In this episode, Brock talks with Chris Rawley
Chris has spent a combined 30 years in the Navy across the active and reserve component. In this conversation we talk about finding jobs while in the reserves and the synergies that can be seen between your reservist and civilian job. We talk through Chris' history and interest in investing and the observation he had while deployed that led to the founding of his company, Harvest Returns. Chris gives commentary on the importance of farmland and how the landscape of agriculture is changing due to current concerns such as COVID-19 and the war in Ukraine, as well as what the future of farming may look like.
You can check out Harvest Returns website for inquiries and also follow along with Chris on Twitter.
Whether you’re in the service for four years or twenty, you have learned skills, led teams, and learned what it takes to execute under pressure. While those past successes are valuable, they don’t always translate to a life or career when you get your DD214.
Join Tim and Brock as they break down the skills and strategies current and former military members are using to build a successful careers on the outside the service.
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Brock Briggs 0:01
Hello and welcome to the Scuttlebutt podcast. Today, you get to hear my conversation with Chris Rawley. Chris is a 30 year captain in the Navy Reserves, and the founder and CEO of Harvest Returns, an investing platform that allows individual investors to invest in farmland. This conversation is split up into two segments. In the first segment, we talk about his life as a Reservist. I honestly didn't know that officers of Captain above ranks actually existed in the Reserves. So we get to hear a little bit about what that role looks like.
Chris talks about holding a variety of jobs throughout the years in the defense sector, and we hear how the Reservist's job actually set him up to acquire those positions through security clearance and direct job experience. And the second segment, we talked about his history with investing. Chris started investing in real estate early on in his career and was always attracted to the space.
His knowledge of real estate and curiosity about farming during an African deployment helped lead him to founding his company, Harvest Returns. He gives us his thought on the agricultural landscape, the impacts of COVID and war in Ukraine on agriculture and exciting technology in the space. Chris brings several different backgrounds into a nice cocktail of knowledge, the military startup founder and a wealth of knowledge on agriculture, please enjoy this conversation with Chris Rawley.
Brock Briggs 2:01
Chris, thank you so much for coming on the show today. I don't think that I can come up with a better place to start other than your rank and like the questions that it brought me to when I first found you online. You are a captain in the Navy Reserves.
First off, I don't think that I knew that ranks went that high in the Reserves. I'm not sure like the Reserves is so out of place, out of mind, I guess for the active component. And then that got me wondering, I'm like well, is there stars in the Reserves? Can you kind of like walk us through a little bit of your story and tell us about that?
Chris Rawley 2:39
Sure. You know, I'm a Navy guy. I'm a Surface Warfare Officer. Been in about 30 years active and Reserve, did a ship tour on a destroyer then I went up to the Pentagon then I got off active duty and for the past 20 plus years, done all kinds of things in the Reserve, been just about everywhere. But yeah, we have Admirals, we have Master Chiefs, we have all ranks, all the rates in the Reserves, just like on active duty. You know, it's funny, because a lot of guys are just like you.
When they were on active duty, they're like, I never met a Reservist, you know, on my ship or wherever I was squatter and wherever station, but yeah, and that's true with it. Kind of the most of the Reservists you'll see are out there. They're on fleet staffs. They're out in CB battalions. They're out doing unique things. A lot of mobile security squadrons are out, you know, probably to get little guys driving around the boats protecting ships, those are probably Reservists. There's a lot of unique places. And honestly, if you see a Reservist, hopefully you don't know they’re Reservist, because they're pretty much identical to in qualifications and skills and everything else to the active guys. So we blend in wherever we go.
Brock Briggs 3:54
Maybe a little bit of an out of rags haircut, showing up for
Chris Rawley 3:58
Yeah, you might see that every now and then. But yeah, for the most part, people are gonna shave and get a haircut before they go into a weekend or show up at their duty station.
Brock Briggs 4:09
Yeah. Were you an academy guy or what? Talk a little bit about your introduction.
Chris Rawley 4:16
Yeah, so I did in ROTC in a college here in Texas. And yep, somewhere in high school. I knew I just had an itch to be in the military, really liked the ocean. So I decided yeah, I'm gonna go in the Navy. You know, I almost enlisted as a Marine actually, not too many people know that but decided to go through ROTC route and went to Anaheim and then got commissioned and went out San Diego on a destroyer and have been enjoying it and doing it ever since.
Brock Briggs 4:50
Good. I wanna ask. It seems like, so you have 10 years on active. Is that right?
Chris Rawley 4:55
Seven, but you know when you add up all my deployments and things in the Reserve, it's well over 10 years. Yeah.
Brock Briggs 5:01
Gotcha. I think that you might be a really good person to offer like a really good perspective about the differences between active duty and reserve. I think usually people are kind of one or the other. They're not really like that. I think that that's a sufficient amount of time to be able to talk to both.
What's the biggest pros and maybe the biggest con?
Sure. So, you know, we have different flavors of reserved folks like there are guys like me who went and you know, they did a single enlistment or single tour, couple tours. And then they decided they wanted to get out for various reasons, either for family reasons, or they were fed up. You see a lot of that, but they still, you know, they love the Navy. But they still wanna continue to serve, but they just didn't like all the kind of the BS, “Oh, the Navy was gonna send me to Japan or whatever, I didn't wanna go to Japan. So I got out.” Those sorts of things.
We also have direct entries into the reserve, both enlisted and officer. You'll see fewer of those, but there are some where they'll go straight through a training pipeline bootcamp or OCS or whatever. And then they'll show up. You know, that obviously, the biggest difference between active and reserve is that we’re part timers. Now, that doesn't mean that a lot of reserves haven't, especially in the past two decades with the wars mobilized and going on active duty for six months, or a year or whatever.
But for the most primer, that one week, in a month, two weeks during the year is kind of the standard. Although a lot of reservists do a lot more than that. And there's a lot of flexibility. I'd say the pros is there's tremendous flexibility in a reserve career. We don't have kind of a normal detailing system. People apply for both officer enlisted. They're able to sort of apply, where they wanna go. If you end up moving your job, your civilian job, or your family for whatever reason, you can move to a new command and Reserves, you know, that's more local to you.
So there's a lot of options there. Just the opportunities, you still have the same camaraderie that a lot of people I know, when you transition out of the Navy, you kind of miss having that close knit group of friends and buddies that you serve together on the ship or squadron or base or wherever. You miss that. That doesn't really exist necessarily on the civilian side. So the Reserves kind of gives you that opportunity to go and hang out and work hard and play hard and get crazy with a bunch of folks that you know, kind of have a similar values as you do.
And then you know, and swap till those crazy stories and all that kind of stuff. So that's a pro for sure. You still have the opportunity to advance in rank in you know, get your chest candy, and bonuses and things like that. And your reserve retirement is nice. You don't necessarily see it till you're about 60 years old. It's not like you're gonna retire as a 40 year old reservist and not see a reserve payment till you're 60. But you know, the other thing that I really enjoy, it's also a good backstop. So you know, you just don't have that job security in the civilian world, whether you're working for yourself or working for somebody else.
