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30: Making Farming Sexy Again - How Climate Farmers aims to support Regenerative Farmers with Co-Founder Philippe Birker

Philippe spent his adolescent years in an agricultural town in Western Germany. His grandmother was a farmer herself, with a 165 hectare farm! He has now dedicated his work to improving recognition of the important role that farmers play in our world, and promoting sustainable regenerative agriculture practices.

After studying at Maastricht University, where he received both his bachelors and masters degree, Philippe spent 5 years working in business and community development for several impact start-ups. He later embarked on the journey to regenerative farming, after moving out from the city to reconnect with nature. This led him to co-found Climate Farmers, which aims to build the infrastructure to scale regenerative agriculture by developing an ecosystem measurement system as a baseline to finance sustainable farming practices. In founding Climate Farmers, he spent a year travelling to over 60 regenerative farms to learn the principles, stories, and inspirations of real farmers in the sustainable agriculture space.

Philippe is currently part of Ashoka's Changemaker community, the BMW Foundation Responsible Leader Network, TED Countdown, Viva con Agua, and the Love Foundation which he co-founded in 2013. Fun fact about Philippe: Since 2009 he has been a world record holder for simultaneous fire breathing!

You can listen to this episode here:

You can also listen to this podcast at Spotify, Apple Podcast, Google Podcast or other major podcast distributors:

What is regenerative farming and Why?

Regenerative agriculture is a holistic approach to farming, which aims to meet the needs of both the people and the earth. Unlike conventional farming methods that may deplete soil fertility over time, regenerative farming seeks to regenerate soil health, biodiversity, and overall ecosystem resilience. It emphasizes organic and agroecological principles, utilizing practices such as cover cropping, crop rotation, and minimal tillage to improve soil structure and fertility.

One key aspect of regenerative farming is carbon sequestration, with the goal of mitigating climate change by capturing and storing atmospheric carbon dioxide in the soil. This process not only helps combat global warming but also contributes to improved soil health and water retention.

Regenerative agriculture aims to restore the soil and ecosystem health, address inequity, and preserve our land, waters, and climate for future generations.

What does Climate Farmers Do?:

Climate Farmers aims to build the infrastructure to scale regenerative agriculture in Europe.

Their vision? To live in a world where humans exist in harmony with nature.

To do this, Climate Farmers has two key functions.

  1. Regenerative Farming Academy - a non-profit branch of Climate Farmers which aims to unite a community of regenerative farmers to support and guide the transition into regenerative agriculture. Through meetings, chat groups, and conferences, this group connects new and old sustainable farmers to promote best practices and share new ideas.

  2. Carbon Credits - Through the CarbonCredit+ program, regenerative farmers are able to receive subsidization to help them in operating their farm with regenerative practices. Companies and industries are able to purchase these credits through Carbon Farmers, connecting them directly to the farmer that they are supporting and allowing companies to meet their own carbon goals.

Since its founding in 2019, Climate Farmers has supported the transition of 400 farms into regenerative agriculture, totalling over 20,000 hectares of farm land! (Source:

What are Carbon Credits and how do they work:

Carbon Credits are one of the current approaches used to aid in the removal of carbon in the atmosphere. With new market regulations and pressures on sustainability, companies are being encouraged to reduce carbon emissions. In cases where that is not possible, companies can purchase Carbon Credits to help offset the unavoidable carbon emissions they produce, thereby meeting sustainability targets while still operating at a competitive level.

In this episode we address the following questions:

  • What does it mean to "Make farmers sexy again?" 3:00

  • What is your take on the current farming protests? 5:00

  • Is regenerative agriculture bringing sexy back to farming (is this the future of farming)? 8:00

  • What are the main benefits of regenerative agriculture? 11:45

  • How do you define regenerative agriculture? 13:44

  • What is the timeframe that this works in? 15:30

  • What needs to change in the European context for regenerative agriculture to take root? 16:45

  • What brought you to founding climate farmers? 19:00

  • What brought you to climate farmers? 21:30

  • How do you measure the carbon storing in soil? 24:00

  • How can you secure the carbon in the soil? 25:30

  • How do you avoid overpromising with carbon credits? 26:30

  • How does this business model work? 27:30

  • What else needs to change to make farming profitable again? 29:00

  • How does the food-cost trade-off balance out, what needs to happen? 31:30

  • Is there a way out of our current climate problem? 33:30

  • Since founding climate farmers, what has been the hardest realization you’ve faced? 34:30

  • How does this compare to just bio/organic products? 36:00

  • What are your 2030 goals for climate farmers? 37:00

  • What is the biggest barrier? 38:00

  • How can people support climate farmers? 39:00

  • What books/podcast/resources do you recommend to learn more about regenerative agriculture? 40:00

  • What is fire breathing and why are you the world record holder? 37:50 How can people contact you? 41:45

  • What makes you confident that we will solve the climate crisis? 43:00

Memorable quotes from the episode by Philippe:

“Make farmers sexy again” 

“Farmers are among the hardest working people i’ve ever met….I don’t know any farmers working less than 60-70 hours a week” 

“An orange today has only 1/6th the amount of nutrients that an orange grown 60 years ago would have had” paid

“Regenerative agriculture is agriculture that essentially increases the life holding capacity of its place.” 

“If we are not working on climate change right now, what are we doing with our lives? Climate change is the biggest issue in our world right now.” 

