Two things have been on my mind this March. Proving and Scaling.
Proving means proof of concept. On a farm, it can refer to demonstrating the viability of an operation both physically and on the books. This doesn’t necessarily mean you make a million bucks from a business idea, just that your idea of a farm business has proven itself to actually work, to some degree. This is a very simple concept for any business or system that requires some sort of success, which I gather is most of them.
Scaling is is the concept that by going up a set multiple in production, overall costs can actually decrease and net income can actually increase. The idea is that specializing on one product can lead to decreases in costs of goods and services and increasing sales can lead to a better bottom line. That would be the simplified gist.
Now, scaling has become a dirty word. But really it is what keeps all of our consumer goods at a pretty cheap level. We are used to that, and scale is our shadowy benefactor.
I believe that it behooves us as agricultural entrepreneurs to demonstrate the viability of a concept before going all half-cocked out into the world and demanding it to meet our expectations. This is the prerogative of the young, and I admit to my fair share of it. But now I can see the folly that lies within that approach. The world doesn’t care what I think it should be doing, and it damn well doesn’t need to buy my products if it doesn’t want to. I need to demonstrate to the world that what I do is worth its money, why I do is intrinsically good for the environment and society. An antagonistic relationship is exactly the opposite of what I want to be developing with the world. The world is what it is. It is up to us by doing what we are doing to redefine a paradigm of agriculture, not to change an existing one.
A small-scale startup is exactly the right place to prove a concept. Every bit of environmental restoration and every penny of hard earned profit from each square foot is a success story. In my opinion the lesser options you have the stronger and more resilient you have to become to succeed.
There comes a point when proving is over and scaling has to happen. No biological system can operate on zero to little return on investment and real life person most definitely cannot either.