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A Rare Peek Inside The Doomsday Vault!

Buried deep inside Svalbard, a Norwegian archipelago between mainland Norway and the North Pole, the Global Seed Vault a.k.a the ”Doomsday Vault” virtually stores every kind of seed one can imagine. With only one out of three vaults in use they are far from done, yet, they already host a sample of over 860.000 seeds from every corner of the globe!

The vault is also known as the Arch of Noach. Its mission is to store a copy of every seed currently stored between different seed banks (about 1700) across the world. The ”father” of this project, Cary Fowler, isn’t anticipating an apocalyptic event, yet has set it up from a practical point of view and compares it to a back-up drive or insurance policy. The war in Syria has proven it’s functionality, as seeds have been damaged. Check out the pictures below to get an impression of this incredible project.

The vault has proven it’s practical value as the war in Syria damaged seeds stored at local seed banks. Check out the pictures below to get an impression of this incredible project. I have also included a rare peek into the vault, which is actually closed 350 days of the year!


Front Entrance


Vault Access Tunnell


One of Three Seed Storage Vaults

Image Credit: Mari Tefre/Global Crop Diversity Trust


Where to Host the Next Billion People?

By 2030 this planet is expected to host 8.5 billion people. That is a full billion more compared to today! This will put a huge strain on mother earth. Agribusiness, water distribution and our ecosystem all have to keep up. Two professors mapped out as to where would be the best place for these billion to live, if we are to take the strain on environmental factors that is.



Is Syntropic Agriculture the Key Towards Sustainable Farming?

Ernst Götsch is a Swiss-born farmer who moved to Brazil in the early 80s. He was declared insane when in ’84 he bought 480 hectares of degraded farmland in the state of Bahia. Determined to revive the land in a sustainable and profitable manner, Götsch developed a set of principles and techniques that enabled him to combine food production together with the natural regeneration of the forest. To describe this process, he coined the term Syntropic Agriculture. Jua Pereira, Biologist and Farmer summarises it as follows:

We needed to find a regenerative system that works. It needed to be productive and profitabale because sustainability has to be economic, social and environmental.

To achieve his goal he takes four important steps. 1) He focusses on favouring photosynthesis; 2) Actively intervenes in the metabolic processes of the macro-organism by periodic heavy pruning; 3) Optimises the recycling processes and 4) Utilises the dynamics of natural species succession, directing it towards a positive balance in terms of complexity, quantity and quality of established life. The result? A highly productive plantation, which produces its own fertiliser, increase in black soil and nutrients therewithin, together with, achieving better water retention and circulation capabilities. Fazenda da Toca actually produces one of the finest and expensive cacao on the market. Watch the clip below and be amazed by what he managed to achieve. Visit Agenda Gotsch for more information on the project.



Stevia Extraction Test Results Imminent

On June 17th we announced that we were due to commence stevia extraction/processing trials. The results are encouraging and we are now awaiting the analysis results, at which stage a final report will be drafted. We expect this to be ready by the end of October. The report will be evaluated within the team and associated partners. Depending on the results of the evaluation we will decide on ‘where to go’ with our results. In October we will publish an update.


Fresh Round of Stevia Trials on the Way!

This month Stevia 1931, our flagship project, is commencing fresh stevia trials across various locations in Ghana. We have sourced an exciting new range of stevia varieties from across the globe, which we expect will perform well in Ghana. We will test up to four cycles and periodically provide updates on the trial progress. We hope that these additional trials will accelerate our in-house breeding program efforts. Updates will follow!


What to Make of the Latest Clinton Gate?

The fight over the White House has triggered a huge $h*! storm for the Clinton Foundation. The allegations range from pay-to-play politics (85 of the 154 private citizens who managed to meet or speak with Hilary Clinton as state secretary by phone donated money to the Clinton Foundation) to poor use of donation money. Their  own 2013 tax filings certainly don’t paint a pretty picture as the Clinton Foundation spent only 10% of its grants on charitable donations.

Shocking enough? Well no, as unfortunately plenty of foundations attract similar headlines. What is really getting the media going is the alleged pay-for-play accusations, in were the Clinton Foundation may have received donations in exchange for favours by the then secretary of state, Hillary Clinton.

