Reversing Climate Change Podcast: Propagate Ventures

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It’s not a sin to cut down a tree, it’s a sin not to plant a forest.
— Ersnt Gotsch

Christophe was riding the subway in New York City when he overheard a conversation about reversing climate change through regenerative agriculture. Intrigued, he introduced himself to Harry and Ethan, two of the three co-founders of Propagate Ventures, an investment fund that works with landowners to design and install tree-crop systems that complement existing farm operations. Propagate wants to move beyond sustainability to design a regenerative framework that generates economic returns, builds soil health and sequesters carbon—using agriculture as a mechanism to solve the problems of climate change, rather than creating them. 

Today Ross and Christophe are joined by Propagate Co-Founders Jeremy Kaufman and Ethan Steinberg to discuss the fundamentals of agroforestry and how the Propagate model works to provide farmers with capital for planting trees. They walk us through the process, explaining how an analysis of crops appropriate to the bioregion and the farmer’s goals work together to determine the specific tree crop appropriate to the project. Jeremy and Ethan describe how they are using the market to benefit humanity and the planet, creating environmentally-positive wealth for generations to come. Listen in to understand Propagate’s plans to collaborate with ‘Big Ag,’ small farmers and indigenous groups, and learn how you can get involved in learning more about agroforestry and regeneration.

Key Takeaways

[3:53] The aims of Propagate Ventures

  • Promote regenerative agriculture (restore soil)
  • Investment fund securitizes tree assets
  • Use agriculture as mechanism to solve problems
  • Spur local economies, ensure rural livelihood

[8:11] The benefits of being a public benefit corporation

  • Not just bound to shareholders
  • Also responsible for delivering environmental metrics

[11:10] The fundamentals of agroforestry

  • Intentional integration of trees into agricultural landscape
  • Benefits from both financial, environmental perspective
  • Produces same yield with 30% less sun
  • Propagate seeks to provide with little/no cost to farmers

[13:24] The ‘Evergreen’ profit-share model

  • Propagate provides capital for installation
  • Profits from crops are shared with landowner
  • Stabilizes long-term asset value and cashflow

[20:35] How Propagate determines appropriate tree crops

  • Lean on researchers in space, best practices
  • Balance crops that work in region with goals of landowner
  • Climate, species there determine best crops for bioregion

[29:22] Propagate’s approach to engaging stakeholders

  • Companies that use timber (i.e.: build decks, stairs) involved in process earlier
  • Make customers aware that trees used sequestering carbon 
  • Use market to benefit humanity and planet
  • Connect aspirational consumers with brands
  • Get consumers behind framework of getting carbon into soil

[36:00] The farmer’s role in the carbon sequestration web

  • No tilling
  • Cover cropping
  • Bring in animals to feed soil 

[39:09] ‘Big Ag’ versus the small farmer

  • Propagate wants to work with both
  • Industrialized ag has marginalized small farmers, indigenous groups
  • Call for collaboration among all to prevent scarcity

[43:49] Where Propagate stands at present

  • Young company
  • Takes time to set infrastructure
  • Currently building ‘operating system’

[47:50] How investors can engage

  • Direct investment
  • Fund level
  • Ecosystem as a whole

Connect with Ross & Christophe

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