"Making farming sexy again means two things: First to make farming financially feasible, and two, to show that farming can be a beautiful profession, especially regenerative farming which is very inline with nature."

[On budget food prices and what is in the food] “You think you’ve made a bargain, but essentially you are paying with your life for that bargain”


Transcript based on AI and beta- status:

Narrator : 0:01

You are listening to Sustain Now. In this podcast, you will learn from successful entrepreneurs and scientists about the newest climate change solutions to address the climate crisis, from food and agri-tech over energy material innovation to circular economy. This nonprofit podcast is hosted by Frederica. She is a tech entrepreneur and climate enthusiast. You can find show notes and background information on wwwSustainNowch. Enjoy the show.

Friederike: 0:35

Welcome everyone to another episode of Sustain Now. Today, I have the pleasure of sitting down with Philipp Birker, co-founder of Climate Farmers. This company is on a mission to relucionize agriculture by building the necessary infrastructure to scale up regenerative practices. How? By developing an ecosystem measurement system that serves as a baseline for financing the transformation to regenerative farms. Before Philipp ventured into a re-arm of regeneration, he spent five years dedicated to business and community development for various impact startups. But here's a fascinating tidbit about him Philipp also holds the record in fire breathing Curious. Well, you will hear more about it in this episode. Let's dive into the numbers. In 2020, eu farms utilized a staggering 157 million hectares of land for agriculture production, accounting for 38% of the total EU land. It's not worthy that 95% of these farms are family-owned. However, agriculture also contributes to 26% of our yearly worldwide emissions. Climate Farmers is a-being to transform every farm into a profitable and regenerative one. This episode is a must listen if you're eager to grasp the essence of regenerative agriculture, understanding why our food has lost significant nutritional benefits and explore the necessary changes in policies, financing structures, why carbon financing is not enough, and overall perception towards farmers. Get ready for a deep dive into the world of sustainable farming and discover how climate farmers is paving the way for a positive change. Happy listening. So today we have Philipp from Climate Farmers as my interview partner at Sustain Now Welcome.

Philippe: 2:39

Hey, pleasure to be here, looking forward.

Friederike: 2:41

It's already February unbelievable in 2024, and we already hit a record warm day here in Switzerland. But how was your start in this year so far?

Philippe: 2:53

I mean record temperatures we definitely already had as well, I think. On the micro level, on the personal level, it's been a very good start of the year. I took an end of year break last year for the first time in four years where I kind of took like a two-week digital detox. That was great. I mean. I feel like I'm kind of ahead. We're having really planned the 2024 strategy for climate farmers at the end of last year already. But I did enjoy lying at the beach last weekend at 20 degrees in Portugal, which is nice in the moment, but also really wrong. It felt really wrong already. And then two days ago I already got the first well notices from some of our farmers in Catalonia and Northern Spain that the Catalan government has declared a water emergency and farmers have to reduce 25 to 50% less water. So yeah, you can already see the effects of climate change now. I think a drought in winter times is not a very good sign for the summer. Yeah, mixed feelings, I would say yeah.

Friederike: 3:44

I can imagine Crazy Already now, like thinking about drought in February. That's really crazy and I think as well, like 2023 has been a record year as well here in Switzerland and I think in rest of Europe, which was kind of surprising, and I think it affects what you can see on farming. That I think we will dive right into. It is a lot I saw in one of your recent posts which really struck me. I think it was a very interesting hashtag making farming sexy again. How do you want to do that?

Philippe: 4:17

I mean, I think the bigger turn to take here is to say that we have a problem in Europe with the fact that farming is not sexy right now. Right, so farming is one of those professions which is very essential for all of us. Like, we can all do with less life coaches, I would say, but we cannot do with less farmers, because we all need to eat every day. But, at the same time, I grew up in a very agricultural context in Western Germany and in my high school, no one wanted to become a farmer, right? It was just not something that you would say, it's not something that's regarded as attractive, it's not something that people would be including in their online dating profiles. And that's a problem, because if we don't manage to get young people back into farming, then we will. We will run into food security issues in Europe we have. Right now, most of the farmers in the European Union are about 55 years old, and when they go into retirement, there's no next generation, and a lot of this is because, also, farmers are not in a very good position in the food supply chain. So a lot of farmers are struggling financially, they're feeling the effects of climate change, but they're not getting the support that they should be, and they're also getting less and less money out of the food that people are spending. So over the last 50 years, farmers consecutively got less and less money out of the food that you are purchasing as a normal person in the supermarket, and that leads to the fact that it's not attractive, and so making farming sexy again means for me, on the one hand, that we that we change that situation and that we make it financially feasible again for people to become farmers, but also show that farming is a profession which can be very beautiful, and especially regenerative farming is farming which is in line with nature, where you're basically stewarding an ecosystem and where you can get a lot of joy and pleasure out of your work. And we see that also more and more young people are getting interested into regenerative farming, and so a lot of what we're doing is amplifying these stories and showing that farming can also be something very rewarding in a time where a lot of people are looking for meaning in their lives.

Friederike: 6:06

I think we all saw on the TV and on other news sites that in Germany, and I think as well now in Portugal, currently farmers are protesting against the cutting subsidies in a, let's say, more or less visual way what they're thinking about it. What is your take on that? Is that making them sexy again, or how do you see that?

