21 Feb 2018
Can Farming Save the Planet?Topics:
There may be a simple solution to the complex problem of climate change. Don Wiviott (MBA 1984) is cofounder and partner of Sustainable Farm Partners (SFP), a combination farming operation and private equity group that is buys high-production conventional farms in Iowa to go organic, thus reducing reliance on petroleum-based fertilizers and sequestering large amounts of carbon dioxide in the ground.
With his extensive background in green businesses, finance, and turnarounds, it seems almost inevitable that Wiviott would help found a business like SFP. The firm acts as the financial bridge for individuals, foundations, and endowments to invest in conventional farmers as they go organic.
“We're a little bit like the Uber of farming, in that farmers have the knowledge base and the skills and all of the equipment necessary to do this but they are unable to buy additional land,” says Wiviott. “We’re the first scalable version of this model. Because it’s bigtime American agriculture, we can do a series of these $100 million funds. Each fund is the equivalent carbon offset as if we had built an $86 million wind farm.”
With demand for organic foods doubling every six years, farmers get a good return on their product, more than enough to offset the increased cost of additional labor, says Wiviott. “You do the conversions for a couple of years,” he says, “and then after that you have a very stable cash flow from these farms.”
(Published February 2018)
Class of MBA 1984, Section G