Sure we need to separate the political smear from the facts, yet, without a doubt, there are some major question marks surrounding the Clinton Foundation. Lets be clear, by no means I’m discrediting all the great work they did, as after all it is estimated the foundation has touched the lives of more than 430 million people in more than 180 countries. Charity rating agencies are also pretty positive about the foundation and some argue, if the foundation was to be shut down, people would die. Nobody is arguing for that, I think, yet it shows how emotionally geared the conversation has become.

Yet, this doesn’t mean some hard questions can go unanswered. After all one would think that politicians at the forefront of priding their moral superiority and proclaiming to be a good-doers, would try to avoid any suspicions, and if it were to arise, would fiercely erase any doubt by providing full-fledged transparency? Well not so, as they continue to refuse to disclose $225 in donations. We are used to corporate good-doers, but this example shows that politicians should perhaps stay far away from charity work where complicated conflicts of interest may arise.

It’s certainly not a straightforward matter, however, what is interesting is that while many ordinary people would consider these allegations to constitute a potential form of political corruption, it may in fact not be corruption at all if we go by the US supreme courts infinite wisdom. Meredith McGehee comments in an article in LawNewz that;

For decades, political corruption meant what most Americans think it means. The Supreme Court (in Buckley v. Valeo and McConnell v. FEC) embraced this ordinary view of corruption, holding that giving and taking bribes was only the most blatant kind of corruption. Then came a series of cases in which the Supreme Court eviscerated that meaning and replaced it with the free-for-all corruption rules that insulate today’s political candidates. The process began in Citizens United, where the Court significantly narrowed the definition of corruption. Justice Anthony Kennedy, writing for the majority (and providing no basis for his opinion), asserted that the appearance of influence or access obtained by campaign contributions “will not cause the electorate to lose faith in this democracy.”

For that reason they are unlikely to ever be prosecuted, even for the most damning allegations. Not because they are part of the privy elite who are above the law, as many think, but, as the Meredith McGehee argues, because the US Supreme Court doesn’t seem to think selling access is illegal. Comforted by legal precedence, the Clinton’s are likely to dodge the bullet, because the average Jo’s interpretation of good old corruption is not shared by the highest court in the US.

In other words, if donors to the Clinton Foundation—or even Clinton’s presidential campaign—were granted meetings with the State Department, nothing in those grants of access would meet the standard of what constitutes illegal corruption according to the Supreme Court. In fact, in their view, such access and influence merits First Amendment protection.

People entrust their money to governments and charities every day all over the world. The eroding layer of trust, in that this money will be allocated efficiently, honestly, and with integrity, cannot be eroded by rogues using the system to their benefit, not even a little bit. Is this the case for the Clintons? We can’t make that judgement yet, however, it has been announced that the Clinton Foundation will halt foreign and corporate donations if Hillary is elected. Mutiple investigations have been lauched by both the US IRS and the FBI the case. Eiter way lets continue to scrutinise the charities to which we give and the leaders we support in a fair, just and balanced manner. For the ones that have missed it, do check the Clinton Cash documentary and judge for yourself whether we are looking at a streak of unprecedented coincidence or perhaps false play?

Eiter way lets continue to scrutinise the charities to which we give and the leaders we support in a fair, just and balanced manner. For the ones that have missed it, do check the Clinton Cash documentary and judge for yourself whether we are looking at a streak of unprecedented coincidence or, perhaps, false play?



Barry Ritholtz Face-to-Face with Impact Investing Guru Matthew Weatherley-White

Some of you may have already come across Matthew Weatherley-White through a profile titled ”The Most Fascinating Impact Investor You’ve Never Heard Of”. If you haven’t, do check it out! White is in many ways an exceptional and inspiring character who, apart from entertaining a rich list of hobbies and accolades, also happens to run one of the world’s largest and oldest multi-family impact investing funds through CAPROCK Group, the wealth management company he co-launched together with five other partners in 2005. White has expressive views on capital and an all-in attitude when it comes to his investment approach:

”I’m committing my career and professional reputation to this notion that at some point in the future it will be unacceptable to deploy capital with utter disregard to the environmental and social consequences for doing so,”

In his interview with Ritholtz they go through the history of impact investing covering how it transcended from the divestment movement of South African companies during the apartheid era, to anti-Vice, socially responsible investing (SRI), sustainable, and ESG to ”impact investing” a term White expects will eventually go away as well. They further discuss the changes in modern investor demographics. It turns out that women together with those ‘damn’ millennials will be taking the reins and propelling this trend even further as a $30 trillion dollar generational wealth transfer is underway, as demographics suggest much of it will find its way to these two groups, who tend to favor ESG investing. Get yourself a cuppa and a comfortable seat and enjoy this podcast!



