Wendy: [00:00:00] Welcome to the Evolve.ag podcast today. I'm super excited. I have Clint from Greenfield Robotics here to chat with us. Welcome to the show Clint. Thanks so much for joining me.
Clint: [00:00:09] Thanks. Glad to be here.
Wendy: [00:00:11] I would love if you could just give a little introduction about yourself. Tell us a little bit about your background.
Clint: [00:00:15] My background was I grew up in Kansas and grew up, you know, farming so on and so forth. Went to college here and moved to LA for 13 years. Did tech startups of all sorts. The entertainment industry, you name it and about what's it been now? 11, 12 years ago, moved back to Kansas and decided to try to get chemicals out of food.
Food production in particular agriculture.
It's a little bit of an ambitious project, but it's coming along.
Wendy: [00:00:42] I love it. And is that what you're doing at Greenfield Robotics?
Clint: [00:00:45] Yeah. Greenfield is a reflection of- I tried to do it every way I could think of out on big fields, you know, broad acres is about 250 million acres of the United States alone. And it wasn't doable without basically inventing a new category of helper.
Wendy: [00:00:59] Got [00:01:00] it. So what exactly is Greenfield Robotics working on?
Clint: [00:01:02] Yeah. We help regenerative agriculture scale without chemicals. And so there's two big parts. There. One is the-- without chemicals right now-- regenerative ag. One of the ugly things people don't realize is that it still relies on a lot of agrochemicals to be successful, especially herbicides.
And so we're on the process of eliminating that. And then the second thing is scale even when you use the chemicals and some of the other techniques out there, they're pretty high risk and you don't have flexibility. Roller crimping would be an example of that. And so it puts the farmer in a box and no farmer is going to operate that way at scale.
So we solve both those.
Wendy: [00:01:39] That makes sense. And can you just talk a little bit about what regenerative agriculture is and what it is defined as?
Clint: [00:01:45] Yeah. Boy, there's a lot of definitions, but mine is pretty simple. If you follow along with regenerative agriculture long enough, and it's not an overnight process, but if you do your reliance on other people to provide you as a farmer inputs your [00:02:00] reliance declines to towards zero. And this isn't theoretical on broad acre.
There are multiple farmers in the United States doing this at some scale-- early kind of adopters of it. basically if you're a farmer currently on a broad scale, broad acre setting, which we're talking, anywhere from 300 we work with the farm has 10,000 acres, right? On that setting, typically you have all these inputs and things coming your way that you can't say have the order and work with vendors in that regenerative starts reducing that and eventually gets rid of that.
You don't need all those inputs. The soil starts building itself based on how you treat it and how you work with nature versus trying to tell nature how to behave.
Wendy: [00:02:35] That makes sense. And so would some of the tenants of that be having different agricultural animals eat the field and then, you know, they stamp it down and poop and that provides different nutrients to the soil and stuff like that.
Clint: [00:02:48] Yeah, exactly. The tenants are one. You never till meaning you never plow. You never disk. You never turn the soil over. You're pretty much no-till At that point. So that's one. The second thing is you tend to grow more cover [00:03:00] crops. So that means cash crop would be your corn soybeans, Milo cotton millet, right?
Your cover crops are a lot of times you're doing multi-species meaning you'll have 10, 15 different types of seed and you put those down. And those things basically have a symbiotic relationship in the soil and they help build it up. Restore nutrient levels. And you have those going between crops.
Then the third tenant of it is at least from my perspective, for broad acre is you graze the cover crops or you can get grazed. What's left to the cash crops in some cases as well. And so you have the animals kind of recycling those nutrients. And out of that, of course, you pretty much have a grass fed animal as a result of that.
Wendy: [00:03:40] Well, so it's a whole closed loop system. That's good for the animals. Good for the environment. Good for everybody that's going to eat those animals too.
Clint: [00:03:47] Yes. And it's good for the animals. That's a key point. We do this on my farm and we have a robotic system that we've been working on for a while now. we've never given our animals vaccines or antibiotics and they're okay. But it's all about how often do you [00:04:00] move them and keep them away from the parasites and stuff like that.
Wendy: [00:04:02] That's incredible. Really, really incredible. And is carbon farming the same thing as regenerative farming?
