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Episode
115

Marcela Flores and Angela Newton

Co-CEOs of Tierra Foods

Ep
115

Cultivating Carbon Negative Food Ingredients For A Better Planet

Jun 14, 2022
With
Marcela Flores and Angela Newton
47:51

Cultivating Carbon Negative Food Ingredients For A Better Planet

Today, we were joined by not just one but two co-founders: Marcela Flores and Angela Newtons, who are the brains behind Tierra Foods, a startup with a mission to change the way we feed the planet. Through agroforestry and regenerative farming, Tierra Foods develops carbon negative ingredients that help restore the planet. So, not only do these plants and  ingredients help sequester carbon, but they taste good too!

In this episode, Marcela and Angela share how the Carbon13 program was vital in making their paths cross but also in teaching them tips and tricks on how to successfully build their business. Apart from giving their insights into the agroforestry impact space, they also shared their advice for entrepreneurs on things like differentiating opportunities from distractions, how to find the right investors for your business, and so much more. This is an episode you won’t want to miss. 

Marcela and Angela’s key lessons and quotes from this episode were:

  • “It's so vital to be clear on the North Star and recognize that opportunities and distractions will come all the time. There's a real art in being able to navigate that and recognize the difference between a pivot and a distraction.” (29:45)
  • “There are a lot of investors out there. There's arguably a lot of money out there, but I think it's really important to find investors who really get who you are and what you want to do and what you're trying to achieve.” (36:44)

In this episode, we also talked about:

  • The Carbon13 program and what inspired Marcela and Angela to create Tierra Foods (6:41)
  • How Tierra Foods brings the innovation to agroforestry (22:52)
  • Entrepreneurial lessons the co-founders learned (28:59)
  • Finding investors who are truly aligned with your mission (34:03)
  • The world in 10 years according to Marcela and Angela (40:19)

Transcript of the episode

Maiko Schaffrath  00:00

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You are listening to Impact Hustlers, and I am your host, Maiko Schaffrath. I have made it my mission to inspire the next generation of entrepreneurs to solve some of the world's biggest social and environmental problems. And for this reason, I am speaking to some of the best entrepreneurs out there who are solving problems such as food waste, climate change, poverty, and homelessness. My goal is that Impact Hustlers will inspire you, either by starting an impact business yourself, by joining the team of one, or by taking a small step, whatever that may be, towards being part of the solution to the world's biggest problems. 

In today's episode, I speak to Angela Newton and Marcela Flores from Tierra Foods, a startup developing carbon negative ingredients that help restore soil biodiversity, and also leverages indigenous knowledge from across Latin America. Tierra Foods has been developed as part of the Carbon13 program based here in Cambridge in the UK and has recently also raised some funding from ClimateVC, a new fund here in the UK backing climate venture. So, it's really great to have both of you on the show as co-CEOs of Tierra Foods. Welcome, Marcela and Angela.

Marcela Flores  02:38

Thank you, Maiko. It's great to be here.

Maiko Schaffrath  02:40

So, starting off, I'd be really keen to understand both of your personal stories and what led you to get to this point of founding Tierra Foods. Marcela, let's start with you. What's your story? What led you to this point? And why do you care about this topic of developing carbon negative ingredients?

Marcela Flores  03:01

I am originally from Mexico, and growing up, I could never normalize the enormous, well, social inequality there, really, and social issues have been always important to me. And at the same time, I could see how our beautiful country was, I don't know, just the coral reefs disappearing and the forest disappearing, and so on, and I wanted to work on a solution. Then, I started a business in 2008 developing Mexican food here in the UK. And as I was selecting the ingredients that were in my products, I started to think really hard about what kind of ingredients I wanted there. 

I didn't want GMO or anything relating to glyphosate or things that were killing soils, bees, etc., and that took me to indigenous knowledge, really, something I didn't know at the time, but it was taking me to think about regenerative agriculture. And then, when I exited my business, I wanted to join a business that was doing sustainability well at scale. 

