What Commodity Agriculture Can Learn from Organic Farming, with Amy Bruch, Cyclone Farms

While the term “organic” tends to be associated with small-scale production and a  preference for manual tools over the latest technology, organic farming  advocates claim their methods can reduce the need for expensive inputs like fertilizers and herbicides, improve soil health, and allow farmers to differentiate their product in otherwise global commodity markets. So, what can commodity agriculture learn from organic farming? 

Our guest this week is Amy Bruch, a sixth-generation farmer of row crops, small grains, pulses, and oilseeds, and 2021 Organic Trade Association Organic Farmer of the Year. After starting her career as a systems engineer in food manufacturing, Amy travelled to work on large-scale soil improvement projects in Brazil. This experience “farming in another postcode” then led to her approach managing the family farm back in Eastern Nebraska, and turning nearly 2,500 acres into organic production.

In this episode, Amy talks about:

  • How her experience improving degraded, acidic soils in regional Brazil makes her a better farmer at Cyclone Farms today
  • The benefits of combining organic production techniques AND new innovations in technology 
  • How a focus on soil health is a gateway for more farmers to not only sequester more carbon, but also realize meaningful benefits for their crops & bottom line
  • Why current organic farming standards are a potential gateway drug for farmers to adopt “climate smart” agricultural practices

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Sarah Nolet  0:01  
Hello, and welcome to AgTech...So What. I'm Sarah Nolet. An update for you here at the top of the show, the Agthentic Group has been acquired. Well, sort of. We're still the same team on the same mission to partner with agtech operators who are unlocking world changing impact at the intersection of digitally native agriculture and climate solutions. But now under one brand, Tenacious Ventures. For all our podcast episodes and insights, the companies we invest in, and more, check out our new home at tenacious.ventures. It's not easy to say goodbye to Agthentic. But we're pumped about our new home and know that to achieve big things in the world, you have to be focused. And for us, that means finally having just one brand and just one website. Okay, on to today's episode.

At the moment, commodity grain prices are looking favourable due to a shortage in global supply driven by a myriad of factors. But for future focused producers with an eye on world markets, banking on success in the commodity casino is simply getting too risky

Amy Bruch  1:02  
With us being in Brazil and understanding how many acres that that country that are not in the Amazon have to bring on board. For production acres, over 200 million additional acres are potentially waiting in the wings. Depending on pricing, it looked like something that we'd want to insulate ourselves a little bit better to just be more in the specialty category as well.

Sarah Nolet  1:24
That's Amy Brooke of Cyclone farms, an operation rooted in eastern Nebraska. Though Amy represents the sixth generation of her family farming operation, she's had a diverse career so far with time spent in industry, as well as farming and working to balance acidic soils in Brazil. It all started for Amy with earning an Ag Engineering degree from Iowa State, after which she took a detour farther up the value chain.

Amy Bruch  1:49  
My role out of college as a systems engineer with General Mills. And so that was really exciting to me to just get immersed into high speed manufacturing and turning ingredients of what we grew on the farm into products that people love. And then just working with a lot of the mechanics actually were prior farmers in their previous life. And it's just a good work environment and just troubleshooting and solving problems and trying to make the whole system more efficient. And that's my philosophy of just how I approach everything in life, just finding what's broken and try to fix it and what the root causes and put solutions in place, whether in the systems engineering realm within food manufacturing, or now currently on my own family farm.

Sarah Nolet  2:34  
What was the day in life like at General Mills? Like you mentioned, some actual physical engineering work, walk me through what a day was like there?

