Regen Ray: Hello, Soil Lovers, and welcome to another episode, I’m excited cause I’m joined by Sam and Florian from Farmlabs. Hello, guys. Welcome to the call!
Sam Duncan: Good day Ray,How are you?
Regen Ray: I’m excited.
Florian: How are you going?
Ray: I’m good, I’m good I’m so excited to dig deep and talk all things soil. So, Sam, tell us a little bit about Farm Lab.
Sam Duncan: Yeah, sure. So I started Farmlab back in 2016, 2017 of the end of 2016, so that I had the idea of the basis that we thought that if farmers had better soil data from their soil information, they would better manage carbon. And now this probably doesn’t necessarily gel all the time, especially not for you or your listeners here, because I think a lot of them naturally care about soil carbon. But we really wanted to have an impact on, I guess, mainstream agriculture and show and influence how much soil carbon factored into things, just things like yield and profitability and other bits of pieces that I’m sure we’ll dive into in this conversation. So starting in 2016, we have been growing ever since Florian joined us in about 2018, 2019. And yeah, was yeah, I’ll head up to you Florian give a bit of background about yourself there.
Florian Ruhnke: Hi, my name’s Florian. I’m the operations manager from Farm Lab, which means basically I’m responsible for everything good and I just signed up in 2019. I have a very, very different background. There I come. My my. I have a masters of political science and I come from there more communication and digital space. I’ve never really worked in agriculture, and when I met Sam for the first time and saw his passion around soil and also new ways of doing agriculture and the role that soil can play in that context, I was really, I was just very excited and came on board and haven’t really looked back ever since.
Sam Duncan: I think we need to add that your by training of political science scientist, right? Florian. So, you know, and I think this gels really well right for you know because your soil and soil carbon especially is becoming incredibly politicized. And I think there’s a, you know, I think maybe there’s a destiny here to be you know your fate here florian and has been set to come into the soil carbon offset places that look at this from a political point of view. Because as you’re listening to it, listeners may know here in Australia, at least we had take on carbon offset market since like 2012, right? And even prior to then, when we were looking into a carbon tax and all these other bits and pieces, a lot of politics happens, you know, rightly or wrongly. And you know, we’re kind of postponed or delayed the entire carbon offset market generation. So we’re only just starting to see some maturity in some of the markets now or at least not taken in the monetization of things like soil carbon, which is a bit of a shame, really, because I think, you know, really we needed to introduce these incentives sooner or we, you know, the sooner you can adjust these incentives to come back clean things like climate change, the the better right. So, you know, I’m sure we will draw on your political science expertise in a bit more detail, Florian. And I mean, having said that, EU and US are making huge political moves right now around carbon offsets and so carbon. I was reading today that Biden’s just put together four million dollars up for a task force around carbon agricultural carbon markets, which is absolutely fascinating for Milk. Not a whole lot of money, but they’re going to be setting some interesting directions in terms of carbon offset markets. So very yeah, a lot of politics going on right now. Yeah.
Regen Ray: And I think that’s friendly conversation. And I know there’s a lot of confusion, I guess, or uncertainty when it comes to understanding this whole carbon market. And you know, we’ve done some webinars in the past together and we’ve really shed some light into the community about what this carbon market is all about. And even my opinion, when I first saw it, I had a bit of like value mismatch. I’m like, So I’m going to put carbon into my soil, my farmland, and then that’s going to allow another person to pollute. And I think that’s the wrong side of the conversation to focus on because like that pollution is gonna happen anyway. And when we put a price to that pollution, it gives an incentive to drop the amount of pollution. So without a program like this or a carbon market, no one’s asking the right questions, no one’s looking into who’s doing what and incentivizing them to reduce it. You want to pollute. Pay for it. You want to pay less. Drop your carbon. So it’s kind of a win win. And it was only until I got curious and started asking the questions and really grateful that, you know, I have the ability to hang out with great minded people like yourself and others that can really maybe change my paradigm.
Sam Duncan: Yeah, this is a great point. And Florian, and I’ll let you speak in a second because we debate this all the time and I’m not debate. We have a composite of robust discussions around this. You know, I think carbon offsets are a fantastic thing. I think there’s been a lot of criticism in the news recently. Ray, your listeners may have read the conversation article regarding the remote cattle sale of credits to Microsoft and other bits and pieces now. You know, obviously, yes, there’s a lot of emphasis on the need to correctly measure soil carbon levels, but I completely agree. I think that if you’re interested in doing it or are doing it, and then it’s only going to be a good thing, but generally people have the, you know, generally speaking, I’m an optimist and I think people have the best intentions and they enter into these projects. Yes, Florian is going to add to that. I mean, this is an interesting thing, right? Like entering a carbon credit project isn’t necessarily always good for the environment.
