Ethiopian agricultural venture, GreenPath Food; a portfolio of Engineers Without Borders (EWB) Canada, has attracted vital capital injection in the form of Series-A funding from a group of investors led by East African venture capital firm, Novastar; an investment firm that focuses on empowering startups which have the potential to transform low-income consumer markets and solve lingering social problems. The amount of investment remains undisclosed.
According to a press release put out by the Canadian impact-focused investor, GreenPath is pioneering this remarkable feat amongst the collection of ventures in its investment portfolio. Primarily, having garnered this Series-A funding, GreenPath’s current operations and expansion plans are expected to receive much-needed support and acceleration. As pointed out in the press release, the new lease of life which the funding will afford is envisaged to grow the company’s potential impact for numerous small farm holdings across Ethiopia, and even other regions on the continent. The investment will enable the company to increase its sales and production, improve the efficiency of its operations, and bring about sustainable revenue generation for a developing smallholder network.
GreenPath is an Ethiopian startup and one of the subsidiaries of EWB Canada. The Ethiopian startup focuses on forming partnerships with smallholder farmers in various parts of the country to source organically-grown produce. The startup places a premium on reaching out to local farmers who adopt sustainable and organic methods of growing produce. It is founded on a permaculture-based principle which allows farmers to make the switch to regenerative ‘food forests’; a feature that ensures productivity throughout the year and other agricultural benefits in the long-term.
GreenPath Food’s approach brings about an atmosphere of positive environmental implications and significant increases in both farm yields and farmer incomes. Another central feature in the startup’s operating blueprint is a feature which supports identification and sale of produce to international buyers whose values are in sync with that of the company’s. By design, such companies are typically those who have interests in the area of upping their supply of organic-certified and sustainably-grown food. GreenPath also seeks to eliminate the factors that impede smallholder farmers from accessing the immense potential of the global markets.
GreenPath’s parent company, EWB, is a Canadian NGO which is focused on investing in people and ventures intending on creating sustainable and inclusive economies. This it does by providing support in the way of seed funding, talent, and mentorship to enterprises with recognizable social impact across Africa’s sub-Saharan region. The initiative is reported to also facilitate the coordination and training of a network of 40 chapters and 1,300 members throughout Canada, with the aim of churning out national and international leaders. EWB Ventures, the investment arm of the initiative, has its sights trained on giving support to pioneering early-stage, highly-scalable, innovative social enterprises in sub-Saharan Africa.
Having been attracted to GreenPath’s business model which incorporates a closed-loop, organic permaculture model, and their integrated value chain support for farmers, EWB is reported to have overseen the Ethiopian startup’s initial seed round as first institutional investor in 2016; a gesture which culminated in the unveiling of GreenPath flagship operation in Butajira, Ethiopia. The Canadian investment firm’s support and commitment to growing the startup for the past 18 months are reported to have been instrumental to the venture’s progress and drive, which ultimately nudged GreenPath into the Series-A process. As pointed out by Jacie Jones, GreenPath’s Managing Director, “EWB has been an incredible partner. Their 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.”
Largely due to EWB’s two-pronged strategy which imbibes the combination of tailored, long-term capital investments (up to USD 100 K from concept to revenue) with requisite expertise, the Ethiopian startup has been furnished with the means to hire a sales and marketing manager through EWB’s fellowships program; and this is said to have proven helpful in significantly increasing their network of export partners. And it gets even better with the indication that as it stands, over a hundred smallholder farmers have partnered with GreenPath to become EU Organic-certified. As part of the benefits, Partner Farmers are entitled to high-quality organic inputs, farm-level training, and technical support. Also in the offing are such incentives as guaranteed purchasing at fair, transparent prices, which has gone some extent towards increasing the income and improving the economic wellbeing of Partner Farmers.
GreenPath’s recent fundraising success holds significance and can be regarded as a massive coup for the growing social enterprise ecosystem in sub-Saharan Africa. This gives some credence to the notion that entrepreneurs can indeed serve bottom-of-the-pyramid (BOP) populations sustainably.