The Reversing Climate Change podcast with Nori
A podcast about the different people, technologies, and organizations that are coming together to remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and reverse climate change. We also talk about blockchains.

#44 Ethan Steinberg, Harry Greene, & Jeremy Kaufman of Propagate Ventures

November 27, 2018

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The business of the future is a good cooperator, working with other players in a particular space to drive progress. Collaboration is a core part of the ethos at Propagate Ventures as their team looks to leverage agroforestry to contribute to the growing pool of climate solutions and help build a world where people live in a symbiotic relationship with the ecosystem.

Propagate Ventures is an organization that develops and manages agroforestry investments. They work with farmers to design and install tree-crop systems that work in tandem with existing farm operations to stabilize soil health, sequester carbon, and generate economic returns. Co-founders Ethan Steinberg, Harry Greene, and Jeremy Kaufman are on a mission to provide regenerative solutions and make agroforestry the foundation of agriculture. To date, the firm has 150 acres under management and 3,400 acres under advisement.

Today, Harry, Ethan, and Jeremy join Ross and Christophe to discuss Propagate Venture’s progress since their last appearance on the podcast and their growing focus on place-based solutions. They share the Propagate business model, including their two main income streams and their systems approach to cumulative value. The Propagate team also offers insight around the yield of timber versus shrubs, the nuances of organic certification, and their key role in data management for Nori. Listen in to understand why agroforestry is the most cost-effective way to draw down carbon immediately, how Propagate’s practices may filter into mainstream agriculture, and how the spiritual aspect of their work complements the cooperative future of business.

Resources

Propagate Ventures

Propagate Ventures on RCC EP003

Gregory Landua

Regen Network

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Key Takeaways

[2:12] Propagate’s progress in the last year

  • 150 acres under management
  • 3,400 acres under advisement

[4:50] The concept of ecological succession

  • Non-brittle climates (evenly distributed precipitation)
  • Left to rest, land turns to forest

[7:09] Why Propagate is based in the Hudson Valley

  • Midwest of Northeast = hub for regenerative ag
  • 1K-acre farms grow sustenance crops effectively

[8:18] The Propagate Ventures business model

  • Project-level investment opportunities
  • Match economic cycles with photosynthesis
  • Trees as asset can be separate from land itself

[12:17] The pros and cons of timbre vs. shrubs

  • 25X more shrubs/acre than timbre
  • Shrubs require more hours of management
  • Shrubs yield faster than silvopasture (25 years) 

[16:26] Propagate’s two main income streams

  • Ecosystem services (i.e.: carbon sequestration)
  • Productivity of crop produced from tree as asset

[20:56] The systems approach to cumulative value

  • Stress crop diversity (i.e.: currants, apples, chestnuts, etc.)
  • View within larger context of watershed part of

[23:33] How to assure what you’re eating is healthy

  • Know where food comes from, know your farmer
  • Certifications may follow letter but not spirit of law
  • Cattle on ‘organic dairy’ farm may not be grass-fed

[28:52] The concept of container farming

  • Grow food in shipping containers in urban areas
  • Can’t sequester carbon in shipping container

[30:24] The cost accounting of direct carbon capture

  • Agroforestry best way to drawdown immediately

[31:31] The cultural component of organic farming

  • Celebrations around food build community
  • Food tastes better, higher nutritional value 

[34:27] Propagate’s key role in data management for Nori

  • Capture data around carbon sequestration for market validation
  • Tell story of what differentiates from orchard down street

[36:25] How Propagate filters into mainstream agriculture

  • Practices stabilize soil health and increase nutritional profile
  • Economic benefit will influence management decisions
  • Transfer knowledge to next generation (ecosystem vs. factory) 

[39:30] The spiritual aspect of Propagate’s work

  • Sensory feedback in observing farm firsthand
  • Outdoor days vs. spreadsheet days

[46:32] The cooperative future of business

  • End goal to live in symbiotic relationship with ecosystem
  • Regenerate = build things up (relate to/learn from each other)
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