Florian Ruhnke: So I think that it’s very, very interesting discussion. And I mean, the carbon offset market exists for quite a while now, and we started in around 2000 to buy carbon credits. And all that, you know, emits more is just, said Ray. So the market itself existed for a while, but it was not really a market. It was very regulated, very and nobody really put any attention to it. Now, when the price of the carbon actually increases, which is really important if you want to decrease emission lines. So we actually put a price on that and the whole carbon market has changed a lot. And now people are actually thinking about new methods of sequestering carbon in different ways, and some carbon is just one of some more forms to do so. And what I find really interesting around that is especially coming from Europe, seeing the discussion that is happening in Europe, it’s very far behind what’s happening here in Australia in terms of especially in terms of what people are trying to achieve here. So what I really like about the Australian policies so far is that there is uncertainty around those processes. There’s uncertainty around the outcome. But instead of discussing it only then they are trying it out and they’ve tried to use the process and make it better and make it material for a for everybody in the world, really and make it transparent as well, which I think is the most crucial part of this having transparency around this process and having an understanding of what’s actually happening there, while at the same time, this is what you said, Ray? As well. And at the same time, we have so many incentives here to increase the carbon in the soil. And just that’s not only carbon credits, right? It’s actually the productivity itself. There’s so many positive aspects of doing that in the first place and that actually adding another layer to this whole idea. It’s just incredibly smart, but still of course, raises a lot of questions that we might be able to discuss to a degree today. But it’s I think the best thing is to start agreements and try it out and be on the front line.
Sam Duncan: I know this point about transparency. Okay, I’ll just jump in. The point about transparency is really interesting, right? Because the region net worth deal. The Bruno called Microsoft region net worth that deal was criticized heavily because of the lack of accuracy in terms of measurements that the critics were able to identify that because the region, it was so transparent with what they were doing. And this is a really wonderful thing. You know, the point of that deal wasn’t necessarily to create a system that was potentially flawed. And so some credit was actually to stimulate and to get people thinking about new ways of measuring soil carbon, monitoring it and running these projects personally. The Same point of view of the world. I’m a big fan of these. I’m a big fan of that because they sort of put themselves out there. They do use a bit of a military analogy here. They stuck their head up out of their parapet. Yet they’re going to attract a few bullets. But at the same time, they had to meet that mission. And I think that’s a really wonderful thing and only through the transparency of these markets it’s going to evolve because people are going to be able to look at other projects next door, people are going to be able to see the projects that are successful, maybe the projects that are less successful and make decisions around whether they want to get into these projects. Yeah.
Regen Ray: And I know I, I think that’s really an important point to make because that’s the innovation. That’s what’s going to start. You know, all of a sudden these people talk in good bad, ugly left side, right side, up, down, inside, out all around. And that’s when we start innovating and people go, Look at this case model, it could be done better. Also, if that never happened, there wouldn’t be a reference point of how can it be done better? Well, this was done really good. I’m going to take inspiration from that and move it into our project. You know, Ubers, Airbnb, they were all in the same position. People who like who the hell is going to sleep in a stranger’s house. Now it’s the only way that we book on the fly. You know who’s going to drive in a stranger’s car? They’re going to kill us. Now we book Uber’s over all other transport medium, so it takes that early adopter to start the change and kudos to them for putting their head out early and taking some of the bullets to know where they need to go next. You know, that’s what excites me about these industries. There’s a lot of innovation. And even with myself coming from that tech start up marketing background, we can put a different view on this space. It’s not just about yields and inputs and water and hydration and carbon, it’s about livelihoods and communities and business models.
Sam Duncan: Exactly. Now I’m just going to play devil’s advocate because I think this is going to lead into a really interesting discussion like, I’m sure some of your listeners are listening to this and thinking, you know, Crikey, I’ve been running carbon projects or increasing my soil carbon or buying sustainably and holistically the last 20 odd years. Now these markets appear and I can’t get rewarded because I can’t change my practices to increase it right? So, you know, just as some background or any of these market driven soil carbon projects, generally speaking, you need to do something different to what you’ve done before in order to increase soil carbon. You can’t just rely on the climate to do it for you. And that’s fantastic for the farmers that are interested in stocking rates, you know, or that had very little ground cover for the last 10 15 years and may be about to start to do something because they have the most to benefit from that. For the farmers that have been maybe farming sustainably, regeneratively at least the past 20, 30 years. The question for them is, well, they’ve been doing the right thing. Are they being penalized here by not being able to enter into a project? You’re sorry. What are your thoughts here? Because I think you’ve had a few discussions with some clients that have come across that idea of assets and staking out this.
