The Future of Agriculture Podcast is 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! Joe and Nick interview Tim about his experience with starting a podcast and much more...
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Polygreens Podcast Episode 57
[00:00:00] Joe Swartz: Hey everyone. Welcome to another episode of the poly greens podcast. I'm Joe Swartz from am hydro, along with Nick grains and the Nick greens grow team. And today we've got a guest he's really, probably one of my favorite people in all of agriculture. You probably know his name. You definitely know his work, um, from.
Long running podcast to bringing more, probably usable realistic information about agriculture has anyone I've ever heard, um, Mr. Tim hemorrhage and, uh, thanks very much, Tim, for joining us today. We'd love to hear a lot about what you're doing and, uh, just appreciate you taking some time and joining us.
[00:00:39] Tim Hammerich: Well, thank you guys for having me and thanks for the kind introduction.
[00:00:43] Joe Swartz: So Tim, um, obviously, you know, I could go down the list. Um, Tim was really in ag podcasts. He was the first real podcast that I heard that, uh, resonated to me. Uh, I was lucky enough. Tim asked me to join him for a podcast. I don't know, about 500 million [00:01:00] years ago, maybe now.
Um, And, uh, and he really covers the spectrum. You know, Nick and I have been doing this podcast for a year specific to controlled environment agriculture, and really Tim covers the whole gamut. But if you really think about it and I was looking back at, um, Tim's, uh, His list of all the podcasts he's done really controlled environment.
Agriculture really is agriculture all the way around and agriculture is controlled environment agriculture. So the ag tech, the innovators, the people that Tim has brought out, um, just really tremendous and, and. What our ag movement is all about. So, um, Tim, I mean, w we could go down the list. Uh, Tim is a former national future farmers of America.
President graduated from university of California Davis. He is, um, been a commodities trader. He has been an educator, a podcaster, um, running more ag information than anyone I've seen. Tim, can you tell us a [00:02:00] little bit about your background, how you got started in this crazy.
[00:02:03] Tim Hammerich: Sure. Yeah. Why I grew up on a very small farm.
Most people would be considered a hobby farm. You know, it was five acres. And my dad always dreamed of making a full-time living out of, out of five acres. And at least to this point, that that dream has never really come true, but it was. Great place to grow up. So when I was growing up, he worked nights, he drove a street sweeper at night, and then during the day, uh, we actually livestock, we had, we had a, sort of a specialty livestock business where we sold, uh, live animals into ethnic markets, primarily Hispanic and Asian markets, uh, in the bay area of California, where I grew up.
And so, um, that was our, that was his day business. And then he kept the night job as well. And so I was just always inspired by his love for agriculture and still am to this day. And I'm always interested in how to, to make it work. Um, and that drove me in a lot of different directions, probably the opposite end of the spectrum from direct to consumer [00:03:00] livestock is going into commodities.
I moved to the Midwest after college. Um, my, my girlfriend now wife, uh, went to veterinary school at Texas a and M. So I went to Texas and traded, uh, grain and feed ingredients. And that's all I spent the first eight years of my career. The short version is. I wanted to do something for myself in agriculture and thought I could leverage the network.
I was building into recruiting and, um, started a recruitment company and operated that for five years, um, until just this past, uh, whale, not quite two years ago and went into consulting. Full-time I'd been doing the podcast and some other sort of outreach efforts and more people are reaching out to me to ask.
With that, then they were asked for help with recruiting. So I ended up transitioning from, from recruiting to more general consulting. And that's what I do now. So you've
[00:03:45] Joe Swartz: been really kind of covering the gamut. What, what, uh, kind of pushed you to, to like with the podcast or, uh, you've got so many different forms of media out there.
What, what kind of pushed you to get how many episodes
[00:03:58] Nick Greens: is yet? Joe?
[00:03:59] Joe Swartz: Just under [00:04:00] 300.
[00:04:00] Tim Hammerich: Is that right? Close to 300 w with the future agriculture and, and yeah, it actually, it actually started way different. It started as I was. Recruitment company. I launched this called ad grad and it started as the ad grad podcast.
And I thought, okay, this is the way I'm going to get my name out there to potential clients and to potential candidates, people looking for jobs. And so I called it the ad grad podcast and decided I was just going to talk to people about their jobs. You know, what is it you do? What do you like about what you do, what you do not like.
And, uh, I did 10 episodes. I think of that and kind of reflected and thought, you know, there are two in here. I really like. And the reason I like them is because they're about something a little bit different. They're not, they're not about the normal, you know, here, you know, here's what I did because this is how I could make money.
It was, it was like, I was really curious about that and I wanted to go do something very different. One of them was with an organic, uh, feed mill coyote Creek feed mill in Austin, Texas. Uh, and then another one was on the. Opposite in the spectrum law and from a, from farmland in Western Kansas [00:05:00] who, uh, operates like 30,000 acres with nine people.
It's like, well, that, those are really interesting. Cause it's like, there's natural questions in there. Like how do you make this work? And so I ended up pivoting and rebranding to future of agriculture in, in 2016 and been going ever since, um, really a focus on. What is may be considered on the fringes, so to speak of agriculture today, but could make a strong case for being more mainstream down the road.
So what's the future of agriculture and, uh, yeah. So almost 300 episodes, Nick later, as you, like you said, uh, we're, we're still going strong and, uh, there's no shortage of stories of interesting things happening in agriculture. And I love what you said, Joe, at the top of the show, um, about controlled environment ag, you know, that.
Basically, it's going to be one part of the future of agriculture. And th that's, if there's one thesis I have with the show, it's like, there is no one answer. If not, it'd be a very short podcast, right? It's going to be a patchwork of solutions, all tailored to their local context and the needs of those consumers.
