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Sam Kass

Digging into the next food revolution with former Obama policy advisor and VC Sam Kass

December 1, 2022

Editor’s Note: New Food Order is a new podcast brought to by AFN’s parent company AgFunder in collaboration with Food+Tech Connect, co-hosted by AgFunder’s Louisa Burwood-Taylor and Food+Tech Connect’s Danielle Gould.

The views expressed in the podcast do not necessarily reflect those of the team at AFN or AgFunder.

“Most people in venture don’t know sh*t about food. So that’s a problem, right? Like it’s a problem for how they invest in it and it’s a problem for what they look for. It’s why we have so many shitty products being developed because apparently nobody tasted them” – Sam Kass.

In this week’s episode of New Food Order, we speak with Sam Kass, former White House senior policy advisor, chef, author, and venture partner at Acre Venture Partners, about the transformation occurring across the food and agriculture industries.

As readers of AFN will know, over the past decade, a growing number of entrepreneurs, corporates, activists, investors, and policymakers have been working on new innovations and technologies to improve our food and agriculture systems. Last year, that resulted in over $50 billion of venture investment in agrifoodtech innovations across the supply chain, according to our research.

“Return and impact are deeply correlated. I don’t feel like we have to make a trade on the companies that are gonna return on capital invested as well as having a major impact” – Sam Kass.

This time of technological advancement in agrifood is often called the fourth agricultural revolution, after the Green Revolution of the 1960s-1980s when newly-discovered agricultural inputs like synthetic fertilizers and genetically modified seeds dramatically increased crop yields the world over.

“The idea [that] we should just keep pleading with farmers to start using these different practices and somehow it’s just their fault that they haven’t done it – we just gotta move past that. We have to find a way to pay, to take on any risk of change, and I think carbon is gonna be the place that we can do that” – Sam Kass.

But are the agrifoodtech solutions and approaches today on the right path to truly transform the system in a way that’s better for all people and our planet, without negative and unintended consequences? What are the options available to entrepreneurs and investors? And what has progress been like on the policy front?

Sam is a good friend of ours so we have a fun conversation jumping across many topics in this 45-minute episode that was edited down from three-hours of conversation! 

“You have the biggest, most right wing, libertarian agricultural groups who, when we were in the White House just a few years ago, wouldn’t meet with us. If you said the word climate change, they would literally think that you were spitting in their face and thought you were the devil. And now [they] are at the table with the most progressive environmental groups working out how they’re gonna work together on transforming how they farm, so they can start saving resources and sequestering carbon. It’s a true revolution. I’m stunned still. I can’t believe it’s happening given my experience in that world when I was there. It is actually the closest thing to revolution I’ve ever seen, honestly, in my 20 years of working on these issues” – Sam Kass.

What to expect from this episode with Sam Kass:

  • Sam’s personal journey from chef to nutrition policy advisor for the Obamas to venture capitalist
  • Whether we need a new food order and if it’s even possible
  • What are the biggest challenges and risks with applying the typical VC model to the food and agriculture sector?
  • Carbon markets as a lever for the food revolution and the ethics involved in these solutions
  • The importance of mindset and cultural shift in agriculture
  • Sam’s thoughts on President Biden’s Inflation Reduction Act with its many climate-related policies
  • Some light swearing! Sorry Mum!

How to listen

You can listen in the player below, or wherever you get your podcasts by clicking here. And please remember to subscribe and share with anyone you know that’s interested in agrifoodtech, venture capital, investing, startups, carbon, regenerative agriculture, and food and agriculture policy.

New Food Order is sponsored by FoodShot Global and New Hope Network.

It is hosted by Danielle Gould and me, Louisa Burwood-Taylor

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