Florian Ruhnke: Yes. So I I did speak to several different farmers coming from very, very different backgrounds. Now the first thing I need to say in this context here is I think it is important to put in that incentive anyway for especially for people who want to get into the space now and say, I have done the right thing for the last couple of years, but I want to start now. So this is where this really i think is where this incentive comes to kick in. Now I just recently talked to a farmer here, close to post here live at south of Armidale, who has incredibly great soil. And they have done really amazing stuff and talked about what they have done. And I don’t want to go into too many details, but they have done their own composting and like amazing, amazing chains of supply chains, that is really, really good stuff that they did. So they have even compared to their neighbors, really high carbon and so carbon. And the outcome of the discussion was that I will not recommend for them to go into a carbon project because they are already and they are already on such a high level that they won’t probably won’t be able to really increase that to such a large degree. So I told them to basically don’t think about going into carbon projects, but there are other possibilities for people like him to use marketing communities or, you know, in general communities, and to encourage them to include the consumer and also the the product distributors in the supply chain and actually work with them together to then make them visible. And to understand that like this is how the product was built on even if you can it still makes sense to measure the the difference in the carbon levels over time. However, for these guys, it’s not they can’t participate. Head directly into the now current market, as you just said,Sam They will not benefit as much out of this as somebody who has just started to to do this thing right now.
Sam Duncan: So it’s almost like benchmarking, right? So, you know, these farmers that are already up there, and probably won’t increase soil carbon much more than what they’ve got because the last 20 years they’ve been farming regeneratively. It maybe it’s a matter of comparing them to the average across the region. This is really interesting. We’ve had to look at a few averages internally and certainly some of the farmers we work with but tend to be the more regenerative farmers. Fantastic. So clearly, we’re putting something really good out there. But you know, the drop in the 85 percent mark as far as, let’s say, ground cover, which can be a good indicator of soil carbon levels, they consistently retain ground covers all those things that you just need to do to to keep up soil carbon. They, you know, they’ll be at the sort of 85 percent mark. Now, I reckon, is, yeah, exactly. As you said, there’s a marketing opportunity, either through selling the product or selling the product. And we’ve got this. There’s this concept called carbon offsetting right? So you’ve got carbon offsetting. So I generate my carbon credits and then I sell that to a company, probably Shell or BP to continue polluting, right? But there’s also carbon offsetting, which can be done less rigorously, but still with some potential, I say less regular, rigorous measurements are still taken, but the idea is to to take those carbon offsets and sell them as part of the story of the product to keep producing sustainable base. And you’ve been doing so for the past 20 years. You should be able to sell that as part of your story to consumers. This is the challenge, right? Then we consumers just need to be convinced that what they’re buying is sustainable and is carbon friendly most of the time. And we are seeing some schemes being set up today, some processes that are allowing producers to be able to do that. But I think there’s still some challenges around consumer education, marketing and branding to certainly influence consumers. I mean, you know, your across this face quite a lot.
Regen Ray: Yeah, absolutely. And I was going to add value to what you just said there. As well as being someone who is, you know, we always refer to ourselves as the glue or the conduit between these different spaces is the consumer interest in knowing where their food is coming from and who is growing it and being connected to the values of that story is exponentially growing. And, you know, unfortunate to the event of COVID that has fast tracked some of the curiosity from buyers and foodies and consumers. So I think that is something that is on the growth. I see models in America with like Community Supported Agriculture, also called CSAs. I just wish that that was much more of an embraced model here in Australia and something that we’re working with mentors and experts with in our community to teach Soil Lovers what is possible, you know, because you don’t know what you don’t know. You know, and sometimes you just need that aha light bulb moment and you know your story, your farm story. These farmers who have been doing this for so long. There are a lot of other stacked enterprises that they can do on their farm. They could become a case study or a catalyst of that process. They can talk, they can mentor, they can run farm tours, they can sell great quality produce and start building their brand. And that’s their reward, not the carbon scheme, you know. So like, there’s always ways that you can benefit from that. But humans sometimes just go, I can’t play, poor me. It’s not fair, but it’s like, Hang on, you’re so far ahead from all these other people who are now investing in infrastructure. You could be investing that in marketing and become the host of the people who want to learn this stuff, you know?
Florian Ruhnke: I think what one thing you said there is super important, I think, being the user case being that there, like the cases that other people can study and build on, it’s another really, really huge opportunity here to show, look, I have done that the past couple of years and it’s possible and it works. And this is the outcome. So yeah, I think that’s a huge opportunity as well.
Sam Duncan: And you know what, if you’re already doing it? So I kind of it’s, I think Charles Massey, this is credid me the other day. Originally from Charles, Massey was the biggest, to be the the most important thing when it comes to farming, is the thing between farmers. As he is right, like in terms of convincing them to do the right thing or the wrong thing and for those farmers that are out there today, soil levels that are out there that are already doing the right thing. You know, you got to keep in mind that the other side of the fence for the farmer that’s currently maybe considering its low carbon projects hasn’t ended one yet and is not doing maybe not farming or generally set stocking rates, etc., etc. Very traditional. It is, and we see this first hand. It is so hard to get across that mental barrier of actually changing their existing practices. And so for your listeners that are already there. Sure, it doesn’t come with, you know, changing won’t come with the financial incentive, but you don’t have to change. The change has been, you know, just the biggest barrier to adoption and exactly, as you said, Florian, you know, then you could just continue doing what you’re doing. Now I look at the carbon offsetting, looking, branding all that sort of stuff, and you don’t have to change. Whereas for those that go into carbon offset projects or, you know, it’s the one thing we first thing we say to them is you’ve got to do something different now. It’s like and then we never had. No, no.