Amy Bruch  2:41  
Oh, goodness, you know, actually, life in manufacturing is pretty similar to a farm, you have your plan a starting out. And then if the alphabet has 26 letters, because you're probably you know, D or E as the midpoint of the day rolls on, and then something else comes up that you're not expecting. So in manufacturing where I was, we were 24/7 facility with three shifts. So my responsibility was to see how reliable the equipment would run over the course of the whole 24 hour period. And there's predictive failure. And then there's the reactive failure that happens when things go wrong. And we tried to have most of what would go wrong into something we were planning on, there's just a equipment can just surprise you at times. So or manufacturing lines, they had robotics and different things like that, it's probably pretty much daily that something didn't happen as planned. But I really valued the team effort that everybody has a different perspective and what they bring to the table. So as an engineer, I'd always circle the waggons with the operators that ran the equipment and the maintenance folks that adjusted the equipment. And we'd always drive solutions with just basically several minds into the equation instead of just one thought. And that's another valuable lesson that I bring back to the farm every day because it's just diversity of thought is really important to drive efficiency going forward.

Sarah Nolet  4:07  
Tell me more about the farm now? What was the vision and tell me about the last couple years and where things are headed for the farm?

Amy Bruch  4:14  
Well, that was another kind of plan D, E, F. I always thought that my husband I would work with my father and my mom trying to drive the family farm into the next generation. And unfortunately my dad, he passed away suddenly and my husband and I were farming internationally in Brazil at the time. So we made plans to come back and farm in his honour so in 2012 and that was a high of commodities kind of similar to today. But there was a downturn in the commodity markets shortly after that. So we try to make our farm a little bit more insulated. We converted to organic production. It was a slow at first because it was a different realm. And we had a lot of experience just balancing soils and high productivity and some of those philosophies held true with converting farms to organic as well.

Sarah Nolet  5:05  
Tell me more about your time in Brazil. Tell me about what it was like being there.

Amy Bruch  5:10  
That was wonderful. I travelled a lot prior to moving full time to Brazil. So it had a little bit of what I was gonna get into moving there. But yeah, the town that I lived in was pretty remote and rural. But it was a boom town just because of agriculture. So it was a really cool spot to be in. It didn't have a movie theatre, we were about five hours away from airport or really a lot of resources. So it was pretty much just an ag town that developed overnight, it was 700 people, I think, about 15 years prior to me getting there. And it was yeah, like I said, about 50,000 people when I got there, so it was just crazy, the bus would come in, everybody would get up and nobody would leave town. And it again, it was just due to ag. So that was really neat to see the power of agriculture and how it can transform communities. This area wasn't farmed in the past because it was deemed really a wasteland just because it had high acidic soils. And so again, that soil balance came into play, how do you convert wastelands, soils that really couldn't support any tree growth or any grass growth? Essentially, how do you convert them into productive soils, and that happens over time when you can understand just the keys to balancing soil. And it did it was a slow process. But again, it can happen. And it really did transform that area. So being a part of that was really interesting. There were no street lights or stop signs in the town that we lived in. And for 50,000 people, it was a little bit chaotic. None of the modern conveniences that we have here. That's fine. It just teaches you to be creative. And I don't there was hardly any English spoken in that town. And I didn't have the experience. It was learning Portuguese prior to getting there. So it was a lot of muscling through every field trip was like an educational class going to the grocery store even because you just learned so many things and so many ways to communicate. If you did realise, like, details matter that one word that you'd miss in a sentence could totally change what the conversation was about. It was a good, again, humbling experience. I think agriculture and living abroad in a rural environment with few resources is also a humbling experience as well.

Sarah Nolet  7:30  
Were the other Americans there. Were there other women there, or were you pretty unique in in what otherwise sounds a bit like a kind of wild west experience.

Amy Bruch  7:38  
Yeah it was a boomtown. So I there were a handful of Americans there, there were folks from Germany, folks from the Netherlands, folks from China, just all doing the same thing, see an opportunity, and being able to be on the ground level of transitioning this area of Brazil into an agricultural area. So everybody's pretty familiar with I think Mato Grosso that had been developed maybe 20 years prior to this area, I think the thought in the trajectory of where this area could transform was known, it was just, it just took a lot more hard work, I think to get it to the level that Mato Grosso so had established itself as. But yeah, I think it was a big melting pot, they always say the US as a melting pot, but I would say I experienced that firsthand down in Brazil.

