News: EWB Canada portfolio venture GreenPath Food raises Series A
Ethiopian agriculture venture GreenPath Food raises Series A led by East African Venture Capital firm Novastar
Engineers Without Borders Canada (EWB), an impact-focused investor in early-stage innovative social enterprises based in Africa, announced today that GreenPath Food closed its Series A round led by Novastar Ventures. GreenPath Food is the first venture from EWB’s investment portfolio to reach this milestone.
GreenPath Food is an Ethiopian startup that partners with smallholder farmers to source premium produce grown using sustainable organic methods. Permaculture-based principles enables farmers to transition to regenerative ‘food forests,’ which provide year-round productivity and long-term agricultural benefits. The practice creates positive environmental outcomes and significantly increases farm yields and farmer incomes. GreenPath then identifies and sells the produce to international buyers who share the company’s values and are committed to growing their supply of organic-certified and sustainably grown food. GreenPath removes barriers that are preventing the country’s millions of smallholder farmers from accessing premium global markets.
Closing the Series A will enable GreenPath to grow its current operations and begin expanding to new sites in Ethiopia, which will ultimately grow their potential impact for the millions of smallholder farmers across the country and continent. The investment will enable the company to increase its sales and production, improve its operational efficiency, and unlock even sustainable revenue generation for a growing smallholder network.
To date, over a hundred smallholder farmers have partnered with GreenPath to become EU Organic certified. Partner Farmers receive high-quality, organic inputs, farm-level training and technical support, and guaranteed purchasing at fair, transparent prices. This has helped current Partner Farms increase their income as much as ten times, and secure regular, year-round payments that improve their economic well-being and resilience.
GreenPath’s closed-loop, organic permaculture model and their integrated value chain support for farmers inspired EWB to lead the company’s seed round as first institutional investor in 2016, helping establish GreenPath’s flagship operation in Butajira, Ethiopia. EWB’s patient support of GreenPath over the past 18 months played an important role in the venture’s progress and momentum, ultimately helping them enter the Series A process. EWB deploys a combination of tailored capital investment with appropriate skilled talent to support the success of social enterprises. GreenPath was able to hire a sales and marketing manager through EWB’s fellowships program, which helped significantly increase their network of export partners.
“EWB Canada has been an incredible partner,” said Jacie Jones, GreenPath’s Managing Director. “EWB’s partnership unlocked invaluable capital and support for us, at a point in the company’s growth where it was both most critical and most difficult to secure.”
GreenPath’s recent fundraising success holds significance for the broader social enterprise ecosystem in sub-Saharan Africa. It is part of a growing body of evidence that entrepreneurs can indeed serve bottom of the pyramid (BOP) populations sustainably. In the US, more than half of startups that raise pre-Series A funding fail to make it to Series A or beyond. This is an even greater challenge for startups in sub-Saharan Africa, where the funding gap for small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs) is estimated at $80-$100 billion, and up to 60 percent of SMEs are unable to access finance. Challenges faced by early-stage entrepreneurs in the region include restrictive laws and regulations, inaccessible infrastructure, and a weak ecosystem of support.
EWB Canada will continue to support the growth of GreenPath as well as other social enterprises in our investment portfolio located across sub-Saharan Africa. We are inspired GreenPath has reached this milestone and see the potential for our other partners, and other social enterprises across the region, to reach this level of success with the right support.
GreenPath Food is a specialty food company that produces and sources premium, organic food products through a network of smallholder Partner Farms in Ethiopia. Leveraging regenerative agriculture practices, GreenPath’s mission is to create sustainable supply chains for its global customers, while creating sustainable farms and livelihoods for thousands of smallholders. GreenPath aspires to build a globally recognized, premium brand of sustainably produced, smallholder-grown food products with operations across East Africa.
Novastar Ventures is an East African venture capital firm assisting the next generation of exceptional entrepreneurs who are designing and executing innovative business models to profitably serve East Africa’s aspiring mass market. Novastar focuses on investing in companies that will transform low-income consumer markets and alleviate severe social issues.
About Engineers Without Borders Canada
EWB is a Canadian NGO that invests in people and ventures to create sustainable and inclusive economies. EWB provides seed funding, talent, and mentorship to social enterprises throughout sub-Saharan Africa and coordinates and trains a network of 40 chapters and 1,300 members across Canada to be national and international leaders. For more information on EWB, visit http://www.ewb.ca
EWB Ventures is Engineers Without Border’s seed-stage investment vehicle. It is dedicated to supporting pioneering early-stage, highly-scalable, innovative social enterprises in sub-Saharan Africa. In addition to recruiting and placing strategic talent within these ventures, EWB Ventures makes tailored, long-term investments of up to $100,000 (from concept to revenue) with high potential to drive systemic change for the benefit of the underserved.