Clint: [00:04:08] Yeah, it is you never till and you're constantly planting cover crops. Carbon farming means a lot of folks to a lot of people, a lot of things, but the no-till component of it, certainly when people are talking about carbon farming, that is, that is one major component of it regenerative ag should keep most of the carbon in the soil. And that is the goal. And it's certainly a lower carbon way to grow stuff, because if you're not having different things shipped in that you put down on your field. All that fuel, all the things to make those supplies are no longer needed.
Wendy: [00:04:39] That makes sense. Can you talk a little bit about the no-till part? What do farmers usually do when they're tilling that disrupts the soil?
Clint: [00:04:46] Yeah. And There were people who were way beyond me expertise on this, but the robots are what I bring, but I can talk at a high level what I've been taught and that is I grew up tilling. What did that mean? Well, let's just take wheat. Let's just say I finished harvesting wheat [00:05:00] crop.
The first thing we would do is go up and disk it. And that means we would take the wheat stubble and we'd turn it over completely upside down using heavy equipment. And we might do that three times during the summer. Then you get to the end and you run these other tools through.
Wendy: [00:05:14] Can I ask a question? So when you, when you're talking about that, that's the stubble, that's still left in the field after you chafe all the wheat-- after you cut
all the wheat? Okay.
Clint: [00:05:21] Wheat stubble. Yeah. Yep. Maybe anywhere from a foot tall to two and a half, three foot tall, the way people do it now. So and so you leave that and you turn it over in the old idea was, well, you got to keep the weeds down, you got to break the soil up. You've got to have a nice seed bed, And so you would, before you would even go to drill, let's say you were just going to plant wheat again, before you would even drill that you would probably cross the field six, seven times. And then you would plant your crop. Right? And so no-till gets rid of all that. Yeah, you're not doing any of that.
So you're not using the attractors to run back and forth across however its Achilles heel has been, you do have to control weeds at some point. And so no-till [00:06:00] as commonly practiced currently would be, you don't have to run across it as many times, but you're spraying chemicals to keep those weeds now.
That is the big difference with no-till and why Greenfield Robotics exists is to solve that. One of the problems we're solving for.
Wendy: [00:06:12] Got it. You're replacing the need for chemicals with robots essentially.
Clint: [00:06:16] Herbicides in particular at this time. Yes.
Wendy: [00:06:19] Wow!
Clint: [00:06:20] There are plenty of robotics companies that till and most of them are in specialty crops, but we're the only ones really focused without chemicals mechanical So, but without tilling.
Wendy: [00:06:29] Got it. I know the new Biden administration is offering a lot of incentives for , different practices that decrease carbon. Is this something that you all can plug into and get any kind of government subsidies, or government help?
Clint: [00:06:41] I'm not aware of anything specific yet, but I'm so head down on developing robots, I may have missed a specific program that's been, but I'd certainly doing intense there, I believe to incentivize regenerative farming as practiced. And so look, there are already government programs to use cover crops.
It's called equip and you can go out [00:07:00] there and they'll give you a grant or a loan to, to go out and plant cover crops. So some of that already exists for farmers to do that. It'll defray the cost of their seed and their planning to some extent. So that's already out there. I think the government's going to try to incentivize that with carbon payments.
It seems all over the place right now. But certainly I think farmers will have an opportunity to have some of that. My concern with it is currently is it feels like a lot of big companies are lined up to try to take a huge chunk of the carbon for doing really nothing.
Wendy: [00:07:31] I could see that happening too. Can we talk a little bit about soil health and like the benefits that the soil is getting by having a no-till method?
Clint: [00:07:39] Yeah. You know, and I, I didn't answer your question very well before if one of the things with no, till if you're tilling and you're tearing the soil up and turn it over and think about it. If someone ran a wrecking ball through your house repeatedly, how productive will your household be? And we're tilling, that's essentially what we were doing.
And when you do no- till you [00:08:00] allow the roots that are already sitting there from the plants that may or may not be alive, you have soil structure being created and you have microbial activity aggregating around those roots and you have soil aggregates, forming, and all kinds of interesting things happening.
