Black Earth Farming – leader of the revolution?
Nobody could ever accuse Michel Orlov, president and founder of Black Earth Farming, of lacking the courage of his convictions. As the one-time private equity professional who quit the industry in 2005 to take up the helm of a greenfield farming play in Russia freely admits: "At the time a lot of people thought I was mad."
"We’re a highly needed play given that Russia is a net importer of food"
Some three years on and as the head of a listed public company valued at $1.2 billion and counting, Orlov can safely claim to have proved many of his doubters wrong. Despite the after-effects of a chest infection, Orlov as an interviewee is as expansive as the company he now heads, and displays more than a little of the missionary zeal of anybody who has overseen the translation of a concept into reality. "Black Earth Farming is my baby, so to speak, and without wishing to sound arrogant I’m very proud of it," he says.
Although at first sight the idea of a one-time Invesco and Carlyle Capital partner making the switch into Russian agriculture might seem surprising, Orlov says there are obvious parallels between the two industries.