Latin American Shrimp, Coffee, Wood, Charcoal Win Venture Capital

By Alejandra Herranz

RIO DE JANEIRO, Brazil, September 28, 2000 (ENS) - Four environmentally friendly enterprises have won venture capital funding in a contest at the New Ventures Forum organised this week by the World Resources Institute (WRI).

An Ecuadorian company that makes herbal chemicals for the shrimp farming industry; a Bolivian firm that manufactures hardwood flooring from sustainably certified Amazon forests; a natural charcoal company from Mexico; and a Colombian shade grown coffee company are winners of the New Ventures Forum competition.

The forum's goal is to promote links among socially responsible funds, venture capital investors and green entrepreneurs in Latin America.

WRI's Patricia Londoño who piloted the awards process from beginning to end said they interviewed 500 people with business plans from eight countries in Latin America. Seventeen were shortlisted to be selected for the final stage of eight business plans. Before the presentation of the eight finalist companies, the companies received coaching from someone in the corporate environmental division at the Institute, "something that was key to assist and help the entrepreneurs to reach the final stage of the contest," Londoño said.

The four winning business plans were Greenaqua of Ecuador, Jolyka Bolivia of Bolivia, Noram of México and Café Mesa de los Santos of Colombia. Each of them will receive US$25,000 as an award.


From Quito, Ecuado, Greenaqua is the first eco-friendly, certified organic shrimp operation in the world. It produces and distributes 100 percent natural patented bio-inputs for the shrimp aquaculture industry. The company's products include food, growth stimulators, preservatives, vaccines and solutions that fight bacteria, fungi and viruses.


Bioactivator fertilizer by Greenaqua (Photo courtesy Greenaqua)
Their products are derived primarily from local minerals, medicinal plants, herbs, roots and tropical fruits and can be used in the cultivation, transportation, and processing stages of shrimp farming.

Founded in 1998, Greenaqua now has 29 employees and 1999 sales worth US$284,000. Greenaqua has estimated its capital needs at US$970,000. The company is seeking investment to secure international patents and certifications, as well as purchase land and equipment for their production infrastructure.

Globally, the farming and marketing of organically produced shrimp is a US$7.7 billion business - US$1.4 billion located in the Western hemisphere, and some US$180 million in the U.S. market. Greenaqua's target market is shrimp farmers in Latin America, as well as consumers in North America. The market for organic shrimp farming inputs is expected to increase by 10 percent in the next few years, as consumer demand for organic producers increases.


Jolyka Bolivia is the only South American company producing high quality engineered and laminated hardwood flooring products from sustainably managed Amazon forests. The company produces solid wood flooring and mosaic design flooring, principally for export markets in the U.S. and Europe.


Bolivian forest (Photo by Tim Bottenfield)
"Jolyka only purchases wood from sawmills and forest concessions that are conscious about renewing this natural resource and practice selective, low environmental impact harvesting. We must be sustainable to win in this business," explained general manager Jorge Vrsalovic.

Its products have won certification from the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) - the only company in Bolivia to hold such a certification.

Created in 1995, the company now has 75 employees and will have sales worth US$2.2 million this year. Its equity investment needs are pegged at US$350,000, funding the company will use to expand its operation in the exports markets of U.S. and Europe.

The U.S. market for this type of flooring was valued at US$ 1.2 billion in 1999 with a sustained five percent annual growth. Jolyka's marketing goal is to position itself as the provider of choice for certified tropical wood flooring from Amazonian forests.


The Mexican winner, Noram, produces FSC certified natural barbeque charcoal which sells under the brand names Sierra Madre, Azteca, and Monte Alto.

Noram general manager José García said the company purchases sustainably extracted scrub oak hardwood from certified ejidos communal groups in the northern state of Durango, México.

Durango contains over six million hectares of forests mostly owned by ejido indigenous groups. Noram purchases oak from 18 groups and has recruited 10 of them to partipate in a voluntary forest management certification by SmartWood under the auspices of the FSC.

Noram's charcoal is distributed nationwide in México through major supermarket and convenience store chains. Since 1996, the company has been exporting FSC certified charcoal to Europe.

Natural charcoal, whether certified or not, is made from pure oak, while most briquets contain non-charcoal additives - coal, oil, sodium nitrate, limestone, sawdust, or scrap lumber.

The Mexican market for natural charcoal accounts for 200,000 tons a year. Europe buys the same amount and some 400,000 tons are sold in the U.S. market every year.

The government of México allows oak cutting in Durango for over 500,000 cubic metres annually. About 30 percent of what is authorised is actually cut. Noram officials believe there is a huge backlog of authorised cuttings required to maintain a natural forest balance, and more than sufficient supply potential exists for substantial growth in Noram sales.

The company is seeking a revolving working capital loan for increased operation in the amount of US$400,000.


The fourth winner is Colombian Café Mesa de los Santos, a brand that has been developed under the umbrella branding given by the national brand "Café de Colombia."


Shade grown, bird friendly organic coffee trees on a Café Mesa de los Santos farm (Photo courtesy Café Mesa de los Santos)
Founded in 1872, the company produces and exports a unique specialty organic coffee. CEO Oswaldo Acevedo says the company needs US$2 million for acquisition of new farms, new brands promotion plan, and execution of a marketing strategy.

"We have three principles upon which we work - quality, sustainability and social responsibility," said Acevedo.

Café Mesa de los Santos is among the largest producers and exporters of organic coffees in Colombia. It is also the first company in the country to produce and export specialty organic coffee.

U.S. coffee drinkers consume 23 million bags of coffee a year including 6,600 bags of organic coffee. In 1999, Café Mesa de los Santos produced 2.1 percent of all the specialty organic coffee consumed in North America.

Due to the growing public concern for personal health and environmental impacts, the company expects that the demand for organic coffee will rapidly increase, as seen in the current yearly 15 percent growth rate in North America.