Philippe: 6:26

I mean, these protests are across Europe, so it's not just Germany, it's also the Netherlands, it's France, it's Portugal, and it's exactly for the reasons that I've just hinted at, essentially right. So I think the farmer protests right now they're not about the specific issue which is portrayed in the media. Right? German farmers are not protesting because the subsidies for fuel is being cut. They're protesting because the whole bigger picture is the problem, and this is exactly what I mean. Farmers are not getting the respect and the acknowledgement in society that there should be. They are among the most hardest working people that I've ever met. Like everybody claims to be working hard, I don't know any farmer that's working less than 60, 70 hours a week. They are getting up most of the time in the morning at 5 or 6 o'clock in the morning. Most of the time when I want to speak to a farmer, I have to call with them on WhatsApp because they're on the field, they're working and they're not getting the reward for that, and that is someone that is as crucial for society as a doctor is, and that is the problem that we're having. So I would always, I would invite everybody to look at the farmer protest, see at it as an issue of the bigger picture. Ask yourself would you want to become a farmer right now? Well, if the answer to this is no, then the question is why is that the case? And how can it be that a profession that is so essential to our society is one that is getting so little respect and so little financial and social reward? And that is the reason why farmers are protesting, and that is the reason why farmers are angry, and I don't think that people are looking at this and are like, oh, I want to be protesting. So obviously it's not making farming sexy again, but it is hopefully raising some awareness to the fact that we have an issue in one of the core sectors for all of us.

Friederike: 7:58

Yeah, I totally agree. And do you know how much percentage actually of the European GDP is farming? I don't even know Like I think it's quite a substantial part how much we produce food in Europe. I think Netherlands is one of the most productive ones per square meter. But we talk about regenerative agriculture, or that's your theme actually, regenerative agriculture. Is that one of the solutions for them that they say we have to go into regenerative agriculture so that we maybe get no financing? Would that be a route to solve the issues? Or is it really just a part like the cherry on the cake, to go in regenerative agriculture? Or could that be the leading transformation to make one side more sexy again but also to give them more financial long-term perspective?

Philippe: 8:48

I think the way I would phrase it is different. Regenerative agriculture is the solution for all of us, but the problem is right now is that the agri-food system as we're having it right now is not encouraging farmers to go in that direction. So one of the issues that we're having in our farming sector right now is that farmers are only getting rewarded for yield. So, depending on the yield that you're having, farmers are getting paid money for that, and they're also getting subsidies, depending on the size of the farm and, to a certain extent, based on what they're seeding and what their yield is. But what we're not looking at there is the externalities, which are part of this. So the issue that we're having at the moment is that farming is responsible for 24% of all greenhouse gas emissions, which means it's largely one of the driving forces behind climate change and the crossing of the planetary boundaries. The planetary boundaries is a concept that was developed by the Club of Rome, which is one of the leading climate change think-tanks, in the 80s already, which shows the boundaries that we're having in our world and which we as human beings are going beyond, thereby destroying essentially our planet and the ecosystem that we're living in in the long run. One of those is, for example, also biodiversity, where, again, farming is one of the main contributors due to the many mechanical input costs that farmers are using. But farmers are using these chemical input costs because they are stuck in a system where they are told to be using them, where they're taught at the university to be using them, and where they're also again getting paid for yield, which is increasing. With the use of these input costs. In regenerative agriculture, what you're doing is you're farming a lot more in line with nature. So you're looking at how do you support nature in regenerating its local ecosystem in this case, for example, a farm and what that means is that you also have positive externalities, such as the possibility that, due to photosynthesis, plants which are growing on your farm are taking carbon out of the atmosphere. They're stored in the plant and they're stored through the roots into the soil, which is one of the best ways that we're having for getting carbon out of the atmosphere. The problem is, farmers are not getting paid for this. At the same time, because of regenerative practices, you are increasing biodiversity on your farm, which is essentially better for all of us. Albert Einstein made the famous quote if the beast goes, then the humans will go as well. We are on route for that. Well, farmers, which are we generating, are building homes and ecosystems for thriving bees and other insects, but they're not getting paid for that. At the same time, we have been touching already on the water issues that we're having. We generate the farmers through the building up of soil health, increasing the soil water storage capacity of these soils so the soil is more capable of storing water in times of rain and then keeping it four times of drought, but farmers are not getting paid for that, and this is the massive issue that we're having that we are not really helping farmers in the transition, but we're rather blocking them because the financial incentives are not going in that direction and there's also no access to education for going in that direction. So it's very hard for farmers to learn how to do regenerative agriculture in their context, and then they have no one supporting them financially when they're doing that. And that also goes back to the subsidies of the European Union, which are right now not supporting this at all as well, and this is one of the major things that we're also working with with climate farmers.

Friederike: 11:56

Okay, I understand. Maybe we can take two parts. One is the benefits you just communicated. You know what I heard is about regenerative agriculture. You improve the soil health. Through that, you can increase the water capacities to hold more water in the soil. The second was biodiversity to increase the biodiversity and, as well, you can store more carbon. Is that the three main benefits? Do you say any others?

