#224 - How to Reinvent the Economics of Agriculture Using Blockchain Technology, with Gregory Landua, CEO of Regen Network

May 10, 2022

#224 - How to Reinvent the Economics of Agriculture Using Blockchain Technology, with Gregory Landua, CEO of Regen Network
Play Episode

Agriculture is essential in the fight against the climate crisis, not only for mankind but for the survival of the Earth. Gregory Landua and Regen Network are leading the way towards tracking and funding ecological regeneration and creating new tools for humanity to relate to its environment.


Agriculture is essential in the fight against the climate crisis, not only for mankind but for the survival of the Earth. Therefore, it’s crucial that we transform the agricultural system through building infrastructure using technology and creating a connection to the human economy and ecological health through our economic activity.

Today’s guest, Gregory Landua, is very passionate about changing society to honor and regenerate ecological health, embracing the practical aspects of regenerative agriculture to assist farms and communities to help combat the climate crisis.

Gregory is the CEO, Co-founder, and Co-Chief Regeneration Officer of Regen Network, a full-stack blockchain software development company leading the way towards tracking and funding ecological regeneration and creating new tools for humanity to relate to its environment.

During the conversation, Cory and Gregory talk about the new look of farming and agriculture, the future of carbon credits, and innovations in technology. 

Gregory shares the different approaches and strategies Regen Network uses to connect the social construction of value to ecological health, and the benefits of open-source, community-owned infrastructure and blockchain technology to the land steward and the planet.

-- --

💌 BETTER WORLD WEEKLY NEWSLETTER:

The Better World Weekly is a weekly newsletter written and published by Grow Ensemble Founder and Podcast Host, Cory Ames. For the latest insights, analysis, and inspiration for building a better world, join the 1000s of changemakers and social entrepreneurs from all sectors all over the globe who get this email in their inbox every Monday.

Subscribe >>> https://growensemble.com/newsletter/

-- --

🗣 TOPICS DISCUSSED:

  • Gregory’s background in regenerative agriculture and economics
  • Realignment of the economic reality of agriculture with long term ecological health
  • The need for a scientific verification on infrastructure that is connected to the market
  • How to re-invent the economics of land use and agriculture
  • Regen Network’s establishment of equilibrium to bring ecological health and economic growth
  • Natively produced Regen Network’s credit class “CarbonPlus Grasslands” – purchased by Microsoft
  • The opportunities from the community staking endowment process
  • The challenges to the growth of eco-credits
  • Gregory's experience in cultivating a community in Regen Network
  • The importance of web3 and blockchain technology

🔗 LINKS MENTIONED:

SUPPORT THE PODCAST:

GROW ENSEMBLE:

ABOUT CORY AMES:

FOR SOCIAL ENTREPRENEURS: 

Get the courses, coaching, and services to help grow your business and expand your impact with our Better World Business Growth programs

Our newest course, SEO Traffic + Impact will help you use search engine optimization (SEO) to build an audience around your better-for-the-world business and mission.

Transcript

Gregory Landua  0:00  
Money, our medium of exchange, and our financial instruments and the systems built around that, could sort of be thought of as the root protocol of human society. It's both kind of the emergent artifact of how we interact with each other. But also it is sort of deeply tied in to our behavior patterns. What gives you power or what gives you prestige? How do you make money? What are the profit centers in our society? And if you look at that, and you look at, like what money symbolizes, what it means, it becomes glaringly obvious why we're in the situation we are vis-a-vis, planetary health and climate change.

Cory Ames  0:33  
Hey, y'all, it's Cory here with the social entrepreneurship and innovation podcasts as always so grateful to have you listening in. Today we're talking about reinventing the economics of agriculture, to combat the climate crisis. And to do so I'm joined by Gregory Landua, the co founder and CEO of Regen Network. Regen Network is leading the way towards tracking and funding ecological regeneration using Blockchain technology. Before founding Regen Network, Gregory co founded and grew Terra Genesis International from a regenerative agriculture consultancy and design firm into a leader in regenerative agriculture and economy movement. He also successfully grew and executed a craft chocolate company focused on regenerative bean-to-bar craft chocolate called Nova chocolate. As an author, educator and thought leader Gregory co authored the pioneering book, Regenerative Enterprise in 2012, the levels of regenerative agriculture white paper in 2016, and recently the founding Regen Network white paper. This is a really interesting conversation with Gregory taking a new look at farming in agriculture, and the future of carbon crediting as well in talking about some really interesting and innovative technologies, and what it means to develop and innovate those technologies that are now at our disposal. I think you'll really find this conversation fascinating. I know that I did. But before we jump in to this chat with Gregory, I want to invite you to sign up for our Better World Weekly newsletter. It's our weekly newsletter that I write, curate and publish myself and send out every single Monday. Go to growensemble.com backslash newsletter to get the next one in your inbox again, that's growensemble.com backslash newsletter. All right, y'all. Without further ado, here is Gregory Landua from Regen Network.