So, I joined Unilever, and I learned about the Sustainable Living Plan and so on. But at the time, in 2015, 2016, I wasn't seeing so much of that. People were talking about sustainability being less bad or maintaining, but I wanted to bring something to the market that really was good, that would restore, that would regenerate soils and also to bring social justice. So, that systems thinking approach, I guess, led me to try to bring a solution.

Maiko Schaffrath  05:00

Hmm. Interesting. And Angela, how about you?

Angela Newton  05:03

So, I have a products and business strategy background. I actually started in publishing, and I've developed a career in terms of helping businesses build projects and services and products, but I've been very fortunate to see some amazing parts of the world. And while I've done a lot in widening participation in education and financial literacy, I had a burning ambition to really start to do something more on sustainability in the regenerative sectors. I'm a bit of a guerilla gardener on the side and very drawn towards nature-based solutions. 

So, when I met Marcela on the Carbon13 program, we very much gravitated towards each other with this distinct ambition to start to address some of the systemic changes in how we saw some grow our foods and also taking a holistic approach and thinking about carbon sequestration, but also biodiversity, soil regeneration, and as Marcela said, absolutely thinking about community impacts as well and how you can best work with local people and empower them to nurture the environments in which they thrive.

Maiko Schaffrath  06:19

Amazing. Give us a brief overview of the Carbon13 program. Some people in the UK, entrepreneurs may know about it, but it's a relatively new program still. What does the program do and then how has it helped you or what did you get out of the program, so to say?

Marcela Flores  06:41

I joined Carbon13 thinking that it might or might not be for me, because I was wondering if it would be only about tech-based solutions about software and things like that. But actually, it encompassed a wide array of climate solutions, and it certainly encouraged that, too. In terms of the structure itself, it is a three-stage process, and the first stage, which lasts around six weeks, is it, Angela, something like that, it's about meeting 70 other founders, co-founders. Not many people come with said businesses, but it is about teaming and stressing that teaming is a verb, and it is something that we actively do, so I found that really, really interesting.

Maiko Schaffrath  07:36

And you both got into the program with a rough idea of wanting to work on food ingredients, or was it even less concrete than that, you just joined the program and said, "I want to work on climate"? How was that motivation for you? Angela, let's start with you on it.

Angela Newton  07:53

For me, it wasn't necessarily food. It was very much about climate, and it was also very much about nature. As I mentioned, I did anticipate a lot of tech-based solutions, and I think they have an enormous role in terms of tackling some of the issues that we face globally, but I also have a fundamental belief that nature knows how to solve a lot of this already. We've just thrown it slightly out of kilter. 

For me, I was very passionate about getting involved in a project that went back to roots and actually looked at working with nature rather than trying to force things against it. And Marcela had the idea and had done some work in terms of it and clearly great background in food as well. She came up with the idea, and we developed it from there.

Maiko Schaffrath  08:46

Amazing. Great. Let's actually get into your solution and give people a bit of an idea. I think, especially people not in the space need a while to wrap their head around it, and I'll actually ask you a few questions around it. First of all, as a quick summary, can you give our listeners a bit of a summary on, how do you actually grow, develop, and process these carbon negative ingredients and what are they? What are they used for? What are they and how are they different from existing farming that's already happening?

Angela Newton  09:22

Okay, wow. That's a big question in there. So, by carbon negative ingredients, what we're doing is growing food using agroforestry systems and plants that are particularly good at sequestering carbon. An example would be our ramon flour, which is made from a seed which grows on a tree so, of course, you can harvest the seed, but the tree continues to exist and sequester carbon, and that's how we can develop carbon negative ingredients, and there's a whole raft of plants that we're looking at growing through agroforestry that achieve that. 

I think the thing to reflect on is that modern agriculture is so detrimental to the environment. We currently get about 70% of our calories from just rice, wheat, and maize, and that monoculture farming is hugely disruptive in terms of the soil, but also the pesticides and herbicides that are used to grow those crops. 

