Wide Open Agriculture, western Australia’s leading regenerative food and farming company, is committed to rebuilding healthy soil, enhancing biodiversity and restoring waterways while seeking strong, sustainable financial returns and making a positive, measurable impact on the ecosystems and communities in which they operate.
Wide Open Agriculture is a Regenerative Food and Farming company based in Western Australia’s Wheatbelt, and the world’s only publicly-listed company seeking to deliver ‘4 Returns’ – measurable outcomes on financial, natural, social and inspirational returns, so that everybody – including the environment – wins.
A different approach
Like any business, Wide Open Agriculture is a company that wants to be profitable, but they are also keen to deliver real returns to the local communities and the ecosystems where they farm. Their stated aim is to improve biodiversity, carbon retention, water quality, and revitalise soil health. However, in order to do that you have to farm differently to conventional farming approaches.
Today, most farming practices degrade the land and environment. Healthy soil is depleted, treated with chemicals and leached of nutrients. Food is less nutritious and farming communities are shrinking as jobs disappear.
Building a new food and farming system
Wide Open Agriculture knows this story all too well. The farmers are from the Wheatbelt of Western Australia. However, the challenges they face – ecosystem degradation, limited job opportunities and depopulation – have inspired them to make a change, because they know there is a better way.
The overarching purpose that motivates everything World Open Agriculture does is to build a new food and farming system to create a healthier world. “We choose farmers who are committed to a regenerative journey to rehabilitate and enhance the entire ecosystem of the land. This means our customers can buy delicious, nutritious food from healthy land that’s getting healthier”, states the website. “Our regenerative farmers believe, like us, that if we take care of the soil, it will take care of us. They believe in healthy food, grown right.”
These regenerative practices do not only mean healthier plants and animals, they also help fight the climate crisis by pulling carbon from the atmosphere and sequestering it in the ground where it belongs. In addition, Wide Open Agriculture wishes to acknowledge the traditional custodians of the land where they work, farm and sell food, the Noongar people.
Better for farmers, farmland and communities
Conventional farming approaches in a place like Australia’s wheat belt are very much focused on efficiency and scale. To achieve that, farmers need to buy a lot of land. This can lead to debt, which means farmers have to operate using lower risk approaches, which generally means being heavily reliant on high chemical farming inputs.
However, there is an appealing alternative direction to that. The founders of Wide Open Agriculture are big believers in family farms and of farming in a way that reduces some of the risks associated with chemical farming. “Consumers and farmers can really reconnect and that dialogue can progress towards ‘So how do you farm your food?’ and ‘How do I want to consume my food?’ and bringing those parties closer together. Because now I feel there’s quite a divide between the farmer and consumer”, says Ben Cole, Managing Director of Wide Open Agriculture. “And really what we are trying to do is show that food and agriculture systems can be done in a way that benefits farmers, the farmland and the communities around them.”
What are the core values of Wide Open Agriculture?
As Western Australia’s leading regenerative food and farming company, what are the values you uphold, and what motivates you in your mission? Ben Cole explains:
1) Working with Nature
“Soil and plants. Herds and grasslands. Bees and flowers. They are all examples of Nature being a team sport. We all know that trying to control or dominate nature backfires. The land becomes degraded, the animals die off, the food becomes empty and ultimately our lives become poorer. So we work with Nature.”
2) Using business to promote Nature
“Some people believe that all business is simply bad. But businesses are a human construct. They work best when they serve by creating value. So it is up to us. We are part of a movement that is leading business to be a force of human endeavour that encourages and regenerates Nature.”
3) Working fairly with people
“Consumers get food that is packaged here but probably from over there, which is not good, but they just do not know. Farmers get paid for their grain based on the going rate for their crop as a global commodity. And investors are betting, because their shares come from an industrial farm system that devalues the very asset it is produced on. Consumers deserve real food. Farmers deserve a better share. And investors deserve less risk. That is fairer for everyone.”
4) Learning and growing
“Like Nature, we get feedback, we sense and respond, and we keep growing. Because we are here to overturn convention.”