I’m sitting here with Aschel Gregory, co-founder of the legendary software known as Rekai, the platform that has revolutionized the way we view land stewardship and agriculture.
Hi, I’m so excited to be here!
Thank you for being here! So it’s been 15 years since you started Rekai, what was the impetus from starting the company?
Great question! Well, we are so lucky here in Aotearoa that our soil and climate are perfect for growing whole forests of food, yet we were mostly stuck with pastures and monocultures back in 2022. There were some highly specialized experts that were utilizing the cutting edge science to design permaculture and regenerative gardens, but this was not happening on the scale that I knew my home could support. I had taken a few permaculture courses myself but have you seen the information charts for permaculture plans? Zones, irrigation, soil types, plant databases, seed saving etc. It’s a lot to take in!! I wanted to make it a lot easier to design and structure all that data into a software that would generate an easy to implement regenerative plan and then provide ongoing maintenance tasks as well as opportunities for community integration. So that’s what I did!
Wow, and now the software is available worldwide, and being used to help people all over the world regenerate their land. How did you get the support to pull this off?
Well, at first it was just me, I first tried working on this project when I was 21 and still in my final year of university. I think I was a bit too inexperienced to really be taken seriously, or possibly to take myself seriously. I let the idea “go” when the going got tough but it just kept asking me to bring it to life, again during grad school, and after grad school, but it wasn’t until I was secure in my job as a therapist about 12 years later that I was able to commit myself to making it happen. It was then that the wheels really started to move. I found friends who loved and supported the idea and they really donated quite a lot of their time, passion, and expertise to the project. There were a few other companies doing similar things and finding this out almost stopped me from continuing. Of course, now I am glad it didn’t. We kept going and were secure that what we were going to create would stand out and be worth it.
Well yes, because the impact of Rekai has been so huge. How many hectares of land are being managed currently by the software?
Well, there are about 1000 hectares here in Aotearoa, and this is growing rapidly as we reclaim and subdivide as much dairy farming land as we can. Becoming New Zealand’s largest sustainable housing developer has been a really interesting process and we have loved seeing the thriving communities we have created using this model. Overseas there are about 500 hectares, but that number is growing as our database grows. We have thousands of volunteers who contribute to our detailed database and this has really aided in our success here and abroad.
Wow, yes, what can you tell us about your approach to sustainable housing developments?
Well, I really wanted to make sustainable housing that was legal and luxurious to support the people who would be using the software to regenerate our land and we have been really successful in pulling this off. Each hectare has a net zero healthy home that sleeps at least six using passive heating and cooling, insulation, water collection, natural materials, natural swimming pools, and generous hospitality features like a hang pit, pizza oven and outdoor entertaining space. When we went to market with these homes there was a huge demand. Not only are our homes beautiful, but a lot of people were looking for an alternative to city life. Because of COVID, a lot more jobs were remote, so people were able to consider moving a bit further into the country and working on their land during lunch breaks.
What have the responses been of the people who have bought property from you?
I think that has been the best part. Because we designed the properties to be independently owned, owners have a sense of ownership over their land and enjoy the autonomy to do what they want with their land. A lot of people have been able to quit their jobs and earn enough simply from what their land produces. We also get a lot of feedback on how well the app is working on various types of land. That has been helpful from a development angle. I also decided early on that every 26 properties or so would be linked to a beautiful community center that could host about 150 people indoors and out. We retain the lease on these spaces, but then hire someone living locally to run the center for us. These have been known to host restaurants and cafes using local produce, theater productions, community meetings, stores where visitors can buy local produce, markets, trades, schools, weddings, health and wellbeing classes, tours, tourist accommodation, field trips, and concerts! It’s been really cool to visit these spaces and see how creatively each community uses their space. We don’t do any micro-managing there but it is handy for outside visitors to have a point of contact where they are welcomed to visit and learn more about Rekai and our approach to regenerative living. We’ve had a lot of people decide they want to buy a property from us after visiting a community center.
Do you think this is the future of agriculture?
Well, actually, yes. The software really just makes it so easy to come in and be successful making and maintaining a food forest and because this type of agriculture is so productive, with such diverse types of food, we are able to feed such large amounts of people in this way. I hope that the seasonal recipes that are being created and the canning and packaging operations at the community centers can scale up as these food forests mature. For now, we are happy to feed our people and the nearby communities, but ideally, we would be able to start exporting our excess. The goal is to lesson our dependance on wool dairy and meat exports and find the sweet spot in being able to healthily feed ourselves and others so we can plant more natives and increase the amount of preserved native bush land.
Wow, that’s a great vision! What’s next?
Well, I am really enjoying spending time with my family, and feel so grateful for the team that has helped me to make this vision a reality and continue to grow our vision and scope as the world changes. I am working on various other passion projects to reduce plastic in our oceans using art in my spare time, and am excited to see how other countries use the software and adapt our sustainable housing approach to their specific locations. It has been so wonderful to watch as the earth and her inhabitants are thriving in the bountiful garden we are creating with purpose and vitality! I am so excited for my children to inherit this world!
Me too! Thanks so much for your time!
Thanks so much for having me!