Pymwymic and Wageningen University & Research (“WUR”) announce a strategic corporate partnership with the objective to support innovative technologies that will create positive change in our food system. This cooperation forms the cornerstone of Pymwymic’s Healthy Food Systems Impact Fund II, which is currently being launched. The partnership brings together two organisations with a rich history – Pymwymic as one of the oldest impact investors in Europe, and WUR having over 100 years’ research expertise making them the largest innovation hub of agricultural technology in the world.
Ivo Demmers, Programme Leader of Food Security and Valuing Water at WUR, and Rogier Pieterse, Managing Director of Pymwymic, caught up to discuss the benefits of the partnership and what they hope to achieve through their work together.
Why is our Food System so important?
ID: We all shape the Food System, it’s not distant, we can all make a difference as researchers, consumers, and investors. At WUR, we concluded that it’s impossible to take one element of the food system out, you need to combine items simultaneously to be able to have a difference. That’s why we broke it up into key focus areas: 1) Sufficient food for everyone 2) Ensuring a healthy diet 3) Fair distribution of costs and revenues and 4) Climate change, sustainability and biodiversity.
RP: They’re all equally important, which highlights how the food system touches upon every one of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals. From the very beginning we wanted to make sure our investments would contribute to concrete and measurable positive change. With already a strong track record in Ag/Food-Tech, our strategic focus on the food system for our second fund was the only logical way forward.
ID: Exactly – I truly believe that the first focus should be on what is needed to be done and the second step is how to do it. We need to bridge the gap between all four pillars (see below) because no single focus or solution will fix the problem.
How did the partnership come to be?
RP: When we began our research to deepen our understanding of root causes, interdependencies and viable solutions in food systems we struggled to find sources that could properly explain the complexities of how the food system actually works. That’s when I came across WUR’s report – “The Food Systems Approach” – which gives a clear and simple overview of the food value chain and its interdependencies with environmental drivers, socio-economic drivers, consumer characteristics and more. Ivo’s details were on the report’s website, so I reached out to him and the conversation started from there!
ID: Pymwymic had already made its mileage in the Food System. But to really understand underlying drivers, unintentional consequences, the latest technological achievements and more, this is really where WUR could help. We are a big fan of the reciprocal approach to this partnership: Pymwymic brings something to us in terms of knowledge in impact investment and we can make available the 100-year old research and data on food systems in this case.
With the aim to create greater positive impact, we started the Corporate Value Creation department back in 2017. With our accelerator programme StartLife we made a commitment to support start-ups since 2010. Partnering with Pymwymic also allows us to learn what does and doesn’t work in practice when scaling businesses. And whilst we’re connected to big companies and funding institutions, we see it as very important that funding not only comes from the public sector but also the private sector with a focus towards smaller companies. That’s where I saw an opportunity to work with Pymwymic.
How is the partnership working already?
RP: Apart from our involvement in StartLife, speaking at conferences and sharing case examples, there are two very concrete outcomes which are exciting to share. First, WUR has been essential in the development of the impact strategy of our fund: which tangible results should our portfolio companies contribute to in order to support the transition to a more sustainable food system. Second, we offer each future portfolio company a deep dive session with WUR experts to define and plot their impact on the food system. This helps them understand questions such as: how does the company contribute to food security, or healthy diets? What impact does it have on the soil, the climate? Which stakeholders, policies are important? This way, the impact approach of a company is built on in-depth knowledge of the inner workings of the food system.
ID: My role within WUR is to build partnerships and bridge the gaps between the experts working with us and the outside world. I can point Pymwymic in the right direction when it comes to specific expertise for their due diligence. Having Pymwymic on board in different sessions that WUR organises, allows us to add an additional angle from an impact investor point of view, rather than only sticking to the development bank and larger institutional point of views. Both are important. The knowledge and the way impact investment is carried out by Pymwymic is new to WUR. Pymwymic is a frontrunner there so we knew we needed to work with them.
Any last thoughts?
ID: To find and support viable business solutions that can tackle issues in all parts of the world would be a dream.
RP: I am personally intrigued by soil health. Finding the key to measure and improve healthy soil, that would be great!
Impact the food chain: watch our video