The Business Value of Impact Measurement

Impact measurement is a hot topic. More and more companies, even the ones that don’t proclaim the impact investor label, are measuring their impact. For many impact investors however, impact measurement is considered an essential aspect of impact investing, as it demonstrates an investor’s commitment to the social and environmental performance of their investments. Yet, apart from quantifying your impact, what other benefits may be derived from impact measurement? Well, the Global Impact Investing Network (GIIN) set to find out, and published their finding in their report ”The Business Value of Impact Measurement” in which they highlighted 5 key findings:

  1. Revenue growth: Social and environmental data empower impact investors and their portfolio companies to drive revenue growth by understanding customers and developing better products and services.
  2. Improving operational effectiveness and efficiency: Impact investors use social and environmental performance data to inform and improve a wide range of operational issues, from human resource management to accounting procedures.
  3. Investment decisions: Many types of impact investors find that they can improve deal sourcing, targeting, and selection when they actively engage in impact measurement.
  4. Marketing and reputation building: Social and environmental impact data is vital to attracting investors and earning trust with key stakeholders, including communities and local authorities.
  5. Strategic alignment and risk mitigation: Impact measurement plays a critical role in ensuring that investors’ and companies’ activities are aligned with their missions and strategies. It also helps mitigate risks that relate to both impact and financial concerns.

The report further claims that the benefits of impact investing are becoming increasingly clear to a growing audience, especially now impact and financial data are merged, it can optimize impact performance and strengthen an investors business, according to GIIN CEO Amit Bouri:

“We are seeing an increasing fusion in the use of impact and financial data to make investments that not only optimize impact performance, but also help strengthen an investor’s business,”

“Investors are continuing to find synergies between the social, environmental, and financial aspects of their work, and they are applying these insights in ways that generate significant value for the investor, their investee companies, the beneficiary communities, and the environment.”

Impact measurement is also no longer seen as a mere cost center as investors are seeing the real business benefits from their impact measurement data, according to Director of Research for the GIIN, Abhilash Mudaliar:

“The practice of impact measurement is a core characteristic of impact investing,” “However, it is not just a cost center. As this research demonstrates, many investors are gaining real business benefits from their impact measurement data by using it to inform strategy and to find ways to optimize performance and advance strategic goals.”

According to Kelly McCarthy, Senior Manager of Impact Measurement, impact measurement is now also seen as a useful strategic management tool as:

“An impact measurement strategy is most beneficial to the investor when it moves beyond counting outputs and is used to inform investment decisions and portfolio management,” “We are witnessing a growing acknowledgement in the impact investing community that impact measurement and management is an incredibly useful strategic management tool.”


This $100 Million Fund Backs First-Time Impact Fund Managers

Capria Accelerator is the first global business accelerator for impact fund managers. Their accelerator program invests in, supports, and helps capitalise new fund managers by backing early-stage startups in markets such as Sub-Saharan Africa, South/Southeast Asia, and Latin America.

There is a growing demand for impact investment capital in places like Africa and Latin America. Yet there is little to choose from. There are various reasons for this, but one important one is because first-time fund managers lack track-record. Antony Bugg-Levine, CEO of the Nonprofit Finance Fund comments:

“By definition, when anything is new, you’re going to have to invest with the pioneers.”

Over the next 3 years the $100 Million fund will help raise impact fund managers 1st or 2nd fund by providing $250,000-$500,000 operational or warehouse capital. Capria will also provide access to their Rolodexes and provide some serious training.

Capria sets the bar high, as according to their fund manager they target market rate returns at 15% net (20% gross) over the lifecycle of the fund. They are is inviting and reviewing application during the entire 3rd quarter of 2016. Capria is backed by investors like Bill Gates‬ Investments, Crystal Springs Foundation, Lemelson Foundation, Mohandas Pai and Ranjan Pai of Aarin Capital and the International Finance Corporation (IFC).

Watch their introductory video below or check at their website for further details.