And so, um, [00:06:00] that's what makes the show exciting for me is getting to make that case weekend and week out. See
[00:06:04] Nick Greens: Joe one size don't fit all.
[00:06:07] Joe Swartz: Not ever, not ever. Um, and I, and I do think, and, you know, obviously coming from a farm background and working with people from the farming background, that's just something that's just so ingrained into you.
I mean, you literally have that, uh, beaten out of you very early on in terms of, uh, you know, this way or that way. I mean, my dad used to always be good about saying things like, well, this is the way we've always done it, but even if you look at. You look at the history of, you know, multi-generations even within a very short window of time, you see changes in techniques, changes in technologies, farmers by their nature adapt.
And one of the things that I was hoping you could kind of talk a little bit more about based on your experiences is that. And again, you're the, the future of ag, uh, podcasts. I mean, that, that name in and of itself, you know, [00:07:00] people are always talking about what's the future gonna look like? Okay. So we're going to have a robotic, this we're going to have automated this.
We're going to have this. And we always think of it kind of as then. Well, once we get to this point, that's how farming is going to be done, but it's not, it's this it's this never ending evolution
[00:07:16] Nick Greens: crop you're growing besides even the technology. Right. Joel, I mean, you can take a detail with the crops, right?
I think. Where we're going with the future. And this is just my point of view is designer brand crops. You know what I mean? Like who has the rare designer brand that only has that and limited, limited amount and only certain regions can get it. I think those are going to be the winners in the run.
[00:07:40] Joe Swartz: I mean, farming is so cyclical yet.
It's, it's always evolving as well. So Tim, can you talk a little bit about, you know, what you've seen, you know, starting off, uh, you just, you know, just a few years ago, but obviously that, that window, so many technologies and approaches have, have changed and evolved. Can you talk a little bit about that process and what [00:08:00] you've seen just in these past few years, maybe some surprises, maybe some things that you knew, what was.
[00:08:05] Tim Hammerich: Yeah, I think that, you know, one thing that is, it definitely floats to the top of the list and this probably won't surprise the two of you is that, you know, Change even rapid change is, is pretty slow in the food industry. I mean, there's just, there's so much at risk. First of all, for consumer, it's what we're putting in our bodies.
It's what we're feeding our children. There's, that's a high risk situation, right? And for producers, it's their whole livelihood. It's the, you know, oftentimes a millions of dollars. They have invested, uh, at risk and so change. Doesn't happen overnight, but it doesn't mean that it doesn't happen. That was, there's probably a better way of saying that, but it's, it's happening.
It's just going to be at its own pace. And so as I look back, maybe at the first five years, you know, a lot of the episodes we do. Trying to control, uh, an environment that's not controlled environment ag. Right. So what can we do to, uh, to manage [00:09:00] for, uh, the environment that maybe we couldn't before using technology?
And that could be all sorts of things from, uh, from drones to genetics, um, to, uh, like you mentioned autonomy and robotics. Um, but you know, I think maybe what has surprised me most, uh, that, that. I didn't account for, you know, when I first started the podcast is the people aspect. I mean, this is all, this is all behavioral.
Um, and it's, it's cultural and, you know, just because something can make for a great Forbes article does not mean it's going anywhere because it has to really take into account, uh, the grower and the growers. Um, job the grower's workflow, the growers risk tolerance, and that has to be a central part of the conversation.
And it's one reason I love the podcast medium. It's a, it's a people centered medium. Right. And so it's, I could go and write a, you know, a [00:10:00] grandiose article about how robotics are going to take all the farmers jobs, but talking to one farmer will give you a whole lot more information about whether or not that's true.
[00:10:10] Joe Swartz: Yeah, absolutely. And, uh, and the content to your point earlier that, um, you know, how do you, how do you sit down and plan out 300 episodes? You don't, it's just, you just keep going, you dig deeper and, or, or you dig in a different direction and you see that diversity in our ag production. I, uh, to your point about the Forbes articles and the, the different, uh, media, um, they love the technology and they love the.
This is how we're going to farm in the future. This is how all of our food is going to be. I mean, I heard that and we talked on your, uh, when I was on your podcast. We talked a little bit about that kind of the, the technological boom in the 1980s that we're seeing very similar situation right now where every newspaper and media article [00:11:00] about some of the greenhouse technology was, you know, this is a lettuce factory.
This is how by 1990, this is how all of our food is going to be grown. Right. And, um, and now, you know, just a few years. Um, into talking with farmers and farm technologies, it probably boggles your mind, how many different ways there are to grow and how many different ways we're going to be growing.
[00:11:22] Tim Hammerich: Yeah.
And I liked what Nick said earlier about, uh, the designer crops. I think that's a really interesting one part, one part of the future of agriculture. Very interesting concept. Uh, and I don't want to, I'd have a tendency to like want to turn the tables cause I do these interviews so much, but I would love to hear more about from.
You know, your point of view, how that happens, you know, does that start with genetics? Is it all marketing with true kind of product differentiation? Can we drive
[00:11:48] Nick Greens: there? I mean, with me, I come from the, from the cannabis industry. That's where I learned a lot of my, my, my growth techniques and all my, how to do fertilizers and mixing teas.
And. You know, [00:12:00] what, what the sprayer organically on for what, and, you know, I, this is what I learned, you know, so, so I mean, you know, to me it's natural to be that way and, and stuff. So, yeah.
[00:12:11] Joe Swartz: And there are some natural evolutions and I, and I do think one of the big challenges that I have when I, when growers come to me that there are new growers or people that want to get in the business is they always kind of have this side to, well, I want to grow a lettuce or I want to grow tomatoes.
