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Fostering Sustainability and Innovation in Agriculture
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Posts By Nicola Kerslake

In on the Ocean Floor, Aquaculture VC Firm Sees Opportunity for Sustainable Returns

March 5, 2012 |

The following post is part of a new column by real assets investor Nicola Kerslake that will focus on topics related to investment in sustainable agriculture and aquaculture. Last week’s post focused on the reason for a lack of venture capital investment in sustainable agriculture. 


sustainably farmed open ocean fish in cages

Photo courtesy of Open Blue Sea Farms

Like many a software guy, David Tze was flipping through Wired magazine back in 2004 when an article caught his eye. It described the overfishing of the world’s oceans and painted a grim supply picture going forward. The article piqued Tze’s interest and he through himself into learning as much as he could about sustainable aquaculture; “I became a little obsessed,” he admits.

A couple of months later, he began discussing the issue with his college classmate JaredPolis, the, ProFlowers entrepreneur and current Congressman representing Colorado’s 2nd Congressional District. Polis was equally fascinated by aquaculture and eventually invited Tze to join his family office to focus on finding investments in the sector and Aquacopia, “the first and only aquaculture venture capital firm,” was born. “Our goal was to prove that you could make venture returns in aquaculture just as well as in technology,” Tze adds. Read More

The Mystery Behind the Lack of Venture Capital Investment in Sustainable Agriculture

February 28, 2012 |

The following post is part of a new column by real assets investor Nicola Kerslake that will focus on topics related to investment in sustainable agriculture. Sample topics will range from venture capital investment in sustainable agriculture and what VC investors look for in a startup to advice for entrepreneurs on obtaining government funding for agriculture projects and the benefits of joining an incubator.


A couple of times a week, I get a call from an agriculture startup with the same complaint: “We have a brilliant idea and customers ready to go, but no venture capitalist invests in agriculture”. By and large, they’re right. Despite mainstream media reports – notably in the New York Times – that predicted a wave of venture capital (VC) investment into sustainable agriculture, only $6.4 billion was plowed into the entire food and agriculture sector by private equity investors in 2011.  This amounts to a mere 3% of total investment[1]. Read More

Looking to his Roots, Former Engineer Launches Sustainable Olive Oil Business in Corning, California

January 31, 2012 |

When Dewey Lucero was laid off from his engineering job in 2005, he started to think about taking his career in a new direction. Growing up as the grandson of two olive farmers in California’s Central Valley, Lucero was accustomed to helping out with the harvest from a young age, and eventually turned to his roots. “I realized that I could build on my grandfathers’ work by developing an olive oil brand,” said Lucero, who told me about the origin of his sustainable olive oil business at a jam-packed tasting event last weekend. One of Lucero’s grandfathers had sold table olives, while the other sold to the region’s largest olive oil mill and occasionally crushed olives to bottle oil for friends and family. Read More

Boston-based Startup Freight Farms Aims to Reduce Food Miles in Used Shipping Containers

December 12, 2011 |

Nearly three years ago, Jon Friedman and Brad McNamara left their careers in marketing to research the pressing issue of food miles, or the distance food is transported from the time of its production until it reaches the consumer. “It seemed crazy that we were shipping in lettuce from California. We figured there had to be a better way,” said Friedman. To address this issue, Friedman and McNamara launched Boston-based Freight Farms, a company that aims to convert used shipping containers into modular, portable crop production units toward the end of transforming urban surroundings into a sustainable food source, increasing access to fresh local food in any environment, and creating local economies. Read More

Specialty Crop Institute Spurs Growth of Sustainable Farming and Local Food Systems in Nevada

December 1, 2011 |

Nevada has the fewest farmers of any state in the union – 3,131 compared to 81,033 in neighboring California, according to the USDA. Of these, only an estimated 200-400 are produce farmers, with ranchers dominating in the state.

“I’ve lived in Reno for 30 years, and didn’t even realize there were farmers here for the first 20,” admits Ann Louhela, Project Director of Western Nevada College’s Specialty Crop Institute.

That’s why along with its primary goal of providing small farmers in Nevada with an innovative education program to help them become more sustainable, the Specialty Crop Institute is also seeking to increase public awareness surrounding local agriculture in Nevada. Read More