Philippe: 12:20

I mean, there's another one, there's a whole more range. Another interesting one is nutrient density. So because of the way how we have been growing food, food has lost a lot of its nourishing effects. So, for example, an orange nowadays has one sixth of the nutrients that an orange would have had 60 years ago. This is again because the orange tree is growing with chemical input costs but not in a way how it would be growing in nature, so it's not getting the nutrients in a natural way and through that the nutrients are not ending up in the orange. So if we're eating a lot of food nowadays but the food that we're eating is actually not nourishing us, it's actually making us sick and conveniently. The same company that's selling us the chemical input cost is also selling us the medicine which is biome. In regenerative agriculture we have already a few studies which we're involved in. You can see that because it's coming from a thriving, healthy ecosystem, the nutrient density is higher. So you would actually have to eat less in order to get the same amount of nutrients. And very nice side effect of that one as well. More nutrient dense food tastes a lot better, which is why you see right now that Michelin star chefs are driving the regenerative movement because they have the appreciation for the good food. So one of the most positive side effects for me was that, due to being involved with regenerative farmers, I'm getting a lot more produce from regenerative farmers and my food quality increased massively over the last four years.

Friederike: 13:38

I had another example I think it was Broccoli that Broccoli lost 50% of its nutrition in the last 15 years and that also shocked me, that you think, oh, this Broccoli, it's just because also the speed and what kind of nutrition is in there and what's the soil health behind it. It's kind of crazy, if you think about it, that you think you're eating something great but actually it's nourished by bad soil health. That's a very good point. I really like that, and maybe there's a lot of different takes out there on the market. What really regenerative agriculture is? You just touch the benefits of them, but maybe what is your definition of regenerative agriculture?

Philippe: 14:17

I mean essentially, in one sense, it's agriculture that increases the life-holding capacity of its place. So essentially it's agriculture which looks at the context of the farm, which looks at the local ecosystem and then tries to understand how can we work with natural processes and support natural processes. And some of those examples is you can see that under the soil level, under the earth level, there's a whole ecosystem and a whole cosmos of life, like there's more life below soil than above soil. There's lots of little micro animals and one thing that's, for example, going on there is a lot of trading. So the plants which are taking the carbon out of the atmosphere and bringing it into the roots, they use that carbon as a trading good against other things like nutrients that they're needing, which, for example, mushrooms, which are kind of like the Dutchmen of the sale, so the tradesmen and with roots, of other plants. But in order to have this trading happening, you need the diversity of plants which have different nutrients which they can be trading with each other. What we do in convention agriculture. We have monoculture fields which are mostly laid out for how is it easy to harvest, how is it easy to sell, but not how the thriving ecosystem look like In nature, you never have monoculture. You always have diversity. So in regenerative agriculture you would be planting a diversity of plants which can be interacting below the soil level with each other. You would also not do the act of plowing, where you basically kick out all the life that's below the soil and start every year again. It's a bit like you're clearing out a bazaar every year, but you're actually keeping the soil always covered, so you're always protected from the sun, and you don't plow it, so you allow the soil life to multiply and to grow and through that you're building a richer and stronger ecosystem over the course of years, and that then leads to all the positive benefits which I've been outlining before. So a lot of the practices which are being done right now are mended, and that means that you have also to focus on different ways of rewarding farmers for what they're doing, because very often, especially in the initial period, the plants are very used to the chemical input costs and used to the practice of plowing, so they reduce the yield, at least for the initial transition period, and for that farmers are not compensated right now.

Friederike: 16:21

And how long does this yield going down Like what's the average rate? Is it one year, two years, three years?

Philippe: 16:27

Is it?

Friederike: 16:28

depending on what they're planting.

Philippe: 16:30

It's very context-specific so it's very hard to say a general number. Roughly we're working with something like three to five years. And also important to say here, the yield does not have to go down. But it could go down, it's possible.

Friederike: 16:40

And what needs to. You just said like what's the concept, etc. What needs to change in a Europe perspective to move more into regenerative agriculture? One is the financing. Does it need to have like agriculture fund? We're going to dive right into what you guys are doing, trying to finance it right out of a private way. Is there what needs to change to actually drive Europe into regenerative agriculture?

Philippe: 17:05

So what we are doing a lot right now is working on the policy level, because in 2027, the next common agricultural policy is getting published again, and what we want is that this cap includes outcome-based payment for ecosystem services, so that farmers do not only get paid based on the size of the farm and what they're planting, but that they get actually paid also in subsidies based on outcomes that they can show. So we are, for example, supporting farmers in measuring the increase in biodiversity, carbon and soil water storage capacity, and if farmers could show this, then they should be rewarded by this by society, which in our case, means subsidies and making them sexy again.

Friederike: 17:46

Okay, got it. So you have a totally different background. You know like you come from impact startups, you did a lot of different other things before you actually became also a farmer. I think you know you also bought right the farm in Portugal. Can you just explain a little bit the background? So why did you start climate farmers and, in the first place, what made you actually doing it?