Well, why do you want to grow that? Or w what's your reasoning? And, you know, we always push people to kind of start with the markets first, the market demand first, what are consumers looking for? What are opportunities in your area? And I always try to steer people away from that concept of that. You know, if you grow up, they will come.
So I'm going to grow Faisal and I'm going to, you know, the market's going to cover. And I always try to push people away from that attitude of trying to push some kind of crop into the marketplace when necessarily that's not necessarily what is there. Um, but I have seen some growers do some innovative, you know, introduce some innovative [00:13:00] products.
Um, a lot of growers now, especially in culinary herbs and things like that, where they're, they're producing value added products that maybe weren't on the market before. So I think. A component of that, that growers can drive it. But really, um, what I've seen is, as it starts to you start to look at designer crops or, or changes in what people are buying, which then thus leads to what people are growing.
It is some of the external factors. I mean, it could be everything from some current trends. Rachel Ray goes on our show and talks about how awesome cilantro is. And people are looking at culinary herbs or a food safety issue. Um, suddenly, you know, one of the things that we saw, um, gosh, back in the 1990s, when there was a big spinach recall, is that, uh, a bunch of CEA growers wanted to push instantly into spinach.
So, you know, they were kind of looking at this as an opportunity to, you know, their designer products, you know, [00:14:00] food safety, What they didn't anticipate was that the market wasn't looking for a more suit food, safe spinach. They were actually now leery of spinach in general. So, so it's funny how different external.
You know, occurrences, some of which we can't even forecast what they might be, we'll drive the, the, the, the development of new products and stuff. And, but, but obviously now consumers have become so sophisticated and so much more demanding as far as what they want that.
[00:14:33] Nick Greens: Um, so what the farmer markets are offering some of the consumers tune as well.
Like now you got Cuca, melons, you know, Cuca Mellon is definitely a designer brand, you know,
[00:14:45] Tim Hammerich: That's right. That's where I see
[00:14:47] Nick Greens: you winning, you know what I mean? Like somebody that, that has the rights on those jeans, they're winning, you know,
[00:14:54] Tim Hammerich: well, I think, you know, a couple, you know, to this point on differentiation, because I think it's an interesting topic.
I don't let me [00:15:00] hijack the conversation, redirect me if we need to, but you know, a couple of. The recent episodes that we've done on future of ag have been about, uh, how, how do we digitize things? So like, how do we digitize flavor and taste a row mix is a company that's doing this, uh, that they were on the podcast.
And like, if we can kind of digitize that and then we can either one optimize it as we develop those varieties. But, but to be able to communicate with data a little bit better about like, uh, How a consumer is going to respond to a particular flavor of, of, uh, of the produce. Uh, and then another one is, uh, Dan Kittredge, uh, from Bionutrient food association was on to talk about, um, nutrient density and how everyone's throwing around this word, nutrient density.
And like, we don't really have a good. Reliable metric to actually benchmark that against like what's good nutrient density. What's bad. How do we know in real time? And so I think that type of work is going to have a big impact on the, on the controlled environment ag industry, as well as the [00:16:00] ag industry.
[00:16:01] Nick Greens: Yeah, which, which NASA is doing a lot of that work right now. So, and, and along with the USDA, I think they did get grants to do this work for, uh, because I mean, if you, they do got a lot of data, they get access to it because you got to think about, they know what the astronauts are lacking in space. Right.
They know what there's, what's deficient already. They, they, that they dialed down. So now they want to figure out how they can give it in, in a plant form, why they grow it up there. So that's.
[00:16:29] Tim Hammerich: That's where they're at. Yeah. And I think that, I mean, that's going to be that type of stuff is the key because people like yourselves, you're, you're learning and sharing and, and helping with the growing part of making sure you know, that, that the growing part is done.
Well. Uh, I think it's some of this, this business model in innovation for lack of a better term that I think is going to be an important part of the.
[00:16:51] Joe Swartz: Oh, absolutely. I have to laugh when you, when you say you don't want a monopolizer or hijack conversation that, so we ha we have you here because people want to hear [00:17:00] from you.
You really do have such an amazing, um, you know, perspective well, from your own personal experience, but as you said, I mean, literally week to week, you are learning, um, Some of the new innovations and I've gone through your catalog, I've listened to so many of your podcasts and it's just, it's just outstanding.
What, what are some of the ones that stand out? And I know there there's so many, but what is on ones that stand out as far as either technologies or people or techniques or approaches that you found particularly interesting, especially with your ag
[00:17:32] Tim Hammerich: background. Yeah. You know, um, I, I have the benefit of, I didn't come in with an agenda of saying, like, I know this is going to be the future of ag.
So I'll just like find, you know, stories that meet my narrative. So a lot of the ones that I like the most are the ones that sort of expand my mind a little bit, you know, early on one that comes to mind. I think a lot of your listeners will know this name, um, early on had Stephen Ritz on and just as a person, you know, he, he is.
[00:18:00] He is, you could tell why he's been so successful, just he is as engaging and dynamic of a person as you'll ever have on talking about his work that he's done in the Bronx. I thought, you know, he's just, um, he's really electric. Um, so he he's one that stands out from early on that I think was just really inspiring.
As far as the technologies go or new approaches. Uh, I, I, first of all, I should caveat this, that I have a bit of a recency bias whenever anyone asks me my favorite episode, I'll remember like the last dozen that I did and it will probably come from those. And so this is one of the, one of the recent episodes, but, um, Uh, is a, is a company based in Kenya.
And what they do is they have facilitated a tractor sharing as a service in the developing world. And so I have a, I have a passion for figuring out how can we apply these technologies to those that need it most in terms of food security. And so I love stories like this, um, in his case, He's found a way to develop these rural, these rural, uh, [00:19:00] local agents, the booking agents that they've, they aggregate farmer demand for tractors because we're talking very small acreage.
