Soilworks Natural Capital has been growing its portfolio since its launch in June. Lew Moorman and Ed Byrne, co-founders of Scaleworks, have been busy investing in, incubating, and acquiring companies that can accelerate the adoption of regenerative farming practices.
Moorman and Byrne launched Soilworks in June to focus on regenerative agriculture, a system of farming principles and practices that increases biodiversity, enriches soils, improves watersheds, and supports agricultural ecosystems.
The Soilworks founders, along with Frates Seeligson, executive director at San Antonio River Foundation, and Travis Krause, owner of Parker Creek Ranch, are also launching Grazing Lands, a company intended to be a large-scale regenerative grazing management company.
Krause announced via email newsletter Friday that he would scale back his business operations at Parker Creek Ranch to become the chief executive officer (CEO) of Grazing Lands and help “create a paradigm shift within the greater agricultural community, starting with South Texas.”
Grazing Lands is being designed to help landowners manage their land regeneratively, Moorman told Startups San Antonio.
“Regenerative experts can help them manage the grazing animals,” he said. “Our goal is to get as many acres managed regeneratively as possible and help our ecosystems come back to life.”
Grazing Lands is expected to launch in January, according to Moorman.
Bryne and Moorman founded Scaleworks in 2015 to buy and help technology companies grow either via venture equity deals or venture finance support. They are now leveraging their expertise in building and scaling startups in the regenerative agriculture space.
“When you look at regenerative agriculture, it breaks down to grazing, the proteins, and crops,” Moorman said. “So far, we’ve focused on the grazing world.”
The B-corporation public benefit company’s first acquisition was PastureMap. Soilworks acquired the California-based software company that developed a grazing management application farmers and ranchers use to manage animal herds for more sustainable land practices.
Scaling is a challenge when it comes to producing food using regenerative agriculture practices, Moorman said. Young cattle can be fed grain in massive feedlot operations, usually in North Texas, to gain weight for the market in just a few months. Animals grazing on native range grasses usually need 24 to 30 months before they’re ready to be processed.
Transforming the food production sector starts with educating the consumer, he added. Grain-fed animals tend to taste the same. The taste of grass-finished animals can vary, depending on the grazing terrain, which some consumers may perceive as a product inconsistency.
“Our products will start out as a premium product because there’s no scale in this space,” Moorman said. “Our goal is to scale operations so we can bring sustainably produced food to all consumers. We’re focused on the grazing side because we see a big opportunity there.”
With that objective in mind, Soilworks launched its own regenerative beef brand, Wholesome Meats in September. The company works with ranchers in Texas to provide sustainably ranched ground beef to restaurants and grocery retailers throughout Texas.
Wholesome Meats CEO Kent Wuthrich, who now lives in Utah, was in the process of moving to San Antonio when the pandemic hit. He spends part of his time in San Antonio and plans on moving here in 2021.
About 30 retailers and restaurants across San Antonio and Austin buy Wholesome Meats. Wuthrich said the company is in discussions with local and national retailers.
Starting this week, Wuthrich said Wholesome Meats would offer prime cuts of regeneratively raised beef such as tenderloin, NY strip steaks, top sirloin, as well as bone broth, and tallow. The company relies on three processors in Texas but as the business grows, “we’ll explore creating our own way to process the animals for the market.
“We’re already looking ahead to when we reach high volume,” Wuthrich said. “We’re confident with the processors we have now, but to accelerate regenerative agriculture, we must be prepared for big volume.”
The pandemic-induced disruptions to the food supply have exposed weaknesses in our food systems. Moorman is skeptical of efforts to produce alternative proteins, as they tend to be”highly processed foods that rely on commodity crops, which in turn, damage the environment. The good news is that we’re seeing a movement to support more adoption of regenerative practices in our food supply.”
Moorman added that Soilworks will soon announce an investment in the crop side of regenerative farming.
“We’ve had the idea for this a long time,” Moorman said. “The food system is ripe for disruption. We think we can bring our business sense and capital to help bring that along.”
The featured image is a screen capture of the Wholesome Meats website.