Philippe: 18:09

I mean. So. I grew up in an agricultural context. So I grew up in a tiny village in Western Germany with with 500 inhabitants. My godmother had a 165 hectare farm, so I kind of grew up seeing the struggles and the joy of farming from very early on. And then I spent about 10 years living in Amsterdam and Berlin, studying in the Netherlands, in Maastricht, and also then working for a variety of different tech impact startups, and I liked living in the cities. I really enjoyed diving into the electronic music scene. I also ran a nightclub for three years and I especially loved the people that I met there. But I also know that I I prefer being in nature and I prefer being outside to being in cities, and especially nowadays when I, when I go down to the cities again, I really feel the intensity of the noise and the smock and everything. So for me, the idea developed in my mid twenties to think about how can I bring the people that I love in the cities to the countryside. And that is what brought me to Portugal, because Portugal has is very empty in the center of the country. Most life is along the coast and the fleeing from the land that is happening all over Europe is in Portugal, even more extreme than, for example, in Germany, and that has led the Portuguese government to pass a law that you can rebuild broken down houses and you don't need planning permissions. So, together with a few friends, we bought a few hectares of land and a few broken down houses essentially of a formerly abandoned village in the Portuguese mountains in 2017. And that's when I started looking back into permaculture initially, and then also regenerative agriculture myself, and then I found papers from Wageningen University from the eighties and nineties speaking about the possibility of carbon sequestration and biodiversity increase through regenerative agriculture, and it was amazing to me because it was a solution to so many issues. Climate change was picking up. At that time. It was very clear that we're going towards a climate crisis and, at the same time, one of the biggest issues conventional agriculture could be turned into one of the solutions with regenerative agriculture, but there was no one speaking about this at that time and it was also very hard to find farmers doing it. I did quite some online research and in the end, I found around 60 farmers and I did a one year pilgrimage visiting all of these farmers, staying with the farmers, working with them and trying to understand how they got into regenerative agriculture, why they think it's not scaling and what I could do to help them, and that essentially then led to founding climate farmers, which happened essentially in in summer of 2019, where, because of a few other projects, I was involved in a part of Ashoka, which is a network of social entrepreneurs. One of the people that I have been in touch with for more than 10 years now is Evo, my co-founder of climate farmers, and we've always been bouncing off ideas with each other and especially thinking about real impact startups and like impact on a systemic level. And then in summer 2019, I was just in the middle of my tour and Evo grew up on a horse farm as well, and it was, I think at that point, the hottest day ever measured in Berlin was 39.5 degrees, and we were both saying, if we're not working on climate change, then what are we doing with our lives right now? Like? Climate is the biggest issue that we're facing, and we could not look ourselves in the eye or our children in the eye later on if we did not do whatever we could, and we believe that Region Act is the best angle that we're having. It's the most impactful solution that I can think of and that I could see, and that's why, since then, we both have dedicated basically our lives full time to scaling with Genital Agriculture, supporting farmers in their transition and, through that, hopefully also fixing the broken relationship between humans and nature.

Friederike: 21:27

Can you explain in a few sentences what climate farmers offer us and what you actually do?

Philippe: 21:31

Essentially, we have two things. So we have a non-profit arm which is providing, which is a Climate Farmers Academy, which is providing, first of all, farmers with a sense of community, because when I visited the 60, we joined the farmers across Europe One of the things that struck me was that they all did not know each other and they all felt very lonely because they were the only ones doing this. So we started building a community between them, initially online because of the pandemic, then started in 2020. So we did online calls and seminars. We also did WhatsApp groups. Then we organized offline events as well. We organized the conference around Regenerative Agriculture in 2021. We taught farmers essentially the basics of how to do Regenerative Agriculture and their specific context. We also built a consultant arm with 125 consultants by now which support farmers in this transition. And then we also realized that money is an issue and that the big issue is that farmers are not getting paid for these ecosystem services and we live in a society where, unfortunately, we're still not really willing yet to pay for biodiversity and we're also not really willing yet to pay for a sewage capacity. But carbon is becoming a bit of a hot topic, and it was already in 2019. And then Google declared the Google Impact Challenge on Climate, where they put 10 million euros in a pot to work on solutions in quotation marks for climate change. And so we applied back then still with just two, three people working on this, and we wrote an application to write a methodology together with Bahrain University, one of the leading agricultural universities in the Netherlands, on how we can measure the increase in carbon in the soil of farmers and how we can then reward them through a tool that is called carbon credits on the voluntary carbon market. And amazingly, google saw it was a great idea, and so they gave us a 650,000 euro grant and they also gave us some coaching and training on how to build a tech startup and I have to say they don't have the best reputation in Germany, but they gave us the money and they never asked any questions. They just let us do our job, and with that we were able to write this methodology in one and a half years. We got that one verified by TÜV and we're now basically on the for profit side of things, generating income for farmers in that transition through carbon credits. And in the meantime the term exploded there was a documentary that is called Kiss the Ground that came out on Netflix. Regenerative agriculture became very known and famous, at least in the sub scene. A lot of food corporates are moving in that direction. A lot of food corporates, such as Nestle, denon, dr Erdke and so on, have all made their commitments towards regenerative agriculture. But because it's such a new thing, there's still no real verification out there. So we're now also working on bringing out a verification out for regenerative agriculture that we developed together with farmers, which is something like an organic label, but for regenerative agriculture and in a way that farmers love it. So basically, for profit side is measuring these ecosystem services and rewarding farmers for them. And then we're doing a lot of policy work and a few other things as well, but the core part of it, I would say, Okay, great.

Friederike: 24:26

So regarding the measurement, you can imagine that's quite difficult to really measure the carbon and the salt because it's changing all the time. How do you do that?

Philippe: 24:35

It's also a bit more complicated, but it's a variety of tools. So we're working with remote sensing, which is essentially using satellite technology, and especially Sentinel to there, which satellite with freely available satellite data from the European Union. We're also working with salt samples and we're also working with mathematical models, essentially, and with a tool that was called Ross C that was developed there together with Vaghanigan.