Sarah Nolet  8:29  
Then you mentioned before the kind of realisation about soil and how important that was going to be to the success of the project and of the area, how did you come to that realization? Did you have a background in thinking about soil or? Tell me more about that.

Amy Bruch  8:45  
So I'm really passionate with ag and soils just based on my background and growing up. But it was awesome to see farming in another zip code, I always say in this zip code happened to be an international zip code, because there's things that you could relate to. And then there's principles that these learn because they're indicative to a certain area. So it was good to compare and contrast because farming is not a direct template, depending on your spot in the US or your spot in the world. But there there are some process to farm I'd say is pretty similar. So understand that process and finding your weak points and getting those solved. I think you can move mountains in our industry.

Sarah Nolet  9:28  
I love the way you talk about it. And my sense is that's because you have experience in a few different areas not just in the US and Brazil because you moved into consulting internationally. Tell me about that.

Amy Bruch  9:40
Yeah, my husband and I are working with the Kinsey Albrecht Soil practices and basically the same soil and a lot of our coursework is done in wine grape country in California because the best soil to grow the best grapes for wines in the world is the same soil that we need to grow corn on our farms, it's same soil , that folks in Brazil on the sugarcane land need as well. So once you know that equation and can balance the soil looking at calcium, magnesium first, it really lets you work in a variety of different areas, you get that balance set. And then I mean, it takes different effort to get that balance in the different regions, depending on if you're starting from a basic soil or acidic soil. But boiling it down to an equation really can unlock some doors and potential there. So that balance again, it's really for different geographic reasons and different crops, so wide scale crops. So it's allowed for us to really get into some fun situations and understanding because in the Midwest, we can only grow successfully, you know, a handful of crops. So we got exposure to poppy and citrus and sugar cane, papaya, different crops so that we don't have necessarily here in the Midwest and got to learn the ins and outs of those. But really, the delivery mechanism was that original soil balance.

Sarah Nolet  10:59  
How did you think about breaking into the organic space?

Amy Bruch  11:03  
Essentially kind of the same reason it was a little bit of an evolution, because if you're thinking of your body, and if you're weak generally, and we can maybe potentially relate to this with a pandemic that everybody faces, you're a little bit more susceptible to potentially getting really sick from COVID. It's the same thing with our soils, if you don't have the balance, right, then you potentially could get attacked more with disease and insects if you have weak crops, due to weak soil. So once you kind of solve some of your soil balances, you realise, you maybe don't need some of the assistant mechanisms, meaning some of the foliar applications of a fungicide and insecticide. So we started realising that we were needing some of those types of products, and our yields were really doing pretty well that was the evolution that hey, maybe we can take it one step further and protect our yields, protect our crops, just because we're having that soil balance, that we don't necessarily need some of the products that you can purchase on the shelf. And so it just evolved, evolved from there. And then it got really interesting and challenging in a way. And there's opportunities from a business and marketing standpoint for the crops that you grow. And then also just with our understanding, of trying to be a little bit more niche and specialty, with with us being in Brazil, and understanding how many acres that that country that are not in the Amazon have to bring on board for production acres, over 200 million additional acres are potentially waiting in the wings, depending on pricing. Like right now you can see in 2012, how the evolution of Eastern Europe and South America really gained an acre to contribute to commodity based crops, it looked like something that we'd want to insulate ourselves a little bit better to just be more in the specialty category as well.

Sarah Nolet  12:59  
So what was that process like? Did you do due diligence? Did you write out a business case? Did you talk to different people to get advice on it? What was the journey for you specifically in making some of those decisions?

Amy Bruch  13:13  
Now, a little bit of all the above. I think the main driver in my mind was just being able to see examples, professional examples that that we could relate to, because our farm when you have precision technology, and kind of the latest and greatest tools, and when you're conventionally farming, you want to make sure that you can translate some of those technology tools to the organic industry as well, how I wanted to think of it as moving our operation forward in that regard. We did it in our network, have a few folks that were farming and so going on to their fields and understanding their challenges and ways they could deliver to their farm plan was really critical. Because once you feel like it's possible, I think you're more apt to execute a little bit. That's how I was. So yeah, we have the numbers on your spreadsheet saying one thing you have the philosophy with soil balance and a minimalist on trying to use certain products is another component of it. And then just being able to deliver that professionalism. That was a third component.