And then they find someone who owns a tractor and facilitates the tractor as a service for them. So, yeah, I think he said over 50% of his customers are. Uh, getting tractors for the first time as a service. So they've never had any sort of mechanization at all. And, um, just the power that, that has and can have to bring people from, you know, from food insecure environments into, um, you know, something that could be a, a thriving business, both on the booking agent side and the farmer agent side.
Inspiring, you know, this there's a thought I've had a lot lately because you know, I think towards the end of the year, you tend to think about like, why am I doing all this? Like what, what, why, you know, as I looked at the year ahead, why do I want to keep doing this? And I think, you know, if I were to go kind of off the deep end a little bit into, uh, a deep level, it's like, You know, agriculture exists to either avoid or alleviate suffering on some level.
Right? So avoid the suffering of, of [00:20:00] food insecurity of hunger. Uh, you know, it could be a shelter context and, um, I think stories that it can allow technology to do that even more, um, especially in the developing world are, are stories that I get super excited about.
[00:20:13] Joe Swartz: Wow. And
[00:20:14] Nick Greens: in any culture, right. Food brings people together.
Absolutely. Hands down, you
[00:20:19] Joe Swartz: know? Yeah. That's one of the things too we get away from is, is, you know, our little sphere of, you know, our technology or how we see farming and agriculture and food. And then when you look at, you know, you've, you've worked with people all over the world, I've been fortunate enough.
I've, I've traveled to, um, you know, 104 countries and, um, You know, the, the, the techniques and technologies can be vastly different, but the problems or the challenges or the opportunities are all the same. It's really, it's, it's one of those most unique things that really does kind of unite us in so many ways.
But then again, you know, [00:21:00] There, there are certain challenges that go with that. So,
[00:21:03] Tim Hammerich: um, yeah, and, and it takes more than just a product or technology or even a system. I mean, it takes people, right. I, and I, I know I've been beating that drum already today, but I think that's a hello tractor is a great example.
It wouldn't work. If he just said, Hey, we're going to create the Uber for tractors in Africa. You know, here's an app, it wouldn't work. Right. It needs these local booking agents that actually will sit down with the farmers, say, Hey, 10 of you together. We can get a tractor out here. And I mean, that's the same in the developed world as well.
Uh, next week's episode is with a local independent agronomist in Indiana and one of her farmer customers. And it's like, okay, all of this data I'm generating is great, but what do I do with it? I can't just give you an app for that. Like someone needs to sit down and work with you on it. And I think that's universal in agriculture and often gets left out of the ag tech conversation.
[00:21:51] Joe Swartz: Absolutely. Uh, and, and I think, yeah, technology, I think sometimes pulls that away. Um, you know, growing up, I grew up in a college town, but we have a robust farming [00:22:00] community and wherever you see, you know, rural America or anywhere else in the world, Where you see these agricultural communities. It really is a community where people take care of each other.
There's that interaction and the people component is so critically important. And I think when, when the focus is on the technologies and I'm glad you, you know, talking about it, you know, here's the app to do that or here. System to run that I hear, um, a lot of ag tech companies talking about, uh, you know, we're the technology technology's here.
We're going to take the farmer out of the farm. You don't need to have the farmer. And one, I find that the saddest thing ever, because of, you know, being a lifelong farmer being growing up around farmers, um, and you don't have to grow up on a farm to be. That's the other thing that I think urban farming and a lot of the controlled environment ag technologies have shown us is that, you know, you can be a farmer anywhere in the world from any background, with a hundred years of experience or three, [00:23:00] three minutes of experience.
Um, that, that, that pole of, uh, of the community and the people, you know, utilizing technology and of course have to, we've talked about this many times, you and I have talked about Nick and I talk about it all the time. It's the technology is a tool and it needs to be seen as such and used, but it needs to be wielded in the hands of a farmer.
And however, that looks to, you know, every everyone else and in every situation is of course different. But, but at the end of the day, this is a life it's a calling, it's a profession and it is a way that we all kind of pulled together. And I think when you go back to even like, we've talked about Stephen Ritz from the educational standpoint and exciting young people and bringing more people in.
You know, it's again, you're right. It's, it's all about the people. And you've got 300 episodes of people, more geezer,
[00:23:52] Tim Hammerich: uh, as we have this big con carbon conversation, right. About climate change and agriculture can, um, you know, [00:24:00] not only stay resilient, but help to mitigate the, uh, climate change. It's, that's another place where it tends to get left out.
It's like, okay. We've w at, at the. Fundamental level. This is about behavior change in people and people with a lot to lose. And so there's, that just needs to constantly be inserted into the conversation. I'm glad you guys continue to do that because I think that's, that's an important nuance that it's not just, okay, we're going to create this technology and all of a sudden, you know, we're going to fix climate change.
It's like we have to change a lot. Behavior for this to happen, uh, both on emission side. And if we're going to do, you know, regenerative practices or, or controlled environment ag or whatever the case may be to fit that local context. Um, it's, it's a lot of people talking to people.
[00:24:43] Nick Greens: Yeah. I guess the terms for that as closed loop systems, you know, I think that's a no brainer, right, Joe.
Like, I, I mean, I grew, I mean, I spent a lot of time at the plant in Chicago. And it was a, it was a big old meat factory [00:25:00] that had, um, a collective of businesses that were all had the same goal. And that was the closed loop model. Right. So the coffee bags from the roaster, I took those bags and grew microgreens.
Um, after I grew microgreens I gave them to the farmer outside, are the warm guy and get, he gave them to his worms. He created, uh, uh, castings and it gave it to the farmer outdoors. So the farmer outdoor can regenerate the soil outside. So it was like, there was no waste in this building and it was very impressive, you know, so, I mean, and, and can this, is this possible?