Gregory Landua  2:40  
Hey, Cory, it's great to be here. I'm stoked to be on the podcast. Yeah, my name is Gregory. My background is in regenerative agriculture, regenerative economics. My focus for many years, vocationally was on regenerative agroforestry and supply chain work. And so doing a lot of work with sort of the regenerative certification process and the very early days of that, doing a lot of work with payment for ecosystem service and carbon payments for smallholder farmers in the early days, and just transforming agricultural systems. So my background is kind of-- my affinity is with farmers associations in Ecuador and Nicaragua and Colombia and other places working on cacao and coffee, and you know, other commodities coming from those tropical agroforestry systems. And now, I'm the founder of Regen Network, along with some other amazing humans. And we at Regen Network, you know, this vision really is sourced from that more than a decade of on the ground interactions in the agricultural systems. Working on building public infrastructure for monitoring ecological health, certifying claims about ecological health, and being able to quantify, and mint, or create, ecological assets like carbon credits, and trying to create a public infrastructure that's open source, transparent, and community owned and governed. Because what we saw - what I saw - over the course of my time working in supply chains, and and working with farmers, is that there's huge issues with the existing systems of sort of a bureaucratic approach to carbon markets and a bureaucratic approach to certification systems. And really, we need much more radical transparency around that whole process in order to achieve our aims. And so there just needs to be significantly better mechanisms for inclusion of multiple stakeholders along the system. 

A little anecdote is just, the number of times that I saw really great intentions across the entire supply chain, from farmer to your logistics and supply companies, manufacturers, brands and consumers - can all have really great intentions about climate action about social justice and fair trade. But the moment that sort of someone has a significant economic impact in that supply chain, and they're forced to make hard decisions about their bottom line, the whole thing tends to crumble. And the actor that loses when things crumble is Earth, the ecosystem itself, the soil, the first place, when we as humans get backed into an economic corner, or feel like we're backed into an economic corner, due to bottom line, sort of profit incentives is the planet. And that fundamental truth is really what we're trying to focus on - realigning that economic reality of agriculture and other land use with long term ecological health so that the incentives, the structural incentives of all those actors can be reconnected with ecological health. Because, you know, at the end of the day, that is actually what most people want. And so if we can really anchor that back in to our trade relationships, to our fiscal monetary policy, to our financial instrumentation of the economy, it's pretty transformative what can happen.

Cory Ames  6:17  
That is a common thread we have coming up throughout these conversations is that you can't solve these planetary climate based issues without solving or addressing the human issues. They're one in the same, and the overlap is extraordinary, and a key component of how you need to look at problem solving. So I'm curious, Gregory, how does this work with Regen Network compare to what was your decade of on the ground experience throughout the supply chain with farmers internationally? What do you feel like is the overlap or maybe some stark differences between what you were doing then and now?

Gregory Landua  6:58  
Well day to day, it's very different. From day to day, I, you know, I sort of am working in home office here from my maple forest farm here in Western Massachusetts, where we also produce maple syrup and do things. So I do get to kind of like, stay connected to my roots a little bit. But, you know, predominantly, now I'm managing an open source software and open source science company. So, we had leveraged software and science in the past for our work at Terra Genesis International, which is the firm that I founded before Regen Network. But really, we were focused on a lot of capacity building and engagement directly with farmers and directly with brands directly in the supply chain. And so the texture of the work now I'm, you know, I'm the CEO of a software company, essentially. And that's an entirely new and interesting skill set from the perspective of just learning project management and sort of agile product development, and building systems. You know, productizing is very different from consulting and engaging with stakeholders from that level. And it felt like that was the really the logical evolution for my path as a eco social entrepreneur, that really there, we can sort of identify some of the infrastructure level changes, that everyone needs to have access to a set of tools to connect decision making, and profit, essentially, to ecological health and well being. And then in order to achieve that, there really is this need for common scientific verification infrastructure that's connected into markets, and that's a product, right? That's not a service. Well, you know, product as a service, perhaps. So yeah, day to day life has really transformed over the last five years that I've been focused on Regen Network as my primary project.

Cory Ames  9:07  
I really enjoy the the sequencing, though, in these careers. And I mean, we've had over 200 or so interviews now of like, these manifestations of one step versus the other and different applications of tools and skills and all that kind of stuff, but still very, like some kind of core central focus. There's a lot of different ways to address a similar arena or a similar problem as you continue to gain new perspectives and experience. So it seems like it just would have been impossible to do what you're doing now without that decade of experience. And I'd like to hear from you directly that, yeah, it feels like a full kind of manifestation of that whole experience before

Gregory Landua  9:45  
100%. Yeah, I mean, 100% I've been on a single thread of inquiry, and kind of going farther and farther up the sort of the metaphorical watershed of, you know, how do we create regenerative landscapes? How do we create a connection between the human economy and the greater than human world in which we are increasing ecological health through our economic activity? Not just doing less harm, not just sustaining at a current rate, but actually, sort of the exhaust of our human economy is ecological regeneration and biodiversity and deepening soils and healthier watersheds. You know, that's always been the sort of like the through line of my career is trying to work on that. And it sort of went from education, and consulting and inquiry and entrepreneurship - I started a chocolate business to do direct trade - and that's how I got into supply chains in the first place, was tinkering and playing and trying to create a business that could connect smallholder agroforestry cacao farmers in Ecuador, Nicaragua, directly to customers. And this was back in like, 2008, 2009, 2010, sort of, like working on what at that time was pretty radical, trying to do subscription agreements with people trying to do direct trade, trying to do traceability trying to offset carbon. I think we were a little like, before our time, for a small business, but you know, it was great, it was a huge learning-- you know, I ended up exiting that business, and basically cycling the small proceeds from selling that business into purchasing a farm in the community that I was sourcing from, and turning it into an experimental center, essentially, around permaculture and agroforestry stuff, and that continues to this day. And it's so fundamental, you know, it's sort of like that being woven in to a community in that way and thinking, you know, what are the real structural challenges, you know? Because a lot of times, those of us who have this intuition that the world could be different, that we could center social and ecological health in business itself, you know, then we go out into the world, and we find all of these structural incentives that make that so hard. 

