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Why Kirchner’s Impact-focused Food Fellowship is Expanding to Mexico to ‘Harness the Power of Millennials’

March 13, 2017

The Kirchner Impact Foundation, the non-profit investment arm of North American merchant bank Kirchner Group, is taking its Food Fellowship to Mexico this year.

The Fellowship brings on three North America students each year to help identify and invest in “conscious agricultural businesses” out of a dedicated fund. The Kirchner Group may invest further in later rounds if the investments perform well.

“The goal of our program is to harness the power of millennials to find, fund and assist promising socially responsible agricultural businesses through an innovative impact investment approach that significantly reduces the cost and time needed to allocate capital carefully, wisely and with the support of a global network,” Blair Kirchner, director of the Kirchner Food Fellowship, told AgFunderNews in an email. “Reducing cost and time without reducing quality is needed if we are to ever push impact capital into the regions of the world where it is needed most.”

Now, in its fifth year, the Fellowship is collaborating with Centro Fox, a non-profit that focuses on fostering leadership in Mexico, to open up the program to Mexican students The Fellowship must also focus on investing in agricultural companies that stand to benefit the Mexican region.

“Although an underserved capital market, Mexico has great talent, great agriculture companies, and great potential partners,” Kirchner said. “Given our close relationship with Centro Fox and the geographic proximity, establishing a team of fellows in Mexico is the logical next step in the internationalization of the program. All of this combined should provide fertile soil for the fellows to make good investments in the region.”

Candidates must be enrolled in a university in Mexico, Canada or the United States and be native to Mexico or have strong connections to the region. The chosen participants will embark on a year-long educational process around the food industry and impact investing and be based out of the Presidential Library in Guanajuato, Mexico.

“They must be fully bilingual (English and Spanish), self-motivated, hard-working and possess a passion for investing in promising early-stage, for-profit, socially responsible agricultural companies,” Kirchner said. “The program is very intensive, and applicants must also be willing to commit 10-20 hours per week on it during their academic year.”

The Kirchner Food Fellowship understands that younger people are needed to help discover business possibilities of the networked, customized, and distributed world if businesses are going to solve some of the most pressing food-related issues of our time. That’s why Blair notes that it is imperative capital is invested in promising sustainable companies, and the only way to ensure that is through education about the process of proper early-stage impact investing.

“Combined with the Kirchner Group’s long history of working with agriculture and food companies, we believe strongly that the fellow’s investments can have a positive impact,” Kirchner said. “We also recognize there is a significant gap in education for the next generation of capital allocators. Numerous programs exist in universities for entrepreneurs but very few that focus on capital allocation, which is critical for those new entrepreneurs to be successful in their endeavors.”

When Kirchner first launched the program five years ago, it always intended to expand the program internationally because it felt there were logical regions that would benefit most from the program.

“It was important for us to first test and refine the model but now believe we have a scalable model that can be implemented internationally, so it was the right time to expand,” Kirchner said. “As the model is further deployed, we believe it can make a real difference in the world.”

Kirchner Food Fellowship investments include:

  • Lucky Iron Fish, a safe, cost-effective, easy-to-use alternative to pills for those suffering from iron deficiency that continues to expand its reach and be recognized by international organizations for the impact it is having around the world.
  • Green Zebra Grocery, a socially responsible convenience store chain focused on healthy and local options for customers. “It just opened its third store in Portland and continues to establish itself as the go-to healthy and convenient corner grocer in the region,” Kirchner said.
  • Till Mobile, a software company using SMS to address supply chain management deficiencies between small producers and large retailers. Kirchner noted it continues to make progress in its product development and roll out. (We wrote about this deal here).
  • Kuli Kuli, a consumer packaged goods company selling healthy food products made with moringa sourced primarily from small-holder farmers in Africa and Central America. It recently established a significant foothold in the market and raised a $4.25 million Series A, which marked the first investment by eighteen94, the venture capital arm of Kellogg.

Kirchner Group is a traditional merchant bank that provides advisory, operational and M&A support to small and medium-sized businesses with a focus on the agriculture and life sciences sectors. The firm also provides asset management services to family offices and some of the world’s largest insurance companies, commercial banks, and institutional investors.

The apply to the Fellowship, click here.

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