Sarah Nolet  14:23  
What you said there about technology I really like and sometimes there can be a perception that for organic, you maybe we don't have that as much technology when I think the reality is you actually have to look at practices and technology pretty closely to be able to farm organically. Maybe tell me a little bit about some of the insights you had or some examples of different practices or technologies that you've found you need to use and get benefit from.

Amy Bruch  14:50  
Yeah, absolutely. I know. I think that is a general I think, thought that maybe it is a little less technology driven, but I think there's just a diversity of ways to farm organically and the pathway we've chosen is to implement a lot of technology into the equation. We'll find this the soil in and harnessing our soils to deliver precision nutrients in the right spot. Those micro nutrients or I call micro elements micronutrients that are naturally mined, that are approved in the organic space helps to drive that good soil balance and delivering them in the right spot and based on your soil samples, and approval from the certifier is one component of technology. But another would be just some of the equipment that we get access to and implement on our farms, just like a conventional mindset is using multiple modes of action to to handle some of your challenges, whether it be insects or weeds, we do the same thing, that mentality of multiple modes of action, but we're delivering things like propane flamers, or which propane flamers are driven through the field, we partner with the University on some of their prototypes to help us manage weeds more effectively, especially during rainstorms. We can get out there a lot sooner on our fields, and it helps us minimally till our soil because there's no tillage involved in implementing that type of equipment. There's weed zappers available that we've trialled and tested as well that send 14,000 volts through a copper bar above the canopy on a soybean field to electrocute some of these weeds. So those are a couple good examples in the pipeline. Right now, we're not testing one, but hopefully in the near future, we will be there there's actual lasers equipment that lasers are targeting weeds with 80% success. That technology is coming out, there's a lot of robotic technology coming out and just being discussed, maybe not implemented on a commercial level yet. So those are some of the equipment that we're working on are looking at working with. And some of our minimal soil disturbance tools are some of what we looked at in Europe, some of our time leaders, and things like that to just disturb the soil enough to disrupt weeds from forming. So those I mean are some of the actual, getting the equipment and going you do control traffic patterns too. We need precision, just the RTK system. So we're always going in the same tracks every time to minimise just compaction and different things like that. We're trying to draw and pull from a lot of different ways. We have sophisticated water management systems that were partnering with the Natural Resources Conservation Service to implement on our fields. So really looking at the whole gamut in terms of conservation, in terms of technology, but just deploying these systems to really reduce our footprint or impact to our natural resources, and then trying to deliver results and lasting results on our farms as well.

Sarah Nolet  17:48  
Wow, that sounds like a lot of fun getting to explore all of those different tools and technologies.

Amy Bruch  17:54  
Yeah, it absolutely is. I love, yeah, just lifelong learning. And so it's it's nice, we're definitely not repeating the same game plan every year. And I know a lot of farmers don't, because your conditions and your weather is totally different. But I feel like just because we do have some hurdles to overcome in organic farming, it's definitely very challenging. That there, there are some resources that are maybe unconventional that are being looked at. And since you only get in the Midwest, one season the farm here, there's quite a network of organic producers sharing their learnings, everybody's kind of cheering everybody on from the background. And so that's been really positive as well, whether it's social media based, or just because usually there's not an organic farmer in your county. So you're going 100 miles away to find somebody that maybe has some kind of notes to just compare and relate to. So it's a nice support network.

Sarah Nolet  18:54  
Do you think about conventional versus organic production like as fundamentally different? You mentioned before the mentality of you want different tools in the toolkit in conventional and organic, and they're just different tools. But do you think about them as fundamentally different?