Right. Again, as I was saying, there's just sort of good intentions won't get us there, right, because we so oftentimes get put into the place as atomized individuals and a giant, chaotic marketplace, and people have to make hard decisions, right. And again, the stakeholder that loses first when those hard decisions are forced, is Earth. Then it's sort of like a privileged pyramid, you know, and the people who are most vulnerable, it goes against them next, and then them next, and then them next. And that's just sort of the way the system works, right. And I think it's important to acknowledge that that system is the accumulation of precedent, and it's the accumulation of decisions. And it's accumulation of agency. I'm not sort of a conspiracy theorist, really, I think that this is kind of the emergent system of a lot of people stumbling around and doing the best that they could over time, right. And it is just that it's a human manifestation. It's cultural, it's social. And one of the amazing things about humans is we can evolve our culture, and we can change our society, and we can create new economic tools. And something that I've come to really firmly believe, and maybe we'll get in more depth into this as we go through the podcast here is that money, our medium of exchange, and our financial instruments, and the systems built around that could sort of be thought of as the root protocol of human society. It's both kind of the emergent artifact of how we interact with each other. But also it is sort of deeply tied in to our behavior patterns. What gives you power? Or what gives you prestige? How do you make money? What are the profit centers in our society? And if you look at that, and you look at, like, what money symbolizes what it means, it becomes glaringly obvious why we're in the situation we are, vis a vis, planetary health and climate change. 

And so, but again, I believe that's malleable, that's actually something that we can both have public discourse, and we can have direct agency and interact with to evolve that system. And, you know, I guess my provocation to listeners is to envision a world in which the source, the fountain of money, the source of money, the source of wealth, is a reflection of ecological health. Right. And that's because that is actually the the foundation of all of our material economy - it's the foundation of our personal health. Right. And so I think there is an opportunity right now because of just the unique circumstances we find ourselves in the, you know, this moment in history with the rise of cryptocurrency and blockchain with economic instability, with just with evolving really radically evolving awareness and understanding, becoming more and more ubiquitous around human impact and climate change, circular economy, sustainability, all of these things kind of intersecting at this moment, to really, you know, reinvent the economics of land use and reinvent the economics of agriculture, specifically, and create a new approach. And it can be, you know, it may even appear incremental, but the transformation is going to be pretty profound, I think. And so, you know, that's really that-- the last sort of, you know, bow I'll put on that package is just this concept of social construction of value. And, right, this understanding that all money systems and all forms of value emerge because of social consensus, not because of some exterior intrinsic. Like gold isn't actually valuable because of its commodity value in your smartphone, or something, in the places that it's used in the material economy. And the US dollar is valuable because we have confidence in it, not because of some intrinsic, you know, fact it's, it's the social contract and construction of value that's really at the core. 

And I think at a large level, our quest at Regen Network, you know, and this isn't readily apparent, I think, to most people, because we have this go to market strategy around voluntary carbon credits from smallholder, agroforestry farmers and grazers and sort of connecting all that in a system of transparency. But what we're really doing is trying to reconnect the social construction of value to ecological health, as I was mentioning before, just really, there is a greater than human reality. And we can center our provisioning and unitization and accounting systems, right, our money on that. That is a possible place to source value and sort of like imbue that into our economy, I think that if we achieve that, sort of what I was saying earlier, regeneration will be the natural outcome of economic activity, not something that we have to sort of, like, force ourselves into with moral arguments. And, you know, it's actually just, you know, we can design that as as an outcome.

Cory Ames  17:40  
That makes me think someone who I think you might know of, Neal Spackman, by chance, we had a conversation just yesterday, actually. And he made mention that, you know, we're not destructive by nature, but by habit, and it seems that you're reiterating a lot of that sentiment here, as that, you know, that's through cultures, we've created narratives and themes that have just kind of been the prevailing of a lot of disparate parts trying to, you know, have people trying to do their best, whatever the circumstance it is, it's oriented to a way that is more destructive than not, but there is likewise that ultimate potential for it to not be that way to be, in fact, regenerative instead of degenerative. And Gregory, I'm curious, I guess tactically speaking, if you were thinking about the supply chain of Food and Agriculture, and you mentioned all these different component parts where there are losers in this conversation, when, you know, there's disconnect throughout the incentive process - the incentive structure - how tactically is the work that Regen Network is doing, looking to establish equilibrium throughout that to bring together as you mentioned, the ecological health with the as well the incentive of economic growth?

Gregory Landua  18:55  
Yeah, so there's a couple of different ways that we're approaching that. The first way is to create a direct market for ecosystem services like carbon credits, in which the quality of claims and the price for making like creating a carbon credit, the quality is higher, and the price is lower, and there's a direct payment system. So currently, in carbon markets, especially for land use, natural climate solutions, or agriculture, forestry and other land use as its variously spoken about in literature, oftentimes, up to 80% of the value of a carbon credit is sort of taken up by the middle of the market: the brokers, the verifying agencies, the certifications, like a lot of passing back and forth, and only 20% is actually getting to the project, getting to the farmer or the forest or the Land Steward - the communities that are responsible for the stewardship. And so one of the big, you know, intervention points that we're aiming at at Regen Network is flipping that completely, so that at least 80% of the value is going directly to the Land Steward. And that's already something we've accomplished in the credits, sort of the the natively produced Regen Network credits that have been minted and sold. For instance, our CarbonPlus Grasslands program, the full amount, the full amount of credits, these were issued back in 2020, was purchased by Microsoft, and this was a-- CarbonPlus Grasslands was a regenerative rotational grazing based credit that used satellite imagery and direct sampling on the ground to produce very accurate estimations of the soil organic carbon and the change in the stock of carbon over time, as the land managers were practicing rotational grazing. 85% of that purchase went directly to the land stewards, right. And that's sort of the precedent that we're working to set. So that's number one. 

