Agrifood Tech | March 24, 2021

The Nature Conservancy is building a portfolio of agtech ventures to improve soil health

Roodgally Senatus
ImpactAlpha Editor

Roodgally Senatus

ImpactAlpha, March 24 — The Nature Conservancy has formed a partnership with iSelect Fund, an impact venture firm that invests mainly in agriculture and healthcare, to source and invest in early-stage agtech ventures targeting soil health issues.

The Arlington, Virginia-based environmental organization plans to build out a soil health portfolio of 10 or so companies, funded through a recoverable grant from an unnamed donor, TNC’s Renée Vassilos told ImpactAlpha.

“Deteriorating soil health underpins many of the agricultural challenges facing us this century – from climate and biodiversity, to food security and freshwater,” said Vassilos. The goal of the fund: “to move us closer to our audacious goal of 50% of U.S. crop land under adaptive soil health systems by 2025.” 

Agtech portfolio

Early investments include Iowa-based Growers Edge, a fintech startup helping farmers secure income insurance; Kula Bio, in Massachusetts, which is developing a low-cost biofertilizer that deposits nitrogen in the soil; and Australia’s SwarmFarm, a robotics farming tech company. Pattern Ag in California provides soil microbiome analysis and Stony Creek Colors in Tennessee works with farmers to develop sustainable, plant-based dyes. 

Nature investing

Separately, TNC worked with the Quintana Roo State government in Mexico and other local partners to create the first insurance policy to protect coral reefs (see, “The Nature Conservancy wants to bring reef insurance to the U.S.), and through NatureVest, its in-house impact investing arm, helped structure an innovative debt-for-nature swap in the Seychelles (see, “Behind the scenes of the Seychelles debt-for-nature deal).