Ecdysis Foundation

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Ecdysis Foundation: The Blue Dasher Farm Initiatve

Estelline, United StatesUnited StatesUnited StatesUnited StatesUnited StatesUnited StatesUnited States
Year Founded:
2015
Organization type: 
nonprofit/ngo/citizen sector
Project Stage:
Growth
Budget: 
$100,000 - $250,000
Project Summary
Elevator Pitch

Concise Summary: Help us pitch this solution! Provide an explanation within 3-4 short sentences.

Create a network of centers for excellence in regenerative farming practices that will transform food production from the bottom up. This initiative will use agriculture to confront national problems by rebuilding soil health, increasing biodiversity, and profitably producing nutrient dense foods.

WHAT IF - Inspiration: Write one sentence that describes a way that your project dares to ask, "WHAT IF?"

What if we could use farms to solve planetary problems?
About Project

Problem: What problem is this project trying to address?

The planet is facing numerous challenges; climate change, biodiversity loss, pollution, invasive species, and rising human health problems. Agroecosystems currently occupy 35% of the terrestrial land surface of our planet. Many of the planetary problems are linked directly or indirectly to the simplification of food production systems. We need a better way to produce food in nature's image.

Solution: What is the proposed solution? Please be specific!

Regenerative agriculture uses food production systems to combat planetary problems. Long term sustainability of agroecosystems is dependent on building soil quality and restoring biodiversity to farms, as well as educating the farmers and consumers within communities. Not only do these solutions improve the nutritional quality of farm products, but by encouraging farmers to stack enterprises, they can be implemented profitably and increase the resilience of farming communities. Blue Dasher Farm initiative will remove practical barriers through applied research and education programs that are driven by farmers on the front edge of regenerative practices.

Awards

The initial start up costs were supported by crowdfunding by the end users of our initiative
Impact: How does it Work

Example: Walk us through a specific example(s) of how this solution makes a difference; include its primary activities.

Cutting-edge, scientific research will be used to overcome production constraints in regenerative production systems, validate the relative efficiency of these systems, and understand the underlying factors driving success. On-farm research will be partially conducted by the farmers, ranchers, and beekeepers themselves. To reinforce science-driven behavioral changes, we will create an innovative education curriculum to train the next generation of producers in regenerative agricultural practices. For example, our recent work shows that regional farmers that manage corn using cover crops and biodiversity can be more profitable than farmers using GM crops and seed treatments, while improving the sustainability of their operation.

Impact: What is the impact of the work to date? Also describe the projected future impact for the coming years.

Although this initiaive is nascent, we are already having a positive impact on food production. We had more than 4000 face-to-face contacts with end users in 2015, and Blue Dasher Farm initiative reached millions worldwide through social media outlets. Farmers that are adopting promoted strategies have demonstrated saving tens of thousands of dollars per operation. There are tangible metrics that we will measure over time in communities we target with our education programs. These include county-level changes in cover crop adoption, pesticide use, fertilizer use, no-till adoption, and GM crop planting rates. The economic benefits are easily quantified, and impact assessments will include species conservation and CO2 sequestration rates.Ultimately, through creating a paradigm shift in food production, this project will positively affect most segments of society and the environment.

Spread Strategies: Moving forward, what are the main strategies for scaling impact?

On-farm research will be partially conducted by the farmers, ranchers, and beekeepers themselves. This “citizen science” approach involves the producers in the research, encourages input and observation that will drive future projects, and results in a larger and more representative final dataset to validate research outcomes. Education plans include a crucial support network to early adopter farmers. These “champion farmers” are the mouthpieces for changing their their local communities. Field days (seeing is believing), webinars and podcasts will be used to extend our curriculum's reach.
Sustainability

Financial Sustainability Plan: What is this solution’s plan to ensure financial sustainability?

Each hub will be supported with three general revenue streams. The research component is funded through competitive grants and donations. Education will generate income in the form of speaker fees, tuition for workshops, charges on informational downloads (e.g., webinars, podcasts, etc.), consulting fees, etc. Finally, part of our credibility with farmers is that we we are relying on the demonstration farm products as a main part of our income.

Marketplace: Who else is addressing the problem outlined here? How does the proposed project differ from these approaches?

Our strong emphasis on scientific research, systems-level focus of our program, use of farmers as agents of change, and scale of what the Blue Dasher initiative makes this endeavor unique from anything else out there. Current movements in sustainable agriculture are limited in scope or focused more on processes rather than outcomes (e.g., Rhodale and organics; Land Institute and perennial crops). Universities, USDA, and private industry have research programs, but they don't focus on the farmers on the front edge of innovation. Independent science and education in this area is sorely needed.
Team

Founding Story

The genesis of Ecdysis Foundation was driven by a clear need for independent science in support of farmers, ranchers, and beekeepers. Food producers were recognizing things that the status quo said couldn't be happening. They were able to do things on their farms that trending science said were impossible. At the same time, Lundgren's employer, the USDA, began restricting his ability to answer questions that the food producers were urging him to address. There was a clear disconnect between the vital innovation of agriculture and the priorities of the current agricultural infrastructure. This was the motivation for forming Ecdysis Foundation.

Team

The Blue Dasher Farm Initiative is led by Dr. Jonathan Lundgren and Jenna Lundgren. Dr. Lundgren is a world renowned scientist and educator. Jenna Lundgren (BSc) has substantial experience in business management, programming, and marketing. Additional staff will ebb and flow as specific programs change, and as students graduate. Priorities for permanent personnel at the South Dakota site include a full time farm manager, and a position devoted to logistics, operations, and marketing. As new nodes on the network are established, full time scientific and operations personnel will be carefully selected. Annually, we expect to have a minimum of 2-3 full time graduate students, as well as 5-10 temporary workers and volunteers to implement research programs. A producer steering committee of leaders in regenerative agriculture will help to guide scientific and educational inquiry.