The second piece is really building a community governed platform. So we're not building a sort of proprietary approach to the monitoring, verification and asset management infrastructure, we're building an open source community owned infrastructure using Blockchain technology. And so what that means is that there is a large proportion that's governed-- this whole concept of Regen Network is community governed through the Regen token, there's a significant set of Regen tokens that have been set aside, and are only available to land stewards, and scientists, indigenous people, not for profit organizations that traditionally, in the way that businesses oftentimes evolve, would be an afterthought or excluded. And in this case, they have sort of a founder level allocation of governance. And that offers both sustainable financial upside by staking those tokens securing the network, it also offers power to govern the network in their benefit. And we really feel like that is sort of one of the foundational transformative steps that we're taking at Regen Network is to ensure that the market mechanisms that are being evolved, are governed by the stakeholders that really, this impacts the most, right, and that means land stewards. That doesn't just mean, like, private equity firms, or crypto speculators, or whoever it might be that thinks, "oh, look, natural capital assets and carbon markets, these are bound to be huge. So we'll buy and sort of like, engage." And that, you know, we - Yes, we need, those are, you know, capital, the financial capital, and those stakeholders in the economy are really important, and taking capital risk is important. And this isn't sort of like excluding them, it's just saying that actually, their investments will be more secure. And this whole system will work much better if the voices of the people who provide the foundational value of the system, which are land stewards, are deeply interwoven in owning, governing, and having financial upside as the network grows.

Cory Ames  23:39  
Would you mind drawing out the implications a little bit more for the various stakeholders, stewards that you mentioned? Like, what does this mean, for them on a day to day, you know, in the context of farmers, you know, on, seasonally, like, what does this mean for them in their lives and their their livelihoods? What this power that you're talking about, can offer them?

Gregory Landua  24:01  
Yeah, I think I mean, I think there's a couple of levels. And again, to sort of reiterate the first, the basic level, that is the one that's sort of, like, most short term transformative, is the ability to bring to market ecosystem services in addition to crops. So it adds a whole new income stream, right. So that's the basic building block. And then there's also this opportunity and not everyone is going to choose this, right, to participate in governing and engaging with the network. That also has a financial incentive, because people can be granted the staking tokens and then be earning somewhere around, at the moment, 20% interest, essentially, for staking those tokens, and that's direct, you know, like every day, receiving essentially passive, almost like a universal basic income for participating in the network. So that is also can be significantly transformative in the short term in terms of people's finances. It also is connecting you with a financial network that allows frictionless direct payment. So you could also easily start selling produce beyond your ecosystem services or engaging with crowdfunding. And you basically have an account that people can just stream money to very quickly. 

So there's like a financial access opportunity that I think in the short term is pretty transformative. And then in the mid and long term, this is about essentially equity in the system, and governance in the system. But that's work, right, that isn't just like, you just are getting it. In order for that to be valuable, you need to be exercising agency and being educated. And my sense is that a lot of the activity really is going to happen through community organizations, not necessarily individual farmers. And then it's this opportunity, which we call the community staking endowment process, is, we've found, better fit at the sort of association or Co Op level, or sort of representative NGOs that are able to sort of like resource, that process of engagement at the infrastructure level and governance level. Whereas, a lot of especially smallholder farmers, but even large farmers are probably not going to have the time, you know, you're just kind of in the daily grind, you got to just do the thing that you need to do as a farmer. And so, you know, the big transformation for them is just shifting the bottom line economics of agriculture, and aligning that with ecological health.

Cory Ames  26:43  
And so you mentioned ecosystem services. And then we've brought up ecological health quite a bit, is that purely being measured based off of the quantity of carbon in the soil? Or are there other ways in which that's been assessed and determined valuable?

Gregory Landua  27:00  
Yeah, there's other ways. So carbon is the primary unit of the emerging market for natural capital or ecosystem services. And there's a wide variety of approaches, and Regen Network, although we're focused at the moment on the voluntary carbon markets, we're really building an infrastructure that sort of can embrace a full definition of ecological assets and ecosystem services and an economy built on that. There's currently about 40 different projects producing eco credits for the Regen Network marketplace. And those eco credits run the gamut from soil carbon, to forestry, carbon projects, to blue carbon projects, to biodiversity units that are completely independent of carbon claims. There's an amazing group called Era Brazil, which is producing a credit class focused on Jaguar Conservation and Biodiversity, in which the unit of account is essentially-- it's like a Jaguar hectare, right. And it's not built to be a credit in the sense that it gives you some rights to degrade landscapes somewhere else. It's offering the proof of and maintenance of this, you know, very important habitat for this keystone species, and offering an opportunity for people to value that in a new way. Right, not sort of like, "Oh, we've trashed this, so we're going to offset it over there." So that's a non offsetting credit or unit type that's being built there, which is quite exciting. 

