18 Feb David Chan: Farmland Investing, Climate, and Regenerative Agriculture
A Passion for Weather
When most of his peers were watching Saturday morning cartoons, you could find David Chan glued to the weather channel. Growing up in Hudson Valley, New York, David was privy to all the wonders of Mother Nature’s wrath, whether it be blizzards, tornadoes, or drought! Picking his major around weather was an easy decision but options were limited when it came to coursework. He graduated from Cornell University with a Bachelor of Science in Atmospheric Science and Applied Economics and Management. He rounded out his further education with a Master of Business Administration from Harvard Business School.
“I went into the program with a genuine curiosity in science,” says David. “As I started to learn more about the underlying principles … conducted my own research, and read on others, I became interested in climate change.”
Climate and Agriculture
An area of business that has a heavy impact on climate change is agriculture which is listed as the largest contributor to greenhouse gas emissions (GHG). With 8-25% of annual global GHG emissions in agriculture, it also seemed the easiest place to David to find a solution.
There were two ways to be involved in the climate and agriculture sphere for David. The first was in continued research on impacts and the second was in action – he chose the latter. With agriculture being an incredibly important industry to the global workforce, national security and public health, he felt that it was also an industry that had been seemingly forgotten by technology, investors, and many other groups.
“It was a no brainer to run in a direction that nobody else was running in,” says David.
It wasn’t until David got to business school at Harvard for his MBA that he started to understand carbon sequestration and subsequently become passionate about the opportunities it presented.
“I first read a couple of articles about the essential theory of land as a carbon sink in college,” says David about his first touch with carbon sink opportunities in agricultural land. “I didn’t go far enough to realize the potential or how achievable the practices you would need to undertake to sequester carbon in land management was.”
While working an internship with SLM Partners, an investment firm looking to increase investments in the U.S. organic industry, David also became involved in a competition experience with Patagonia. The competition’s call-to-action was “How could Patagonia leverage a new arm of their business, called ‘Patagonia Provisions,’ to use regenerative or sustainable agriculture.”
Those two experiences, when combined, helped David understand the science and the studies of carbon sequestration.
Career as Chief Operating Officer
David is currently the Chief Operating Officer of FarmTogether – a technology-enabled farmland investment platform that provides investors with direct access to farmland as an asset class. With a diverse team under its name and over 70 years of combined experience in agribusiness, investments, and climatology, they carefully curate farmland properties that they themselves would invest in for their investors. Farm land is an asset class that is uncorrelated with other major asset classes making it unique.
As uncertain as 2020 has been, being a new startup has enabled FarmTogether to be agile and nimble, already accustomed to working remote and navigating with the times. David’s primary role as the COO is to serve as a thought partner and support to CEO and solo-founder Artem Milinchuk. Located on opposite coasts, they are able to connect with hotspots on each coast to advance FarmTogether’s network.
The COO is also required to be a Jack-of-all-trades and David’s tasks include a little bit of everything, such as:
- Investment underwriting with members of the investment team
- Sales and Marketing
- Distribution initiatives
- Human Resources
- Strategic Initiatives
- Syndicated crowd-funding management
“Given these unprecedented and trying times [during the novel-coronavirus pandemic], I can’t imagine operating a growing business alone in this environment,” says David about the close-knit team culture of FarmTogether. “It’s extremely daunting and very lonely. I think it’s great that we have a great team that works together and that we see each other as equal partners.”
If you are interested in learning more about farmland and agtech investing, check out the free resources on www.FarmTogether.com. As the business continues to grow and expand with the growing carbon efforts, their team will also grow and expand. Careers and opportunities are listed on their website.
Make sure to subscribe to the AgGrad YouTube Channel to learn more about career opportunities in agriculture and follow along on the special “30 Under 30 in Agriculture” series! Interested in nominating someone under 30? Nominate them here!