Friederike: 24:56

Because I think that's kind of the hot topic in many carbon MRE technologies. What are outer enhanced weathering is another one, et cetera, where the measurement is so difficult. Because it's so, how do you ensure that the permanence is there of the carbon in the soil? How do you see that? How do you tackle that problem? That permanence you know you measure now, but it could be in a year totally different, or you lost everything and usually I don't know if you have carbon futures and how you trade the carbons. If that is a 20 years ahead, you can elaborate a little bit on that, can you? At least you know. Of course you can never get 100% guarantee that this will be there, but how can you get close so that you see the permanence of the carbon in the soil can be actually seen and secured?

Philippe: 25:39

So we're doing a long term contract with our farmers, so our farmers have to show that they own the land, or that they at least have a lease over 10 years, and then we're doing a 10 year contract with the farmers, where they're committing to adopt the reginaldo practices and to at least not to practices such as plowing, for example, which would release the carbon again. And then I think I also I really want to move away from the carbon focus. Right, I think it's something that we did back then, but I think we really should be moving towards something like a ecosystem or regeneration credit, because I think it's a problem that we're actually just focusing on the carbon, because I think things such as biodiversity and soil water storage capacity are at least as important, not to mention nutrient density. So I would actually laugh towards more in that direction. As we have it, unfortunately, we are not there yet, but I think carbon is just one of the many benefits of regenerative agriculture that we're having.

Friederike: 26:28

Yeah, there has been also a lot of, let's say, high press heat, especially to the South Pole Cariba project. How do you measure over promises? Did that affect you?

Philippe: 26:38

Not really because of the way how we are doing it. We are connecting essentially the corporates which are supporting farmers directly with the farmer and then they can visit the farmers as well. So we're rebuilding that personal relationship. And a lot of the issues on the voluntary carbon market is because you essentially buy carbon credits somewhere in the global south. You don't really know what's happening, you don't have a direct connection to the project, and with us you can also see with your own eyes the regeneration that's taking place and you can really build a relationship with the farmer that you're supporting. And that's also the direction that we want to take to really be again like hey, this farmer is doing amazing work. You can visit the farmer, you can see what's going on and you can reward the farmer for the work that he's doing. And that's a very different approach than what you would normally be having with the classical South Pole kind of credits.

Friederike: 27:20

Okay, understood. How is the business model from the perspective of the farmer? They said you know carbon credits and they get money for it. And what's the business model out of a perspective of a corporation Like how do you, how do you work with them? And how does it work in terms of like charging? Are you taking a fee in between? Or, depending on how much carbon they store, how is your business model working?

Philippe: 27:41

So the farmer is getting 65% of the money and 35% of the money is going to us, essentially to cover our costs. And for corporates, as I said, it's all the voluntary carbon market. So it's all companies which which really want to do the right thing and they could be buying credits for five or 10 euros a ton, which available we're selling for 50 euros a ton, which is quite a premium price. But again, they get to visit the farmer, so they get to really build a direct relationship. And then, on the other side, with the verification that we're doing, essentially, there's a lot of corporate was half made commitments to regenerative agriculture, to source like 10, 20, 50% regent of agriculture until 2030, 2004, year 2050. But there's no way right now of proving when is something coming from regenerative agriculture? And what we are doing is we essentially, with a variety of factors, of which carbon is just one of them, we're showing, hey, there is regeneration taking place on this farm and we can verify that this farm is regenerative. So one of our partners, crowd farming, for example, they're doing direct farmer to consumer. So it's an amazing way of supporting farmers and with us they're not transitioning some of their farmers which they can then say hey, these farmers are regenerating their soil. This is the data which we have measured, together with climate. Farmers and supporters can directly support these farmers through them.

Friederike: 28:56

Is that you know? I think you wrote somewhere that you want to make farms profitable again. Is that? Is that going to be enough with that, you know, with the carbon prepay etc. Is what else needs to change that you can actually make farming profitable again and maybe less dependent on subsidies?

Philippe: 29:13

I mean, carbon alone is never going to be enough. This is the best support function for farmers, but what would be enough if we would be really paying for all the other ecosystem services? So one concept that I love is what is called true cost accounting, which would basically mean that you are paying for the true cost of something right? So if there's negative externalities, then you have to pay extra. If there's positive externalities, then you have to pay less. Then you get more money, which would mean essentially that, for example, a cow that is running outside on grass field sequestering carbon and actually reducing the effect on the climate due to her grazing activities is cheaper than a cow that is in a feedlot where she's living in conditions which are intolerable and which are also having a massively negative effect on the climate because of the way how she's there. And this is not the reality that we're living in. But if we would be living in that reality, then, very quickly, regenerative farmers would be getting a lot more money than industrial farmers, and consumers would be getting a lot healthier food than they are getting right now. And that's the problem that we're having at the moment, again, that it's all focused on yield and on capital, but not on the actual externalities, and once they would be accounted for, we would actually be having a very systemic shift towards regenerative practices.

Friederike: 30:27

And what about that chicken? You can get in a discount for one euro for one kilo. Is that that? That can't be sustainable.

Philippe: 30:35

That would be gone Exactly. That is not sustainable in any way, like there's a lot of suffering involved in this planetary wise, as well as animal wise, as well as human wise, because that chicken is not going to be nourishing you whatsoever. That chicken is going to be full with all kinds of different medicines in order to keep it alive and that will essentially make you sick in the end. So a lot of this is really around the connection between soil health and gut health, and I think a lot of the costs are indirect costs. That's why you think you make a bargain, but essentially you're paying with your life for making that bargain. And that's exactly what I mean, like, when I say that we need to start accounting for the true cost of something, because that chicken is likely going to cost 20 or 30 euros if you start accounting for the true costs of that chicken.