And there's marine conservation credits that similarly are not representing sort of a, you know, tit for tat balance sheet approach. They're representing the imperative to create no catch zones and maintain marine conservation as a fundamental element of biosphere health. And so the audience or marketplace for those credits is going to be you know, both transnational organizations and intergovernmental organizations that have these mandates to achieve goals. Right. But this is an instrument that allows them to have verifiable results, right, in which the money that they're spending is attached to the ecological integrity that they're actually responsible for producing with that money. So it's not like a carbon credit in the same way, although we call them all at the moment, all of those are types of eco credits. So there's a pretty broad gamut of experimentation. Some of these have existing markets - carbon credits has a healthy and growing existing marketplace, right? Biodiversity credits are just, they're new, it's a nascent market. People don't know what this market may or may not look like but we're trying to support significant experimentation in this full spectrum, because that's really core to our strategy at Regen Network is this idea that there needs to be a wide spectrum of innovation around how we account for ecological health and regeneration and weave that into our economy.

Cory Ames  30:22  
So I'm wondering, where is the constraint? Or like the bottleneck on the growth? Is it like the demand and the the pace in which the market is emerging for this? Or is it y'all's ability to just accumulate more acreage essentially, and get more farmers and ranchers and stewards on?

Gregory Landua  30:40  
Supply is the bottleneck. Yeah, no, the demand is there, market demand is there. Demand outpaces supply year over year in these markets. The challenge is accelerating supply that is of the appropriate quality. The challenge is overcoming the time to market because this is both-- these credits represent ecological time, they don't represent, you know, time in the marketplace. We're grounding these assets into cycle, you know, long carbon cycles. So there's that element. And then there's also the element of the science involved to develop the appropriate level of methodological rigor for the counterparties, who are making the agreement about these assets to agree - and that's a variable. Again, we're creating an open and transparent system, where what's most important is that people know what they're agreeing to in relationship to an ecological asset. Right. So it's an open and standard agnostic system, it can incorporate existing standards, and new standards can be created in Regen Network, and on the system that we call Regen Registry, where you can register a methodology and a credit class and then start to bring that to market. So we're sort of agnostic to that. 

And then we create tools for people to curate or generate new standards. And again, the purpose here is to create a market in which it's very transparent what the claim is, who's backing it, what the data is that backs it, and what the value has been determined for that claim, but not to impose that. Because, again, if you look at sort of the history of carbon markets, and you look at the history of ecosystem service markets, many of these systems have failed when there's sort of a top heavy top down approach in which you have people who are not embedded in the context, really imposing standards for all of this. So you have to balance you need to include the community in the process about what's being agreed, and why. And you need to include scientists in the process. And, you know, we're just sort of trying to disintermediate and open up the playing field for a wide variety of innovation in the creation of new methodologies and credit classes.

Cory Ames  33:06  
And so you mentioned the community and the impact of the community of the Regen Network. I'm curious, what has that experience been like? And, like bringing what it is, that solution you're offering with Regen Network, to this community of people involved in the agricultural space? Has it been easy to get, like, champions of those standards? And what it is that y'all are doing? Or has there been some, like-- have you had the conversations and stuff, I guess, shaped in different ways over the years since you started, but I'm interested - there is some interesting experience of just having this self organizing, self directed community, and especially being the position you are in Regen, like overseeing that whole thing. It's this weird kind of like, meta level, like there's a lot of different things going on. I guess, at the same time, anyways, I'm interested to hear what that experience has been like, of cultivating and watching this community grow. 

Gregory Landua  34:01  
There's really been different phases. You know, I would say in the early days, there were very few people who were sympathetic to the pretty radical approach that I have always felt was imperative. From founding Regen Network, there was a set of assumptions that I had that led me to, you know, believe that this sort of open, community owned, self organizing approach was really the only way that it would work, you know, not just ideologically, like, "Oh, this is groovy. And we want to do it this way." But actually, this is the only way-- this accounting for public goods needs to be public infrastructure. And one of the assumptions I've always had is that natural capital and carbon markets are going to be the most important capital markets of the 21st century. And I don't really have any fear or doubt that these markets are going to be giant - trillions of dollars per year. And so I haven't really, personally - and at Regen Network, we don't spend a lot of time trying to convince people that carbon or natural capital is important. We just sort of take it as a foundation that it is important. And people will either see that or they won't. But given that it's going to be important, and given that it's going to be really big, the foundation for us is always, how do we avoid a subprime carbon bubble? How do we avoid, you know, collapses in market mechanisms that-- who will that impact? Who does it impact if there's a giant natural capital market that collapses? Well, it'll impact two stakeholders, primarily, it'll impact the Earth, and it will impact the small, like the most fragile participants, which in this case, ironically, are the most important participants, because they're the ones providing the value, and that's the land stewards. 

So I do, I have to say, in the phases of community building, at the beginning, being quite radical about that was a really hard sell for nearly every stakeholder. Of course, farmers heard it, and they were stoked to be acknowledged in that way. But I think they also were pretty skeptical, right? I mean, it's a big, this is a big vision and a big talk and like, you know, okay, this is going to take years. And it's true, it's going to take all of this. I mean, we're five years in, and we're just a month away from really launching sort of like what you might consider the minimum viable manifestation of all of this. Up until now, there's a lot of market movement, and we've been facilitating purchases and retirements and all sorts of things. But that all happens via command line interface. It's sort of like OTC - over the counter - trading, and there's humans behind, and we're still doing it this old way, as we're building this infrastructure for that, to basically remove ourselves at R&D, Inc, from the middle of that, right. It's taken five years. It's taken five years to get to the point where this infrastructure is now ready, as public infrastructure that we are only a small stakeholder in that there's a, you know, there's 13,000 addresses now, that are governing Regen Ledger, the blockchain that secures Regen Network. There's 40 plus people developing their own eco credits, there's 75 people running validator nodes. So every continent except for Antarctica is running the software to maintain this ecological state consensus that is the backbone for the marketplace. 

