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Fostering Sustainability and Innovation in Agriculture
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sustainable agriculture investment

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. 

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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 bluemountainarts.com, 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

Company Aims to Profit From Restoration of Globe’s Devastated Grasslands, One Ranch at a Time

March 5, 2012 |

Photo courtesy of Grasslands, LLC

Jim Howell thinks cattle get a bad rap. They have been charged with decimating grasslands, polluting the atmosphere with emissions, and competing with humans for food crops. That does not have to be the case, says the CEO of Grasslands, L.L.C., the for-profit arm of the Savory Institute that purchases ranches and grasslands in hopes of restoring them through holistic management practices.

Howell believes that holistic management of pasture grazing cattle could restore the grasslands of the northern plains and similar landscapes all over the globe and provide tremendous potential for sequestering carbon and mitigating climate change. 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.

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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

Washington-based Incubator Farm Program Grows Next Generation of Sustainable Farmers

November 17, 2011 |

Enthusiastic, entrepreneurial youth wanting to farm. Young, skilled farmworkers who have been farming all of their lives. A population of aging farmers, whose average age is 57 years. Rich, fertile land that’s rapidly being sold for purposes other than farming. What do these all have in common? It’s part of Viva Farms’ mission to help them.

Viva Farms is a 33-acre incubator farm and farming program that helps beginning farmers get established, with the goal of eventually getting them onto their own farmland. It’s a joint venture of Washington State University (WSU) Extension and GrowFood.org, an international nonprofit dedicated to recruiting and training the next generation of sustainable farmers. Viva Farms is located in the Skagit Valley in Washington, a region renowned for having “some of the best soil on the planet,” says Sarita Schaffer, the director of Viva Farms. Read More

From Farm Development to Biodynamic Compost, Farmer D Finds Success in Sustaining Agriculture

October 28, 2011 |

‘Farmer D’ is a man, a brand, a consulting business, a retailer and a successful entrepreneurial venture – to name just a few attributes. Farmer D Organics is dedicated to making sustainable farming just that – environmentally, socially and economically sustainable.

Farmer D, the man, is actually named Daron Joffe, and he seems to have done it all when it comes to agriculture, from running organic farms across the country to implementing a ‘farm to table’ experience at Richard Branson’s exclusive spa in New Jersey. Farmer D Organics, the business, based in Atlanta, Ga., is similarly diverse. Read More