So, not only a rainforest being removed in order to create the land, but also there's a huge carbon output in terms of supporting that form of agriculture. Agroforestry models are so much more sustainable and regenerative, because you grow multiple plants alongside each other, trees and annuals and perennials, the soil is always covered, which means that you're always sequestering the carbon, it doesn't get washed away, you don't get soil erosion, but you're also capturing the carbon and harvesting multiple crops at the same time.

Maiko Schaffrath  10:58

Yeah, no, absolutely. I guess the question there comes, if you look at industrial farming, it's obviously, from an economical standpoint, quite an efficient system in terms of cost. And well, if you don't internalize the external costs and other costs, the harm that it costs to environment is everywhere. But if you're just looking at pure economic costs, direct costs, how does this compare in terms of the cost, but also in terms of the effort that you need to put into actually harvesting that? I would love to understand a bit more about that.

Angela Newton  11:36

It's certainly true that we've taken this route of monoculture farming, because it is, on paper, cheaper and faster, but we also know how subsidized our food industry is, and actually, it is a false economy. Our food industry doesn't really operate that efficiently on the monoculture system. I think there's also two really important elements here. One is that with soil degradation as bad as it is, many of the food manufacturers know that they need to diversify. There simply won't be the soil to grow the foods we need within a generation. 

And so, they're having to find more and different crops to grow and to use in our food sources, so there is an imperative to actually broaden the portfolio. I think the other thing is that from a food security perspective, global warming and, of course, many of the pests and diseases that are proliferating because of monoculture farming, that's actually causing greater risks to many harvests. 

At the outset, agroforestry does look very complex. It's a smaller yield of multiple crops for the same amount of space. But in the longer term, it's more sustainable, because actually, it's more resistant, it's more resistant to drought, it's more tolerant to pests and disease, and it actually gives you a much greater spread of the bet, if you like, in terms of harvest and opportunity.

Marcela Flores  13:09

And what are some of the most common crops and what are they used for that you can actually produce in this way?

Angela Newton  13:16

So, agroforestry is used for multiple crops across various different sectors. For example, we are working very closely with a couple of cosmetics companies, and they use agroforestry to grow core products for their products. There's a wealth of plants that you can grow. For us, our focus is going to be the ramon tree, which is fantastic at sequestering carbon, and it produces a seed which can be ground into a very high protein, gluten-free flour. 

There's also chaya, which is a tree spinach, incredibly high in protein. We're also looking at other plants as we come up, there's carissa, which is an oil that you can develop from a particular tree, potentially chipilín and, of course, some of the more conventional plants that you may have heard of such as banana and amaranth and so on, but we're very focused on B2B ingredients. We are looking at how to develop those products into novel ingredients that can be used by food manufacturers.

Maiko Schaffrath  14:21

Let's dive a little bit deeper into that in a second. Marcela, I'd be keen to understand from you a bit the differentiation of this idea versus what's already being done. I understand your concept of what you're doing is obviously not an invention by yourself. It's been done by people for a long time, for hundreds of years, thousands of years, maybe. 

I'm trying to understand what's your angle, your insight that you have that maybe the existing people doing agroforestry but also larger corporates aren't quite seeing yet, and what's the piece of innovation that you bring into the space.

Marcela Flores  15:09

Sure, thank you. So, as part of the Carbon13 process, they ask you to go and speak to customers much earlier than anyone would be comfortable to do, because you go and talk to them about concepts and talk about the potential solution and how that would be relevant. So, I went off to talk to people like Nestle, the Co-Op, Target, and other companies that are signed up to the SBTI, to the Science-Based Target Initiatives, people who are like B corps, 1% for the planet, that kind of thing. The overall reception of the concept of carbon negative ingredients was really, really welcome, but there was a caveat. Of course, it is about the quality of the data that you bring into it. 

You can say, until the cows come home, that you carbon negative ingredients is great, but you have to have the data, and this is something that is a real challenge that we're trying to solve now. What kind of technology do we need to include? How does that come into play with our theory of change as well and how we can integrate that in a way that also solves their problems, because at the end of the day, Nestle wants to prove that they are good socially, that they are engaging in good ways in their social impact, and so on. A lot of companies will have forest positive commitments or net zero commitments. And so, how can our ingredients be relevant to their supply chains? That's one level. The data is really important. 