It's easy to lose a job. It's easy to get laid off. I've been laid off, you know, and fortunately, the reserve was there for me to backstop, to go on orders for five or six months until I kind of found a new civilian place to be. So that's a benefit, that safety, security, the health benefits, all those sorts of things are awesome drawbacks. It's a balance, you know. Although it's one weekend, a month, two weeks a year, that's a lot of weekends, you know. That’s at least 12 weekends a year that you're away from your family, away from football games, and kids soccer games, and all that kind of thing.
That two weeks in a year, you've gotta balance that with family vacations and with being away from your civilian work, that family civilian work. Navy balances is a hard one to do. I mean, after you've been around a while, like me, you kind of get into it. And you know how to do it, but certainly for somebody transitioning, it can be tough.
Brock Briggs 9:14
That’s one of the more common complaints that I hear about the Reserves, is it's extremely difficult to you know, it comes up to your one weekend a month. And it's like, you kind of are expected to like flip a switch to like go play army or not, you know, whatever branch you're in, but go play that for the weekend. And then somehow like you kind of need to like learn to be able to shut that back off.
And like and maybe it depends on what type of job you're in. If you maybe go to back to a full time status in the Reserves, which it sounds like you may have. That may not be a problem. But did you ever experience that? That type of problem where you're trying to come back? I don't know, you talk differently. Yeah, you walk differently. Did any of that trouble you, I guess?
Chris Rawley 10:02
No, you know, you've become pretty good at compartmentalizing your life. And honestly, a lot of it has to do with what do you do in the Reserves, what do you do in your day job. You know, if you're a corpsman in Reserves, and you give shots, and HIV draws on drill weekends, and then you go to a clinic, and you're on Monday and do the same thing. That's a pretty easy transition.
But if you're like a Navy Seal in the Reserves, and you go out and blows crap up and shoot things on the weekends, and then you come home on Monday, and you got to, you know, your stockbroker, or something, that's obviously a very different sort of transition. So people get good at compartmentalizing their lives, but I suppose it’s probably how most people deal with it.
Brock Briggs 10:47
Did you recommend it? And I want to kind of segue here into some of the jobs that you've held in the Reserves, because it's seemingly from kind of an optical standpoint, there may be some overlap there. Would you recommend that people look for kind of an overlapping job comparatively to what they do in the military and what their “civilian job” is?
Chris Rawley 11:09
I wouldn't recommend it. But you know, a lot of people do. And, you know, just my background is all over the place. But yeah, for a while, I was a defense contractor, working in Special Operations Command, and I was working, also within Special Operations community as a Reservist. So there was some overlap there, and you gotta be, especially as you kind of get up in ranks, you gotta be careful about conflicts of interest and things like that. And that's pretty manageable, usually.
But you also, you know, I wouldn't say hey, go out and actively seek a job. But when you are, you know, actively seeking a civilian job, you should certainly think about your skill sets that then the Navy or the military, you know, taught you, and how you can apply those to that civilian job, whether it's, you know, leadership, or very specific skill sets. Like I was a truck driver in the CVS and now I'm a, you know, supervisor, shipping supervisor or whatever, that sort of thing. There's certainly synergies there that you can look for, when you're trying to decide what you wanna do in the civilian world.
Brock Briggs 12:15
From the officer perspective, I've always been kind of curious, because that translating your military experience to like a civilian job is such a challenge. You're, it's not just that you're managing people, you're like, the temptation is to say, you know, oh, I was fixing this specific piece of equipment that nobody knows what that means. And kind of you need to use verbiage in ways that just normal people can understand.
From the officer perspective, you know, you have a long list of these companies, and you're welcome to talk about any of them if you'd like. Were they looking at you and saying, hey, this person has particular expertise that will help us or was it? This isn't to be rude, but like a title like, hey, this person is an officer in the military. And that means something. So we want this person for that.
Chris Rawley 13:09
Yeah, it depends. You know, some people respect that some civilian jobs there. They want that leadership experience, and they know that, you know. Have you been an officer or chief, or whatever? You've got, you know, some level of built in management experience. So they're like, okay, they know, and some people, you know. Obviously these companies are military friendly, they wanna support veterans. They specifically seek out to hire veterans.
But you know, it can, my current job has absolutely nothing to do with anything I've done in the Navy, because there's really no parallel. It's finance and agriculture. And there's simply not a parallel there. Whereas as I mentioned, in previous jobs, there was 100% parallel to what I did. So it just, it really depends. And again, that, you know, the beauty of being a civilian is you do what you wanna do. So there is a more kind of wide open canvas landscape of what you can do. And to the extent you can apply your military experiences and qualifications and education background to help you succeed in those roles is a good thing.
Brock Briggs 14:20
Where does a person go to start looking for jobs like that? You’d list positions that, electronic data systems, L3 communications, this whole long list of kind of defense oriented companies. Where do people go about, like finding open positions at places like that?
Chris Rawley 14:42
Yeah. You know, gosh, it's been a long time since I looked for a regular job. But you know, for defense related positions, you know, there's security clearance job boards. So this clerk security clearance is one thing if you're applying for a job. And you've got a security clearance that you got from the military, that will, that makes you attractive to companies that are in that industry because they don't have to pay for you to go out and get a security clearance. And it's, I don't know how much it costs these days, but it's not a cheap thing to do all those background investigations. And they'd have to pay, you know, a third party to do that.
So, if you've got a clearance, there's, you know, clearancejobs.com. Or don't quote me on that, but it's, you know, there's things like that. You can Google security clearance jobs, if you really wanna do something, you know, semi related to what you did in the military. And, you know, when you're asking about that, it just reminded me that one of the hardest parts of your transition is trying to decide what you're gonna do. You know, I think most people that get out of the military at one point or another, you know, they might get an initial job out of the military and love it or hate it. And some people will go on to do that for the rest of their lives.
And other people are like, “Hey, I just need a job.” If you apply for jobs, you get a job, and you're like, “This sucks.” But it gives you time to kind of figure out what you wanna do when you grow up. And I'm still trying to do that here, 30 years after leaving, after 20 years after leaving active duty.
Brock Briggs 16:07
Still trying to figure out what you wanna do when you grow up. Well, you had mentioned before we started recording that you're a year-ish out from retiring. I know that like being in the Reserves, it probably isn't as high as states of like getting out as active. But what will that change for you? And what are you thinking about that as just one extra weekend that you're getting back to do spend time with family? Or is there any other changes that you're kind of anticipating?
Chris Rawley 16:38
Yeah, I mean, it's mostly a time thing. I'm wondering what I'm gonna do with all that time. A lot of Reservists that are senior officers or enlisted ranks, it's, I don't know. You've probably seen the show Office Space where, or the movie Office Space where like, “Hey, you're only wearing 16 pieces of a player. That's the minimum requirement.” Well, it's very similar in the Reserve. You're only doing one week in a month, two weeks a year. Yeah, if you wanna be an O-6, or an E-9, you're gonna be doing a lot more than that or a flag.