And so when you don't till all these types of things can happen. You can also when you get rainfall, you have that residue cause you didn't till so whatever your last crop or cover crop was, it's still there on top of the soil, even if it's dead and it breaks the fall of the rainwater. One, two, you've got all those roots in mass and you have the roots going down and you have the porosity of the soil, those create.
So you can soak a lot more water in and it's about five times the amount of rainwater per cubic foot. You can old a no-till versus tilled. And that's actually what got me into no-till at the beginning. Because my first two years back farming were I think about the worst summers in the history of Kansas, maybe going all the way back to the thirties.
I think we had 60 days or some crazy amount over a hundred degrees, or it felt like every day. I was back then I was growing tons of tomatoes and I [00:09:00] was like, Whoa, how do we retain water? You know?
Wendy: [00:09:02] That's that's an incredible statistic. Five times the amount of water, like absolutely incredible.
Clint: [00:09:09] Yeah. And it does more than that. And there's positives and negatives to some of this, depending on where you are, but what it also does where I'm at, it's mostly positive this far South, and that is the soil doesn't get as hot in the summer and it doesn't get as cold in the winter. So a moderate, some of that. Now, if you're up in Iowa and you're trying to get your corn in early. Cold soil is not necessarily benefit. To be honest about it, there are some downsides here.
Wendy: [00:09:31] But it's specific to every farm, I suppose. Like most things are, I guess. What are some of the challenges with no-till.
Clint: [00:09:37] One, the dependency on chemicals are substantial right now. If you want to go plant a crop and no-till, you have to use a bunch of chemicals. If you want that crop to grow and not have to have competition with weeds, you have to use a bunch of chemicals. If you want to use those chemicals with your crops, you have to have genetic modified crops growing.
There's a tremendous reliance there. And then if you have weather events [00:10:00] happen that are out of your control, which is all of farming all the time, it's the most multi-variate thing I've ever done in my life. And I used to do really pretty sophisticated statistical marketing and farming like makes that look like a joke in terms of the variables.
if you get a lot of rain, sometimes you get into a situation where you can fail. Or if it gets too dry, you can fail. And so that's part of what Greenfield does is reduce that risk as well. And I'll give you a specific example. There's a weed called pigweed. That really is one of the main reasons we have to use so many different herbicides now.
Pigweed just becomes resistant and it quickly any new herbicide within a matter of couple of years, it seems to be at this point, it starts becoming resistant and spreading. What that means is if they get about now, very few weeds are resistant when they're a little bitty, but if you have a lot of rain and the Midwest is known for this for a lot of, you know, what we're dealing with, you, you can have a ridiculous amount of rain in a very short amount of time and not be able to get out there with a spray rig.
And those spray rigs weighed 50,000 pounds roughly. If it's muddy, you're not out there. [00:11:00] If the plants get to be a foot tall pigweed, there's no spray on knock them out, period that you can use in a crop. You'll think you killed it. And then a week later, it sprouts out the top and takes off again, it can get to be about this, two or three inches in diameter at the base.
So imagine trying to feed that through a harvester it's a real train wreck and each one can carry close to a million seeds each which can stay alive for up to two years on the surface of the soil. I believe it's a real problem. What, there's a real reason, a lot of chemical scientists are working on this problem.
They're not, you know, out to get us throughout to make sure farmers can farm without tilling. but it's, it's becoming harder and harder.
Wendy: [00:11:36] It's so interesting to me because before I talked to you, I knew about regenerative agriculture from a no-till perspective. I know it's so great for the soil and, it's, it's a great holistic kind of view of agriculture, but then nobody really tells you about the dark side of all the chemicals and things like that.
So it's fascinating to hear that there's also this whole, you know, not that GMOs are all necessarily bad or, you know, the [00:12:00] dark side, but that these things are so intertwined. Is there such thing as organic regenerative farming?
Clint: [00:12:05] Yeah. Not really at scale. There's a label being formed and people working on it, but it's very hard to scale it at this point. For the very reason I talked about weed control and and it's very hard to have flexibility regenerative organic wise as well. That's why I started Greenfield is because regenerative organic is very difficult to do at scale right now. There are a million reasons for that. I won't bore you with all the details, but it's very hard for the 250 million acres of broad acre to do it. And that's why we created the robotics.