Amy Bruch  19:09  
That's a good question. I actually wish when I was conventionally farming, that I would have had access to some of these tools, because I think there could have been even more variety in our farm plans. If we would have implemented a few of these techniques. I can see them as cross functional actually. But yeah, now there's just some more of over reliance on on, I would say technology in terms of weed management in organic production because we don't have access to the more conventional methods of weed mitigation. But I just know from a conventional standpoint, there are challenges with weeds just because of the herbicide resistance. So I think there can be benefit actually from farmers not categorising one tool as an organic tool only that it can be viewed as cross functional.

Sarah Nolet  19:59  
Hmm, is there an example? Or of something that maybe has it gone right In your work on the farm? Something that you tried that kind of didn't pan out?

Amy Bruch  20:07  
Oh goodness, yeah. That's where the all the learnings I think, come from. Absolutely. I just feel like you learn a lot more from your mistakes versus your successes in a way, or that's how I try to work on stuff. But yeah, I mean, our first year, you know, organically farming, I think the thought, conventionally farming you just don't want to hurt or injure any plants. And that's the whole paradigm shift with organic farming, it's, you're actually going to have, you call it almost like casualties, you plant a higher population, because if you're not aggressive enough, the weedss are going to take over your field. So that conversion is almost a tough mindset conversion, probably more than anything, because you just are, yeah, we were pretty gentle, I would say our first year doing our weed management routine. And yeah, you get behind and weeds in our area are no joke. So yeah, it can get expensive pretty fast, and then trying to mitigate those manually with walkers and everything gets really expensive. So that's the motivation on on our end with our farm that was just let's use the money instead of walkers. Let's use that in terms of technology and equipment to get the right stuff at the right time and not feel if you rain you get behind that there's another tool like I was mentioning, the zapper or the flamer that you can leverage. So you don't get behind. But it's a pretty humbling experience when you feel helpless. And we felt helpless a lot.

Sarah Nolet  21:38  
How did you manage through that first year? And also tell me what a walker is because I don't know.

Amy Bruch  21:44  
Oh yeah, sorry. No, good. I was manually going out and removing the weeds. And it can be pretty extreme. So that's the motivation. On the other end. How do you get the right tools and technology, probably with anything, how do you set yourself up with success and be able to get to the other side without too many pitfalls. So it's, it is tough. And I think that's why developing the network is really important. And probably with whatever you do, it's important, I found through our first year, reaching out to people because again, they're not necessarily in your own county, they're there people that you haven't met, but then you're instantly connected once you do get connected, because we have these challenging experiences that pretty much everybody's experienced going through this. But that's why we set up a consulting network just to help producers not have that first moment that some of us that went transitioned maybe 10 years ago experienced. I don't consider myself a pioneer in this industry, because there's some I call my mentors that have been organically farming for 25 years. So they've just had a lot more experience than I. you have a couple seasons and it can provide better insight to those that haven't had any seasons. And so we developed just a programme to help folks with the certification, all the paperwork that goes along with organic farming to get your farms inspected and certified and qualified for the USDA seal. And then yeah, all these trials and tribulations on the farm for weed mitigation and crop insurance and marketing, because it is definitely a different ballgame than what what the traditional methods are.

Sarah Nolet  23:24  
Well, and it's not easy to ask for help, whether it's in a farming or any other kind of business, do you think the experiences you've had and being in some pretty unconventional places and situations has shaped how you've been able to ask for help and then ultimately set up those networks for others to do the same?

Amy Bruch  23:41  
Absolutely. I think farming is a pretty common language, but you think it is hard at times to ask for help. But once you start that process in the right direction, then it becomes easy because you realise that more people either have the same question as you may or may have that synergistic effect when you do reach out to people. Maybe your initial thought process or theirs is one direction and then you come together and you think of something totally different. I think that's the case in conventional farming as well.

Sarah Nolet  24:09  
How do you think about planning for the future? Do you have like a five year plan or a 10 year plan?