So there is that major time constraint that you're gonna be, what am I gonna do with all this time? Take up hobbies or get, you know, get into get another job or whatever. So for me, it's just gonna be mostly a time thing. And yeah, I will certainly miss it. I've done worked with 1000s and 1000s of amazing people and gone to close to 60 countries during my Navy career all over the place. So I'll miss that now. I guess now I'll have time to travel on my own, you know, my own time and dime, which is something I like to do.
Brock Briggs 17:42
Yeah, get to travel for fun this time, you know. I hadn't put this kind of like on our agenda, but do you have any, like, an interesting story, or, like maybe a funny experience? Or it doesn't have to be funny. It could be serious. Anything that you've got for us, that might be like an entertaining story.
Chris Rawley 18:07
Yeah, I'm not much of an entertainer. But interesting stories, sure. You know, I will say, as a Reservist, you can do some much more unusual things, then you might do as an active duty person, where you've got a very regimented career. I mean, I was, gosh, I've been to Somalia. I've been to some really interesting, sketchy places in Africa that I never would have really done as an active duty guy, because it wouldn't have really fit into my career path. You know, jumping out of airplanes with SEALs and things like that probably would not have done that had I stayed on active duty as a surface warfare guy.
You know, going to Afghanistan, likely wouldn't have done that in Iraq, you know, serving with Riverine forces, being on the rivers in southern Iraq, that sort of thing. So I will say, you know, the Navy active reserve where whatever you're doing, or the military, it's just the amazing experiences you'll get are incomparable to anything you'll probably do in your civilian life, unless you're like some sort of, you know, adventure racer or something like that.
Because, you know, most nine to five jobs, you'll work in the civilian world. You'll work with some great people, but they just won't have the depth and breadth of experience. You won't be able to trade, you know, oh, there's that time in Thailand, where we, you know, rolled in at seven, you know, 7659. And, you know, liberty expired at 7am. Those sorts of stories, you know, and then we got the ship on our way. How did we do that? Those sorts of stories. There's just no comparison to you know, your average civilian person where they, you know, Oh, you went played golf and then went and got drunk. Okay, cool. Yeah, that's not even a single port visit, you know.
Brock Briggs 20:07
Right. Well, and it's, I think that what you just said there highlights so much of, happens a lot in life too. But particularly the military is, you don't really realize that I think till much later, it's just the people. It's not necessarily some particular place that you went or whatever. But it's like, hey, that kind of shared crazy story. And I missed that element of like hearing the crazy stories, like I didn't miss, like getting in trouble for like, the people that were actually doing it.
But like, some of the stuff, you just couldn't even make it up, you know. You read the news or whatever. And like, oh, this person, you know, everybody rags on Florida for having the craziest people. Like, that's every day on the boat. Like, you got to bow to 5000 people. And that's like, that's just a walk in the park. So you hear some really, really wild stuff. I asked that question too, because it seems like there's kind of a weird correlation between Reservists and kind of more extra experiences, I guess. I feel like they almost do more exciting things for some reason than the active component. I don't know why that is.
But yeah, I'm not sure. You had kind of mentioned a few minutes ago that you're working in, like the investing in the agriculture space right now. And I kind of wanna get into that. But I wanna start at the beginning. You had kind of, you have publicly stated that you worked as a portfolio manager back in like the late 90s, you wanna kind of start there? How you got into the, I guess, “investing space” and kind of what your thoughts were?
Chris Rawley 21:50
Yeah, so my first job off of active duty, I worked for a big real estate company. You know, one way I tell people to put it, you know, military guys, like what was that job. I was EXO of a big office building, or portfolio of office buildings. Like, anytime somebody had an issue, toilets didn't work, whatever, you know, we had a bunch of people that worked on our team, but we were responsible for keeping those buildings running and making sure the investors were happy.
And I did that for a little while. And I'm like, I don't necessarily like being an EXO of a building. But I did like the investment finance side of real estate and real estate investing. So I started just like a lot of people who do real estate investing, like one house at a time and kind of did that for a while and sort of built up my own portfolio.
Brock Briggs 22:38
Did you go to school for something in that space?
Chris Rawley 22:42
Yeah, I mean, I went to I got a, my master's degree was in business. So you know
Certainly learned about operating a business and all that kind of thing, which is a key part of investing in or at least having kind of the knowledge space. So did that, but then I started investing in my own account, and you know, houses and in all that sort of thing, bought buildings and bought land and did that sort of investing. And this is, you know, this is not right away, there's over a 20 year period. In hindsight, I should have done it, gone all in. Right now, I'd be sipping drinking my ties on an island probably had I gone all in right after that.
But you know, I did this sort of gradually, because I did wanna balance it against my Navy Reserve career. And at the same time, I did get very much sucked back into the Navy post 911, like a lot of folks did, with some mobilizations in Iraq and Afghanistan, and all that kind of thing. And that took up my time. And that was, for the most part, stuff I wanted to do. It wasn't like, “Oh, I got mobilized, and I hated it and sucked. And it took me away from my family, my job.” These are things that I volunteered to do.
But then there are 2014, 2015, I moved, my last deployment was out in Africa and spent a lot of time driving around to places where people just didn't have like, you know, super targets full of food. And, you know, restaurants and every corner and all that kind of thing where people were, you know, didn't take for granted the kind of food and the blessings that we have here in the US and saw that, you know, part of that whole dynamic was agriculture. Like people had goats in their backyard, or you know, or wandering the streets more likely in parts of Africa and little patches of vegetables and things like that. And that's how they ate and little markets and it was all different, a different food system than I'd ever kind of realized existed.
And so I thought, well, I wanna try to figure out how I can invest in this and how I can kind of help agriculture and farming. And so when I got back, you know, thought about it and you know for a couple of years trying to decide, hey, I know I wanna start a company, but I don't know what it looks like. This is 2015, 2016 tried to invest in some farms. And like there's not really a good way to do this. So then 2016, I kind of had this idea of like, I wanna start a company that allows people to invest in farming. Because I know there's probably other people out there like me that are interested in this.
And I didn't know there's probably farmers that probably would be interested in taking investments from outside people. And so I kind of, you know, it's sort of a long process. I brought in a business partner, who's a former Army guy, that I've known for a while. And we put together this concept where we pool smaller investors, and make single investments into farms and ranches. And now we do Ag Tech startups and agribusinesses, and all kinds of things like that.
Brock Briggs 25:39
I guess what platforms or methods were you trying to use when you are originally trying to invest? And what were the problems that you found with those? Why wasn't that viable?
Chris Rawley 25:53
Yeah. So you know, part of my real estate investing experience taught me that there's a steep learning curve, in investing in real estate, and you can make a lot of mistakes. Once you figure it out, you can make a lot of money. And you can lose a lot of money too, but you can make a lot of money. And around 2014, 2015, due to some regulations that were passed, the Jobs Act, I guess, crowdfunding regulations essentially, would enable these platforms to stand up that would allow you to invest in real estate, with you know, just a few clicks of the mouse, just like you could do to invest in stocks.
And so those platforms essentially allow the average person who may not have a million dollars to go out and write a check and buy a, you know, a cattle ranch, to get access to for an apartment building, let's say to get access to those pooling with other investors. And so that was the concept we came up with is like, hey, these real estate platforms are doing it where people are investing in real estate, and you may only have $2,000 to invest in a, you know, $2 million piece of real estate. What if we did that with agriculture and farming? And so that's the concept we built at Harvest Returns.
