The Brief | August 26, 2021

The Brief: Building back Haiti, forest-carbon fund, robots for Indian farms, grid energy storage, Nick Hurd on the impact taskforce

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Greetings, Agents of Impact! 

Featured: Disaster Response

Can investors help Haiti build back better this time? Haiti’s politicians are promising a different response. Global leaders are looking for different approaches. And millions of Haitians are desperate for different results two weeks after another earthquake devastated the southern region of the Caribbean nation. Different in this case means a marked contrast to the disastrous response to the massive 2010 earthquake, from which Haiti has still not recovered. In addition to the squandered billions, foreign troops and relief workers in that emergency brought in cholera and were implicated in sexual violence. “Perhaps what we have learned is to do it differently,” the U.N.’s Amina Mohammed said in Port au Prince this week. “And to do it differently means to take the leadership, to build the institutions, to build capacities.”

In the absence of strong political leadership, the earthquake response in Haiti has a bottom-up, decentralized and chaotic character. Social enterprises, many formed out of responses to the 2010 quake, are mobilizing for immediate relief and longer-term recovery. Clean water distributor dloHaiti is delivering water to families, clinics and hospitals, and will “then set up water systems to ensure potable water is available,” founder Jim Chu tells ImpactAlpha. Veerhouse Voda, which produces resilient steel-frame structures for shelters and clinics, has two containers of building materials already in Haiti, with three more on their way from Europe. “People are talking about bringing in supplies. We’re already there,” says founder Brendon Brewster. In a measure of Haiti’s challenges, however, perhaps the most hopeful announcement came from Jimmy Cherizier, alias “Barbecue,” leader of the G9 Revolutionary Forces, who said Haiti’s gangs had agreed to a truce and to help deliver relief supplies after roadblocks and bandits hampered relief efforts. Said Cherizier, “We invite all compatriots to show solidarity with the victims by trying to share what little there is with them.”

Keep reading, “Can investors help Haiti build back better this time?” by Roodgally Senatus and David Bank on ImpactAlpha.

Dealflow: Natural Capital

Gresham House sustainable forest fund raises $175 million. Investors are starting to stockpile carbon as prices per ton curve upward (see, “Forget crypto: Here’s how to play the rising price of carbon”). U.K.-based Gresham believes there’s an opportunity for forestry investors to benefit, as carbon emitters purchase offsets and the construction and housing industries drive demand for sustainable timber. The Forest Growth & Sustainability fund will invest in existing forestry assets and new woodlands in the U.K. that have potential to generate carbon credits.

  • Carbon markets. The fund will generate returns for investors from verified carbon credits, allowing investors “to choose to use the carbon credits generated for offsetting purposes or sell the units to generate income,” said Gresham’s Olly Hughes. The fund raised £127 million ($174.5 million), exceeding its initial target of £100 million ($137.4 million). Gresham will continue to raise capital toward a final close.
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TartanSense secures $5 million for robotics-as-a-service for India’s farmers. Agriculture suffers from a worldwide labor shortage that has been exacerbated by the global pandemic. Bangalore-based TartanSense is developing robotic devices to help India’s smallholder farmers cut costs, boost productivity and reduce their need to find additional farm help. The company’s robotics-as-a-service offering lends farmers equipment for precision crop spraying and weeding. TartanSense’s $5 million Series A round was backed by FMC Ventures, the venture investing arm of agri-chemicals giant FMC Corp., and existing investor Omnivore. Blume Ventures also participated.

  • Efficiency boost. TartanSense’s Jaisimha Rao told ImpactAlpha that the equipment reduces farmers’ field-time for weeding and spraying and costs $15 to $20 per acre, about what they pay now. TartanSense has deployed six devices for cotton farmers in India’s northern states of Gujarat and Maharashtra. The company hopes to have 100 in the field in 18 months. Rao said, “The mission of the company is to put the technology that Western farmers have enjoyed into the hands of South Asian farmers.”
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Apollo backs FlexGen with $150 million to expand grid energy storage. Energy storage addresses the challenges of intermittency and reliability of renewable power generation. The Durham, N.C. company’s hardware and software “shifts renewable power consumption to times when it is needed most,” says Apollo’s Olivia Wassenaar. FlexGen over the last decade has supported deployments of more than 1.2 gigawatt-hours of energy storage for utility, microgrid and commercial and industrial customers.

  • Apollo’s clean energy transition. Apollo Global Management is making the $150 million commitment alongside existing investors Altira Group, Caterpillar Ventures and GE Ventures, and a founding investment group led by Jerry Miller and Mark Dreyfus. Apollo has also invested in offshore wind developer US Wind, electric-driven gas compression company TOPS, and sustainable bioenergy producer AS Graanul Invest.
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Dealflow overflow. Other investment news crossing our desks:

  • Brazilian fintech Cora raises $116 million to provide digital loans to small businesses.
  • Essmart, a logistics platform for India’s informal retailers, secures funding from Insaan, an investment firm that directs philanthropic capital into impact investments, and other investors.
  • Solar energy software company Terabase Energy will acquire PlantPredict, which has a modeling tool for utility-scale solar plants.
  • San Jose, Calif.-based Element5 raises $15 million for software to support home-based healthcare, senior care and hospice providers in the U.S. and India.

Signals: Impact Taskforce

U.K.’s Nick Hurd on the “window of opportunity” for a green and inclusive transition. The former government minister is heading the Impact Taskforce, created under the U.K.’s presidency of the G7. The Global Steering Group for Impact Investment has pulled together more than 100 agents of impact to generate solutions for a sustainable and inclusive recovery from COVID-19, including U.N. special envoy Hiro Mizuno, Courageous Capital’s Laurie Spengler, LeapFrog’s Andrew Kuper, JUST Capital’s Martin Whittaker and Generation Investment Management’s David Blood.

  • Political relevance. Mobilizing markets and the private sector for solutions to social and environmental challenges “has become more politically relevant than I have ever known it,” says Hurd, now chair of Access Foundation, which helps charities and social enterprises generate earned income and promotes blended capital models. In a Q&A with ImpactAlpha, Hurd says the COVID crisis has created a window of opportunity. “Doors and minds are more open than they ever have been to some of the arguments the impact movement has been making for quite some time.”
  • Keep reading Amy Cortese’s Q&A with Nick Hurd.

Agents of Impact: Follow the Talent

Jon Patty, ex- of New Island Capital, joins White Oak Global Advisors as managing director and partner… The JPMorgan Chase Institute seeks a vice president of inclusive banking research in New York… For the Long Term is hiring a corporate governance director in Washington, D.C… LeapFrog Investments is looking for a communications content lead in Sydney… LOCUS Impact Investing is recruiting a manager of asset management and servicing in Richmond, Va… The Children’s Investment Fund Foundation has openings around the world.

U.S. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen will speak at Opportunity Finance Network’s 2021 conference on Oct. 20… Guild Education and Sunrun have launched PowerU, an employee skills program for the clean energy workforce, and an employer-sponsored apprenticeship program with Penn FosterVillage Capital and the Black Innovation Alliance are seeking applications from entrepreneur support organizations led by and focused on founders of color for their second Resource program.

Thank you for your impact.

– Aug 26, 2021