So it's taken five years to build the community to that level, which is just a tiny fraction of what it really needs to be, if this is going to be effective in actually meeting Land Steward needs to shift their economic dynamic, to be valued for ecological health and regeneration, first and foremost, as one of the primary services that they're providing to the global community. So, you know, resistance at the beginning, now, there's been a big arc, and then that arc, two things have happened. Number one is what we took for granted in the early days, that carbon markets and natural capital is just going to be baked in to the economic reality of the future, that is now shifted from being unorthodox, to being essentially accepted by every financial institution, company, government, VC, you know, everybody's like, everybody's shouting that from the rooftops, and there's like a giant stampede in that direction. So that's made it significantly-- it's shifted the dynamics and accelerated, you know, adoption and assumptions and facilitated conversations radically. So that's number one that's changed. And, you know, we're like a drop in the bucket of that change. It's a big cultural shift that we've been participating in, but, you know, obviously, we just have our little corner of the world in which we've been talking about that and socializing that. 

And then the second shift is really how broadly accepted web three and blockchain as an important technology for the next iteration of finance, the internet of money, governance, and the suite of tools that it unlocks to have these global distributed Ledger's. This is also no longer fringe, and there's institutional buy in around this. And sure, there's turbulence and skeptics, but also it's just reached a whole different level of people's understanding that having public consensus and a public blockchain and public infrastructure around certain things is enormously helpful. And it turns out that one of the things that blockchain is most adept at accelerating and proving and building a solid foundation for is this sort of public goods accounting, where you need a public capture proof record, in which multiple stakeholders can rely on transparent and available data and claims and market mechanisms and governance for these goods, these ecological assets that are quantifying public goods that benefit everyone, right? It benefits everyone, when carbon is sequestered into the soil of a farm somewhere. It benefits everyone when a portion of the Amazon is protected, and the lungs of the Amazon are allowed to continue to pump the global water cycle. Those are public goods, and therefore they really do need sort of a public system for accounting for the value system and exchange. 

You can't accomplish that, you know-- just imagine a world in which, you know, a giant company, like Amazon, for instance, had the satellites, owns the satellites that are doing the monitoring, owns the servers that store the data, owns the algorithms that are generating the models, and is buying the credits from itself, or selling them out into the market, the trust chain, and that is untenable, right? You can't like-- we simply can't-- I don't think society - people wouldn't trust that, you know, we have to create an institutional decentralization of the trust apparatus so that different counterparties can check in on claims. That's the foundation of this sort of accounting for public goods, you really need a community owned infrastructure, and you need community provision of verification services to just as a foundational piece to make it all work. And yeah, I think that's more and more obvious to more and more people, even the big, big, big folks who may be in position to sort of like capture and blackbox pieces of it. I mean, it's obvious, if you play out how that goes, how that will undermine trust, and therefore the value of the very assets that, you know, they may wish to accumulate or use to offset their emissions or achieve specific goals.

Cory Ames  42:26  
And so is there a radically different uptime? Or I guess, sell to potential community members, farmers, ranchers internationally? Like are you having to have wildly different conversations with farmers in the US, for example, versus I don't know, you know, rural Brazil, you know, in the Amazon forest, for example, like, are those conversations quite different? 

Gregory Landua  42:52  
It's very different. At R&D, Inc.-- so, there's multiple organizations. This is a network, R&D Inc, Regen Network Development Incorporated, which is a Benefit Corp in Delaware that I'm the CEO of - we develop software, and we develop science. We also build community. But our real core role is science and engineering work, you know, software development. And again, we do do community building, and we engage, but the community that we're most focused on is actually project developers, methodology developers, you know, organizations that are scientifically capable, and financially capable, to develop a new credit class and bring it to market is the constituency or the network stakeholder that we interact with most, and that we're sort of, at this moment in time we consider our primary sort of, like, user focus. The foundation, right, which manages the endowment, this community staking endowment, one of their primary constituents, and their primary focuses is land stewards, while also project developers, you know, NGOs, standards, bodies and scientists. Right. And so at the moment, they're doing a lot more conversing with farmers in the Amazon or in Africa or in India. 
And I will say that it's going to be some time - there's going to be a process of capacity building and engagement and courtship and trust building, to invite land stewards into the network to sort of be full participants. And we don't expect that, you know, and we're not trying-- there's no hard selling, you know, there's no real rush. That's something that is baked into the design and that there's a, you know, 501 c three foundation that is explicitly its board, and its executive director are responsible for stewarding that process over time.

This isn't something that is expected to happen overnight, right, because it is hard and farmers for very good reasons tend to be conservative because they tend to be watching natural cycles, they tend to be engaging with businesses. And they need-- they can tinker and experiment. And most farmers are highly experimental and highly creative in that way. But you have to mitigate your experiments' impact on the whole farm, you don't want to "bet the farm" on big changes. And so I know that I'm both a farmer and have worked with farmers for a long time. So the goal in relating to that constituency is to really create experimental opportunities that are low risk and allow creativity and engagement. So trust can be built, they can input what they need to and then over time, sort of like, if it makes sense, they can sort of step more and more fully into engagement. But as I mentioned at the moment, the major, I guess, user stakeholder that we're focused on at R&D Inc. really is this project developer archetype, people like Era Brazil, for instance, which does carbon project development in Brazil and internationally and is focused on this Jaguar contract. Or Neal Spackman, Regenerative Resources company and the work they're doing with mangroves. We've been working with them on methodologies, and NFTs and other elements to support what they're doing. So it's sort of entrepreneurs who are focused on developing ecological assets, and then are working with farmers and land stewards to engage with them.