Brock Briggs 27:15
Very cool. Yeah, I know that there are a lot of companies that have been spawned and riding on the back of the Jobs Act. That was a very kind of key piece of legislation for opening up different venues or avenues, I guess. I should say, for alternative investments and different ways that you can do that. No, company angel list is doing some really interesting things with like syndicates and like rolling funds based on the Job Act, which are really interesting. So I guess, maybe kind of sum up what is like, the offering that Harvest Returns do, in like one or two sentences, what's the pitch?
Chris Rawley 28:00
So we offer investors a chance to diversify their portfolio in farming, ranch land, agriculture, and hopefully soon timber that will provide, you know, non correlated assets to the stock market. At the same time, we provide farmers with a different sources of funding, and that they would get other than, say, bank loans, which kind of traditional Ag funding.
Brock Briggs 28:26
So investors will come to you and say, hey, I want to give you X amount of dollars. You guys will then be kind of a middleman to a farmer and say, hey, we'd like to invest in your farm and stop me if I'm wrong here.
Chris Rawley 28:41
Yeah, so it's a little bit reverse. So what happens is we have, you know, we've got a website, and I've got investors, and I've got farmers. And so farmer comes to me and says, hey, I'm, let me give a recent example. I am starting a indoor salmon or I have an indoor salmon aquaculture farm. And I need to expand it and I need X million dollars of capital. And so we'll say, we'll take that and we'll come to an agreement with this farmer or agribusiness, and they will hear the terms that we're gonna do to raise. And you know, here's your minimum. We're gonna invest or the maximum we're gonna try to invest.
And we'll go through a due diligence process or review all the details of that farm, and then we'll put it up on our platform. And we have a pool of about 10,000 investors that will go on the platform and you know, open up their log into their account. And like, oh, there's an aquaculture deal today. I like salmon. I think I'm gonna invest in this. I mean, that's simplifying the process, but, you know, they're gonna go through all the documents. They're gonna read. They might watch a webinar with that particular farmer and make a decision that they're gonna invest in there.
You know, it literally is a few clicks of the mouse. They can invest, you know, 10, 15, 20,000, whatever they have into this farm, and then pull those investments, assuming we hit the minimum target, we will write a check to that farmer. And then it's an ongoing investment where we're providing tax documents. We're providing investor updates. We are monitoring the progress of that farm or ranch or asset, and then providing distributions, whether it's kind of dividends or interest payments or an exit where, you know, they grow the business and they sell it. And then hopefully everybody benefits.
Brock Briggs 30:33
So you guys are offering to the farmers you can offer debt capital or equity capital, is that right?
That's exactly right. Yep.
Okay. So like a prospective investor for, to get out of the finance terms, you could be like a part owner of this, or you could just be getting interest on like loaned money, basically.
Chris Rawley 30:53
Yeah. 100%, right, Brock. You know, the main thing that differentiates our investments from say, going out and buying, you know, Microsoft stock or whatever is or John Deere, but if wanna talk agriculture is that we are in private placements. So these are smaller companies, generally startup companies, in some cases, other cases as established companies. And so there's certain risks associated with that, but also potential for higher returns.
And there's also something, you know, a couple different benefits of investing in private placements, or private equity versus public stock. There's not the volatility. They're not necessarily, you know, you look at any given stock, if you got bad news, the stock value is gonna fall, and you could, you know, look at your 401 K or whatever, and say, like, “Oh, crap, you know, I just lost $10,000 in a day.”
Whereas with our investments, they're private. They're not necessarily impacted by the news of the day, although they are certainly impacted by you know, COVID and higher fuel prices and higher commodity prices. You know, all those sorts of positive and negative factors that impacted any other business.
Brock Briggs 32:05
What’s the average check size that you guys are writing?
Chris Rawley 32:11
About six or 700,000, at this point, that's been creeping up, you know, since we started doing these investments, about four years ago. So we'll continue to fund larger and larger deals as we grow our base of investors. But we're also, you know, very intent on trying to keep our minimums investment minimums fairly low right now. Our lowest investment, depending on is $5,000. And, you know, crowdfunding is a very interesting field that it sounds like, you're aware that there's all different kinds of crowdfunding sites, for companies that wanna raise money.
And you know, people think of like GoFundMe and Kickstarter, and that's not really crowdfunding, that's like donor sites. You know, even Kickstarter, you might be pledging money to help a company that's, this might get me in trouble. But Kickstarter is mostly a scam, very few people see returns from you know, of their pledges or products from that. But we're equity crowdfunding. So there's other equity crowdfunding platforms out there, to invest in racehorses and fine art and wine in real estate.
And we just happen to be focused on the agriculture sector. And there's different regulations that allow what's called Title lll Reg Crowdfunding, which is like kind of pure crowdfunding, where you're investing maybe $100 a pop, and so there's no requirements on you know, who can invest. Our investments are Regulation D, so for the most part, we're dealing with pretty high net worth people that are investing. Although, you know, there are some, depending on which part of Regulation D you're talking about. There are some people that are not necessarily accredited investors. Accredited is a measure of a person's income and net worth.
So there are, you know, we have to work within a regulatory framework that the SEC provides us. It's not always great for investors or for companies like ours. But you know, those are the rules that we're living within.
Brock Briggs 34:04
Were you guys sorting deals, or I guess, determining like the hurdles? So let's say that I'm a farmer, and I come to you and say, “Hey, I've got this great business plan, and we want all this money.” You know, and you look at him and say, this is the dumbest idea that I've ever heard, like, what's your guys' diligence process on like, “Hey, do we wanna bring this to the investors?”
I'm assuming that the variety of deals that you guys are bringing come with different yields on all of them and kind of varying degrees of return. What is that kind of diligence process? Because things like this, in my view, are coming down to like, what deals are being brought to the table and that's kind of where you guys come in. So can you talk a little bit about that?
Chris Rawley 34:55
Sure. You know, it's only about 3 or 4% of the deals that across our desk. They come in via our website for the most part, but we get a lot of referrals and they find me on LinkedIn. They find us on social media, you know. These farmers find us everywhere. Only about 3 or 4% actually make it onto the platform of those that make it on the platform roughly 84, 85% get funded.
And, you know, that's part of the one of the things as an investor in crowdfunding is, you know, we have our due diligence process, but investors have their own due diligence process, right? They and we encourage that they ask questions, and they ask for documentation and all those sorts of things. They make a decision. If they decide not to invest, and it's probably not a good investment. If, you know, a pool of investors gets together and looks at an investment and says, “Yeah, we think we're gonna fund this.” There's probably good reasons, but you know, primary things, we look at a business plan. You know, it's nice to have a good, you know, a pretty business plan or pitch deck or whatever.
So, and this goes for not just the deals we do. But if you're an entrepreneur, and you wanna raise capital from outside investors, it's common, you know. No matter what you're doing, what kind of company you wanna start, but like, you know, is the idea of sound. So a lot of people have great ideas, but they don't have the team to back it. So we look for a combination of is the business down, but is the team behind it, or the people behind it, can they execute? So, you know, we have a lot of in our space, we have a lot of people that are like, “Hey, I'm a fourth generation farmer, and I can, you know, I can grow a tomato out of a concrete.” Cool. Show me how you're gonna make money for my investors doing that.