Regen Ray: And that’s common, you know, changing people’s paradigms and getting people to think differently. Reading the landscape in a new paradigm that they’ve never been able to experience, is a very hard challenge and something that we deal with every day, you know, and I hear people’s frustration and it’s almost like the whole matrix where we could just plug something in and download a new thought or a new way of looking at it would be really powerful right now, you know, because that is the hardest thing that we all struggle with is getting people to change and seeing things differently. So if you’re someone who is out there already doing this and living in this change, we all want to hear that. We want to share your story. We want to amplify what you’re doing that inspires you and future generations.
Sam Duncan: Yeah, And you don’t underestimate the power of just the lack of willingness for people to change. Even to do the right thing is so interesting. So when I was in the Air Force, I did it. I dealt a lot in change management. I was fortunate with logistics for a long period of time and worked for some of the hornets, got into some of the fighter squadrons and we underwent a massive change, we had a lot of issues with our serviceability and maintainability. This is, you know, 10, 15 years ago, a long, long time ago, and we set out on a program of change how we were doing maintenance just to get the smallest thing across the line with some of our workforce. We’re dealing with probably a thousand personnel across the cross entity we were working in. It took months, if not, you know, probably two to three years. I think you ran the program just to get the slightest changes across the line. Human behavior is just one of those, you know, I’m absolutely fascinated by it because you know, the biggest thing we have to deal with. We’re not, not one of us are robots. None of us are machines, right? So human psychology is just always at the forefront of every conversation we have, especially today, you know, dealing with farmers and dealing with people’s livelihoods. It’s, you know, human behavior. So really, it’s the first thing you need to manage and it’s in all of us, you know, we’re all guilty of this as well.
Regen Ray: It’s a hard one to crack. And, you know, companies have teams that roll out simple changes, you know, across workplaces. So imagine trying to change a whole industry or the egg or the food or logistics, you know, to accommodate this new way. And we’ve been talking about regenerative law. I’m really curious because I get a lot of people wanting a definition of regenerative. Sam, What does regenerative mean to you?
Sam Duncan: Really good question. Ray, this isn’t the first time I’ve been asked to say that this is like something that I probably always change my answer as well. So this is my previous answer. To me, it’s about working with nature to, you know, sort of bring, you know, bring back those environmental impact systems, those natural ecosystems. Agriculture, just by definition, is not a natural process. You know, when we plant stuff in the ground, it would take a bunch of cattle and we put them in an area like this doesn’t really happen in nature. Yeah, we have herds and there’s, you know, a lot of say this work is around sort of herd management, but you know, it’s still a little bit different to what. It’s very different to what we do today. So regenerative is kind of moving a step closer to sort of nature, but still getting what we need out of it because, you know, there’s another half of that. You know, that concept Ray, it’s not just regenerative, that’s regenerative agriculture, and so it’s still kind of doing the wrong thing that still, you know, it’s like having our cake and eating it too right as humanity. We need to be able to grow food. So we have to farm. We have to have agriculture. But regenerative brings us back a little bit closer to how things work in the natural environment.
Regen Ray: Yeah, love that closing that gap in that regen. And you’re right, the regenerative agriculture is one aspect, you know, and that’s the journey that I’ve gone through, it started at AG. But then it went all the way down to the human soul. You know, I feel like we need to be regenerative humans before we can start regenerating soil on it. You know.
Sam Duncan: I had to say before, I love it. I think it’s such a such. It’s such a beautiful concept, but it’s a journey
Regen Ray: Yes, you don’t wake up one day and have that download. It’s a journey. It takes a process.
