FoA 287: Why The Nature Conservancy is Investing in Agtech with Renée Vassilos

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The Nature Conservancy:

"Building Soil Health Through Innovation"

Renée Vassilos LinkedIn:

Today’s guest is Renée Vassilos. Renée manages The Nature Conservancy’s investments in innovative companies that will help scale regenerative agriculture production practices. Prior to joining TNC, she spent nearly a decade at John Deere, followed by leading her consulting firm, Banyan Innovation Group, advising growth-stage agriculture technology startups and investors. That’s where she was when we heard from her in episode 157 in 2019.

If you’ve never heard of The Nature Conservancy before, they are a global environmental nonprofit working to create a world where people and nature can thrive. They have a strong reputation for working with private and public partners, including farmers and agribusinesses, to find practical and sustainable solutions to conserve the lands and waters on which all life depends.

Since joining TNC a couple of years ago, Renée has led investments in seven different early stage agricultural companies. Four of which, you’ve actually heard about if you’ve been listening to this show for very long. Those four are: Grower’s Edge (ep 156 & 238), SwarmFarm Robotics (ep 271), Sentera (ep 255 & 264), and Vence (ep 246).

The other three companies will be new to this show, so I’ve asked Renee to tell us a little bit about each of them during today’s show. They are: Kula Bio, Pattern Ag, and Stony Creek Colors.

Renee and I also talk about how they’re measuring and evaluating the impact of their investments related to their ability to get closer to their soil health goals, and the chicken or the egg problem of whether the tools can change a farmers practices or if a mindset has to change first with the farmer to seek out the right tools for those practices. That’s toward the end and Renee and I disagree slightly on which has to come first.

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