Artem, tell us about FarmTogether!
Growing up in Russia in the waning days of the Soviet Union, we farmed our own food, otherwise, we’d go hungry. As a result, the importance of access to fresh food and a sustainable food system is a deeply ingrained belief. Our food system is vital, as is the way we farm, and I knew I wanted to work in this space.
On the other side of things, I have a passion for wealth and prosperity for everyone. After working for Ontario’s Teacher Pension Plan, I saw the value of farmland as an investment and, more importantly, the lack of access to such a compelling asset class.
This is where I saw an opportunity. I wanted to create the financial rail for both farmers and investors that would enable our long-term prosperity for both our food system and future communities.
Founded in 2017 by myself and my colleagues, David Chan (COO), and Olga Ayvazyan (Head of Product), FarmTogether is a technology-powered investment platform that enables investors to channel funding into natural assets, beginning with U.S. farmland. We’re opening up a vital asset class to all investors, with the mission to bring creative and transformative capital to farming – driving agriculture toward sustainability on a massive scale.
Our team leverages technology and data science to tap into diverse properties across the United States, in both row and permanent crops, providing access to an asset class that was historically limited. We have a rigorous investment philosophy and offer nothing but the highest quality farmland investment opportunities. Only 2% of deals we review make it on our platform. Through our platform, investors have a single place to browse investments, review due diligence materials, and sign legal documents, making the process as seamless as possible.
For the first time, accredited investors now have access to high-quality agricultural opportunities, without the steep price tag or previous farming know-how, and the opportunity to drive real impact with their dollars.
Why did you choose to found FarmTogether?
While farmland is often considered a new asset class, it’s actually one of the world’s oldest asset classes, as well as one of the most valuable. Historically, farmland returns have been stable, uncorrelated to traditional markets, and high-yielding. American farmland has risen in value nearly 6% each year over the last 50 years, making it one of the most recession-resistant asset classes available. Farmland also provides investors with a hedge against rising inflation. The NCREIF Farmland Index’s Total Return has historically provided returns more than double the inflation rate since 1992.
Yet, the agriculture sector has been extremely fragmented, as the majority of farms in the US are small and family-owned. Lack of availability and a high barrier to entry has kept farmland out of reach for many. There’s no Redfin or Zillow for farmland, so even those who can afford to buy a farm outright struggle to find opportunities.
At the same time, we’re facing a global climate emergency. Extreme weather conditions are impacting both the short- and long-term health of our food system, from lost crop yields to degrading soils and farm ecosystems. Alongside threatened natural resources, the growing population continues to rise, with expectations of reaching 9.7 billion by 2050. This means farmers will need to produce nearly 70% more food than is consumed today and the implementation of climate-smart farming practices will be crucial.
FarmTogether was founded to bridge this gap. We’re democratizing access to farmland, bringing creative and transformative capital to farming while opening up a vital asset class to all investors.
As we look ahead to 2022, I am optimistic about where we’re headed. The impact of COVID-19 further proved the importance of recession-proof investments and, as we head into the next year with continued market uncertainty and inflation on the horizon, safe haven investments will become more crucial.
We’re also seeing rapid growth in ESG investments; it’s predicted that roughly a third of all global assets under management are forecast to have ESG mandates by 2025. With sustainability baked into each step of our business, from sourcing to on-farm action, FarmTogether provides a unique option for investors interested in ESG. We expect this trend to continue, if not accelerate.
What has been the biggest challenge in creating a startup?
The most challenging, and rewarding, has been building our team. Finding the right people with the unique skillset and unmatched passion for a sustainable future takes time. However, once we find the right people, it is a tremendous feeling to watch the team you carefully built really take off and help drive your vision further. This year, we have nearly doubled our team, just recently adding a Head of Engineering and Head of Asset Management. Together as a team, we have surpassed $150M AUM in just under two years, we’ve expanded into 6 states within the U.S., and we’ve closed 34 deals to date.
What has been the most rewarding part about building a startup?
The most rewarding aspect of creating a company is watching it come to fruition. When we launched our first deal, El Nido, we were praying that we would close the deal. It was exciting but frightening. Fast forward to today and we have deals on our platform that close within minutes. It has been an amazing journey to watch our platform grow.
Specific to FarmTogether and our mission, it’s also a great feeling to know that what you are doing is catalyzing real change. We’re helping to shape the future of agriculture, it’s awesome.
What have you found to be the biggest benefit of joining the EvoNexus Silicon Valley FinTech Incubator?
We started FarmTogether with a mission to ensure long-term prosperity by democratizing access to farmland. To serve that mission, we joined the EvoNexus incubator to tap into Franklin Templeton’s expertise in alternative investments.
Through access to EvoNexus’ team and unmatched resources, this partnership has been core to the creation of our investment policies and strategies. We’ve received guidance through every stage of growth, allowing us to build a one-of-a-kind investment model that caters to investors’ evolving needs. We’ve been grateful to have Raymond Jacobs, Managing Director at Franklin Real Asset Advisors at Franklin Templeton, as an advisor and mentor for FarmTogether.
The partnership has also led to strategic hires, media relationships, and network opportunities with fellow founders and startups building the next big thing.
How do you spend your time when you’re not busy running a business?
I enjoy playing chess and reading – I’m a huge reader. My favorite books are Principles by Ray Dalio, The Culture Series, and anything from Terry Pratchett. If only there was more time in the day!
To learn more about FarmTogether, head to: https://farmtogether.com/