Yes, I've seen it. So it is possible.
[00:25:37] Joe Swartz: Jim, it has as all of the conversations that you've had with all these different people in the different approaches, has it dramatically changed your, your connection with agriculture, whether your feelings about, you know, kind of how things are or should be, or will be.
[00:25:54] Tim Hammerich: Yeah, I think it has. I think it's, um, first of all, it's, it's, it's made me a lot more [00:26:00] open-minded so it, you know, it kind of the Dunning Kruger effect, right? Where the more you learn, the less confident you are that, you know, the answer, um, that that's right. And it's made me. More comfortable with just saying like, it's going to be a lot of things, you know, like, and that's what the frustration I get on social media with a lot of people on Twitter.
It's just like, they're so convinced that their one way is the only way. And it's like, man, there, it's going to be that and, and everything else. Right. Um, so I think if anything, that's what it's done. For me. Um, I have learned a lot if you go back and listen to some, you know, my first hundred episodes, uh, when I do I go, oh man, that guy doesn't know a thing.
What's he even doing with a podcast. Right. And then the second a hundred episodes, like, okay, starting to catch on and. If I can make it 300 more episodes from now, I will look back at me today and be like, oh, that guy is so cringe-worthy has no clue. Um, but you know, I, I have, I have learned a lot and there's, there's just a never ending amount, um, to left to learn.
Um, but I am becoming, I'm becoming [00:27:00] more of a, I've become more of a believer in the technology, um, than before. Um, just seeing the power that it can have on farm businesses, seeing the power that it can have on. You know, resource utilization. Um, so I, I become more of a believer that technology is part of the answer.
Um, and it's created an interesting dynamic as regenerative agriculture has, has sort of gained more of the spotlight to try to reconcile that like, okay, well, technology is the answer, but this is actually like more of a, you know, relying on more biological, natural processes, where do the two sort of intersect.
And I do think they do. Um, but that's just been kind of a fun sort of area to explore. I think what's
[00:27:38] Nick Greens: needed with technology. And this is just my opinion again, is, uh, um, is a way of like, all right, what are we doing with our e-waste what's going to happen to this e-waste in the long run that needs to be focused on the design more important than how it looks or what color it is.
[00:27:59] Joe Swartz: [00:28:00] So, you know, the, the beauty of all this, uh, Tam is, is that you will never have, uh, you'll never run out of. That's true. He's absolutely, there's a never ending stream just simply because I mean, if, if, if some people had their way, um, and their technology took over the world and, and, and was the one way, then you're, you're all finished and, you know, move on.
But, um, but clearly that's not the case you, uh, and we'll talk in a moment about, about some of your social media. Um, but, uh, I just want to acknowledge, um, Tim's, Tim's, um, posts, uh, on social media have been so spot on for, and that's, that's what actually pulled him onto my radar was just some of the things he said, because they're so simple and common sense yet.
They're things you don't think of. And, and, um, Tim's, you know what I'm referring to Tim, uh, commented, uh, about a week and a half or so ago about, um, you know, people lobbying to be on his podcast and someone saying. [00:29:00] You know, we have this groundbreaking technology it's going to change the world and it's changing the world and all, and you just simply ask, you know, can you, can you refer me to a farmer who, uh, whose utilize the technology or benefited from the technology and you just had crickets.
And, um, and that kind of speaks to that is that we do like that, you know, look over here and Hey, check this out though. Shiny object technology that we're always kind of chatting about, but, but at the end of the day, It's like, if it's not even on a small level, if it's not moving the industry forward or moving a grower's ability to grow forward, then, then it's a lot of lip service.
And obviously so
[00:29:41] Nick Greens: smells like snake oil salesmen. It's a snake oil salesman job.
[00:29:46] Tim Hammerich: Well, you know, I think that has been a revelation to me because I knew nothing about the venture capital world, um, before starting the podcast. Is that there's this whole other universe that exists where, uh, [00:30:00] basically if, if a venture capital firm that has enough influence really likes an idea, they feed it with capital, their friends all feed it with capital and it can grow to a very large valuation with having very little commercialization and that's wild to me, but it's been helpful for me to understand that so that when something.
What you observed, you know, somebody wants to come on the podcast because they want to, um, ex you know, sort of. Elaborate on all of their thought leadership on, on the space. My first question is either number one. Can we, can we bring one of your customers on as well, or number two, can I just talk to a customer instead if I think it would be more interesting and I have been shocked.
How many people just don't respond after that. Just, I just never hear, hear back from them. Um, and it's, it's it, it's an exercise that I'm glad I do, because I would hate to just have a podcast that week after week is talking about something that only venture capitalists love. Um, but, um, and [00:31:00] nothing gets them.
They, they play an important role in the industry. But you can very easily grow a business to a very large amount with very little commercial adoption. And that's wild to me. And you're
[00:31:11] Nick Greens: not a finance podcast,
[00:31:12] Tim Hammerich: right? No, no.
[00:31:15] Joe Swartz: Hey, here is the welcome to the throw a lot of money at this podcast, but, but you do see a lot of that, Tim, you know, in your, in your.
[00:31:25] Tim Hammerich: Yeah, definitely. Definitely. And you know, we are, I'm sure you all have to fight this all the time, where you want to stay optimistic. Like, I love new ideas. I want to put them out there. I realize that sometimes you have to have the idea before you have the adoption. And you know, sometimes innovation has this messy, middle of like where nothing is working.
And it seems like we're all just creating solutions, looking for problems, but then. There's a breakthrough, you know, somebody hits product market fit, and there's a breakthrough, I believe in that. Uh, but you have to temper that with like the wild exuberance that can hit some of these ag technology. I mean, you definitely see it in controlled environment, ag like people just get [00:32:00] extremely excited about it.