Another one that's really important is the science itself of creating those ingredients. I'm not going to turn up with a catalog and hoping for the best. We are co-creating these ingredients with our customer saying, "Look, there is this concept. There is this prototype. What do you think?," until we conduct factory trials with them and so on, and we perfect them, and we put in time and effort and R&D and IP to go into those ingredients. 

Another point that is really perhaps on their plate, and is really, really important is the relationship with the communities themselves, because we are taking those ingredients that they use, and how can we make it relevant to them as well? How can we deliver local prosperity? And how can we translate that into impact that can, ultimately, again, we're trying to find out how that can be monetized to benefit everyone across the supply chain?

Maiko Schaffrath  18:00

Amazing. And do you find from the initial customer conversations that you have, are customers usually looking to replace existing ingredients with an alternative that's carbon neutral? Or are they literally growing the same crops; they just want to grow them more sustainably with agroforestry? Is it like substitution or is it just a different way of farming, the same thing?

Marcela Flores  18:31

Yeah, that's a great question. I think it's a bit of both in a way. Companies are moving into how they can grow the same ingredients that they have been using in more sustainable ways or even sometimes, they talk about regenerative ways. But also, with time, we've seen how new ingredients bring a lot of novelty into companies. 

They're always looking for new, innovative solutions that can make them stand out, but these solutions are good for humans, because for example, the ramon flour that we're developing is really high in protein, and it's a complete protein. It's high in some of the micronutrients that are hard to get elsewhere, and also, it gives them differentiation. 

So, there is excitement about bringing new ingredients into the market. If you think about, for example, when we started talking about quinoa or about chia and other ingredients like that, that's starting to be adopted perhaps in a smaller way, but what we're doing is we're optimizing them, so that they can replace some of the wheat that is being used and replaced with something that's more nutritious for humans and for the planet.

Maiko Schaffrath  20:02

Hi, it's Maiko here. I want to interrupt this episode briefly to make you aware of two exciting things that are going on here at Impact Hustlers. First of all, if you are a founder solving social and environmental problems, and you're looking to connect to like-minded founders like yourself, you're looking to learn from some of the most experienced entrepreneurs, experts, and investors in the world, and you want some support and actually fundraising for your startup, we've built the Impact Hustlers Community. 

We are now about 100 entrepreneurs and founders, and we're growing every month, with more founders from all over the world joining us, and we're really here to support each other. Our goal is to build the most supportive ecosystem for impact-driven founders. So, if you're a founder, head to impacthustlers.com/community to learn more. 

And if you're not a founder, but you want to work for impact-driven companies, we have also recently launched something really exciting for you, and that is the Impact Hustlers Talent Collective. This is a group of some of the most ambitious and talented individuals in the world that want to use their talent to make a difference in the world and work for some of the most innovative impact-driven companies. If you're keen to join the Talent Collective, this is all free of charge, obviously. You can submit your application to the Talent Collective on impacthustlers.com/jobs, and what will happen as a result is that companies will start approaching you through our Talent Collective and share job opportunities with you. 

We'll also share our Weekly Jobs Update with you where you see relevant jobs in the field of impact, including from all the previous podcast guests, so you will actually see opportunities from companies that have been covered here on the show and also companies that are members of our Impact Hustlers Community. So, go to impacthustlers.com/jobs If you're looking for a job, or if you're a founder and need some support, go to impacthustlers.com/community. Okay, let's get back to the episode now.  

So, Angela, I'd love to actually understand a little bit more on your focus area, given that you're touching actually quite a journey on the supply chain from farming. I understand you're actually working with people already farming; you're not farming yourself as far as I understand. But then, you need to get it into a product that can be marketed to companies that need to use these ingredients. What is your focus? Where do you focus on? Where do you bring in the innovation? And where do you work with others in your whole supply chain and value change?

