Felipe is a Brazilian regenerative agribusiness entrepreneur and the founder of reNature. He is passionate about spreading knowledge of the role for regenerative agriculture within businesses, in order to foster a new nature-inclusive economical model.
WHERE DOES YOUR INTEREST IN REGENERATIVE AGRICULTURE COME FROM?
My mother comes from a family of organic citrus farmers, near São Paulo in Brazil, while my dad worked all his life in financial institutions and banking. So, I’ve always been intrigued by nature’s role in farming and how to finance this.
I visited the Amazon at eighteen. I was captivated but, at the same, shocked at the massive deforestation caused by agriculture. I knew there was solid science to support nature’s positive role in agriculture, so I couldn’t understand why it wasn’t mainstream. Why were governments and companies not applying these principles at scale?
I moved to the Netherlands hoping to connect with stakeholders that shared my vision to drive Regenerative Agriculture and that’s how I met my business partner, Marco de Boer, and reNature was born.
WHAT IS RENATURE?
reNature supports farmers and corporates in their transition towards Regenerative Agriculture. We develop strategic advisory consultancies, model farms, training programs for farmers, as well as monitoring the impact indicators that support the scalability towards a more regenerative farming system.
HOW WOULD YOU DEFINE REGENERATIVE AGRICULTURE?
Regenerative Agriculture is a nature-positive agricultural system that mimics natural processes in the ecosystems you are working with. By fully understanding the local context, you can design an agroecosystem that will improve soil health, biodiversity, the carbon sequestration rate, and increase the economic resilience of farmers.
It’s a holistic agricultural system that works in harmony with its local environment. Practices such as using cover crops, crop rotation, no-tillage, diversification (when possible, with trees) and others are applied for that purpose. So, for example, selecting native species aligned with the cash crop you’re working with – ultimately to improve the climate resilience of the farmer’s operations.
HOW IS REGENERATIVE AGRICULTURE APPLIED IN THE BRAZILIAN COFFEE CONTEXT?
In conventional coffee farming, rows and rows of coffee trees are planted in a mono-culture production system, often using pesticides, herbicides, fertilisers and so on. So, it is heavily reliant on external agrochemical inputs and usually, a lot of irrigation.
With regenerative coffee systems, you consider which species will benefit a particular ecosystem, relying much less on external inputs. For example, by planting grass or trees alongside coffee plants.
And cover crops such as trees and grass are real game changers. They improve soil fertility by capturing nitrogen, provide natural tillage thanks to the shape and length of their roots, and can attract pollinators, or natural enemies to diseases via their flowers. Cover crops also protect against extreme drought and temperature – critical in the context of climate change.
The grass, planted in between the rows of coffee plants, also generates biomass, which can be retrieved for mulching when it’s mowed.
WHAT ARE THE CHALLENGES AND OPPORTUNITIES FOR NESPRESSO IN BRAZIL?
I see three main challenges for regenerative coffee farming in Brazil.
- Scale. Unlike elsewhere in the world, there are many large-scale coffee farms which rely on highly mechanised systems. So, how can we integrate cover crops and diversification within mechanised systems? We’re currently exploring how to involve mechanisation and technology companies to build new regenerative machines to provide scale to the first pilots.
- Transition Finance. How can we provide access to subsidies or funding so that farmers can transition new practices into their entire coffee plantations. We’re now engaging with potential investors, banks and fund managers to explore ways to integrate these blended-finance instruments.
- Climate Change. Nespresso works with coffee farmers in the Cerrado region, which has been heavily impacted by extreme weather patterns with both intensive drought and heavy frosts. To bring climate resilience, we need to influence the macro-climate by changing the region’s landscape – work that’s already underway in conjunction with the Cerrado Waters Consortium and other bodies.
The good news is that Nespresso has been working closely with producers for 16 years, so a large majority have already adopted sustainable agricultural practices. This means there is already a robust foundation for the next steps: shifting towards a regenerative coffee production system that is proven to be scalable, financeable and that positively influences the landscape. And this won’t just address the challenges I mentioned. It will also bring additional economic, environmental, and social benefits.
HOW IS RENATURE COLLABORATING WITH NESPRESSO?
Working with Nespresso, we’ve developed a ‘model Regenerative Agriculture farm’ at Guima Café to inspire the region’s farmers. A place they can learn about the techniques, see the benefits, and plan how to apply them on their own farms.
We recently ran a workshop at Guima Café involving nine other local producers who are also highly motivated to transition to Regenerative Agriculture, alongside Nespresso agronomists, coffee traders and other experts. It was incredibly inspiring to witness, and the model farm was fully implemented in December 2021.
HOW WILL THE SUCCESS OF THE MODEL FARM BE MEASURED?
Together with Nespresso and a community of experts we are co-designing a performance framework to measure the regenerative impact outcomes of Guima Café and the other farms involved, focusing on soil health, biodiversity, and farm economics. We’ll also be supporting farmers by enabling access to external funding, carbon markets and off-take agreements for the other crops designed with coffee, such as avocado and timber.
HOW WILL PRODUCERS ACCESS EXTERNAL FUNDING?
We aim to build a Regenerative Finance program with Nespresso and other interested investors: an instrument that will help farmers transition to regenerative farming incorporating all the different elements – local farmer costs, technical assistance, monitoring tools and so on.
In fact, we’re really keen to speak to interested investors now. Potential partners that can see the incredible opportunities that replicating the Guima Café model will bring in not only supporting the resilience of coffee farmers but also protecting and replenishing natural resources.