In this episode of North American Ag Spotlight, host Chrissy Wozniak welcomes Chris Rawley, the CEO and founder of Harvest Returns, a visionary platform that connects investors with agriculture. With a unique journey spanning military service, corporate management, and agriculture innovation, Chris Rawley's insights have led to the creation of Harvest Returns, bridging the gap between investors and agriculture, with a pioneering approach to ag investment.
Unlike many others in the agriculture world, Chris Rawley did not grow up on a farm. He came from a family with deep Texan roots in farming, but his personal journey began in North Dallas. His military career, which spanned 30 years as a naval officer, took him to various strife-torn and underserved regions globally. These experiences heightened his awareness of the global significance of agriculture, especially in providing food security to those in need.
His post-military life brought him back to Texas, where he found himself driving past large ranches daily. This sparked his interest in farming and agriculture. Despite lacking a farming background or substantial capital, Chris's determination led him to start Harvest Returns. He wanted to create a platform where individuals like him could invest in agriculture, providing an opportunity for those who lacked the traditional farming background.
Teaming up with partner Austin Manis, who had some farming experience and also hailed from Texas A&M, they founded Harvest Returns in 2016. Initially focusing on agricultural producers, they later expanded to agribusinesses, realizing the importance of a broader value chain approach in the agriculture sector. Over the years, Harvest Returns has grown, boasting over 14,000 registered investors and raising $32 million to invest in farms, ranches, agribusinesses, and even early-stage agtech startups.
Harvest Returns' mission is to bridge the gap between small to midsize, underserved farmers and producers in agriculture and investors looking to diversify their portfolios while connecting with the food system. Chris Rawley emphasizes the significance of supporting these farmers, many of whom are first-time or multigenerational farmers with limited resources but a strong desire to contribute to agriculture.
The platform acts as a bridge, bringing farmers with viable business plans, vision, and a dedicated team to investors. They conduct thorough due diligence, assessing the potential for success while mitigating risks. Investors, ranging from high-net-worth individuals to everyday people, can contribute amounts as low as $5,000, creating a diversified portfolio across various agricultural ventures. This symbiotic relationship benefits both sides, supporting agriculture and fostering investor engagement in the food system.
Chris Rawley highlights several challenges and exciting trends in agriculture and agtech. One significant trend is the rise of regenerative agriculture, where producers focus on sustainable land management and meeting consumer demands for environmentally responsible practices. This trend reflects consumers' growing interest in understanding where their food comes from and its impact on the environment.
On the technology front, labor shortages in agriculture have spurred innovation. Robotics, precision agriculture, and other labor-saving technologies have gained prominence. However, it's essential to emphasize that technology doesn't replace hard work but rather changes the nature of it. The challenge is to help consumers and investors understand that technology isn't a magic solution but a tool to enhance productivity.
Chris's vision for the future of agriculture centers on reducing government intervention and market distortion. He advocates for market-driven agriculture, where producers grow what consumers want rather than being influenced by government policies and subsidies. By promoting a free flow of capital and incentivizing market-driven practices, he believes agriculture can thrive and maintain its vitality as a crucial industry.
Learn more about Harvest Returns at https://harvestreturns.com
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