Angela Newton  22:52

Great question. Well, one of the things we often discuss with our investors is one of the things that makes our business quite challenging for anybody to conceive is also the thing that makes it very special, and that is about the 'Farm to Fork' provenance piece. It's about ensuring that absolute transparency all the way through and ensuring that our products are grown and collected and harvested in a way that is truly sustainable, both in terms of the planet and also the local communities. 

We actually adopt a mixed model. We, at the moment, are developing a pilot plot of land where we are actually doing our own farming and testing a number of different planting combinations and solutions. But at the same time, we're working with existing communities who are wild harvesting some of our produce. 

For example, the ramon grows in the wild. Now, there is a nascent industry of collecting the seeds. There are very strict rules to ensure that minimum 20-30% of the seeds are left in the wild for nature. But actually, there's a real opportunity for local communities, and interestingly, particularly women to harvest those seeds and to sell them to us in order to make flour. For example, while we're waiting for our ramon trees to grow, there's a perfect opportunity where we can work with existing local communities in that sense. 

And then, there are also farm owners and people who already own land, and that can be a mix of different people. For example, there are private small farm holders who have some land and who are interested in working with us in terms of agroforestry. There are larger landowners who, for example, may have plantations of particular monoculture crops but who we are liaising with and engaging with to see how we could work with them to adopt more agroforestry regenerative practices. 

And then, there's a third opportunity for land which is many NGOs and organizations have huge swathes of degraded land which they want to restore. They can capture carbon, they can restore the soil, restore biodiversity, but they need to find a financial way of making that work, and that's where this agroforestry model is so exciting, because you can actually create that end-to-end piece. But for us, as I said, it's very much about the provenance. 

For us, it's very important that we can see all the way through the value chain who is growing the food, who's collecting the food, how they're being paid, and all the way through, and that's the special USP, if you like, we offer to our customers as well, that they can see that.

Maiko Schaffrath  25:40

To me, just listening to what you're saying, it seems like one of the biggest challenges may be really this shift in mindset and a shift in approach for these big food companies out there. You mentioned some of them before. You have Nestle, you have Unilever, etc. that, I would say, maybe the general approach so far has been, "Okay, we're making these foods. These are the ingredients we need. How can we source them as cheap as possible and in the amount that we need at?" 

These companies are sourcing massive amounts of ingredients. And now, you're coming in and telling them basically, "Okay, look, there's also other factors to consider. You already have pressure to become net zero or carbon neutral," so you're helping them adapt to that challenge, but they have to switch around their whole mindset, because if Nestle comes to you and says, "I want a billion tonnes of something or a million tonnes of something," it will probably be a challenge to do that in a short amount of time. 

So, how do you actually help brands switch their mindset? And how do you see them make a transition from a really mass price-based approach, cheapest price, high quantity to something that needs to work a little bit different, isn't it?

Marcela Flores  27:09

Yeah, that's a great question. I guess there are a number of angles to it. One of them is that although we have talked to Nestle and other large companies, we're fully aware that we would not be able to serve them just right now. We are talking to a Mexican company. They're quite innovative, and they are willing to go on the journey of R&D with us, but in a way that they will be patient, and they will accept 50 tonnes in the first year, for example. And from there, we are going to grow our agroforestry systems quite quickly. 

That's one level. But another one is the fact that it's not only about the ramon seeds, and it's not only about us growing it. It already grows in the forest in a really big way, but it is about optimizing the way that we can forage in a much more efficient way, and that brings value to people who are looking after the forests.

Maiko Schaffrath  28:18

Love it. Let's dive a bit deeper into your entrepreneurial journeys. We covered very briefly in the beginning on how you actually ended up working on this problem, but I'd like to uncover some of the lessons learned on your journey so far. 

It seems from both of you, you really bring some unique insights and experience in this space, into this company, which is really interesting, but I'm sure there have already been a few challenges along the way. So, what would you say has been, maybe a personal or on a company level, one of the biggest challenges for you since launching Tierra Foods? Angela, do you want to start on that? 

