Lionel Kambeitz Of Above Food: 5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Became A Founder

Charlie Katz
Authority Magazine
Published in
7 min readFeb 15, 2022

Build what you are doing in the likeness of yourself and you’ll always like it.

As part of our interview series called “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Became A Founder”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Lionel Kambeitz.

A fourth-generation farmer, Lionel Kambeitz has more than 40 years of executive experience in Agriculture, Manufacturing, and Energy & Process Design. Kambeitz Farms, his family farm established in 1899, is a recognized leader in modern Canadian and North American agribusiness. With multiple founding roles in Canadian and US -based private companies, as well as Canadian public companies, Kambeitz’s entrepreneurial experience brings depth and a keen eye for producing successful companies across a variety of platforms. Kambeitz’s love for lentils and his farming heritage have led him to where he is today, with the hope to produce high-quality plant-based proteins that are accessible to all through Above Food.

Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

I am one in a long line of farmers — my family farm was established in 1899. My father, and his father before operated on a singular principle — as a farmer, you are a steward, not an owner of the land; you need to care for it, improve it, and leave it better than when you found it. That principal led me down the path of becoming a founder, as I saw commerce and connection as a tool to drive sustainability, long-term agriculture, carbon capture, then regenerative agriculture. Before I knew it, I was practicing each of those. Once you start practicing it, it becomes a part of you.

Can you tell us a story about the hard times that you faced when you first started your journey?

In my journey, it was the stop-gap between running a high-quality farming operation and taking it to the next level where we produce our own ingredients and finished products. We had the technology and the capital, but a lack of infrastructure and scale. So we were sending the highest quality ingredients to other places in the world to be processed into finished goods, and then buying them back at twice the price. It was difficult to own the processing and be the ‘value add’, which is what we are doing now with Above Food. Building that infrastructure from the ground up was time consuming but necessary, because Kambeitz Farms inspired the creation of Above Food, and we’re in the position today to be able to own every part of our supply chain — from the seed to the fork.

Where did you get the drive to continue even though things were so hard?

The drive to create Above Food and this regenerative agriculture operation beyond the family farm actually came from the next generation — from my kids. In 2010, my son Jordan took over our Family Farming operation, KF Farms, and set a goal for us to get to 100,000 acres. Since then our farm has been held up as a model for innovation, agriculture, and regenerative farming. But I acknowledge that agriculture alone won’t create a better world for the next generation — we need to influence the entire food system, from Seed to Fork, and that’s what we’re doing with Above Food: Creating a platform to create a better food system for the next generation. The new generation is bringing these ideas to the table and that innovation and vigor is what fuels my own fire.

So, how are things going today? How did grit and resilience lead to your eventual success?

Above Food has grown immensely over the last 4 years. Today, we have the capability to generate revenue in 3 ways — originating the highest quality proteins and grains, creating breakthrough specialty ingredients, and selling high-growth CPG products made with our own primary and specialty ingredients. We’re able to do this through the scale and infrastructure that Above Food affords us. But this wasn’t always the case, and generations of grit and resilience from my forefathers, to myself and then my children, is what has helped get us to this point. For many years, Kambeitz Farms wasn’t focused on how to turn a profit, it was focused on putting food on the table. And while it has since grown and enabled me to found other businesses like Above Food, that sentiment holds true. Above Food’s number one priority is to put food on the table, not just for us, but for families across the country who want sustainable, nutritious, and accessible plant-based options.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

As a founder, many mistakes were made when I first began my career. From these came some of the best learning experiences and opportunities for personal growth.

What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?

I think it’s the investment of human energy, reputational energy, capital, and the desire to go beyond that led to the genesis of Above Food. We’ve truly assembled a world class team that is driven to change the food system, with the breadth of skills and depth of expertise to get us there.

Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?

I think the key is — and I probably say this to at least 50 people every year — to build what you are doing in the likeness of yourself, and you’ll always like it. If you can do that, if you can put your personality and spirit into what you’re doing, you’ll always love that person that you see in the mirror every morning. So even on the days when you are exhausted, you’ll at least have the love and purpose behind you to keep the fire burning.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?

My forefathers passed down core values that I believe helped me get to where I am today. Those core values were to simply put your shoulder into things. Realize it’s a long race and never, ever, give up. It’s a resilience based on belief in the land.

How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?

I think I’ve used my success to organize goodness in a manner that inspires other people to do good, so in a way, leading by example. Above Food is a corporation that is dedicated to goodness. I truly believe that as a global community, if we can all get together, that we can beat global hunger with technology and plant-based.

What are your “5 things I wish someone told me before I started leading my company” and why. Please share a story or example for each.

  1. Build what you are doing in the likeness of yourself and you’ll always like it.
  2. Things will be difficult before they become easy, and you’ll need to persevere, much more than you may plan for from the outset
  3. Hire team members with diverse perspectives that differ from yours, who are capable of challenging your reasoning and assumptions.
  4. Seek to understand and learn every reason to believe in someone else’s idea before you try to challenge it
  5. Celebrate creativity and innovative thinking at every level throughout your organization. The moment someone feels scared to share a creative idea or approach, is the moment an organization can start to falter

Can you share a few ideas or stories from your experience about how to successfully ride the emotional highs & lows of being a founder”?

Celebrate your losses as much as your wins. When you get knocked down, or you lose out — seek to understand why that happened. Don’t shy away from defeat, embrace it, learn from it, and take solace in those learnings.

You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. :-)

I would start a movement that amplified philanthropy on a much larger scale. There is no mechanism currently that puts all of our phenomenal creativity, human energy, and goodness into something actionable, apart from writing a check. And while that is good and it is helpful, I think we can do more.

It is simply unacceptable that anybody in the world would ever go hungry. When you look at the food in the world that we lose to rodents and spoilage, or how the withholding of food is used as a weapon of war, you realize that if you can influence enough people, you can make a larger change. No one should accept that anybody should be hungry in the world.

How can our readers further follow your work online?

On, over on LinkedIn, and on Instagram.

This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!



Charlie Katz
Authority Magazine

Executive Creative Director at Bitbean Software Development