Cory Ames  46:27  
Gotcha. Okay. I appreciate you spelling that out for me. There are a lot of intricate working parts in this entire network and various collected entities. But just to shift a little bit, Gregory, before we start to wrap up, I'm always quite interested in what's kind of spurred people's connection to doing a business that pursues explicit good, explicitly making an effort to use your skills and capacities to leave the world a better place than you found it. And so you mentioned, you know, there's something about that, that intuition that you have seen that the world could be a bit different. And you mentioned as well, that you were in the business you started a little bit before your time - I'm wondering what sort of influences or experiences did you have in your life that had that be something of a no brainer for you, that you would explore things like direct trade agroforestry, all these things that that seemed, you know, maybe in that current context, a bit radical to external parties, or, like you were speaking a different language? Like why were you there at those points in time? And what's inspired you towards work that serves a type of purpose like this?

Gregory Landua  47:38  
That's a great question. I mean, I think it's been cumulative. Over the years, I certainly grew up with a strong affinity and connection with nature and the wild. I grew up in Alaska. I think it was pretty formative for me. Growing up, I worked on all of the different sides of the salmon fishery, grew up working from a very early age. And, you know, I worked as a commercial fisherman, I worked with the local watershed forum that was monitoring the fishery and water quality. I worked with fish and game, you know, running studies when I was in college. I worked with the canneries, you know, processing and other things, it was my first job. So, seeing all the different stakeholders centered around a "natural resource", you know, which is this thriving fishery, which is considered to be the best, it's one of the best-- the Alaskan fisheries is held up in, you know, "natural resource management" as one of the best examples of managing a natural resource in a multi stakeholder governance way. So I was sort of, like, embedded in that. I also saw, you know, both that it was kind of working, but also that it was kind of not working. Right. And there were ways in which, you know, it was clearly could work better, but had some stability. You know, it was working, but maybe there's improvements to make, tinkering, playing with. I think that was pretty foundational for me, that experiment, that experience growing up, those were my first jobs. And that was my first sort of exposure to that just both hard work and just seeing multiple sides of something. And I studied environmental science in college. So I think that's all pretty foundational for me. 

And then I have to say one of the big transformative experiences for me while I was studying environmental science, I was privileged enough, lucky enough, really - big blessing - I spent six months studying in the Galapagos, studying marine and terrestrial ecology. So both the the island ecosystem itself and then the marine ecosystem underlying it, and sort of the human political economy around that both the science and the tourism and the fishery, you know, the sort of competing economic interests and land use. And so I was immersed in that. And I saw things happening there that were just completely crazy making, you know, and where the way to accomplish a goal was totally out of balance with a, you might say, sanity, you know, and specifically, I had this experience of just watching a helicopter gunship shoot like machine gunning goats. And that was really startling and pretty upsetting. You know, the goal here was to return this island ecosystem to a pristine wild, pre goat, you know, place, but the method of doing so was expensive, was using fuel was highly militarized. And what and ultimately completely unsuccessful.

And, you know, and it just made me think, you know, there are clear examples of the extirpation of species due to hunting pressure, for instance, all over the world. And I'm not even saying that the best idea there was to remove the goats. Just agnostic and independent of that, if you decide as a group of stakeholders that you want to remove the goats from the island, there are a lot of better ways than sending a helicopter gunship to go hunt the goats, right? You could-- people would travel from all over the world to go on goat hunting Galapagos Safari, and then do some other things and learn about evolution, feel like they're doing service for the environment and pay a huge amount of money. You can actually raise money for the National Park of the Galapagos, and solve that problem if people were just to think and to use incentives. Right? So what does it look like to auction off goat hunting licenses, and then use that money to do some other things that experience like both having that jarring, emotional experience of like, wow, that is so messed up. And also just knowing clearly that there were some some easily better ways to accomplish that outcome, if that's what everybody wants. By doing a little bit of design work and some incentive design, I think that was pretty formative in my you know, both the world could be better and better in some pretty practical, pragmatic, clear ways that are achievable, not just better in an abstract way, but better in the sort of like, you know, you could talk to people and come up with a plan, and that could actually probably change. That's actually something that could change, and it would have a pretty big impact. And, oh, where are there other places in the scales of, of our human world, where that sort of intervention can actually result in a really radical transformation for the better, economically and just, I guess, psychologically, because, you know, it was fairly traumatizing.

Cory Ames  53:19  
Wow, it certainly sounds like it. But man, I, Greg, I appreciate you sharing. I want to be respectful of your time here. And so before we wrap up, you mind if I ask you a few rapid fire questions? All right. So first one, what's maybe a book or film or some sort of resource that you might recommend to our listeners, something that's impacted you recently or something you always come back to one way or another?

Gregory Landua  53:46  
I would highly recommend listeners check out either the audible or audiobook version or the print version of Ministry for the Future by Kim Stanley Robinson. In it he describes a global carbon reward system of linking money generation to ecological regeneration and carbon reduction, which is super cool in and of itself. But Kim Stanley Robinson is sort of the OG sci fi ecologist, writer, nearest and dearest to my heart. And the book is so practical and inspiring, and a beautiful overview of a real movement of people that are working, but sort of set in the future with some dynamic characters is really just a lovely book for our time.