It's like, well, I like that. You're excited, but can we have it maybe a little bit more grounded in reality?
[00:32:07] Joe Swartz: Yeah. And you, and your comment about technology and the speed of adoption or lack thereof, uh, and that's for a reason, I mean, that's, um, again, looking at, at, at, you know, my own family's history and looking at the different changes from, from year to year, to, to generation, to generation of adoption of different technologies and techniques.
And, and to your point about the speed of that is that it's, that's very specifically, there's a reason for that. I mean, you can't. Um, just simply come up with an idea, change everything. Well, you can, but, but it it's a, it's a monumental risk. And so when we see, you know, if, if over the past few years, we've, you know, we know a lot of the, um, investment and interest in a lot of different controlled environment, ag models.
Had we said, look, we're going to, we're going to invest $450 million into researching [00:33:00] and trying to develop an indoor vertical farming model to do X, Y, and Z. That's actually a very different animal than. We are we're relatively solutionizing foods or, uh, the way food is produced. I always love how they make, make sure they throw in well, farmers have messed up the planet.
Do you know that our planet is dying? We're starving and this is farmers' faults. Um, 98%
[00:33:26] Nick Greens: less water.
[00:33:27] Joe Swartz: Yeah, but I did, I just graduated from Columbia with my sustainability degree and I've created an entire new paradigm. That's going to save all of us from you. Dumb peasant farmers. It's just, it's it's mind blowing.
Obviously. You see a lot of that in
[00:33:45] Tim Hammerich: yourself. We do. Yeah. So. Companies that came in as proud disruptors, going to turn everything on their head that ha that raised enough capital to live long enough to now say. And I'm talking about people like FBN and indigo to now say [00:34:00] like, Ooh, maybe we need to collaborate with the establishment.
So you've got FBN with partners. Companies like ADM, you've got indigo with partnerships, you know, companies like . Um, now they're saying that, oh, wow. Maybe we can augment the current system because it's a little bit tough dish to throw it all out. You know, whenever I hear anyone say, like, it seemed to insinuate that we just need to stop everything we're doing with the food system and start over.
It's like, what do you understand? What you just said there, right? Like as soon as we stop everything we're doing at the food system, like people starve and die, like, right. So we, we, we need ways to continue evolving. I'm not saying there aren't problems. There are plenty of problems with the food system, but tearing it all down and starting over is, is in my opinion, not the place to
[00:34:40] Joe Swartz: start.
Yeah. The food system is where it is for a very specific reason. And as you said, sure, there are problems. There are inefficiencies. There's a lot of room for improvements. What we do is agricultural technologists is, um, is we try to solve problems or we try to improve process. We try to [00:35:00] make people's lives better.
We try to end suffering, as you said, I mean, that really, that really does hit at home. Is that. Okay. If we have a specific problem, we have a specific, uh, labor is an issue in agriculture. So we are going to look at automation. We're not going to tear it down, blow the whole process up, say, well, you know, these farmers are, you know, farming correctly.
So my automated system will handle everything perfectly, but rather than say, well, let's find ways and technologies and techniques that will. Improve that and make work, uh, farm work safer or lower the need for human input or
[00:35:36] Nick Greens: the farmer don't have to get up at five in the morning and turn on the ventilation or something, you know?
Right. A lot of farmers that still do that. Oh, gosh,
[00:35:47] Tim Hammerich: everybody does. And I think to that point, it's important to acknowledge we've come a long way. I mean, we've come, there's still problems, but we have come a long way. I mean, you guys have both seen it in your careers. Um, if you step back [00:36:00] and just think about what has changed, you know, in, in recent decades, maybe the way we farm doesn't look all that different, but there are a lot of significant.
Changes that have improved, um, the amount of food that we can grow versus the amount of inputs that go into it and everything associated with that. Oh gosh,
[00:36:20] Joe Swartz: absolutely. Yeah, no, I mean, uh, you know, people still drive, you know, if you're in a farming area you're driving past, you're seeing an irrigation, boom.
You're seeing tractors in the field that looks like how we've been growing forever and they have no concept of the. Just day-to-day improvements and changes in everything from irrigation management, pest
[00:36:40] Nick Greens: control. I mean, there's some farmers still using track. There's a hundred years old.
[00:36:46] Joe Swartz: Oh, yeah, I own some and they
[00:36:49] Nick Greens: still run, right.
They're probably the best running ones.
[00:36:53] Joe Swartz: Uh, absolutely. Um, greenhouse technology, I think is another great example because greenhouse technology is one [00:37:00] really still in north America, especially kind of in its infancy, but it's been around for over a hundred years. And so what we get this a lot is that, you know what, greenhouse technology is old fashioned technology, you know, we're, we're, we're going beyond that.
Now. I was like, well, what do you mean? We're going beyond that? So, well, you know, we have a whole other paradigm and rather the greenhouse is there for any of you on YouTube, the greenhouse over it's a Gotham greens is behind me and you know, this greenhouse technology. As Gotham has built a new greenhouses all across the country, every single one of them incorporates a number of technological improvements.
Their production practices have changed and evolved. Um, it's, it's never ending, which to me is one of the most exciting parts of the industry. But, uh, Tim, when, when you started, uh, you know, a number of years ago, talking to all these other. In, in ag and ag tech. Um, are there some of the things that you kind of were hearing about first, maybe three or four years ago that now you've seen [00:38:00] really come to fruition or.
[00:38:03] Tim Hammerich: Yeah, I think, uh, I certainly think as in specialty crops, we are, we are on, on the cusp, if not fully into a robotics type revolution. Again, that doesn't mean we're eliminating the farmer by any means, but it does mean that it actually makes economic sense for them to. Some of these robotic solutions, whether it's, you know, weeding, um, um, carbon robotics has their laser weeder that I just continue to hear really positive things about to expensive machine, but a pretty incredible machine as well.