Amy Bruch  24:16  
Absolutely. Because a lot of that longer term success in organic farming is those long term crop rotation and then your marketing plans because that's another tool in order to mitigate some of the weed challenges or your disease challenges is coming up with that long term rotation. So production-wise we absolutely have long term production plans and that drives into the marketing where a lot of the organic marketing is relationship based. You have faces and names with your buyers and where your products are going. Ours are all food grade type organic products going into make tortillas for our corn products are white and blue corn and tofu for our soybeans. So it is good to have those long term plans. And we definitely have them.

Sarah Nolet  25:01  
What do you think the farm will look like in call it 20 years?

Amy Bruch  25:04  
Yeah, production wise, we have those plans, we have a lot of aspirations and where we can transform and take our farm. It's gonna be an interesting equation with the food security situation I think the whole world is facing right now with the challenges in the Ukraine for actual production and exports and imports. And maybe the higher commodity prices and turning on more acres in South America, like what we see I saw happen in 2012. It's interesting, I think you definitely gotta be on your toes in this game, because the way our grandfather's and other generations farmed, I don't know had as much long term uncertainty as what maybe there is now. So I think it's just trying to make sure that you're as efficient as possible, being able to be nimble as well, satisfying especially in niche markets, I think it'll be one realm that we're always going to be a part of, and trying to be as self supported, I guess, not as reliant on external inputs, I think is going to be important to our farm as well, because you're even seeing that now with some of the fertiliser and conventional herbicide products this year is just that mindset of I think trying to be a little bit more self reliant is going to be hopefully more successful than depending on the supply chain to drive your solutions. So that'll be the trajectory we're going to try to take. Who knows if that's the right one.

Sarah Nolet  26:32  
You mentioned the word nimble. How do you think about being nimble in a world where you've got one season per year? And is it more about the practices or the crops or more about your mindset?

Amy Bruch  26:43  
You know, agriculture is really unique and interesting, because a portion of what we do is based on tradition, and a portion of what we do is based on innovation. So I think it's just always keeping those two buckets in check. And always validating your plans and being open to new changes that come down the pipeline, for sure.

Sarah Nolet  27:03  
Do you think that your mindset sets you apart from other farmers and the experiences that you've had in pretty unconventional areas, whether it's engineering or Brazil?

Amy Bruch  27:13  
I've been really blessed to be able to see ag from many different sides. So I'm really thankful for that. And I just know, there's always stuff that can happen, and just trying to weigh in what we can control and what we can't. So I tried to be pretty grounded. It's good to be that way, I think in our industry, because again, there's just so many variables, whether you're organically farming, or conventionally farming or farming in a foreign country, there's just so many variables you can't control and just know that the sun will come up tomorrow. So my dad will always say and just have a clear head if you get mad you forget to think so it's just trying to be grounded and level and process the information you're given and make a plan according to what you have at the time. And there's it's really hard in our game to be a Monday morning quarterback because you never have you know what's needed at that moment, you just have to act on what you have and go forward.

Sarah Nolet  28:06  
It does sound like you that thinking is part of your competitive advantage. Do you think about cultivating or how do you think about having that mindset on your team, like helping the rest of your team be nimble and think differently?

Amy Bruch  28:19  
My husband, I love building out teams and love our team on our farm. It's a lot like family. But again, it goes back to like, there's 26 letters in the alphabet. And there's always something you can do. It might not be what you originally thinking you can do. But there's always a window or a way through a situation, you just got to find it. So I could develop this actually in basketball. In high school, the coach said you can always play defence, maybe your offensive game isn't there. But you can always take care of business. So I think we're pretty level team and dynamic is probably a good term for it just open to change open to new things, but holding true to family roots and good grounding morals to charter course.

Sarah Nolet  29:01
Is there an element of and I know I've experienced this when you want people to really take in that new information and think for themselves. But that does lead to mistakes. And I guess you have to be accepting that there's going to be mistakes and that sort of part of the journey, or you're gonna get things wrong and have to have a bunch of people go out and pull weeds because that's part of the journey too.