Cory Ames  54:39  
Excellent recommendation, and next one for, and this might be particular to you, what's maybe one of your favorite or your favorite task attached to the farm and being a farmer?

Gregory Landua  54:53  
I mean, so different farms, different places, but here in Western Massachusetts at our maple farm, I love tapping the maples. And this is-- I'm a recent maple farmer, this is new to me. But learning and just snowshoeing, you know, in early February, getting out into the woods, it's a beautiful, beautiful time of year. The light is magic, everything is white. It's calm, and going out with a crew of folks with some hot tea and tapping the maple trees is one of the most beautiful sort of agroforestry, or agricultural activities, I think I've had the pleasure to do. So I'm looking forward to next year, and just that that ritual of tapping is really lovely.

Cory Ames  55:43  
Sounds lovely. Final one for you. What's one piece of advice that you might leave our listeners with? These people are change makers and innovators from all sectors all over the globe, looking to leave the world a better place than they found it?

Gregory Landua  55:57  
Well, this may be sort of like too trite, or, you know, this maybe to just like, not specific enough. But you know, I think this is something I tried to tell myself, so I guess I'll tell it to everybody else: I think, be brave and bold in the your willingness to take risks, to build a better world and do what you know is right. All we have is our time and attention. And if we're not giving that time and attention to something that is connected to planetary health, to the health of your neighbors, to the health of this beautiful world we live on, what are we even doing? And so you know, just being brave, and reminding yourself that the risks of being an entrepreneur are worth it, you know, at the end of the day. And we may fail as entrepreneurs, but it's the most important thing we can be doing is to be to be risking our time and attention to cooperate with other people to change the world. And specifically, I'm very passionate about change society to honor and regenerate ecological health. That's the task of our generation. And so it's more confusing, and it's less clear than maybe the generational tasks that preceded us. But at this moment, you know, there's complexity and there's subtlety and there's confusion, but be brave and keep putting your time and attention in to what you know is right.

Cory Ames  57:29  
Excellent advice for us to end on. Finally, Gregory, where's the best place to keep up with you in the work of Regen Network? Where would you like to direct folks?

Gregory Landua  57:38  
Well, you can follow me on Twitter @Gregory_Landua, @regen_network. If you're interested in technical docs: docs.region.network. If you're a computer geek, if you're interested in the science behind all of this and registry of methodologies and standards and development of those: library.regen.network. There's all sorts of stuff. There's a Discord server where people are chatting, land stewards and scientists, there's all sorts of amazing community members it's really quite vibrant. And if you're interested, I also do a podcast where I speak to a lot of the community members so you get a chance to hear conversation with land stewards and scientists and engineers and I even did a couple hour long episodes with Kim Stanley Robinson about Ministry for the Future a while back. I'm just starting to kick that back up into gear. So that's called the Planetary Regeneration podcast.

Cory Ames  58:31  
Lovely. All right, well have all things linked up in our show post at socialentrepreneurship.fm Gregory, thank you so much for taking the time.

Gregory Landua  58:39  
Cory, it was fantastic. Such a fan and excited for for the work that you're doing to help build community and educate people about social entrepreneurship and building a better world.

Cory Ames  58:48  
All right, y'all. That's a wrap on another episode of the social entrepreneurship and innovation podcast. As always so grateful to have you listening in. If you love the show, please leave us a review on Apple podcasts or hit subscribe wherever it is that you get yours. And as well, I want to invite you to sign up for our Better World Weekly newsletter. This is our weekly discussion with our community of social entrepreneurs and changemakers on all things building a better world. This is a newsletter I write and publish and send out myself every single Monday. Go to growensemble.com backslash newsletter to join in on that discussion; all things building a better world. Go to growensemble.com backslash newsletter to get the next one in your inbox. And finally, if you know of a company, work within a company, or run a company that might be interested in sponsoring the social entrepreneurship and innovation podcast, we always love starting conversations with potential partners who share our vision of building a better world together. Go to socialentrepreneurship.fm backslash contact. There, you can fill out a quick form, start that conversation with us. And these sorts of partnerships fuel our mission to build a better world together. All right, y'all. Until next time.

Gregory Landua Profile Photo

Gregory Landua

CEO & Co-founder

Gregory Landua is co-founder and CEO of Regen Network. Regen Network is leading the way towards tracking and funding ecological regeneration using blockchain technology.

Before founding Regen Network, Gregory co-founded and grew Terra Genesis International from a Regenerative Agriculture consultancy and design firm into a leader in the Regenerative Agriculture and Economy movement, and successfully grew and exited a craft chocolate company focused on regenerative, bean-to-bar craft chocolate called Nova Chocolate.

As an author, educator, and thought leader, Gregory co-authored the pioneering book, Regenerative Enterprise in 2012, the Levels of Regenerative Agriculture white paper in 2016, and recently the founding Regen Network white paper.

Gregory studied, invested in and created a community around regenerative applications of Blockchain Technology in early 2017, leading to the founding of Regen Network. Now, Gregory is working to link economic value to ecological regeneration. Regen Network is a blockchain driven transparency and smart contracting platform designed to facilitate the verification of ecological state and coordinate multi-stakeholder groups to achieve ecological regeneration through smart-ecological contracts.