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Netherlands-based company reNature recently raised US$670k in a Series Seed funding to expand its existing network of farmers and corporations, to venture capitalists, who want to work towards the long-term gains of regenerative agroforestry and is collaborating with Nestle and Lush Cosmetics to create scalable models for regenerative agroforestry in the commodity supply chain.
Founded by Felipe Villela, the Netherlands-based company reNature aims to make regenerative forestry mainstream by supporting farmers and corporates in their transitions.
Regenerative agroforestry is an agricultural system that is designed to ensure farmers with have food security, economic resilience and input self-sufficiency. On the economic side, it lowers external input costs, creates different income streams due to diversification and may, in some cases, even increase yieldsFelipe Villela, founder and Chief Commercial Officer of reNature
Regenerative agroforestry aims to shift the commodity model from the mainstream, mono-crop agriculture to poly-crop systems, where different types of plants and trees are mono-cropped in a an ecologically diverse ecosystem. This model works to sink carbon and reverse the adverse effects of global warming and at the same time creating a better economically viable livelihood for farmers.
Villela explained that regenerative agroforestry is an agricultural system that is designed to ensure farmers with food security, economic resilience and input self-sufficiency. “On the economic side, it lowers external input costs, creates different income streams due to diversification and may, in some cases, even increase yields.”
According to a report by the Economics of Land Degradation Initiative, over half of the land used globally for agriculture is on moderately or severely degraded soil and financially this is equivalent to a loss of US$10.6 trillion annually.
The poly crop system not only prepares the farmer to receive price premiums via certification, it also allows for carbon capture credits, resulting in increased farm income and lesser harm to the planet.
Eva Teekens, reNature’s Chief Investment Officer, further explains the business model: “Essentially, over time, you are ridding agriculture from input dependency and improving the soil so naturally regenerative agriculture will, in time, be more profitable. Impact Investors play an important role in financing this transition.”
Led by Meraki Impact, a company that supports businesses that work in partnership with nature, reNature recently raised US$670k in a Series Seed funding. With this investment, reNature is now on a timeline to showcase returns as well as the financial impact to its investors.
reNature investor Fernando Russo, General Partner of the Meraki Impact Fund, shared that he invested in reNature because of the potential and the alignment with the founders to make agroforestry and regenerative agriculture mainstream.”I funded their pre-seed round with €150K(US$180K) and gave them a few milestones that they quickly achieved in order to help them to complete their seed round, bringing investors from my network. I now believe reNature is a venture compatible to venture market returns, as they develop a platform business model that is scalable. I strongly believe in the value of ecosystems services and its potential to turn into financial returns.”
reNature aims to develop a scientific approach that companies can adopt within their supply chains for instance with small-scale pilot projects, results can be proven out before scaling.
Recently, reNature partnered with Swiss food giant Nestlé and Lush Cosmetics to create scalable models for regenerative agroforestry in the commodity supply chain. Aside from supporting farmers in the transition to agroforestry models of production, reNature also connects them with companies who are looking to align their supply chains with sustainability goals.
reNature brings a cross-crop expertise to the table an understanding of what is happening in other crop systems, connecting practices connecting practices and impact. Their agility and their deep expertise, to look for what can be scaled, set them apartJulie Reneau, a sustainability veteran at Nespresso, operating unit of Nestle
According to the USDA, agricultural commodity supply chains are one of the leading causes of global emissions that worsen the effects of climate change.
Villela added that reNature was founded while working on the ground with farmers. “We take a dual approach with our clients. First we define the strategy. Then we develop a model farm and demonstration plots to show the success before we scale. We have done this in Indonesia with a Dutch spice company, and they are scaling to 500 farmers to replicate the model farm.”
He mentioned that it is critical to ensure that there are KPIs on economic resilience and carbon sequestration rates that both the farmer and company need.
Julie Reneau, a sustainability veteran at Nespresso, operating unit of Nestle, works with reNature to regenerate coffee ecosystems. She explained that the investment in regenerative agriculture is similar to the investment in a new manufacturing plant.“We have seen a shift in understanding the investment in regenerative agriculture not as a cost, but an investment, more like building a factory. Sustainability is like a capital expenditure. If you don’t do it [invest] now, you won’t be able to harvest anything for your business. We are convinced by the powers of business for [sustainability] transformation and we have taken a new look at our cost structure to understand these investments.”
Nespresso is working with reNature on its coffee supply chain in Brazil. Reneau shared that for increased resilience, smallholder farmers have to move away from mono-crop reliance for their primary revenue. “reNature brings a cross-crop expertise to the table an understanding of what is happening in other crop systems, connecting practices connecting practices and impact. Their agility and their deep expertise, to look for what can be scaled, set them apart.”
Presently, reNature works with 20 companies around the world, in crop systems such as palm oil, timber, and cattle.
A 2019 report by the Croatan Institute, a research institute based in Durham, North Carolina, found around US$47.5 billion worth of investment assets in the U.S. alone with regenerative agriculture criteria.
David LeZaks, senior fellow at the Croatan Institute said: “People are beginning to ask more questions about how their money is working for them as it relates to financial returns, or how it might be working against them in the creation of extractive economies, climate change or labor issues.”
According to Project Drawdown, agroforestry practices are some of the best natural methods to pull carbon out of the air. The group ranked silvopasture, a method that utilises both trees and livestock, as the ninth most impactful climate change solution in the world, above rooftop solar power, electric vehicles and geothermal energy.
reNature’s regenerative coffee system. Lead image courtesy of reNature.