You know, chemical lists, mechanical lists, laser weeder, kind of crazy. Uh, but I mean, and that goes for a lot of specialty crops, not just, not just the vegetable crops, uh, that's something where at the beginning, I really wanted to do a bunch of episodes on robotics, but as I dug into it, I'm like, man, this.
Ready. And then of course, this, this week, um, John Deere just announced they're fully autonomous. Um, I think it's a R if I remember right. A tractor, uh, at, at, uh, CES this week. So I [00:39:00] think we're really we're if we're not there, we're very close on, on robotics being a more major part of, uh, of agriculture today.
Um, I think, you know, uh, along similar lines, uh, as robotic. I think we're also well know we're, we're in a different place. W with, with biologicals we're, we're, we're far enough into them where we realized like, okay, we have to have a systematic way to look at efficacy of these pot. Logicals of like, how do we differentiate the snake oil from the ones that are, you know, are actually going to make a consistent difference.
Uh, but I, but I think similar to robotics, we are either there or on the cusp of. More embracing them. Part of that's driven by a lack of efficacy on legacy chemicals, right? Like losing those, um, due to resistance issues. Part of it's due to, uh, consumer changes have been super preferences, you know, your Europeans not wanting, um, you know, Any [00:40:00] chemicals or, or some of our key chemicals, not on their products.
Uh, some of it's probably policy-driven as well in certain states. So anyway, that's happening, uh, more of a drive towards biologicals, but we still have these efficacy issues where we need to make sure that what we're adopting actually does, does work. Um, those are two things that kind of come to mind as having evolved in the five years that I've been doing this for sure.
Um, and you know, data. We were talking about data. When I started in 2015, we're still talking about data. There's still challenges there. Um, but it's been fun to see what I, what I've enjoyed is getting to see. Getting to understand that, like all this talk about data, and then, you know, some of the, some of the more cynical farmers that we talk about data, and of course it doesn't do anything for me, but we're actually seeing now that data is laying the groundwork for, for other innovations where like, okay, now that we have this data, now we can do this and that.
And the other, I do think we're starting to see some more practical applications from, from farms. Yeah.
[00:40:55] Joe Swartz: Oh, absolutely. That's pretty cool. So, so we're going to ask you to pull out your crystal [00:41:00] ball a little bit, and I know probably to your point of, uh, you know, the more I learn the less I know. Um, so maybe, maybe your, your vast experience and all of the input that you've received from all those different people.
Um, and it has filled you with a lot of, um, knowledge and wisdom as to how things are developing and shaping, where do you see them going? And, and again, to the, to the idea that, you know, we're never going to get there. We're never going to have that, that model, but what do you see? You know, 5, 10, 25 years down the road.
Where do you see this kind of pushing us?
[00:41:38] Tim Hammerich: Yeah. You know, I, I see, I see a carbon label on food. Um, the same way we see calorie labels on food. And I think that has a lot of impacts. Um, we need, I know you guys just talked to Kyle at carbon book about what they're doing. Um, we need technologies that, that can track and validate, um, the, the carbon footprint on food.
That's going to impact control of our mag. It's going to [00:42:00] impact everybody in ag. And then I see some differentiators, not just on. Quality and not just on price, but also on carbon footprint. Um, I, I just think that, that, that seems to be the direction that, that everything is heading. And I think it has major impact on how we approach.
Uh, farming. Uh, I also see, you know, I see more room for genetic improvements with gene editing and CRISPR. Um, I know, you know, GMOs, we battled about GMOs forever. Um, so I, I hope we, I hope we can maybe come to terms with some ethical sort of considerations when it comes to things like gene editing and CRISPR, but because I think it has a ton of potential for, um, for agriculture as well.
So, you know, if I'm gonna look out for that, that carbon labeling. A big impact on the future of agriculture. And it will be a, um, a, I dunno, a rudder that that will affect a lot of, of where agriculture goes. Um, but yeah, I th I think that [00:43:00] the tools are the tools are there. I used to have a boss in, in the commodity trade.
He, he used to, he used to tell people like you play the music and all dance, basically. Like you tell me the rules of the game and I'll find a way to win. Right. And, uh, Farmers are like that too. Right? If you, we have told them we want abundant, cheap, safe, consistent food, and they've found really good ways to do that.
Um, the carbon conversation adds a new criteria to that, right. And I think they're gonna find ways to, to rise to that challenge as well. Um, it'll be interesting to see what they are though. I'm not gonna, I'm not gonna tell you. I know exactly what they are, but certainly the technologies we've been talking about for five years, uh, many of them will play.
[00:43:42] Joe Swartz: Yeah. Yeah. It's interesting to see how sometimes what seemed to be unrelated technologies kind of come together to solve a completely different
[00:43:51] Tim Hammerich: process. Absolutely. Yeah. And, and that's, what's fun about innovation is, you know, how it stacks on top of each other. It's like, well, this was not possible before, but [00:44:00] now with this three other, you know, these three other innovations now it is possible and that's pretty cool.
And so that's why I think it's important to keep an open mind because just because something today, you know, looks like a solution looking for a problem and is going nowhere. Um, tomorrow. You know, totally different. And you tell me this may be more of a conversation for after the recording or not, but I would love to get, while I get the two of you on here, I want to hear about, do you see controlled environment, agriculture and whatever you want to call, like field scale agriculture.