Sam Duncan: It is. And we, as humans like, instinctively want sort of immediate responses. And I find when you start to pay more attention to nature and environment and dealing a bit more with the land then it becomes, it’s a very slow process. And but if you can be patient and if you can sort of wait, which is really hard, like in this day and age where you’ve got Facebook and Twitter and podcasts like, you know, an immediate gratification in information on hand to wait on nature to to do its thing is a really hard thing. But as soon as the season starts to happen, it just, you know, your eyes light up. Like, I remember, we started composting a few years ago and I just thought, if you did this from Bunnings and instead of checking some stuff in there and I had a mate who is a guy who I used to work with in the Air Force, who was really into his composting. He had a huge vegie patch in his backyard, and he spread compost out, his compost throughout the year instead of at the beginning of the new year and everything. As I said, we started doing the same to a few tips of him anyway we had we moved into a new house garden that was completely, completely degraded. Now I just for your listeners, I’m not a farmer. I don’t have much land. So the garden bed is probably the equivalent of my paddock right now, but really degraded, really sandy soils into a few soil tests just to see what was going on. And, you know, just completely awful compost. Yeah, I took 6 to 12 months to sort of get ready. It took a long time. And I’m just like, you know, I kind of didn’t think about it. And then all of a sudden, yeah, OK, it’s ready to go, spread it across the garden. Nothing happened. It was another sort of 6 months down the track, sort of 18 months of luck and I actually went back to this bed. And one day I just remembered what we just planted, a bunch of plants with compost. I stood around and dug into the soil, and it was the most like, you know, the properties, the texture had all changed. It just kind of turned a little bit rich and black, like it was no longer hot pants. sandy, you know, dead stuff. It was alive and it was just, you know, you could tell it was alive, It just changed. It was just really like, Holy crap, wow, this is like magic. This is amazing. And it’s not magic, of course. You know, it’s biology, it’s ecology. It’s just, you know, it’s just what was happening in the ground. You know, it was alive, but it took so long to get there that it wasn’t as if it was like, you know, I had some compost, threw it on and then changed our mind. It was like, you know, six months after that, when things started to change and this all started to change and plants started to grow, it was just, you know, it’s really, really interesting. Like, and I think that’s that bit of the soul that you spoke about there. You know where you kind of get, you kind of start to see it and back to matrix analogy as well, like, you know, it’s kind of like, Oh, wow, I know kung fu soil. Is this actually, you know this? This is amazing stuff like, you know, implementing this or, you know, compost that I made myself and it applied. It was, yeah, it was beautiful thing.
Regen Ray: Absolutely,Thank you for sharing that. And I think that’s the real life experience. It doesn’t have to be in a paddock and a farm and a acreage, and it can start in your own backyard, and that’s where the best change happens all the time. Florian, I want to ask you. What do you think regenerative means?
Florian Ruhnke: I think regenerative for me, while regenerative ag. means that we use the natural cycles to ask for and support land use and support those natural cycles to use it for, let’s say, mass production or a higher amount of production for to generate food. And so, yeah, so basically supporting the as you said before Sam as well the natural cycles and use. How nature has designs over a hundred of millions of years, these amazing yeah, ten over in circles and use that box used it in more maybe sophisticated way to aim for a certain outcomes, if that makes sense. So yeah, that’s fine. That’s my take on this. And what? I like your analogy, Sam, what you said earlier to, you know, to break down something that we see to the core. So when we go back to my political science here. So if you look for politics, you have to actually understand human behavior in the first place. So you can just say, OK, if you want to understand political decisions, you need to understand how human behaves. You have to look back in history. But you actually have to look back in psychology and into human behavior. And then you go from there and and figure out how humans behave. And this is the same thing, how we how we can see nature and the same same really same kind of yes. And observe and then act based on your observation and then use don’t don’t change everything that you see or make it you own, but you use its use and and adapt yourself into this into this framework.
Regen Ray:I love that and you spoke about the carbon or cycles, and that triggered a thought in my mind because carbon is something that cycles and I think that I would love if you’d like to dig a little bit deeper in that and help share with our listeners what that carbon cycle is because I feel like sometimes it is misconception that we need to draw down as much carbon as we possibly can and trap it there forever. And I’ve read other reports that say, no, that actually breaks the system, because if you know how Scie carbon cycles, it needs to be moving in and out of things. Can you elaborate on that?
Sam Duncan: Let’s get one, Florian, did you want to start with? Yes.
Florian Ruhnke: Yes, go, you go.
Sam Duncan: I’m trying to dodge the question here, right? Good. It means it’s a good one. So let’s just say, so good the general concept here and actually, maybe we can get into a bit of a bit around why soil is why soil? So we have carbon in three places on the Earth. We have it in the atmosphere right now, and I think we’re north of 416 parts per million, probably for 20. I’m sure some of your listeners can correct me in the comments. We have carbon in the soil and we have carbon in the oceans. So and the ratio to each of those is probably, I think, probably a sixth in the atmosphere, a third in the soils and the rest in the oceans or something along those lines. So most, most carbon, most CO2 is actually sequestered in the deep ocean. But to be quite honest, quite frightening we don’t manage the deep ocean. There have been some interesting, interesting ideas and technologies that people are looking at now to actually dump CO2 into the deep ocean. You know, obviously, we need to be cautious with the environmental effects given we manage, we have most, most land on