Scaling regenerative agriculture

Scaling regenerative agriculture

Berlin-based startup Klim is one of a growing number of companies accelerating the regenerative agricultural movement, working with farmers and companies, in order to decarbonise food supply chains and improve soil health.

Soil is home to half the species on the planet; a mere thimbleful contains billions of organisms. Most of us associate soil with agriculture, and rightly so – it is necessary for 95 per cent of our food production – but it also plays a crucial role in the battle against climate change, storing more carbon than the atmosphere and plants combined. 

In recent years, a growing movement in farming has sought to create a better equilibrium between these two demands. Regenerative agriculture, a term that traces back to the 1980s but has seen a resurgence in the past decade, is a holistic approach to land management designed to increase the organic matter in soil, boost biodiversity, improve water flow and enable a greater quantity of carbon storage in the earth. As the idea gains traction, an ecosystem of startups has emerged to expedite it. Among them is Klim, a Berlin-based agritech company that not only wants to advance the regenerative agriculture movement, but scale it. 

Founded in 2020, Klim helps farmers adopt regenerative agriculture practices. It acts as an information resource, consultancy and source of funding, and functions as a bridge between food companies that want to decarbonise their supply chains and the farmers that can make it happen. Food companies pay Klim for carbon insetting, which means improving the emissions within the supply chain. A large part of this money goes directly to the farmers and the rest remains with Klim. Klim helps them implement a programme to improve the soil health, resilience and long-term yield security on their farm using regenerative farming measures. These can include minimal tilling of the soil to preserve fungal growth, planting cover crops, planning specific crop rotations to preserve soil nutrients, and using natural composts. Klim tracks the carbon reduction in order to quantify the impact. It also has a second revenue stream providing carbon offsetting for stakeholders that are not directly involved in an agricultural supply chain.

Nina Mannheimer, co-founder and CPO of Klim
Image courtesy and copyright of Klim

Regenerative agriculture, says Mannheimer, is rational – and profitable – for farmers. So, the starting point for Klim was to establish what was stopping farmers from adopting these measures in the first place. “Farms tend to not have high liquidity,” says Mannheimer, “and it can take 5-10 years to profit from the investment, so they need access to bridge financing. Making sure we can finance that transition is one part of what we do.” Klim is able to provide this through its partnerships with big food companies. 

Then there’s access to education – traditional institutions are still behind on this area, says Mannheimer – so Klim provides resources to ensure farmers can make the right decisions on measures, “and maximise success”. Finally, Klim works to bring recognition to the efforts of the farmers it works with, helping challenge a perception of agriculture that has not always been favourable, particularly with regards to the environment. 

“For the food company paying for this transformation, the benefits go way beyond the climate aspect of compensating their emissions,” says Nina Mannheimer, co-founder and chief product officer of Klim, “because they are essentially investing in a more resilient supply chain where soil is healthier, you have more yield stability and food security.” While there were already more ‘boutique’ consulting firms in this space working with progressive farms, Mannheimer explains that Klim wants to address industrial scale farming, “to have the impact that is needed to actually make a difference with the climate situation. It’s a systemic issue,” she adds, “it's not enough to convert a few farms.”

Klim itself has grown fast, boosted by a cumulative €8 million in seed funding, drawn from a range of climate- and foodtech focused venture capitalists. Mannheimer co-founded the company with CEO Robert Gerlach – both came with a background in tech and sustainability – and Adiv Maimon as chief technology officer. While they conducted substantial field research as part of the development process, hiring people with agricultural backgrounds was, of course, a priority – the agricultural team remains the largest at the company. Today, Klim is a 50-person team and helps to oversee the management of more than 500,000 hectares of land on behalf of some of the world’s largest food corporations. Its platform is home to a community of more than 3,000 farmers. 

The sector is changing fast and this can present challenges for a startup like Klim. There is a particularly complex regulatory framework, while carbon insetting, offsetting and soil credits are new concepts that are still evolving. “You have all these moving pieces of your strategy having to align to that same framework,” says Mannheimer. “But this framework is still changing. So, you find yourself having the same conversation over and over because one small thing has changed.” Various scandals around carbon credits in the offsetting context have also damaged the credibility of the industry; traceability and transparency are important to Klim.

Many of these challenges, Mannheimer continues, are the byproducts of being in a space that is new. “There’s also the big advantage of having, you know, less competitive pressure,” she says. “And having the excitement of being able to be part of shaping the space.”

Nina Mannheimer

Co-founder and CPO of Klim

Founds the catering company Dalou in London, which is now based in Zurich, delivering healthy breakfasts to offices


Completes a degree in European studies at King’s College London

Becomes the head of product design at nutritional food and lifestyle brand Evermore Health, London


Co-founds Klim in Berlin with Robert Gerlach and Adiv Maimon


Wins the Veuve Clicquot Bold Future Award, which showcases women entrepreneurs


Named on the Forbes 30 Under 30 Europe list, in the Social Impact category

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