Greetings, Agents of Impact!
Hop on today’s Call: Catalytic capital for climate adaptation and social equity. Join Nuveen’s Rekha Unnithan, Lightsmith Group’s Jay Koh, Apollo Agriculture’s Benjamin Njenga, USAID’s Songbae Lee, Resilience Capital Ventures’ Gillian Marcelle and other Agents of Impact to explore strategies for catalyzing capital for climate adaptation and social equity, today at 10am PT / 1pm ET / 6pm London (no RSVP required). Zoom right in.
- Background reading. See, “Mitigation x adaptation x equity = climate resilience.”
Impact Voices: The Reconstruction
Black Farmer Fund is reimagining U.S. agricultural finance, on farmers’ terms. A century ago, Black farmers represented 14% of all farmers in the U.S. Now? Just 1.4%. Barriers to affordable financing have cost farmers their land and operations. A pilot fund in New York state is positioning Black farmers and food entrepreneurs to set their own terms and help shape the state’s food system. The community-led Black Farmer Fund has so far raised $1 million in grants and debt to provide flexible capital for Black farmers, caterers, restaurant and food-truck owners, composters, herbalists and other land stewards. “Practices around collective decision-making have existed in Black communities for generations,” Black Farmer Fund’s Melanie Allen writes in a guest post on ImpactAlpha. “We are continuing that legacy today.”
- Black food systems. Among the first eight investees: Trinity Farms, one of the state’s longest-standing Black-owned farms; Big Dream Farm, which serves West African Muslim communities in Westchester County and New York City; and Black Yard Farm, a worker-owned cooperative that focuses on animal husbandry and vegetable production. Each received grants of $50,000 and access to additional debt capital via Fair Food Fund, the impact investing arm of Michigan-based nonprofit Fair Food Network.
- Collective wisdom. A dozen Black farmers, food distributors, business owners and organizers across New York worked with Black Farmer Fund to design investment guidelines and application processes and selected the first cohort. Among the innovations: social and environmental impact covenants that can reduce interest rates for farmers. Instead of asking, “What is the risk financially of making this investment?” Allen says, the fund considers “What is the risk to the community if we do not make this investment?”
- Keep reading, “Black Farmer Fund is reimagining U.S. agricultural finance, on farmers’ terms,” by Black Farmer Fund’s Melanie Allen on ImpactAlpha.
Dealflow: Gender Alpha
Kinara Capital secures $27 million from Nuveen and TripleJump for digital lending in India. The Bangalore-based lender provides unsecured, no-collateral loans of up to three million rupees ($40,000) to micro and small businesses in India. Kinara was early to digital lending when it launched in 2011 and has since made nearly $400 million in loans. Dutch impact investor TripleJump backed Kinara alongside Nuveen, the $1.3 trillion asset-management arm of TIAA, which invested via its $218 million impact fund. Nuveen last week announced a $100 million commitment from the fund to Shell Foundation to invest in companies boosting climate resilience in emerging markets.
- Gender lens. Kinara is women-founded and led, and the majority of its management team are women. Its HerVikas loan product is designed for women entrepreneurs. Kinara’s corporate social responsibility fund provided no-interest loans and working capital to self-employed women during the COVID pandemic.
- Who’s who. Kinara has long been a darling of impact investors. Sorenson Impact Fund became one of Kinara’s first institutional investors in 2013. Unitus Impact Fund backed the company in 2016 from its first fund, which focused on livelihoods. Kinara has raised debt from responsAbility (now part of U.K.-based investment manager M&G) and from IIX’s Women’s Livelihood Bond series. It raised $9.2 million from Invest in Visions last year. Other investors include Gaja Capital, GAWA Capital, the Dell Foundation and Patamar Capital.
- Check it out.
Japan’s EX-Fusion raises $1 million to advance laser-based fusion. Well-funded startups around the globe are racing to commercialize nuclear fusion, which has the potential to generate abundant, safe, emission-free energy (for context, see “Commonwealth Fusion raises $1.8 billion for a clean energy game-changer”). Osaka-based EX-Fusion, founded by a trio of scientists, will use the pre-seed funding of 130 million Japanese yen to develop technology to generate a fusion reaction using high-powered lasers.
- Laser-focused. A raft of fusion startups are using high-powered magnets, “sheared flow” technology and other approaches to achieve “net energy,” or to produce more power than is consumed. Japan lags in the fusion race, says Masahiro Sameshima of ANRI, a Tokyo-based venture firm that invested in EX-Fusion to “prove that we can compete on the world stage.” Osaka University Venture Capital also invested. A test of lasers by the National Ignition Facility at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory last year demonstrated the viability of the approach.
- Jump in.
Dealflow overflow. Other investment news crossing our desks:
- Nevada-based Ohmium International raised $45 million to boost its green hydrogen output four-fold, to two gigawatts a year.
- IDB Invest generated $1 billion from a sustainable bond to promote private-sector social and environmental projects in Latin America and the Caribbean.
- Australia’s TagEnergy snagged $485 million from Mirova, Omnes and existing investor Impala to expand its pipeline of wind, solar and battery storage projects.
- Clipboard Health raised $80 million in two recent rounds to match nurses with open shifts as a way to alleviate the nursing shortage.
Agents of Impact: Follow the Talent
William Burckart is promoted to CEO of The Investment Integration Project, or TIIP, as founder Steve Lydenberg moves up to chairman. ImpactAlpha contributing editor Monique Aiken is TIIP’s managing director… Carolyn Kim Allwin, ex- of Recap Investing, joins Capco as head of ESG in the U.S… USAID seeks a senior climate finance advisor… The Development Finance Corp.’s Office of Equity and Investment Funds is hiring associate and a director-level investment funds specialists.
NatureVest seeks a sustainable finance advisory lead and as impact management project manager… The Nature Conservancy is recruiting a senior carbon finance advisor for its impact finance and markets team… US SIF is looking for an operations and finance associate… Bitgreen is hiring a director of sustainable project finance… Applications are open for the Third Sphere Fellowship for founders building climate tech startups (for context, see “Third Sphere ramps up for ‘better, cheaper, faster’ climate impact”).
White Oak Global Advisors adopts Impact Rate of Return, an impact analytics system provided by Global Impact LLC… The Development Finance Corp. is hosting “Investing in a sustainable future – climate finance in emerging markets,” Friday, Apr. 22… ReFi Summit is gathering leaders in web3, technology and sustainability in Seattle, May 10-11.
Thank you for your impact.
– Apr. 19, 2022