And then, you know, show me your financial projections, and we lose them. You know, so that's an automatic buy, you're sorry. You're gonna have to go somewhere else for your capital, because if you can't show me that, you know, how to put together, you know, financial plan. So this doesn't have to be a single person, you know, that same farmer came to me and said, hey, you know, I've been growing tomatoes for four generations. And oh, by the way, my partner is an accountant and has run successful businesses.
And here's our business plan. And I have another partner who is a salesperson, and they are, you know, have a deep Rolodex of grocery contacts or restaurant contacts. Okay, that's somebody I wanna talk to, you know. And I'm specifically thinking, you know, a lot of indoor farmers, we're starting to see more and more indoor agriculture, which is a really hot sector that we liked in. We're one of the few places that you can actually invest in it, then an individual investor can invest in indoor Ag projects.
But we want a team. We want a business plan. We want a product. We're not so much looking at oh, this, you know, you're putting your land. There are some farm investments where you wanna make sure that their land is fertile, and all those sorts of things. But we're investing in a team, not necessarily the land. So we're the company. So you wanna have a company that can actually put together a plan and execute it.
Brock Briggs 37:51
That's generally a good place to start. You don't want them burning up your money. I do wanna talk about kind of the agriculture space generally. I had one other question about like the platform, I guess, in general. Do you have a sense for or can you give us a sense for how many investors you said you about 10,000 or so? Can you give a ballpark figure for how much capital you've deployed on the platform or some kind of figure to give us a sense of scale?
Chris Rawley 38:23
Yeah, I mean, we've deployed more than $20 million. So you know, if you look at like, VC funds, kind of a small VC fund, we're sort of in that ballpark, or very small private equity firm, we're growing. We just did our own seed rounds. So we raised a couple million dollars. And now we're starting to deploy that to scale up until now, we've sort of not really taken any outside investments into our own company. But we're sort of shifting that and expect to get in some new things this year based on having that capital to apply.
Brock Briggs 38:56
Wanna hear a little bit about the agriculture space. Like I said, generally, it sounds like your interest in the space was derived on your own observations prior to kind of you're looking for maybe a problem to solve. There's a constant article that rolls around that talks about how Bill Gates is one of the largest owners of farmland in the country. That's always a really interesting statistic. And several very wealthy people in the country have exorbitant amounts of farmland. Why is farmland important? What have you learned about the space since doing this? Where is like our country's opportunity to improve? Kind of just any thoughts that you have about that.
Chris Rawley 39:43
Yeah, great, great questions, Brock. You know, so as an asset class, agriculture is kind of under invested. It's really not something people come to mind like, “Hey, I'm gonna go out and buy a stock or whatever.” They don't think of farming. They think of technology and that's, you know, it's just not a sexy asset class, although that's sort of changing with Agriculture Technology. And that's one of the sort of verticals that we focus on.
But from an investor perspective, to me, it's very compelling for several reasons. One, is just demographics. You know, we have a little thing on our website. I think if you go to the front of the website, talks about a quote from somebody that says, “In the next 30 to 40 years, we're gonna need to produce as much food as has been produced in the last 10,000 years of human history.” And that's just because, you know, we've got seven plus billion people on the planet right now. We're gonna be shifting towards 10 billion, you know, circa 2050.
So that, as you know, on top of that, as societies get more wealthy in most countries are, you know, one way or the other, getting more wealthy, they tend to consume more food, more calories. So the need for food production is gonna have to go up. At the same time, you know, you gotta do that in a resource constrained environment. So land is a constrained resource. Arable land is a constrained resource. Water is hugely constrained. We're seeing that right now. And you've got to be able to grow food sustainably, so less fertilizer runoff. You know, carbon emissions, something a lot of people think about all those sorts of things. So how is that transforming?
And what's the Harvest Returns piece of that is where, like I said, we're very bullish on indoor agriculture. If you're going to go to a grocery store and buy a head of lettuce, you know, wherever you live in the United States, it's a very high probability that that lettuce was grown in Salinas Valley, California, or, you know, piece of whatever kind of leafy greens just because that's where the fertile soil is. That's where the perfect climate is. And that's where sort of in the 1940s and 50s that whole industry moved to grow leafy greens. Well, that's good until you have supply chain disruptions until the price of fuel skyrockets. So it costs a lot more to ship that head of lettuce from Northern California to New York, or whatever.
So one of the things that we like is indoor agriculture, the decentralization distribution. What I call the decentralization of agriculture, where, why should I ship a head of lettuce from Salinas Valley, California, when I can grow it in New Hampshire or Texas or wherever? The soil may not be right in New Hampshire to grow a head of lettuce. The temperature is certainly not right. You know, you got winters.
But now you have greenhouses and vertical farms, where you can grow 24/7. And you grow on a smaller footprint and create a yield of crop that is significantly more than you could get on the same acreage of field grown produce. You're not producing the same amount of, you're not producing any fertilizer runoff, you're using less fertilizer, using maybe zero to little pesticides. So there's all kinds of environmental benefits.
And more importantly, you're producing food, where it can be harvested one day and on your table the next. So it's that whole farm to table movement. And there's a lot of benefits for that, besides just the environmental benefits. You're seeing fresher produce. And there's indications that the fresher the produce, it says the more nutrients it has, and all that sort of thing. So indoor Ag and all the technologies behind that we think is a big sector and growing sector.
Brock Briggs 43:27
It sounds like that is at least from your perspective, the direction that this space is going. I'm imagining there's some larger complexities that keep it from moving much faster because all of that sounds, you know, really great, you know. If we can have a higher yield for with less greenhouse gas emissions, and all of these things like, that's awesome. What's the holdup? I'm guessing it's gotta be a money thing. It's probably ultra expensive to get these things done versus just planting it outside in California when you can grow nine months out of the year?
Chris Rawley 44:03
Yeah, I mean, you're 100% right. It's a capital thing. These are capital intensive technologies. And because so that's one hand. On the other hand, it's a very fragmented space. You know, there's been a couple of IPOs and unicorns for companies that are trying to do this on a large scale but at the same time, it's very new so we're working through profitable business models. Even though you're growing food indoors, you still got labor issues.
You may not have, you know, as many laborers to pick on an indoor farm and are working on all sorts of as you might on a field grown farm, you know, hundreds and hundreds of acres but you still got to have labor, skilled and unskilled. You've got, you still have water issues.
If you're growing like vertical farms, you got electrical, you know electricity consumption. You gotta maintain the right environment to grow food indoors, both from you know, power all those LED lights, and then maintain proper temperature and humidity, if you're in an environment where it's closed. And then it's so new that people don't really know. We haven't, we started seeing some of the risks and some of the benefits, but that we haven't gotten to an equilibrium, there were people were like, this is definitely gonna work. I have a gut feeling, it's gonna work, but we're gonna have to do a lot of iterations and kind of settle on the right models and the right companies in the space.