the world is managed by humans through agriculture and soil was a really fundamental lever in terms of reducing and offsetting CO2 emissions. So obviously, there’s a lot of work, a lot of smart people going into producing sustainable energy. But really what it’s doing is replace, it’s reducing the amount. We know that there’s still the need to take out and reduce the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere from 420 parts per million to whatever we were at 150 years ago, 120 years ago, which is probably less than the 300 mark to 80 before the Industrial Revolution or something along those lines. So there are the three pools now through growing plants as we grow the plant, the plant sucks in CO2 out of the atmosphere, pumps it down, creates biomass in the form of roots in the form of its stalk, et cetera, et cetera. Naturally, naturally, that plant would die, sit and assess the ground and decompose. Some of that organic matter would get back to the ground, and essentially you have this sort of this closed loop carbon cycle. What happens with traditional agriculture? As we go along, we harvest, you know, acres and acres or hectares and hectares of paddocks of wheat which would take away the carbon. So it’s no longer going to sit there and decompose and get back into the soil, takes it away. And so we have this deficit. We have this net decline in soil carbon and subsequently, that’s a result of that. Same thing with cattle, generally speaking as well. You see, you’ve got the emissions factor there with methane emissions from cattle. So why is it important to manage? Because naturally, we would, you know, would be managed that because we’re taking taking away that by biomass, taking away that carbon, we’re no longer fixing the carbon back into the soil and moving it on somewhere else to be manufactured, refined, go into our bodies and come out as emissions, essentially. So, so yes. So carbon is generally cyclic. So even if when you put carbon into the ground, you have all recalcitrant carbon, different forms of carbon. CSIRO here in Australia referred to it as rock and pop, pop and rock. So the stuff that goes back out within the space is, you know, a couple of years and the stuff that gets locked in for a longer period of time. So for us in agriculture, it’s about trying to figure out what we can do to maximize the length of time that carbon in there. But there is this natural cycle where CO2 does come out of it, come out of the soil just completely naturally as soil by and comes along chews it up and it emits CO2 and methane and whatever else the soil biology does when it’s processing it. So, yeah, it does have to come out because if it didn’t come out, we wouldn’t have solar biology to then fix nitrogen and do a whole bunch of other things, but it’s just restoring that balance, I guess. So rather than taking away all of that biomass, how do we bring it back in form and bring it back in in the cropping system? This is a grazing system. This is where we can get very technical, like how it’s, you know, the way you do that in a cropping system. So you can’t just continue to grow the same story the same way, you know, it’s got to be harvested eventually. So say, how do we put it back and how do we return it to the soil? Yeah.
Regen Ray: And I think you did a great job in explaining that. I think you weren’t avoiding the question, and I think knowing how it works means we can manage it better, you know? And that’s the real kind of lesson there is it’s not just carbon in the air, it’s the issue like carbon in the seas is not manageable and it’s about knowing how it will work so we can see the many parts as a whole and then zoom out and look at it and go, Oh, there’s opportunity here, and maybe we can and be mindful and go if we do this and we take all these harvests away that breaks the cycle, what are we doing to balance that? I think that’s what’s really happening at the moment is we’ve got a lot more people observing these systems. And even I see impressive stuff with satellite imagery that can see the carbon movement through the planet and knowing that OK, America is in this season at the moment and look at all the carbon exiting and crossing going across the oceans. And, you know, we’ve got better metrics and better data points to manage things better.
Sam Duncan: That’s right.
Florian Ruhnke: Yeah, that’s
Sam Duncan: right. Yeah.
Florian Ruhnke: So one thing here. So first of all, I really like your explanation, Sam. I think it was brilliant. I think it’s really about putting levels back into the soil. It’s not about putting like carbon in general into the soil and leave it there forever, but it’s about getting that balance back. And that’s I think that’s the key here. And to change a little bit the in the because we we already have kind of changed the circle into a degree in, you know, in the way we do agriculture. And I think now it’s time to get it back into the long term. It will help the soil in general too in other ways as well, not only to sequester carbon, but it’s also it’s good for the soil. It has the increase, the biomass and it protects the soil from erosion as well, which is also a huge problem all over the world. So I think that’s just, yeah, getting and thinking about the balance. And then the other thing is that we do not want to sequester carbon in the soil forever, either. We don’t need to kind of lock it into the soil and we need to get it out of the access and CO2 last in the air for around 100 years. That’s why we want to sequester it into the soil for at least part amount of this, and we don’t want to lock it in there forever. There are other methods to try to bind carbon into it. I don’t know reservoirs under the soil, under the Earth for forever, if you want. But what we do here is really just emphasizing on the circle that we are on the carbon cycle that we talked earlier and to regain more of the balance that actually has happen automatically and that we as human beings have disturbed all the time and that’s
