outside of our comfort zone / bubbles. As a frequent speaker and MC in the agrifood space, I’m also very passionate about how and why we gather. For each conference, I wrote up notes on the event design and flow, which you can read here and here.

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