And I'm trying to find that next, sort of McDonald's of indoor farms, where we've invested in some of these small scale urban vertical farms, wherever I can find that person or that team that can do this successfully. Make a lot of money and then replicate it and have one of these all over the, you know, the McDonald's where they franchise the concept or whatever. And we really haven't seen that yet. But I think it's coming at some point. And hopefully, we're gonna be a part of it.
Brock Briggs 45:56
I'm sure that you're probably investing in maybe some, like very early stage companies like an Ag Tech, a couple, one of the companies that came to mind when you mentioned IPOs, I immediately thought of app harvest. I'm sure that you're familiar with them. I also have, I forget what the company's name is, but they're like, talking about, like watering and growing crops from like drones. And like, there's just like, so the sky's the limit in terms of like opportunities there. In terms of like applying technology to the agriculture space, what is the thing that you have seen that you're the most excited about?
Chris Rawley 46:36
So Ag Tech is huge and growing. I think last year was record investment into agriculture technology, and that sort of thing. And we have done, besides indoor AG, we've done several investments in precision, what's called precision agriculture. And that's the use of you know, it kind of varies all over the board, but like you said, drones and satellites for surveillance. So, you know, whereas in the old days, if you wanna know what was going on, in a farmer's field, you'd have to walk kind of row by row and see like, oh, those plants are dying, or these plants aren't getting enough water, or these plants are diseased. And you know, I've got to, you know, apply fertilizer, apply pesticide or whatever.
Now, you can fly a drone over and they use multispectral imaging or you do a satellite and you can see, like, “Oh, crap, you know, this quarter, my farm is not done.” So that imaging is one piece. Sensor Technology is big. And, you know, I guess part of my Navy experience is I understand a lot of this technology inherently. You know, it's almost like surveillance or whatever, where you've got radars and you know, what's going on in your environment. Same thing, we're putting sensors in soil moisture sensors. We help fund a company that has like smoke sensors. So up in the air, there's been a lot of wild fires in Northern California, so that smoke comes in goes over a vineyard in taints, some of the grapes.
And you know, the farmer produces all those grapes. And then they put out the wine that tastes like crap, because it's smoke tainted, and they basically ruin that batch. Whereas some of these sensors this company does will allow you to see like, oh, this, you know, don't harvest this half acre of my vineyard, because it's the wildfire smoke, you know, tainted it. So we're not gonna bother putting that into wine production. So those sorts of things.
And you know, it's going out and using big data analysis to modernize agriculture. And you know, it saves water, saves fertilizer applications, saves labor, all those sorts of benefits, both from an environmental standpoint and a cost standpoint. Agricultural technologies is making a big difference out there. And that's not I don't really understand biotechnology, but that's a whole other aspect of you know, of agriculture tech that is changing the industry.
Brock Briggs 48:56
I don't know if you're a whiskey guy at all, but you pay for a real expensive smoky taste and whiskey but apparently with wine that doesn't go over so well.
Chris Rawley 49:06
Yeah, exactly right. You know, there's probably some vintages or some flavors on that. I like wine, but I'm not by no means smart. And maybe a little bit of smokiness is a good thing. But I think for the most part, not so much.
Brock Briggs 49:20
Especially on the wildfire side
I'm not sure where we'll go with this. But what are you seeing or are you exposed to the cannabis industry at all? I'm always anybody that's kind of remotely related. I'd love to hear if you're seeing trends there or what you think about it from your perspective.
Chris Rawley 49:41
Yeah, so we haven't done any cannabis investments. And there's a couple of reasons. Or there's a lot of reasons we haven't done cannabis investments. One, is because I still have a security clearance and I don't wanna lose it. The regulatory environment is still sketchy. I mean state by state, it’s kind of the dominoes are falling. You know, people go, the state goes from marijuana THC totally outlawed to okay, we'll do medicinal marijuana to anything goes, but we're gonna put regulations on it. You know, California being the perfect example.
And so that leads into the next part of the equation is like is this a good investable asset? Well, you look at California specifically, they made the marijuana industry legal, but they heavily regulated it, like overly regulated it. And that was because the California regulators like they see a lot of things, see it as a tax potential in the crop. And so they took these guys that were growing illegal pot for decades and said, “Okay, you need to apply for a $100,000 growing permit.”
And you know, a lot of these smaller scale, you know, mom and pop farmers, especially in places like Humboldt County, California, said, “No effing way, we're not gonna pay $100,000. I'm just gonna keep doing it illegally, like I have for the past 30 years.” And then, meanwhile, is how do you invest in that? Because if you're trying to invest in a legal legit operation, that guy is having to pay all kinds of high taxes and fees and permitting fees and things and how is he competing with the illegal crop.
There have been a lot of people made a lot of money, especially in Canadian companies, sort of during that initial cannabis Gold Rush. And the other analogy related to that is the people that made the real money or the pick and shovel guys, just like when there was the gold rush, like who's selling the picks, the guys mining for gold or loses in their ass. But the people selling the picks and the shovels are making a lot of money.
So the guys that are selling the fertilizer and the LED lights, and the growing mediums and all those sorts of things, were making a lot of money. Whereas the actual producers themselves were not. Now all that said the related crop is hemp. And there is still a lot of you know, inconsistent regulation around hemp. We have done a couple of hemp CBD related investments, which I don't know if I would have done if given a choice again. But we have done those with, you know, various levels of success or unsuccess.
And so we need to, it's just not, if you're an investor, or you're like you're an entrepreneur, you're like, hey, I wanna grow startup pot farms, like make sure you figure out what that looks like before you dive into it just because either you enjoy the product, or think you're gonna make a lot of money. That's neither one of, you know, that's not necessarily true.
Brock Briggs 52:41
Yeah. It's crazy to me. Some of these cannabis farmers and producers or whatever, like the regulatory hurdles, like you're mentioning that they have to go through it's not only are you having to deal with the conventional problems of farming, but you're also dealing with like, oh, I can only work in cash. And like, you know, it's illegal in the state and the environment just incredibly challenging. And from a public perspective, maybe that's an opportunity, a fairly plugged in with the financial industry, I guess. And it's so interesting to me to see fund managers not allowed to invest in the cannabis space, like legally.
And so it kind of opens up some opportunities, but a very interesting space indeed. Just kind of curious of your take on it. I'm wanting to hear a little bit about what you've seen, through COVID and the recent news and attacks on Ukraine. There's a lot of talks about the large amount of corn and like different crops that are coming from Ukraine and Russia like, very, very large percentages.
What do you think that that means for the US? Is that really just come back to what you were saying, like, we really need to be self-sufficient and kind of decentralized away from California and grow our own stuff. You know, there are farmers in our country that are paid not to produce some year to maintain a certain level of output and hold price stability. A lot of interesting economics there that go into that. But yeah, I would love to hear what you think about that.
