Essential news and insights to keep you ahead of the curve on impact investing and sustainable finance.

January 25, 2021

The Brief

Featured: ImpactAlpha Original

Digitization of smallholder farming draws investors to Indian agtech startups. Among the world’s largest producers of food, India stands out for its 130 million independent smallholder farmers who till, on average, less than four hectares of land apiece. These farmers have long gotten a raw deal from the agrifood value chain from which they source seeds, fertilizer, equipment and loans, and into which they sell their harvests. What’s new is investor interest in a growing crop of tech entrepreneurs aiming to streamline India’s $280 billion agriculture industry with a shared strategy: improving the incomes and livelihoods of smallholder farmers. “Indian entrepreneurs are solving for the low-hanging fruit in the sector, which is in turn helping farmers reach slightly better income levels and expand into horticulture and commercial farming,” Omnivore’s Jinesh Shah tells ImpactAlpha. “That will help them make more money and also bring more investment into the sector.”

Dealflow: Follow the Money

Electric charging operator EVgo to go public via a climate SPAC. The deal will value the Los Angeles-based electric vehicle charging network at $2.6 billion. The $175 million offering, topped with a $400 million PIPE, for "private investment in public equity," will fund expansion for EVgo, which operates in 34 states. The spate of backdoor IPOs via such special purpose acquisition companies is unleashing a boom in venture capital investment into renewable energy, green infrastructure and EVs by making public-markets financing available for capital-intensive sectors – and providing exits for earlier-stage investors. More than 30 cleantech startups announced mergers with SPACs last year. 

Series: Walking the Talk

Patricia Farrar-Rivas: How I invest for equity. The founder and CEO of Veris Wealth Partners was shaped early in her career by her work in El Salvador, where she saw the effects of deep inequality and extreme wealth disparities. "This led me to realize that wealth is about more than money,” Farrar-Rivas writes in ImpactAlpha's Walking the Talk series, in partnership with Confluence Philanthropy. “It is about opportunity, wellness and agency." After buying her own home, she began saving and investing in socially-responsible funds. Farrar-Rivas invested most of her assets in Veris itself; the impact wealth management firm now manages more than $1 billion in client assets. “I see the faults in the current capitalist structure and believe we are working to make necessary changes,” she writes. 

Agents of Impact: Follow the Talent

Mary Reynolds Babcock Foundation CEO Justin Maxson steps down to join the Biden-Harris administration as USDA deputy undersecretary for rural development… Brian Fernandes-Halloran is the new executive director of Halloran Philanthropies. Tony Carr, executive director since 2007, retired in December… Tony Berkley accepted a buyout from Prudential Financial last fall and has joined the Future Investment Initiative Institute in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia as head of investments. Register for FII’s conference, Jan. 27-28.

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