I tried some of the techniques people are using and it just was too risky-- that's and without chemicals, right? So , organic would imply without chemicals. Now note, there are plenty of chemicals you can use in organic. There is a massive list that you
Wendy: [00:12:48] Right.
Clint: [00:12:49] They're just not as powerful as the ones that are not organic labeled.
Wendy: [00:12:53] I know you've done a lot of organic farming in your life, is organic worth it? And to your point about the fact that chemicals are still used, do you [00:13:00] think that organic is almost a misnomer these days?
Clint: [00:13:03] I think that organic, you know, and I've never certified anything that we've never allowed chemicals on any of our vegetables or greenhouses or any of that, that weren't OMRI certified Look, the folks that started the organic label in this country, very sharp knew what they're doing, did a great job.
And they're honest, right? What's happened is I'm not sure, you know, I know the USDA says they can, but I'm not certain, how do you validate organic when it's coming from another country? It's hard enough in this country and I've met people that are cheating on the organic label here in the United States.
They're cheating here, how much is going on abroad? So, but that said, there's tons of people doing it the right way, as much as they can. What I've said to folks is sort of guidelines for consumer. Is this- buy local first organic from the locals. They can tell you how they do it b uy local second, because yes, hydroponics are a bit different and how they work.
[00:14:00] But your nutrient density is probably going to be higher because it was more freshly grown, right from the time they harvested it to time it's on the shelf is a very small amount of time. Normally on local hydroponic, third, buy organic based in the United States, you have a much higher probability of getting an honest product.
After that, whatever, that's just my opinion, you know, and some folks might disagree, but I think what we're trying to do with Greenfield is this-- make it where the audit trails are there. We have small box they're out in fields. The systems we're developing will be out in fields often. We have cameras on all of them and we can create an audit trail that people can trust at that point.
Wendy: [00:14:36] That's really great. I think that definitely makes people feel a little bit more confident when there's a way that they can see how their food was created, where their food has been, things like that. And I think you're right. Just regarding nutrient density and even just the taste of local food is because it was picked so much sooner than the stuff that we get from halfway across the country or all the way across the country.
For me here in Florida, , so much [00:15:00] of my produce is shipped from California. That it just makes me so sad because I know , it was picked weeks ago and you know, it just goes bad so fast and just the taste is not, it's not there.
Clint: [00:15:10] I mean, interesting thing around all of this that I've learned from Jill Clapperton, Dr. Jill Clapperton who's kind of an expert on nutrient density is, is that the seed selection actually matters a great deal on how much nutrient ends up. And that sort of blew my mind, but she's got some tests on wheat and stuff out there that you can read up or listen to, but just the seed alone had a massive impact on the nutrient density of the crop.
And what nutrients were present at what levels. There's a lot of variables at play here. And I want to say one thing, I don't want to create an environment of distrust for farmers. Most of the farmers I meet are salt of the earth, conventional, organic. I don't really care. They're all trying the best they can.
And they have very, very, very hard jobs. I was talking to one the other day and he said the first three years of his marriage, he never took a day off, no vacation. He's not some maniac. It's that demanding. That is why we have a lot of the [00:16:00] chemicals in that is it's extremely difficult to too farm and make money.
Wendy: [00:16:04] I think anybody who's at a home garden can definitely relate to that. There's just always something that comes up and it's no one's depending upon that food-- besides your, you know, your family maybe. But you know, you can still go to the grocery store and buy it. I think it's, it's so much more pressure when you have these large scale farms.
so many of the things can go wrong.
Clint: [00:16:22] The other thing that happens, you know, when you garden, versus when you start getting scale is you have to grow more of a single crop because that's just honestly the way it works right now. And no one solved that problem. When you do that, the bugs find you. because whatever happens in the end, they sense it.
And if you grow the same prop at scale, things will show up that never showed up to your garden. I know because I've put a garden on the farm and then I have the same crop at scale. And then next year, when you start scaling you go, where is this stuff coming from? Right.
Wendy: [00:16:52] What's your opinion on mono cropping versus intercropping versus chaos, gardening or things like that.
