An ag-tech mutual founded by more than 80 farmers, conservationists and landowners called Regen Farmers Mutual is looking to raise $5 million to build out the next stage of its digital platform.
Dubbed Regen Digital, the platform offers farmers the ability to construct a ‘digital twin’ of their land that can be used to assess their green credentials and the environmental value of the property.
The capital raise will further develop the software, with the next stage to help farmers track the information they need for voluntary carbon offsets and how they go about negotiating them.
Launched last year, Regen Farmers Mutual is the brainchild of co-director Andrew Ward who wrangled more than 80 landowners together to establish the mutual which helps farmers understand the value of their natural assets, pool their resources, and deliver the scale needed to aggregate their market power.
Regen Digital is looking to capitalise on technology that creates digital clones of landholdings, with the raise coinciding with a boom in interest from rural property owners looking to digitally map their properties.
The company says that four years ago just 4 per cent of farms had digital maps of their properties. That figure has since grown to 40 per cent.
Regen Farmers Mutual says it has more than 500 people on the waitlist for a digital property reading, buoyed by a $500,000 equity crowdfunding campaign completed in December last year that attracted investment from fintech venture capitalist Alan Beattie and the National Landcare Network.
“We can hardly keep up with demand, with assessments tripling in the past two weeks alone,” says Regen Farmers Mutual co-director Andrew Ward.
“The digital twin provides an assessment of a farm’s environmental value through a range of metrics. Farmers can then model different environmental actions and the way these would impact their operations and income.”
Ward points to data from Elders which shows the value of rural land has increased by more than 18 per cent in the 12 months to December 2021, driven by low interest rates and high commodity prices, with the median Australian rate sitting at $7,060 per hectare.
“It’s never been more important for farmers to know the value of their total assets,” Ward says.
“Traditional assets like cleared land but also newly recognised assets like the remnant natural environment around them are driving the boom in rural property prices.
“When nature's value outstrips the growth being seen in Australia’s most populated cities, including Sydney, it’s a big deal.”
The co-director notes that in the past farmers would have used free programs like Google Earth to conduct assessments of their properties, which isn’t able to capture swathes of green data like Regen Digital can.
“In the past farmers used Google Earth, or even a drone, but until now, most will have had no idea of their green lines (fencing and paddocks) and where their animals and crops are at any given time, not to mention the assets that could deliver new revenue streams through carbon farming and protecting habitat,” Ward adds.
“The process for creating a Digital Twin is called an Environmental Farm Assessment because it doesn’t just look at ag assets like dams, bores and sheds; it includes remnant vegetation, watercourses, biodiversity hot spots and resource usage across the farm. In this climate not knowing the true value of what farmers have under their feet can be very costly.
“For farmers this is a big shift. They’ve gone from seeing just trees in a paddock to looking at their economic value and biodiversity value.”
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