The largest tropical rainforest in the world is replete with (“forgotten”) palms, seeds and plants that can nourish humanity with superfoods, cosmetics, natural fibers, pharmaceuticals, etc. In addition, given the potential and importance of this biome to the planet and to humanity’s future, there exist countless sources of grant funding, acceleration programs, venture philanthropy, impact investors, and specialized debt sources that can support sustainable investments in the Amazon. However, in spite of such potential for a thriving sustainably based bioeconomy, deforestation continues at alarming rates, and the current prevailing economic model has not proven to inclusively foster well-being with local populations.
In this context, how can these sources of capital synergistically collaborate to bring these viable enterprises that leverage the Amazon bioeconomy to scale? What innovative mechanisms have already been used to allow grants to catalyze other types of capital in the Amazon, or examples in other regions that could be replicated in the Amazon? What is the potential size of the “lowest hanging fruits” of this Amazon bioeconomy, and how can we structure win-win blended finance partnerships?
A blended finance model, the “Bio Factories Fund and Regenerative Ag Facility”, which was a 2021 Climate Finance Lab semi-finalist, and that includes grants, concessional senior debt, crowdfunding, equity ownership in factories by river farmers and ecosystem service payments to farmers, to fund factories and to provide technical assistance and credit to farmers, will be presented as a framework for a discussion.
Jonah Wittkamper, a biologist, entrepreneur, and activist, has been a pioneer in connecting young social entrepreneur, philanthropists and impact investors through the founding of Nexus, and in 2020 founded the Amazon Investor Coalition, with a mission to foment collaboration between investors and philanthropies with governments, non-profits and allies to increase forest-friendly economic development and the rule of law across the Amazon region, in partnership with local stakeholders.
Mariano Cenamo has been a pioneer in fostering social enterprise in the Amazon, having led the creation of the Partners for the Amazon acceleration program in 2017, supported by various stakeholders including Governments and corporates, and more recently as CEO of AMAZ, a new impact acceleration program for social enterprises working in the Amazon, that includes investment capital.
Derek Gallo, a former investment banker and long time impact angel investor, is co-founder and CEO of Awí Superfoods, a vertically integrated, food-for-good-tech with a mission to catalyze the Amazon bioeconomy by creating the most delicious, nutritious and positive impact superfoods alchemies, integrating blended finance and social and environmental technologies throughout its supply chain.