The co-owner of Blue Hill Farm and Blue Hill at Stone Barns restaurant in upstate New York has launched Almanac Investments to extend the values of regenerative agriculture into venture capital. The firm’s launch is backed by $30 million, which founder David Barber says will be invested in consumer packaged goods (CPG), experiential retail, and agriculture and hospitality technology companies.
Regenerative agriculture, a method of farming based around soil restoration and overall land health, is the main focus of Blue Hill and the Stone Barns Center for Food and Agriculture, which Barber co-founded with his brother chef Dan Barber. Almanac Investments will align with many of the values of Stone Barns.
Though the fund is seeking investments supportive of regenerative agriculture and the circular economy, David Barber says that the term “impact investor” does not apply. Barber does not believe “impact” needs to be the primary driver because he already links sustainability with financial returns.
“These businesses will, in our view, be the best long-term investments and the ones where we can contribute the most value over time,” Barber explained. “It’s a very different role for capital because it’s not just aspirational investment.”
Almanac has already made three investments, including packaged soup brand Nona Lim, food business incubator network Pilotworks, and Blue Cart, which is a wholesale order management software platform for buyers and sellers in the hospitality industry.
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Barber has been investing in food and agriculture startups for years as an angel investor, and has worked closely with like-minded venture firms like S2G Ventures. With Almanac, he hopes to compound the support he has been able to give to startups.
“To really help these businesses, I needed to professionalize the advice we’re giving and the help we’re offering and to really coordinate resources in a way that benefits the entrepreneur,” Barber said.
Specifically, Almanac is looking to support early-stage CPG products that are intentional about their supply chains, as well as experiential retail in the quick-serve restaurant space, an area in which players increasingly compete on the transparency of their sourcing.
“It’s about a moment in time where capital can play a real role,” he said. “The role we want Almanac to play is to ensure that the capital is used to support the future food system we aspire to. Opportunistic capital that intends to use the food system purely for the purposes of generating more capital, will be leaving the greatest long-term value creation on the table.”
Almanac is targeting investments in the ballpark of six figures, with the possibility of larger follow-on investments down the road — a strategy that Barber says is a response to the funding landscape for food businesses right now.
Barber also says that he’s not married to the traditional venture capital timelines, seeking to be a long-term investor on a “very selective basis.”
Zoe Feldman, a former intern at Stone Barns who spent the last ten years in R&D and venture strategy at PepsiCo andChicago-based VCCleveland Avenue, has joined Almanac as managing director.