The Brief | May 16, 2022

The Brief: Climate microfinance software, regenerative agtech, insurance in Southeast Asia, self-charging batteries, where to meet

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Greetings, Agents of Impact!

Featured: Climate Adaptation

YAPU is giving microfinance a digital upgrade with a climate twist. Beekeeping in Colombia. Greenhouses in Peru. Biogas stoves in Benin. Small upgrades can increase resilience to climate change for the world’s 500 million smallholder farmers – if they can pay for them. Software from YAPU, a German startup, is helping farmers get access to the financing they need to adapt to changes in weather, water and other conditions affecting the food supply and their livelihoods. Its loan-underwriting and climate-risk assessment software has facilitated more than $30 million in loans to enable farmers to shift to organic agriculture, adopt regenerative practices like crop rotation, and purchase solar dehydrators and biomass stoves to recycle farm waste. “Adaptation for the most vulnerable is so important in terms of food security,” Hannes Graef of Berlin-based YAPU tells ImpactAlpha. On a moral basis, he adds, smallholder farmers “contribute the least to climate change but are the most affected.” 

The impetus for YAPU’s software came from Colombian farmers concerned about the impact of climate change on their livelihoods. YAPU launched in 2017 to help financial institutions underwrite and analyze climate resilience loans to smallholder farmers. “What you get is automated loan analysis, with cash flows for different income activities, household information and climate indicators at the click of a button,” says Graef. YAPU has supported the United Nations’ Environment Programme-backed Microfinance for Ecosystem-based Adaptation, or MEbA, initiative, which provided loans to farmers in eight countries. It is working with the Inter-American Development Bank on climate-resilient farmer financing in Ecuador. “Microfinance institutions are in a good position to reach rural and vulnerable communities,” says Graef. “You have a few institutions that are motivated to go in that direction, and they’re really championing it.”

Dealflow: Food Security

AXA, Unilever and Tikehau Capital seed regenerative agriculture fund with €300 million. Paris-based Tikehau will manage the private equity impact fund, which seeks to foster collaboration between farmers, producers, manufacturers, retailers, tech providers and investors. “To convince investors, we need to reinvent the way we manage agricultural risk and measure impact locally,” said Pascal Christory of Paris-based AXA, which will monitor the investments. AXA, Tikehau and U.K.-based Unilever allocated €100 million (about $104 million) each to the fund, which is seeking to raise €1 billion.

  • Soil and human health. The fund will aim to protect soil health to preserve biodiversity and water resources, supply sustainable goods and services, and unlock technology to accelerate the transition to regenerative agriculture. “Reducing agriculture’s impact on the environment is vital to combating climate change and ensuring there is a healthy and sustainable food supply chain for all,” Tikehau’s Pierre Abadie said.
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Qoala secures $65 million to make insurance affordable and accessible in Southeast Asia. Jakarta-based Qoala is looking to make affordable home, vehicle, health and micro-insurance products accessible to retail consumers in Southeast Asia. Its digital brokerage platform partners with 50 insurers to offer insurance to customers in Indonesia, Malaysia and Thailand. Those countries are among the fastest-growing global markets for insurance, but “the hurdles to accessing insurance today are still very significant,” said Qoala’s Harshet Lunani.

  • Insurance tech. Qoala will use the investment to hire 250 employees this year and create an employee stock ownership program. European asset manager Eurazeo led the Series B round, with Flourish Ventures, MDI Ventures, Sequoia Capital India, SeedPlus and MassMutual Ventures participating.
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Dealflow overflow. Other investment news crossing our desks:

  • Ambient Photonics raised $31 million in Series A funding, led by Amazon’s Climate Pledge Fund and Ecosystem Integrity Fund, to develop self-charging battery chips for smart home devices and consumer electronics.
  • La Banque Postale Asset Management secured €270 million ($281 million) for a planned €700 million impact climate infrastructure debt fund.
  • Funds managed by Verdane and Pioneer Point Partners acquired Norway’s Scanbio Marine to build an aquaculture waste management business.
  • Germany’s Bliq raised $13.5 million in a Series A round, backed by Speedinvest, to build an app that helps gig economy workers manage workflow.

Agents of Impact: Where to Meet

ImpactPHL is convening “Total Impact: Investing for new economies,” in Philadelphia, May 16-17. Speakers include FullCycle’s Stephan Nicoleau, B Lab’s Jay Coen Gilbert, Women of the World Endowment’s Patience Marime-Ball, Apis & Heritage’s Todd Leverette, and ImpactAlpha’s Monique Aiken and Amy Cortese. ImpactAlpha subscribers get $300 off with the code IMPACTALPHA.

Clara Miller is keynoting “Money and mission: Creating 21st century capital markets for better social outcomes,” at the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, May 17.

Confluence Philanthropy hosts its Advisors Forum and Climate Solutions Summit at the Ford Foundation Center for Social Justice in New York, June 1-3.The first day is members only; guests may apply to attend June 2-3.

US SIF’s Forum 2022, June 6-8 near Albuquerque, N.M., will feature S.E.C. Commissioner Caroline Crenshaw and U.S. Representative Jamie Raskin.

Thank you for your impact!

– May 16, 2022