Chris Rawley 54:23
Yeah. Well, that's a lot of aspects of that question. So, you know, based on my Navy Reserve stuff, I'm pretty well familiar and pretty intimately involved, at least, I have been with what was going on with Russia and Ukraine. I was in Ukraine last summer for a couple of weeks as a senior mentor to the Ukrainian Navy. And then earlier this year, I was participating out in Europe, kind of as that Russia thing ramped up for a while. So yeah, it’s very interesting what's going on there unfortunate, especially for the Ukrainian people. But you know, it's referred to as often as the breadbasket of Europe. They produce a lot of wheat, a lot of corn, a lot of sunflowers and canola. That's kind of the primary crops in Ukraine.
And, you know, some of those crops are getting planted this spring. Hopefully all those will get to maturity, but who knows, with what's going on with war. So a lot of dynamics there, on top of that sort of global inflation that we see happening. And the fuel prices rising, agriculture is like any other industry, there's a lot of inputs that go into it. So primarily being fertilizer, and fertilizer prices have shot through the roof. Russia happens to be one of the highest single producers of potash, same thing with Ukraine is a significant fertilizer producer.
So those supply chains are being disrupted. That's impacting farmers in the US causing higher prices, although they were already seeing those higher prices, just due to some inflationary factors last year, USDA. You know, I’m kinda anti-government, anti-regulation kind of guy and you know, US, they're on the good side. They're giving these grants of $250 million to fertilizer producers in the US to try to become more self sufficient.
On the bad side, farmers are asking to take those crops that you refer to conservation program, CRP, where the farmers are paid not to grow them, because commodity prices are going up. And because we know that there's this need for, production farmers are asking, “Hey, USDA, can I take this land out of CRP this year and actually grow crops instead of being paid not to? Because I know I can make money. And I know that, you know, the industry needs it.” And USDA is so far saying no, which is idiotic. But that's what they're doing, I'm probably getting in trouble with somebody.
But that's, so it's definitely a big, big deal what's going on Ukraine. You know, the other part of that is, probably not gonna, you know, we're all gonna see rising food prices, as we already have here in the US. But in some parts of the world, this Ukraine Russia thing might cause you know, food security problems and starving. You know, we might be watching the news in Nepal and seeing starving kids in North Africa is because that's. Even though Ukraine produces like, as a whole produces like, say less wheat, you know, significantly less wheat than the United States, they export 73% of their wheat. Same thing with corn, they export most of it.
And most of that wheat goes to North Africa, a lot of it. You know, a lot of their corn goes to China. So there's going to be some second and third order effects that I think are hard to predict. If those crops aren't produced, and more importantly, can't be shipped. Right now, you don't wanna be a ship in the Black Sea and the northern Black Sea. All the things that are going on there.
Brock Briggs 57:48
It's interesting to see how the last couple years just with COVID, and particularly this Ukraine-Russia problem hitting so many aspects of the things that we believed in so strongly, like in terms of globalization. Like we're so adamant about, like, everybody playing nice and just getting along. And if we all just make what we can and export and import, then we'll all get along. And this is like not even to mention, like just in time inventory management, and how like that just completely went out the window and probably will never maybe happen again in our lifetime. Just because of the supply chain crisis that this has caused.
But there's gonna be some really interesting history books written about this time and how policies changed as a result of just kind of a couple black swan events almost back to back on top of each other here. Did you have any other thoughts on your company? Your thoughts on building a company that might be an interesting topic to hear from using and leveraging Navy experience to kind of start and build a company. I think that military members make great operators of businesses generally. Would you recommend that path to people?
Chris Rawley 59:12
Yeah, they make great operators. You know, the question is, do they make great entrepreneurs? I guess, had I tried to start a company straight out of the Navy. You know, one thing the Navy teaches you is how to execute things, right? You're the military's like, you got a checklist for everything. You get a checklist no matter what it is, so people, Navy guys are very well. Good at here's a plan, go execute. And so the execution piece I think most military folks as, you know, rising up in business and working for somebody else and working with other things are really good at. Putting a little piece, I wouldn't say so.
I mean, it took me this long to kind of free myself from boundaries and I'm kind of a you know, I'm not a very conventionally thinking guy. And I started a company that nobody else has started before. It wasn't like hey, I'm gonna go start a you know a popsicle stand and there's 400 other popsicle stands just like mine. We started an equity crowdfunding company for agriculture. We were the first guys to do it. And now there's a handful of other ones doing ag investments online. And so we were, you know, as they say, pioneers tend to get a lot of arrows in their back.
So that was something we learned a lot, we made a lot of mistakes, and we're still making them. And, you know, to the extent the military career, my military career has taught me to adapt and overcome, and execute and not quit, that's probably the biggest benefit of it. As far as like negotiation, and free thinking, you know, most military guys suck at those two things, especially the negotiation piece. And it's taken me a lot of a lot of time to unwind some of those bad habits and they're not necessarily bad habits.
If you're, you know, if you're working in the military, and somebody tells you to do something, you do it. Where if you're working in the civilian world, in a supplier or contract, or whatever it comes from, or even an employee comes to me and says, this is what I want, or this or what I wanna do. You say no, how about this? You know, so it's a different, you know, it's a different sort of mindset. And, you know, that's probably not been great for my senior military career, getting into that mindset, but it has been good for my business career.
Brock Briggs 1:01:24
Let's fast forward five years, maybe, or maybe 10 years. If Harvest Returns is maybe going public at that time, and is like the next big thing and you achieve like a massive valuation, what will have gone right for you guys?
Chris Rawley 1:01:42
Probably, what will have gone right is they would have replaced me as CEO, because that's probably the you know, the way we're gonna get to that point is find somebody either better than me, or that has the, you know, the aptitude to grow the company to that scale. But, you know, I certainly we wanna grow it, but we wanna continue to do our mission of, you know, helping farmers and providing good investments to the investor side. It’s hard for me to look 10 years out in anything. I can look, you know, near term, we're gonna continue to do what we wanna do and build a profitable company.
And that's, to me, that's important. You know, there's, as you well know, there's companies that are grow out there, and especially kind of the West Coast Silicon Valley mindset, we're like, hey, all I gotta do is keep getting my next funding round. It doesn't matter if I make a dime. And quite honestly, app harvests might be one of those companies. I don't know, you know, I haven't looked at their financials lately.
But, you know, let's just get to the next funding round, which is great. If you're a founder, you make a lot of money. It's not necessarily great, if you're a shareholder, or, you know, depends on what, when you came into the company. But also, you know, if you're an employee, or, you know, somebody that relies on that company, it's not necessarily a viable model over the long term. You know, that's certainly not the way companies like IBM, or Johnson and Johnson, or General Motors, or any of those kinds of companies were built. They were built based on being a profitable company.
So it remains to be seen, you know, how that sort of aggressive Silicon Valley model works for the world over the long term. You know, there are obviously exceptions. You've got companies like Google and Apple that are, you know, printing cash, you know, just drowning in cash. But they created very, very successful products that, you know, eventually became profitable. And, but there's so many other companies that are just based on an idea in more and more funding.
Brock Briggs 1:03:39
Yeah, I think that that hits the nail on the head. We have been in a very aggressive market for a large amount of years. And I think that the growing looseness in terms of like, what is considered a business idea is it's getting less and less. The requirement and hurdle there is less. So it's a breath of fresh air to hear, like somebody that's like focused on profitability, and you may get some heat from it now.