Angela Newton  28:59

Gosh, I think if every day is different. Every day, you start with a list of things that you consider to be the priorities and where you need to spend your time and energy. And of course, I think one insight is you do get blown around a lot. I mean, there are literally never enough hours in the day. And sometimes, the things that you think should be really quite quick to resolve take longer, but more strategically, I think one of the reflections I've had over the past few months is actually being able to navigate the course. 

I think it's so vital to be clear on the North Star and recognize that opportunities and distractions will come all the time. There's a real art, I think, in being able to navigate that and recognize the difference between a pivot and a distraction, and it's not always clear which is which sometimes. You will get opportunities that are very exciting, but could take you down the wrong path, but you also get opportunities that you absolutely should pursue. 

So, I think having that mindset of being open and receptive to all of those different opportunities and influences, but also being steadfast in terms of knowing the North Star and trying not to get blown off course. I think it's an ongoing and perennial challenge. I don't think there's a particular answer. I think it's just a question of having an awareness of that.

Maiko Schaffrath  30:43

Marcela, how about you? What do you think?

Marcela Flores  30:46

Yeah, I totally echo that, and I think it's really helpful to have two co-founders to talk about these things and challenge each other in the nicest possible way, if possible, and also having a great set of advisors. Another lesson for me has been around how the capital markets for our VC raises are different from others. We are not a software company. There is IP, and there is some software element to this, but it requires a different type of VC or investor. 

We are very ambitious, and we believe that our plants are really, really exciting, and they're very scalable, but it requires a different type of impact investor, who is prepared to be a little bit more patient. We have had to understand, I mean, I talked earlier about how we can monetize those impacts, for example, so how can we bring impact related accounting into the equation, how we need to talk to a philanthropic organization differently from an impact VC to an NGO or to an institutional investor. 

So, differentiating our conversation accordingly, not changing the message, but it is saying, what to whom in a way that's relevant, that has been a real challenge and a real learning for all of us and learning the language of blended finance, also. I think this is a very new territory, and I'm surprised how new it is, because I thought that by now, there would be more financial people that would know about this, but it doesn't seem like that. 

I mean, we have been lucky that we were involved with Cambridge Social Ventures last year, and we created our theory of change there, and we're trying to integrate things together with that. But still, I think some of these impact-related accounting things are very new. So, that's a real challenge.

Maiko Schaffrath  33:00

And what was your journey in terms of seeking investment? Did you go out to traditional angel investors first? Did you reach out to traditional VCs or mainstream VCs, so to say, that don't have a specific impact focus? Obviously, you've got ClimateVC and Peet on board, which is very focused, obviously, on the problem, also an investor that hasn't been around that long, but has already invested in a few startups that require patient capital. 

Actually, one of the other portfolio companies OTEC, which has been on the podcast actually, it requires loads of engineering and a lot of time. And while your problem may be slightly different, it seems definitely probably like a scary thing to invest in if you're an investor that has only invested in software so far and is like, okay, build the software, sell it. It's not as easy as that, right?

Marcela Flores  34:03

Yes, exactly. So, we have some incredible angel investors as well behind us. They are very experienced in the investment world, so they're leading figures in the firms where they invest, and they understand that requirement of being a little bit more patient, but also, it will pay in so many ways. 

Our ambition is, of course, it can pay financially, but it also pays for the world and for our future generations. And I think the investment world as they talk about impact and so on, I think the mindset is still very much, it needs to catch up with the current realities of what the world needs. So, we settled our pre-seed investment as well with a family office, and we will be launching our seed raise in a couple of weeks' time.

Maiko Schaffrath  34:59

So, how did you find these aligned investors, those that believe in it? Did you just give off numbers to talk to as many people as possible? Did you really target them very specifically based on their previous investments? How did you approach finding the right ones that were bought in with your vision?

Marcela Flores  35:23

So, ClimateVC came from Carbon13, and they introduced us to someone else, and the other the angel investors from my previous entrepreneurial journey, and he brought someone else with him.

