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Investing in Innovative Solutions for Underserved Areas

Gina-Marie Cheeseman
| Wednesday July 24th, 2013 | 0 Comments

AfricaThere are about 1.2 billion people in abject poverty in the world, according to World Bank, or 21 percent of the developing world population. However, many innovative solutions exist that can help alleviate that poverty. Enter Invested Development, an impact investment management firm whose goal is to reduce poverty in underserved markets through risk capital investments in innovations in alternative energy, agricultural technology and mobile technology startups. Founded in 2009, the firm focuses on seed-stage for profit social enterprises that have innovative solutions for underserved areas.

Invested Development recently focused on agricultural technologies. Previously, the firm focused on ITT and alternative energy. “Our philosophy, in general, is that the world is growing and anything that helps farmers become more efficient is important,” Christina Tamer, Marketing and Research Manager at Invested Development, told TriplePundit. “More food is going to be required with less people in the agricultural labor force.” That means that technology is needed to make agriculture efficient.

Investing in a company operating in the U.S.

Invested Development’s investments in agriculture technologies are in developing countries. However, the firm wanted to invest in a technology to help American farmers. When the firm began to look at the U.S., they noticed that the average farmers are in their 50s and 60s. As Tamer said, “This is not sustainable. Farmers will have to become technologically savvy.” The firm is focused on underserved markets, and Tamer said that “some American farmers are underserved.”

Many companies that Invested Development invests in are American, but OnFarm Systems is the first company that operates in the U.S. that the firm invested in. OnFarmSystems is an agriculture technology startup that offers an innovative solution for busy farmers to increase productivity and profits. It combines multiple data sources into one user-friendly, cloud-based dashboard. The reason that the firm invested in OnFarm is that they have a good business model and technology that can make a difference. OnFarm partners with the leading agricultural companies and has a base of partners already established and that network appeals to growers. Or as Tamer said, “It’s a smart business model.”

Invested Development “had a pipeline going for six months to a year while researching agricultural technologies in the U.S.,” Tamer said, “and we just came across them by chance.”

Problems faced by farmers worldwide

Invested Development has quite a few investments in Africa. As they researched agriculture technology companies operating in the U.S. they noticed similar problems between American and African farmers. Those problems include: water availability, access to markets, struggling with logistics in delivery, and spoilage. “It’s a much smaller scale, but a similar problem,” Tamer declared.

The agricultural labor force goes down as GDP goes up, but more food is needed as the population increases. “More food is going to be required with less people in the agricultural labor force,” Tamer explained. That makes technology to make agriculture more efficient that much more important, and it makes what Invested Development equally as important.

Photo: Flickr user, US Army Africa


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