Amy Bruch  29:18  
Absolutely, you know, that's just life and you're only on this planet for so long. And again, I think we learn a lot better with our mistakes than our successes. And if we were paying for an education, we'd have several letters behind your name after this point is from all the tuition quote, unquote, that we've paid from some of the mistakes we made and that that's a part of life, but that's a part of the conversation. I think that's really crucial for both conventional farming and organic farming is that network so you can live through other people's experiences too and collectively get further ahead in the process because one season a year it is tough to really get all those feelings, capture those learnings and then apply them for the next year. So it's good to pool several seasons of different people involved in Brazil, we had two seasons farming, depending on the crop and the geographic location in Florida where we farmed for a period of time we had two seasons to learn. So having a couple of seasons was great. My dad didn't get that in the Midwest. But he added his greenhouse that he developed and grew plants there in the offseason, try to see how we could stress them that to be able to yield more or yield less and we learn that way too. So yeah, there's I think there's a different variety of ways you can accelerate the practical knowledge and get it implemented, though next season, even outside of mistakes too.

Sarah Nolet  30:38  
How do you think about the organic landscape among other kind of sustainable ag ideas, whether carbon markets and nature based solutions and regenerative agriculture? And do you see that changing?

Amy Bruch  30:49  
I'm actually on the National Organic Standards Board. And so the organic programme is really important to me. And there's a term right now that's being thrown around or discussed, I should say, called Climate Smart Agriculture. And I would say organic farming, the structure and the framework has been around for decades now. So it's ready to try to be that original solution that that some of these programmes that are saying to be. So I'm real supportive of what's happening in the organic space. And I think it's being able to tell the story a little better because we are a systems based approach. We're not just a practice based approach. So I think putting that all together, there's a good story to tell there that somebody's programmes are working to fill a void that maybe doesn't exist.

Sarah Nolet  31:38  
Talking to farmers is truly one of the coolest parts of this job, and Amy did not disappoint. I was left chewing on a few of her points long after our conversation ended. First of all, I admire Amy's drive to find a niche, a competitive advantage, even in what seemed to be an inevitably commoditized business. Amy's unique life experience obviously contributed to her ability to do this. But it seemed to me that the most impactful lesson Amy learned while farming in another zip code was a fundamental appreciation for the risk of playing in an undifferentiated commodity space when at any moment, circumstances well beyond her control caught up in prices, inputs or markets for years. Seeing some of those 200 million Brazilian acres firsthand seems to have been a powerful motivator to differentiate and create a business that couldn't be so easily reproduced around the world.

I also appreciated the lessons that Amy shared about soil health, and how balancing soils can lead not only to carbon sequestration, but to meaningful crop benefits. Amy discussed her experience with increased pest and disease resilience, and improved crop development, which is pretty impressive to achieve on tropical soils previously described as wasteland. This resonates with our understanding of the opportunities around nature based solutions in particular.

Finally, I really enjoyed Amy's thoughts on the organic sector, from debunking the myth that organic means no technology, to her argument that the existing organic standards in the US offer a meaningful on ramp to more so called climate smart farming. I think Amy added a lot to a discussion that has been heating up lately with the entrance of trendy but usually less defined ideas like, quote, regenerative and, quote sustainable. It'll be interesting to see what the future holds for all of these schools of thought and whether technology can help us shift from prescriptive practices to achieved outcomes.

So that's it for another episode of AgTech...So What. Thanks to our guest, Amy Brooke of Cyclone farms and thanks to Kerry-Anne Coker from Vitaliy for recommending her. And of course, thank you for listening. For more information on any of the resources mentioned in this podcast, please visit our new website tenacious. ventures. I'm Sarah Nolet, catch you next time.

Key takeaways

  • [05:10] Amy's experience working to rebalance degraded soils in Brazil
  • [09:39] How Amy approaches soil health at Cyclone Farms and why it led to adopting more organic production practices
  • [14:49] Why organic farming at Cyclone Farms combines practice changes with the adoption of more technology and advanced equipment