Sam Duncan: the key to slight regenerative humanity, isn’t it? Yes. Florian, thank you. Regenerative agriculture is regenerative humanity, and this is a really critical point because when we look at the cycles of carbon, we’re unfortunately not, you know, we’re not exactly creating any more coal or oil, right? So. These things that coming out of, you know, there’s a lot of coal that’s come out of the ground and there’s just been that and it has gone to the atmosphere now. We are growing forests. So then you know, there’s the fossilizing again and then turned over the course of, you know, hundreds of millions of years into that coal or into that crude oil. So yeah, there’s this balance between, you know, so we now have to balance the soil and agriculture and thecarbon will say with carbon in the atmosphere. And I mean, at the end of the day, like, I mean, to be quite honest, you know, the biggest, biggest threat we have to humanity and the reason that I think we need to tackle this right now and what’s happening, I mean, why aren’t we going to the why now of all of this, but it’s I think it’s really important to touch on is climate change. You know, climate change is going to affect a huge, huge portion, a huge portion of the world’s population. And maybe not you and I, you know, we can reconsider our lovely, cozy houses in a beautiful, developed nation despite what you might think of our politicians. You know, we have it relatively comparatively, well, relatively good here. You know, the challenge is going to be in some of these developing nations where there are one degree change is going to mean is going to spell the difference between a crop failure and a crop success, which is then going to mean whether or not basically that family will survive or really urbanized and move to an urban center. What happens when you get mass that’s shifting your populations or you get wars, you get, you know, you get famines, obviously with the lack of crops and all these other things. And this is primarily and fundamentally why we started, why we started farmlab in 2016, right? And I haven’t spoken about this much. But the day I was deployed to South Sudan with the United Nations in 2012 and part of that was a really eye opening thing. We were there right about wet season and we were living in a lovely compound, Australian compound there in the middle of Juba, the capital of South Sudan. And yet all of a sudden wet season came by and the entire place just flooded. There was no real drainage system. There was the Nile River, which is probably the only drain in South Sudan, right? So a little water used to kind of come down the streets and end up the Nile and sort of flow out to Egypt into the Mediterranean eventually. And we went out. I remember we noticed right, and we went outside and we looked sort of around the street and our neighbours, who literally lived in mud huts next door to us had just had the entire place flooded. This is in the middle of the capital of Juba, right? So these guys. So we were there trying to shore up this, their sort of their property with sandbags. Water just streaming through raw sewage because, you know, there’s no sewage system, is kind of coming through as well. It was awful. And you know, it was these experiences where you’re like, OK, this is great, but I’m going to go back to my cozy apartment. I was living in Sydney in Parramatta at the time, put my feet up and have a beer at the end of all of this stuff to 6 months here. These people are still going to be living in this environment. And hey, this is 2012 at the time, so climate change hasn’t really taken off. Then we were still climate skeptics. I mean, it’s still up in the air. We know their crazy now as before, they were kind of kind of like, Oh yeah, people were living with them. So, you know, so fundamentally, I mean, the reason we need to follow these regenerative principles and the reason we started Farmland Lab to help people get into this was to get around this because people were just, you know, I just saw so much potential catalyst, you know, such catastrophic impact on these developing nations, which, mind you, is where, you know, five seven of the world lives today and in nations like nations like that. So kind of really, a really big thing. And we all have a big part to play in mitigating climate change and managing soil carbon.
Regen Ray: Yeah. And I think it’s great that you’ve had that kind of visual, physical experience, and I think that is really a great way to come from a space of not just knowledge, but also experiencing it with your own eyes. And again, is that whole like, how do you download that to other people? You know, and a lot of regenerative farmers have come from crisis. You know, they’ve had a snow storm, they’ve had a fire, they’ve had a flood, and it normally takes that kind of catastrophic event or, you know, crisis in COVID, probably another one of those to force change. It’s like, how do we, you know, get people to see and change without that kind of catastrophic event? And I really hope that we have the foresight, you know, that ability to to avoid a climate catastrophic disaster before it’s too late, you know that we don’t have to, you know, see it with our own eyes, you know?
Sam Duncan: Yeah, yeah, that’s right. Plus, you know, as you said here in Australia, especially, we have such a huge landmass that, you know, if we have and as a result, you know, something about those carbon sinks, right, we have such huge potential opportunity. In fact, I see it as a duty to sequester carbon to the rest of the world because we manage this land as this landmass is shared across 23 million people right now, acknowledging the traditional owners of this land mass and doing some terrible stuff with hand sort of carbon. That is that which would be super fascinating to look at, you know, bringing back right we I think we have a global duty here to, you know, to really restore that land and restore the soil carbon levels to what they were to support other nations and other entities like the European Union and the US to to offset their emissions. Yeah, absolutely.
Regen Ray: And not just on the landmass. You know, we have the whole marina, you know, our whole continent is, you know, our whole country’s kind of by water mass. We have the whole ability to, you know, do marine farming, which, you know, blew my mind when I realized this, that there are other places where they just boardered by other land. They don’t have a coastline that doesn’t have marine wildlife, they don’t have that whole other world of carbon that they can dabble in. And we do, you know? Yeah.
Florian Ruhnke: And I think it’s important to also show the world that this is possible and this is to show what the outcome of these practices can be. And I think that’s a huge opportunity for Australia to work on that and to show everybody, look, this is what we do. This is what how we increase the carbon in the soil over time. And this is the outcome. That’s a huge opportunity and not only for the developing, the developed countries, but also for less developed countries in Africa and in Asia as well. So I think that’s quite an amazing time here really to bulletproof these processes.
Regen Ray: Love that. 100 percent such a world of opportunities. Now we could talk soil and carbon all day. But is there a final thought that you want to leave the Soil Lovers listeners with Sam,i’ll throw to you first?