Do you see the two becoming more divergent or more integrated? Um, you know, in the future. Well, I,
[00:44:39] Joe Swartz: I will admit I have a bias because I incorporated into my farming operation. And so that, that I see a lot of benefit to that. And it's a, it's a really interesting question because in some instances you, you do see that I, I like to think, and I hope, and through people like yourself who continually educate and shine [00:45:00] lights on different people in technologies and approaches is that we see that farming is farming as.
And again, you know, the controlled environment ag is, is everything. I mean, if, if I'm growing in the field and I'm applying certain materials or a drip irrigation systems or plastic mulch, or, you know, planting wind rows for, you know, for windbreak, even those are all different levels. So really it is just farming.
And I hope that that approach and, and a lot of growers take that up. And I think consumers are also starting to see that with the advent of controlled environment, ag products, especially leafy greens right now, starting to take more market share. People are starting to see that they're sustainably grown and they're locally grown, and this is how they're produced.
And okay. I always try to, you know, To, to, to impose on people, you know, the, the horticultural aspect of controlled environment, ag, not the technology as much, [00:46:00] but the horticulture and again, we're growing plants. And so how do we do that? What we're using, you know, the, the laws of horticulture will never change.
And I actually have people on social media that have called me out and said, you know, you're full of crap. It's not, you know, with indoor farming, you know, the laws of farming are changing and horticulture is changing and plants are changing. No. They have certain needs. They have certain, certain, uh, effects.
So how we do it is going to continue to change, but the fundamentals of what we're doing, it really doesn't. And I think your, your point of the people aspect I think is, is going to be coming increasingly important as if it was always a very important your question, Tim.
[00:46:44] Nick Greens: Um, I learned hydroponics from learning traditional farming.
So I learned from a traditional farmer and how to grow by biodiversity to his property. I mean, his bug life were even balanced. You know, when I learned [00:47:00] that, that's what taught me hydroponic.
[00:47:03] Joe Swartz: Yeah, because it's the same it's producing plants. Um, I have said this at all of our growers, uh, conferences and training sessions, you know, we'll get sometimes, you know, entrepreneurs or people from outside the farming industry.
Okay. Welcome to farming everyone as well. No, not really. We're not getting we're new farming, but this is different. It's fun. And so, so I do, I, I hope Tim that everything, you know, kind of merges more and, and you know, how, how exactly we grow, um, you know, is going to be less relevant is, is long as certain fundamentals, you know, from productivity to food safety deposit of economics, to sustainability, all of those things kind of mesh.
So I hope to see. That become less of an issue. So we don't have conventional farmers and hydroponic farmers and all [00:48:00] that, but rather just, we pull it all together. And I think you're going to have a, a big role in that actually over the next few years.
[00:48:06] Tim Hammerich: Yeah. I mean, I, I, I love the concept. I know Joe, you and I have talked about how conventional farmers considering like, well, maybe I could, you don't put a greenhouse out there and have that being part of my business.
Uh, I love that concept and I don't see why. Couldn't work, why shouldn't work. Um, and, and, and vice versa, you know, you've got goth and greens, like you mentioned, you're obviously very committed to patrol environment ag space, but, but could their business also include some, some form of, of outdoor? I don't know.
Um, I don't know enough about them to say, uh, in not picking on them specifically, but those types of companies in general, that, that, uh, are making big investments. Um, yeah, I think it's an interesting concept and one that I think our paradigm should be open to, to see if there are, you know, some sort. Um, helpful aspects that the two could fit together with
[00:48:53] Joe Swartz: sure.
Yeah, absolutely. We're all here to produce fresh local nutritious. Period and not kill the planet [00:49:00] while we do it.
[00:49:00] Tim Hammerich: Exactly. Yep. Yep.
[00:49:02] Joe Swartz: So, um, Tim, obviously, I mean, people love hearing from you. We really appreciate your time. Can you tell, um, tell people a little bit more about where they can hear, uh, your podcasts at you obviously have, I could go down the list of all of your social media presence, but, but what, what would be some of the best ways for people to hear your podcasts here?
You have, um, th we didn't even talk about the farmer of the future report that you put out. So can you tell us a little bit about how we can hear more? Sure.
[00:49:27] Tim Hammerich: Yeah. Yeah. Any podcast platform, probably wherever you're listening to this, you can also find my podcast, which is called future of agriculture. Um, I'm active in two places online.
Uh, one is Twitter and then the other is LinkedIn. Um, and, uh, yeah, that farm of the future report is a, is a daily radio report about agricultural innovation that appears on, uh, over a hundred stations in eight states. And, um, you could find email@example.com. And
[00:49:52] Joe Swartz: again, that's fantastic. So, Tim, uh, any parting shots for people, what would you like to kind of leave [00:50:00] all the listeners with in terms of what you've seen and what you'd like people to kind of take away from it?
[00:50:06] Tim Hammerich: Yeah, I think it, you know, it gets down to number one, uh, approaching, approaching agriculture with, with, uh, empathy, for, for the grower, uh, knowing that this is a people business and, uh, the technology is great and let's welcome as much new technology and try to figure out where it fits in as possible. Uh, but remember, you know, it takes, it takes people, it takes people like you guys out there every day working directly, um, On this stuff too, to make it happen.
So don't, don't overlook that aspect. I think that's a good, good theme for my work and for, for this.
[00:50:39] Joe Swartz: Awesome. Well, Dan hemorrhage, thank you so much. We really appreciate your time and insight insight. I'm certainly going to want to have you come back and talk to us again, and we're looking forward to the many guests and the great conversations that you'll be having as well.
Um, and thank you all for listening to us again. Uh, we've got more guests coming up, a lot of great, good [00:51:00] conversation. And, uh, we'd like to just kind of keep this big agricultural train moving forward. So. Uh, thanks again, Tim and, uh, Nick has always, it was great. So thanks very much and have a great day, everybody.