Clint: [00:16:59] I think [00:17:00] there there's a place for all of them. I think that the intercropping, you know, I had listened to one farmer that's done a lot of inter-cropping up in Canada. And had some pretty good success. I think that day is coming, you know, where you've got maybe two crops growing together, maybe three.
But you still have to grow in rows and stuff. It's very hard to maintain a field. If it's not ordered, it's just very difficult, same thing in greenhouses, right? Same thing in hydroponic. Greenhouses, you have to have some order. The other challenge is if you think about, okay, if I raised. 10 different crops put together.
How do I harvest that and sort it in a cost efficient manner. So the chaos garden is wonderful for gardening. And I think for planning them and having people just come out and pick what they can find. But if you want that reliability of the food chain, which we can talk about all we want getting away from that, we're not going to, I mean, even I raise a lot of stuff, but when I go to a grocery store, I expect to see certain things there.
Right. And if, as long as we're buying food and wanting it that way, and then an orderly type of mechanization has to exist. so it's [00:18:00] really about, scale at that point. which again is kind of why we're doing robotics is to, to help it be as healthy as possible at that scale.
Wendy: [00:18:07] That makes sense. I have a question. Are farmers open to adopting new technologies, like your robots and things like that.
Clint: [00:18:14] Farmers are more technologically savvy than probably the average mid-level corporate manager. You step in a tractor, a new one or a combine now, and they are way more sophisticated than what you have on your PC. There is a lot going on a lot of variables to account for, so yeah. There was no issue there.
I just went out and signed seven farmers this week, and each one connected, sat down 30 minutes they're in. There is that misnomer out there-- they will be resistant to change if you want to ask them to change their whole way of farming. We devised our way to work within their existing constraints.
We're not asking them to completely change what they're doing or take much more financial risk. We don't ask them to take any risk. In fact, we reduce it.
Wendy: [00:18:52] That's wonderful. That must fill them with confidence too.
Clint: [00:18:55] And the other thing is we're realistic with them. You know, last year we had prototypes and I [00:19:00] told them we might have serious problems out of the gate and you may never see us and guess what, what some of them that happened. We try to just have honesty. Upfront with them and they react well to that just like anyone.
Wendy: [00:19:09] That's great. What does the future of farming look like to you?
Clint: [00:19:12] I think that you've, you've brought up quite a few points. I think that there's some structural issues on the cost side of, of food You know, all the different things, the dependencies you have, agrochemical wise on broad acre and, and even specialty guys have the same challenges to my knowledge.
I think that that's going to get cleaned up over time. I think folks are going to use different techniques, regenerative techniques to get away from some of that. You know, but you're talking about a 20 year timeframe here. That's on the cost side on the revenue side, and I think this is something for any consumers listening in to really consider.
A crop that you harvest here in Kansas. By the time it ends up on a shelf like flour, in some cases, you're going from $500, an acre to 25,000, an acre in revenue. And the things that happen post field are much simpler [00:20:00] than what we do in the field at this point. Manufacturing and packaging and marketing are, I know one thing now, putting a bag of flour together there's not a lot of variables anymore. So compared to farming. I would encourage folks to work with companies that are much closer to the farm or coming direct off the farm. Because when you do that, you give the farmer more revenue and when you get the farmer more revenue, They're going to take more risks and they will adopt new technologies and they will adopt different ways of farming and try to make some positive changes.
But if your back's against the wall, the time, it's very hard to reach out and take another risk.
Wendy: [00:20:35] That totally makes sense. And then what's the future of Greenfield Robotics look like.
Clint: [00:20:39] Oh, boy. We've got three bots systems in development. One of them's in fields this year, knocking out a hundred acres a day. We'll make a whole bunch more for the following year. Knocking out way more. We're in South central Kansas, and we'll expand from there.
The other systems are in development. One of them gets rid of all herbicides period without tilling been working on the patent on that. And we've been developing that now for two years. That'll hopefully start to [00:21:00] come into being next year in a very real way and scale from there. The third one deals with grazing animals.