Maiko Schaffrath  35:40

Amazing. That's great. This shows the power of being part of strong ecosystems and support systems as well and obviously, your credibility of past angel investors that had supported you already, right?

Marcela Flores  35:57

Yes, well, that's one of the big things about being part of something like Carbon13, that they put you through your paces, and you have to do a lot of work. It's very intensive, but it does pay off in in lots of ways in their support and in their network and opening the black box for us. So, that is very helpful, I would definitely recommend it.

Angela Newton  36:23

I think the other thing I'd add, Maiko, is just the point about, we spent a lot of time, we did talk to a lot of investors, but we did narrow it down, and I think we've really found the value of talking to investors who are like-minded and want to achieve the same things. There are a lot of investors out there. There's arguably a lot of money out there, but I think it's really important to find investors who really get who you are and what you want to do and what you're trying to achieve. 

Because again, otherwise, investors can tend to blow you off course. It can be very easy to try to be different things to different people. I think we've learned that the investors we work with, we really believe in and they really believe in us, and I think that's very important as part of the team approach.

Maiko Schaffrath  37:15

Got it. Do you feel there is, with maybe investor conversations, but also conversations with people in the ecosystem, with potential customers and so on, that there is some pressure on you to pivot your idea in a direction that wouldn't necessarily benefit your impact? What I'm just thinking about is, if you think about what a lot of the big VCs and investors invest in in terms of food and farming, a lot of it goes in a direction of, how about we get robots to grow crops? How about we have lab-grown meat? How about we have these really potentially scalable ways of industrial production of food? 

Because our current farms can't really keep up with it, so how can we put the plants on the tiniest space possible, pile them up, and be more efficient? That seems to be the general tendency in, let's say, mainstream VCs. Do you feel like you're being like pushed in that direction and have to resist of saying, :No, we're not doing this. We're doing the opposite and for these good reasons"? How difficult is it to stay true to your mission and say no to opportunities that may pull you in the wrong direction?

Angela Newton  38:31

I think because we talk to angels and VCs who are very much in our area and believe in sustainability and regenerative practices, generally, I think the ethos is there, so I don't think we particularly struggle with being blown off course of our true mission. I think where it's more complex is when we need to think about the focus. 

For example, there are investors who are very interested in carbon credits when you talk about land, and there are some investors who are more interested in food technology than they are on agroforestry, and so on, and I think navigating that path of, it's not taking us off of our true mission, but it does mean that some investors are more interested in certain components or elements of the business more than others. As we said, we're taking a very holistic approach, and so we ideally want investors who really buy into the whole belief.

Maiko Schaffrath  39:38

I've got one more question on this. Marcela, you want to jump in on anything? I've got one more question for both of you, both personally, but yeah, I think your personal perspective on this point will be really good. I'm sure you have a shared vision for the company. 

The question is around, how do you think the world looks like in 10 years if Tierra Foods succeeds, specifically around how do food systems need to change? We roughly understand the direction you're going into, but paint us a vision of what type of food systems you envision in 10 years' time if you succeed.

Angela Newton  40:19

So, for me, I think we want to make some fundamental changes to systemic farming. We're not so naive to think that monoculture farming will entirely disappear, but I think getting the world back, this is just going back to what we used to do. This is what nature does. This is growing multiple plants alongside each other and feeding ourselves with a much more diverse and varied diet. 

There's no rocket science attached to that. That's simply about taking some first principles and going back to those. For me, I think there's very much an element of that. I think, for us and for Tierra, we will be working with people helping them to regenerate their own land and restore their soil and to restore biodiversity. 

I think from an industry perspective, this doesn't have to be huge amounts of change. If you imagine, if Nestle simply took out 10% of their wheat flour and used more regenerative sustainable flowers instead, that could have some really significant impacts across the world, both in terms of poverty, food security, and all of the environmental issues we've discussed. For us, I think our ambitions are big, but actually, I think it's entirely doable, and I actually don't think that we actually have much of a choice.