Friederike: 31:18

And there comes in a societal question, I think with many rays in that moment, and say but what about the poor people who don't have so much capital to actually pay for a 20, 30 euro chicken? What should they eat? And I think that's a very difficult question to answer. What's your take on that?

Philippe: 31:36

I mean, as I said, those 20, 30 euros are externalities, right? They're not priced in externalities. So those 20, 30 euros which I'm talking about, they would be because of the damage to the environment and the indirect costs of that. So right now, for example, we spend my hometown Gainkischen Just one example. There would be hundreds, but I'm just going to play through one and then we can see further. So my hometown, gainkischen was flooded in 2019 with the big floods in Germany, at the Netherlands. So those floods cost damages of 334 billion euros. Those damages only happened because our soils are so degraded that they're not able to absorb that water anymore. Now, if we would have used just a third, just 100 billion, of those 300 billion euros in damages in order to support in the regenerative agricultural transition, then we would have prevented those costs. We would have healthier soils, we would have sequestered carbon in the soil, we would have built up biodiversity and we would have produced more nutrient dense food so that we would be able to actually subsidize the regenerative chicken so that people can buy it for a cheaper price than the feedlot chicken that they're buying currently at Aldi.

Friederike: 32:45

Interesting example. I think Swiss tree actually made a study about that and said the more temperature we're increasing which is like, in the end farmers are contributing as well to it. As you stated before, 25% of the carbon emission comes from agriculture. This remade an estimation. If we go above 2.5 degrees, we will have a loss of 10% of our GDP because of all the damages you just described. I think it's just so difficult to bring that to the, let's say, to the normal consumer to understand why something is getting so more expensive. At the same time, politicians needed to get they have to get the vote and say like, if you are suddenly increasing the chicken price by that amount because you counted all the externalities you just mentioned, is there a way out of this chicken and egg problem?

Philippe: 33:37

I mean, I think there's certainly a way out. I think the way out is that we should start taxing and having the corporates that are actually causing the damages pay for it. Right, because, I mean, there is a very clear winner in all of this. This is the big agrochemical companies, which are making billions of euros with selling the chemical input costs to farmers, which then destroy the soil health with it, which then produce a not nutrient dense food. And that is the issue that we're having. Right, it's not the end consumer that has to bear the cost of those prices. The end consumer has to bear them, like as a bystander, as a sufferer of the effects of climate change right now. But the real benefits are going to the big agrochemical companies and they are the ones which should be taxed for the damage that they're causing. And then again, food would not have to be more expensive, it would just have to be produced in a different way.

Friederike: 34:24

If you look back the last four years since you founded Climate Farmers, what was the hardest realization for you?

Philippe: 34:32

I think it's the one which you would probably have in any sector that you're looking in. Things are pretty messed up the way. I mean I was not aware how our agricultural sector is working and how messed up the whole supply chain is and in what bad positioned farmers are in. Right, because we're all living our lives and, as weird as it sounds, most of us are consuming food quite passively. Right, we go to the supermarket, we just buy a certain thing. I thought, for example, cucumbers are healthy. You know, I thought vegetables are healthy. I knew that processed food is not good and if I buy vegetables, that's good, but it's actually not true. You know, if you buy vegetables which are coming from convention agriculture and have been sprayed with glyphosate, then that actually still makes you sick. So there's so much complexity involved in simple decisions, such as the food that you're buying, that I was never aware of, and I think that complexity goes through everything and we, as human beings, have been avoiding complexity because it's a lot to deal with. So we're simplifying and dumbing down things in order to make it deal with us, but that's actually not the solution. The solution is actually to try to expand and to try to understand the complexities that I play there, so that we can then actually also take the right decisions and move in the right direction. And I think what has been successfully done by a lot of industry is to dump down people and to remove them from the complexity of realities.

Friederike: 35:51

Yeah, that's a good summary. What about if then? Can I just then buy bio, bio products, and am I good then?

Philippe: 35:58

I think by buying organic products you're doing a good start, but the problem is that the way out organic sector works. Plowing, for example, is still okay. It doesn't look at outcomes, it just looks at no. No harmful ingredients are used, which is great. I think it's a step in the right direction, but it's still not regenerating right. So organic is much more sustaining and it can even still be damaging. Is flowing, is used, so it is already better. If you can, if you can use organic products over conventional products, the best thing is to actually make the effort and get to know your local farmers and directly source from local farmers. For example, community supported agriculture is a big movement that's growing right now, which I think is amazing, where you're directly buying a share of a farmer. Then you have to go somewhere and you have to back up the food, so you have to put in my effort, but you build your relationship with the farmer and you actually know where your food is coming from. Plats from such as crowd farming are also an opportunity because, again, you can directly support a farmer. So essentially, it's ideally you should be cutting out the middleman, because if you buy anything in the supermarket, most of the money is going to the supermarket and to the food companies and very little is going to the farmer.

Friederike: 37:04

Okay, if you look forward to now, like two thousand thirty is one of these magical numbers. Beside two thousand fifty, two thousand thirty, everyone speaks about the tipping point. If you think about climate, farmers, what, what do you want to have achieved till two thousand thirty?