But if we, you know, six months from now we're in a recession, everybody will probably wish that people would have been doing that as well. You're kind of, I would say, unconventional in that way. And I'm gonna use a really bad segue here. If I have my notes here correctly, the author of a book, Unconventional Warfare, you see what I did there, 2.0. I wanna hear about that. What was the goal of the book? What led you to write it?
Chris Rawley 1:04:40
Yeah, you know, that's, I guess, that was a bucket list thing. You know, like starting a company, I also had a bucket list to write a book. So you know, Unconventional Warfare, by definition is supporting insurgencies. So, you know, what we tried to do unsuccessfully, really, for 20 years and Afghanistan, Iraq. It's the other side of that. It’s the other side of the coin, no pun intended counterinsurgency where an outside entity is coming in and supporting rebels insurgents to overthrow a government or overthrow a, you know, a government in place.
So the most classic textbook case, probably most successful on conventional warfare campaign in the past 50 years, as far as I'm concerned was what our Green Berets and CIA to a certain extent did in the very first stages, first month or so of Afghanistan where we came in. These guys landed, they jumped on horses. I've got friends that were involved in this that I work with in SOCOM. Pretty amazing, there's movies, you know, movies and books written about it. And they basically gathered all these loose alliances in Northern Alliance guys that had been fighting Jihad East and fighting the Russians before that.
And they went in and overthrew the Taliban in like three or four days with, you know, a minimal casualties on our side, minimal expenditures, completely 100%, the opposite of what we did, you know, the next 20 years unsuccessfully in Afghanistan. And it's basically taking small forces and leveraging them to create outsize effects. So when I worked at SOCOM in some of my navy, you know, in joint jobs, I worked with a lot of Green Berets. And it really changed the way I thought, because these guys are definitely unconventional thinkers, not just unconventional warfare.
So, you know, as I watch some of these events unfold and talk to a lot of people, I decided, I actually ended up writing a paper for one of my navy, you know, joint professional military education classes. And the professor said, it was awesome at one some kind of like best paper, the class or whatever. You know, at the same time, I saw a lot of people that were putting their thesis from their master's degree, Naval PostGraduate skill online, or they weren't putting it, you know, they put it into the big public DoD inventory, and then somebody would come in and steal it and put it on Kindle, and take their name off of it, and they would make money with it.
And I'm like, well, I don't want anybody to take my paper. So I'm gonna put it on Kindle myself and make a little money off of it. And least copywriting, take credit for it. So I expanded on what I've done. And I turned it into a little small book, it's by no means, you know, a large definitive tune. But, you know, some of the rewarding things about that was after I did that, a couple of years after that, you know, I was approached by people on special forces, that the schoolhouse, that train Special Forces guy, like, hey, we wanna buy a whole bunch of your books. The Canadian Special Forces regiment came and said, “Hey, can we have, can we buy your books, we don't really have a budget. But we wanna put these and give these to all our trainees.”
And I'm like, here, just take it. And, you know, I'm not in this, so I make money. So I've seen, you know, people like the concepts in there, I think, are still sound. For the most part, we're seeing a lot of that in Ukraine now with, you know, where essentially, the parts of Ukraine that are occupied, or hopefully not much more becomes occupied. You know, basically, sending materials and training and you enable these underdogs to defeat a much larger opponent in the book gets into kind of all that stuff.
There's also some incredible stories I know, you know, personally, about like the free Burma Rangers really crazy dynamic guy named Dave Eubanks, who, I've got some personal family connections to that whole story. But really amazing people these Green Berets are and what they do and are able to achieve. So I have a lot of, I mean, I have a lot of respect for everybody in the military, but especially some of the Green Berets I've worked with.
Brock Briggs 1:08:46
Like a fantastic experience. And I think that it's notable when you like, feel passionate enough about something to like, try and turn it into a book. Do you see yourself writing another one? Or was that a one and done type of deal?
Chris Rawley 1:09:02
Yeah, you know, maybe that's what I'll do when I retire from the Navy Reserve. I'll have so much more time on my hand that you know, concentrated time to think because it'd be a good writer. It takes practice, right? You know, and I think you could probably look at very few people have that innate writing ability.
And those people get really good at writing because they read a lot. So if your writing skills, start reading, and not just you know, whatever's going down your social media feeds, like go in, pick up an actual paper book off the bookshelf and sit down and read it consistently constantly and find your favorite authors and absorb your writing style and and start writing. I don't know, we'll see.
Brock Briggs 1:09:45
If you had to, collectively sum up your 30 years in the Navy into a sentence or two in terms of the things that have been the most impactful or the biggest takeaway, what would you say? And what would you maybe have done differently?
Chris Rawley 1:10:05
I don't know if I'd done anything differently, you know. I'm very happy, I got to be very selective with what I did in the Navy until I got very, very senior. While even when I got very, very senior, I had a lot of choice and what I did and got to do, you know, I got to choose my own career. And that's kind of one of our little Navy Reserve catchphrases is, be your own kind of Navy Reservists to be your own kind of swell.
But most of the experiences and the people I did them with, whether it was on liberty, whether it was in combat zone, whether it was sitting around the office, smoking a joke, and it just it's hard to beat that as you said that you know, the people you encounter such a wide variety of backgrounds.
The military is the great equalizer where you may have grown up in a little town and gone to a little high school and or gone to college, whatever and everybody's thinks the same you get in the Navy, and like bam, your life is, your experiences are broad and overnight, just because of the people you're dealing with, good, bad and great.
Brock Briggs 1:11:09
Really put a plug in there for reading some good books, I'm assuming. And I will take that to mean that you read probably pretty heavily. What are you reading right now? And any recommendations you might have?
Chris Rawley 1:11:20
What am I reading right now? That's probably not enough. I picked up a book on 16th century Mediterranean Warfare, that basically the post crusades conflicts, and I can't. I'm sorry, I can't remember what because I picked it up in the airport. And I'm just started reading it what the title is, but I read another book, Paul Theroux is one of my favorite authors. He's a travel author. He travels all over the world. And makes interesting observation.
So I'm reading a book about his travels over the southern United States, which I didn't like because I thought he would maybe stereotype southern people and being from Texas, I can't identify with that. But he did. And he's done a very fair treatment of it. So man, I like travel books. I like history books. I like some fiction, but a lot of nonfiction as well.
Brock Briggs 1:12:13
I can hang with that. Where can people go to find out more about you if they want to? Where can they learn about Harvest Returns? If they wanna invest with you, where would you wanna send people?
Chris Rawley 1:12:27
Yeah, you know, I'm open to contacts. I'm on LinkedIn, just hit me up. Tell me you saw me on a podcast and tell me what you wanna talk about. And we'll set up a call or a zoom or whatever, harvestreturns.com. Or, of course, we're in all the social media. I've got a great marketing social media team. Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, Facebook, I think YouTube, we're all over the place. So yeah, just Google us. You can find us and if you're interested in agriculture, give me a call. We'll talk.
Brock Briggs 1:12:55
Fantastic! Chris, thank you so much for your time. This has been great.
Chris Rawley 1:12:58
Yeah. You too, Brock! Thanks.