Maiko Schaffrath  41:53

Marcela, how about you? Do you want to add to that? I'm sure you're very aligned on your mission, but anything you want to add to that?

Marcela Flores  42:01

Yeah, sure. So, the sustainable intensification is discussed and then leave the rest of nature to go wild again; that's a solution that's spun around sometimes. But we need to think about the people who live in those areas and what kind of value that would bring to them if they just leave the land to rewild. If we can do it in a way that's restorative, but at the same time, it brings value to them, that is a really great solution, and it's not a new one, and it is very tested. Agroforestry has been very widely tested as a solution that works. 

It is the key thing is, what plants and what crops are strategically the best ones to use in different territories, and we're working on a solution on that too. But on a larger scale, if I zoom out to my own relationship with nature and food, for me, in 10 years' time, if we are able to connect more people to nature through the food they eat, I really do believe that if we if we can do that at a deeper level, as people connect with nature through their foods, there's a lot of healing that can happen with a relationship that we have with our planet. So, that's something that, in 10 years time, I really would like to inspire millions of people to have a different relationship with nature through the food they eat.

Maiko Schaffrath  43:40

I love it. What I love about your story and what you're doing is also the holistic view rather than, I mean, even in the impact space, it can feel sometimes like startups are solving very particular problems, and I think a lot of problems that we are dealing with are caused by people solving one specific problem, but forgetting about the second grade and third order effects happening as a result of your actions. What I love about what you're doing is that it seems very integrated. 

You have social impact integrated into your model. You have the environmental impact integrated. You're not just growing great healthy food, but you're also doing it in a sustainable carbon negative way. So, if this works at scale, you're solving a lot of problems at the same time, rather than solving one and causing another issue as a result. 

So, thanks to both of you for joining in. I was really excited to learn more, and I suggest anybody, check out Tierra Foods. Obviously, you're a B2B company at heart, so if there's anybody listening to this that could be interested in this to reach out to Angela and Marcela. Thanks so much for joining.

Angela Newton  44:50

Yeah.

Marcela Flores  45:00

Thank you. I can't wait for you to try our products too.

Angela Newton  45:03

Yeah.

Maiko Schaffrath  45:04

Yeah, I can't wait. I can't wait. I will as soon as they're available.

Marcela Flores  45:08

Thank you, Maiko. A pleasure to be here. 

Angela Newton  45:11

Thank you.

Maiko Schaffrath  45:12

I really hope you enjoyed today's episode and learned some valuable lessons from today's guest. I want to share two things with you. First of all, if you're a founder and you're solving a social or an environmental problem with your company, there is something that we've launched recently to support founders like you and to introduce you to more founders that are like-minded and that are solving very difficult problems in the world, and that is the Impact Hustlers Community. 

It is a community of over 100 founders that solve problems like climate change, education, the crisis in health care, and really pushing the boundaries on what's possible. And what we do as a community, we connect to each other, we run mastermind groups where you can connect to other entrepreneurs and founders. We bring experienced investors, entrepreneurs, and experts in to run workshops and ask-me-anything sessions, and you can also connect to others in our online community. And we have something for those of you that are actually fundraising. We have an investor matching tool where you get introduced to relevant investors based on the startup that you're building. 

But, it may be the case that you're not a founder, and you just want to be part of the change, and you want to join some of these companies that you've learned about here at the Impact Hustlers podcast, and we've got something for you as well. We've recently launched the Impact Hustlers Talent Collective. 

This is a group of some of the most ambitious individuals in the world that want to make a change and an impact with their careers, and you can join the Talent Collective, obviously completely free of charge. You can apply to it, and we will introduce you on a regular basis to companies recruiting people like yourself. You'll get access to exclusive job opportunities from companies that have been on the podcast but also beyond that. 

So, make sure that you go to impacthustlers.com/jobs if you're looking for jobs in the social impact space. Even if you're not actively looking right now, you should still sign up and be part of our Talent Collective. And if you're a founder, don't forget, go to impacthustlers.com/community. Okay, thanks very much for listening and bye. See you at the next episode.

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