Sam Duncan: Look, I’m going to sound like a broken record here, like you can’t manage what you don’t measure. And I think measurement is key and not just if you have an end to it, if you have been doing this. So regardless of whether you haven’t been doing that, you haven’t been following regenerative practices or whether or not you have there is equal benefit to be gained from just taking some measurements and some soil tests, because, you know, those that have been doing this for 20 years, you take these measurements and you get as you can benchmark yourself across, you know, across your region and look at you, look at where you sit below two others and they can be really, I mean, just probably no surprises for the farmers that do it. But, you know, sharing that information and sharing your practices and having some evidence to say that, Hey, this is where I sit, this is where the average is. And then likewise, for the people that are just getting into regenerative, I take some measurements now, you know, I definitely take some measurements now so that you can see the effect of these changes because at the end of the day, it’s not the measurements that are going to increase. So carbon, it’s what you do that we need to share the data points there. You need to share what you do with those around and you need to have that transparency so that you can encourage others to do it. You know, every one of your listeners, is the leader in this space, right? Or has the potential to be a leader in the space, but only through quantification that’s sharing, sharing that data and talking and, you know, having some evidence to back that up. Can they really be the leader in this space?
Regen Ray: Yeah, I love that track and measure. And then you can manage. But one of the other things I say as well is to learn out loud, you know, do things like this like no one’s right or wrong. We all just kind of fly through this planet hacking our way through it and doing something is better than doing nothing. And so tracking and measuring is awesome. And then that way, you can manage it, and that’s an awesome thing, but then share it out loud and inspire others. Florian, what is your final thought and piece of information that you want everyone to think about?
Florian Ruhnke: I just want to I agree with with what Sam said and what you said. So sharing is a really important part of this, and I think very important is to see the situation as an opportunity and to not always paint this black picture of we are all doomed. It all looks really bad. Actually, they’re coming through innovation too, like small changes, really. There’s so many opportunities that we can take on. And instead of saying, no, that’s not possible or it doesn’t work, I like the idea of, well, how does it work? And to ask the question, how can we make it work and to take the life, to take on the situation, to take on the challenges and create opportunities out of this. And I think there’s something we can really do here with the good of the soil with a measurement of the soil and with sharing the story of how it can work, and this is something I really want to do that is to say here that’s this is really just the beginning.
Regen Ray: Love that! Just the beginning is excellent. Well, I think everyone really has to have that deep and meaningful thought and reflection. What does carbon mean to you and what are you doing with your knowledge? And if you don’t, what are you doing to dig deeper to learn more? Sam, I want to ask the final question before we wrap up here. If you were our soils, what would you tell the people above the ground? Give our soils a voice?
Sam Duncan: I listen to me. That’s what I’d say as I listen to me. And you know, how do you listen to soil? Well, you measure it.
Regen Ray: Awesome. And that starts with a simple test. Florian, what would your voice be for the soil?
Florian Ruhnke: I had to say some are very much similar to the same thing. Instead of, you know, forging me to do, what would you want me to do? Just listen to me and and support me in what I’m doing best. That’s what I would say. So yes, it’s very similar to what Sam said also, listen to me.
Regen Ray: Well, sort of love as they have it. We need to listen to the soil. We are its voice as best as we can, but all we have is our touch, our somehow feel, our eyes. So if you see that your soil isn’t right, then listen to it. If you smell that your soul isn’t right, then listen to it. If the touch of the soil isn’t right, then listen to it. That’s our best feedback mechanisms we have. Get the soil tests, look at the data, understand. One thing that blew my mind was that excessive amounts of stuff is bad. You know, sometimes people fall in this trap of going, you know, bigger, better, faster and more. And so they get a soil test and go, Wow, look at my reading. I want to put more on it and get more and that doesn’t necessarily mean that’s a good thing. You know, sometimes you might be a bit of a moron if you put more on it. So you know more is no better. You guys just, you know, be mindful, Sam, how can people hang out with Farm Lab more? Where can I go? What links can you share?
Sam Duncan: If you can get in touch with one of the teammates in so far mlive.com that you can head to WW dot com that I knew if you want to learn more about the software and what we do in general, and we’ve just opened up a new product called the Soil Carbon Offset Report to help farmers understand where they’re entering. A soil carbon project is right for them, so you can find out more about that on the website as well. Please keep in touch and talk.
Regen Ray: Awesome. So love us. All those links will be around the show notes and also around the video if you’re watching on our Soil Learning Center. Guys, it has been an absolute pleasure chatting to you about all things soil and carbon. I really want to, you know, express gratitude to you to come and make time because I know we’re all very busy and we’ve got the planet to save. And I think this is the way that we can fast track that by creating the right conversations and inspiring people to ask better questions.
Sam Duncan: Thanks, Ray. Thanks for having us. Thanks.
Florian Ruhnke: Thanks so much. Thanks for having us with pleasure.
Regen Ray: Awesome. Thank you very much. So let us make sure that you subscribe right to the podcast and do all the fun things that we need to do to keep sharing the secrets of the soil I’m regenerating until next time. Get outside, dig deeper in your soils and open up your mind to the wonderful world that is beneath your feet.