Scaleworks founders Lew Moorman and Ed Byrne are planting the seeds of a new investment venture San Antonio in an effort to grow interest in farming and grazing methods that help reverse climate change.
The pair announced Tuesday the launch of a new agriculture-focused investment company called Soilworks Natural Capital. It is a public benefit corporation, also known as a B Corp, a for-profit company that’s committed to a social good such as environmental protection, public transparency, or improving a community.
Soilworks’ mission is to invest in, acquire, and foster regenerative farming products, or agricultural technology that can help lessen the effects of climate change, a spokesman for the investment company stated.
Regenerative farming aims to help improve crop yields, increase food’s nutritional value, and preserve biodiversity. Regeneration International, a nonprofit that advocates for regenerative farming practices, states that the current industrial food system is responsible for 44 percent to 57 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions.
Soilworks is launching with its first acquisition in tow, a California-based software company called PastureMap that has created a smartphone app to help farmers and ranchers manage their animal herds and track grazing habits. The app helps ranchers keep track of which animals are grazing where and on what kind of plant life, alerting them when a particular area can be used for grazing again. It also tracks how weather impacts vegetation growth and helps connect local farmers to one another.
“Over the last couple of years my partner and I have been learning more about this new way to grow food … and we became fascinated with it,” Moorman told the Rivard Report on Monday. “[Regenerative farming is] a rare win-win-win when it comes to helping farmers, helping the planet heal, building more nutritious food, and helping lower carbon emissions.”
Moorman, a ranch owner who employs regenerative farming methods, said he wanted to help spread such practices and began looking into creating Soilworks about nine months ago. Moorman raises sheep, cattle, and pigs on his Hill Country ranch called Pure Pastures.
After speaking with several fellow ranchers and farmers, Moorman said he could see there was a desire for better tools and technology to track regenerative farming practices. Much of the current tracking methods relies on pen and paper, he said.
As a user of PastureMap for the past couple of years, Moorman said he saw potential in the software’s use and wanted to be a part of expanding its reach. PastureMap has about 1,700 users and helps manage 6.5 million acres of land around the world, said PastureMap General Manager Nick Honegger. Moorman said he’d like to see it grow to 100 million acres over the next five years.
PastureMap, started in 2015, will be moving to San Antonio into the Scaleworks downtown office.
Moorman said he and Byrne will be taking on this new venture while continuing to run Scaleworks, which acquires and scales up small technology companies. Moorman said in launching Soilworks he and Byrne are excited to take their business knowledge and apply it to “a field critical to the future of the planet.”
“Regenerative practices are proven but not yet widely adopted,” Byrne said in a prepared statement. “They rely on a deeper understanding of nature, food quality and health. We see it as one of the most important trends of the coming decades.”
Moorman said he and Byrne aren’t sure if Soilworks will end up being an incubator, accelerator, capital investment firm, or a combination of all three. He declined to discuss the size of Soilworks’ investment fund.
“We are excited to see Soilworks take PastureMap to the next level,” Christine Su, founder of PastureMap, said in the statement. “Their experience in software is deep and proven, but we have also seen great passion and knowledge of the regenerative farming movement.”
Disclosure: Lew Moorman is a former member of the Rivard Report’s board. For a list of individual supporters, click here.