Philippe: 37:18

Our goal is to make regenerative agriculture mainstream and, through that, to help humans to find their bigger place in the wider ecosystem again. Humans are an integral part of nature. We are essentially a keystone species and we have a role to play in making this planet a thriving planet. But right now, we are the species that is destroying this planet, and I think that is something that needs to change, and we are slowly, slowly realizing more and more If we're destroying this planet, we also destroying our own livelihood. So I think within the next six years, we have to be able to find a way out of that, and a very large part of that is, I think, to stop sourcing food the way, how we're doing it. Feed lots should be abandoned directly and we should have farmers back at the center of our society and back at the center of our food system, so that they can be farming in a way that's actually regenerating the planet and nourishing our bellies.

Friederike: 38:10

What will be the biggest challenge on that way?

Philippe: 38:13

Overcoming the massive agrochemical lobby and the influence that they're having throughout the food system. They are pumping billions of euros into lobbyism in Brussels, into educational institutions, into all kind of advocacy groups for them, and they have a lot of power and a lot of money and it's very hard to overcome that if some listeners want to be part of climate farms, are you in a financing round or how can they be part of it? I mean, it depends on what you're doing. I think I think you can be part of the movement by just supporting a local farmer. I think the best thing you can do is just looking up where farmers in your area yeah, seeing how you can source from which other farmers potentially, where you are. And if you're in a corporate position, if you're doing, if you're sourcing any kind of produce in your company, then you can get in touch if you want to start sourcing regenerative produce or if you're in a company that wants to compensate for their CO2 emissions and otherwise. Also, most importantly, go voting in June with the European elections coming up and if this is going in the center right, populist direction and that is also going in the agrochemical direction and that is going to make our work on influencing the cap a lot harder. So I think most important is spread awareness about the general agriculture, spread awareness about the crucial times that we're in and make sure that you're voting in June for a party that is actually having the planet's welfare at mind and not just the profit margins of a few corporations.

Friederike: 39:31

If you want to know more about regenerative agriculture. Do you have any specific books, podcast resources you would recommend?

Philippe: 39:38

I mean the very easiest one is there's a great documentary called Kiss the Ground which is on Netflix, which explains region and 90 minutes very nicely with Woody Harrelson as a narrator, which is very great. Then there's regenerative skills podcast, which is also really nice. You like systemic views more than investing in regenerative agriculture is also a great one. In terms of books, for the love of soil, when you call masters is an amazing book, and also from dirt to soil by Gabe Brown is a great book that I would highly recommend. And what your food aid? If you want to start looking more into your food systems, is also a very good book to recommend which starts looking into where does your food come from and what does that mean for your own health food aid. It's called what your food aid yeah.

Friederike: 40:19

What your food aid? Ah, ok, ok, it's very interesting. So one last personal question which was striking me. So what is fire breathing and why are you the world record holder?

Philippe: 40:30

I mean, that's an old one. Well, I mean, as I said, I studied in my early 20s in Masters, which is a small student town in the south of the Netherlands, and, as things are, sometimes you get creative ideas when you're young and you have some time next to studying, and so we found out that what fire breathing is right, like you're breathing fire essentially we've all seen this in circuses or so and what we found out? That the world record for simultaneous fire breathing so people who are breathing fire together and at the same time was relatively little was like 200 something people. And we said we can do this, and so we organized a workshop on learning how to breathe fire and then we simultaneously breathe fire with, I think, 370 360 people, and this was back in 2008 or 2009, I think, and amazingly, as far as I know, we're still record holder in the Guinness Book of World Records. That was the funny one for my bachelor studies in Masters.

Friederike: 41:25

I love that story Very cool. Okay, how can people contact you if they want to know more about you or climate farmers?

Philippe: 41:31

I mean, I personally just have one social media account and that's on LinkedIn. I'm not on Facebook or on Instagram, but Climate Farmers has all social media accounts. We have, with Aline, an amazing social media manager there, I'm told. Our Instagram is quite great, so you can find us online on our climatefarmersorg climatefarmers on Instagram, or just myself, philipp Berger, or LinkedIn, all possibilities.

Friederike: 41:50

One last question what makes you confident that we will solve the climate crisis in one sentence?

Philippe: 41:56

I'm not sure if I'm confident. I think there's hope because there's more and more people and there's amazing people working on this. I'm very happy about the bubble that I'm in. I get to hang out with a lot of really smart people and I think the new generation is really moving in the right direction. We're getting a lot of applications from young people and I think if people stop working for companies like Shell and Bayer and Deutsche Bank and all of these corporates which are actually destroying our planet, then these companies can also not exist. Right, they can start throwing money at you, but I think we all have our own choices with what we're doing every day, and I think that is the crucial thing that I would ask everybody that is also listening to this is what are you doing with your life? Because if we're all flying a little less and eat vegetarian a few times, that's not going to save the planet. But if we all are making sure that the time and the energy that we're having on this world is invested in something positive, then we can make real change happen, and that is, I think, the thing that needs to happen. If that will happen, I don't know myself.

Friederike: 42:52

Okay, thank you so much. I think I could even more longer talk to you, but it has been really amazing. Thank you so much for joining my podcast and I'm really looking forward to hear more from you in the future.

Philippe: 43:04

My pleasure. Thanks for spreading the word about a lot of great projects.

Friederike: 43:10

Thank you for joining today's episode. You can find the show notes, background materials and contact details of our guests on our website. So stay nowch, Follow and share our podcast on any platform available. Do you have a comment or interesting solution to take a deep dive? Please don't hesitate to go to our website. So stay nowch and write us an email.



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