Again, we've got a prototype there. No longer chasing sheep all over my farm and escaping .We just want to grow with farmers. It's such a big area of landmass that the idea that Greenfield is going to take over the whole thing is, is, is crazy. But we can certainly grow quickly and try to satisfy demand, which seems to be there and hopefully work with. Once we get to chemical free work with ingredient, supply chains and brands to make it a much better experience now. I already do this by the way, with Canada pet food, and I've done it since 2015. So we have a supply chain, believe it or not for pet food that deals with regenerative agriculture and it's Canidae -- c-a-n-i-d-a-e.
And so we already have other farms that work with me to take some simple steps towards regenerative for there. And we have semis running every week.
Wendy: [00:21:52] Wow. What percentage of farmers in the U S already do regenerative farming?
Clint: [00:21:57] No- till if you take no- till it's a little [00:22:00] under 40% already. Anything beyond that cover crop adoptions, maybe around 5%, something like that. Five to 10, and there's some variability. There are some challenges with deploying cover crops in more arid climates. there's some things that have to change probably for farmers to adopt that.
But those, those are the numbers. So it's, it's really early.
Wendy: [00:22:18] There's there's a broad user base when you decide. You know, when the robots finally are launched and how can people reach you if they want to try out your robots or want to buy one of your robots or learn more?
Clint: [00:22:30] They can just go through our website and drop us along Greenfieldrobotics.com, or they can find us on Facebook or LinkedIn. We're on LinkedIn quite a bit. And just drop me a direct line if they want at that point. You know, the robots are as a service, so like software as a service, the robotics as a service.
So they don't have to buy them. We just contract per acre and show up and get the job done.
Wendy: [00:22:49] Oh, that's really cool. Is there anything else you want to add Clint?
Clint: [00:22:52] I just want to reiterate, I think there's, there's so much confusion out there around food right now. What's going to be grown indoors outdoors and this way and [00:23:00] that way. And I think that no matter what, a lot of food's going to be grown outdoors, and we really want it to be regenerative, ag and technique, it is the best of all worlds.
If you get rid of the chemicals, hopefully consumers, think through that and remember that and vote with their dollars. As far as that goes, you know, I think there's a lot of change coming. Just one other thing on that, we spend a lot of time thinking about what phone to buy what makeup to buy, what clothes to buy, what car to buy, spend that much time to think about your food, because your health depends on it.
What you buy, get beyond the marketing speak at the very top of it. Because there's a lot of misleading things going on out there.
Wendy: [00:23:35] That's a really, really important point. I agree with you a hundred percent.
Clint: [00:23:39] And it's hard, right? It's hard to take that time.
Wendy: [00:23:41] Well, it's hard to understand or know what to believe. Marketing is really good and, you know, nobody goes to the grocery store thinking I'm going to buy only unhealthy things for myself. You know, there's. I would think most people, you know, but it's, it's hard. It's, it's hard to know.
Sometimes it's hard to make that distinction between, Oh, should I buy [00:24:00] something that was locally grown a little bit more expensive or buy something, that's not organic and from, a farm 2000 miles away.
So there's, there's just so many factors.
Clint: [00:24:10] Then the second thing is you can really tell, I think like if you go to Canidae's website, you'll see a decent time being put to regenerative ag and that's because they actually are very serious about it.
It's not everything there yet. It's not the entire supply chain. They're not saying that, but at least they're, you can see that they're giving an amount of time in a high, get a lot of their time to work with them. I think that you just have to see if it's genuine and it comes around or is it just there?
Well, this month we're going to talk about this next month talking about something different.
Wendy: [00:24:37] That's a really good tip as well. Thank you so, so much for joining me on the podcast today, this was really, really informative. I just could talk about agriculture all day and learn from you all day about the different
Clint: [00:24:49] well, you come up to Kansas sometime and see.
Wendy: [00:24:51] I would love to.
Clint: [00:24:52] . And some of the different farms. I mean, there are guys doing stuff way beyond me, you know, I'm just building for the most part, the robots to make it [00:25:00] easier. But there's-- farming's amazing. It is the hardest thing I've ever done and it's but it's also the most rewarding.
Wendy: [00:25:06] Thank you for doing it and good luck with Greenfield, and I'll definitely be keeping track of what you're launching and all of the great news coming out of Greenfield robotics. So thanks again, Clint.
Clint: [00:25:17] Thank you. Appreciate it.