Last week Monday, FS6 held our Cohort 5 culminating event as part of the Regenerative Food Systems Investment Forum. For those of you who weren’t able to join us, you can find the event recording and synopsis below!
During the 2-hr event, FS6 was proud to showcase the incredible work of our six Cohort 5 companies - featuring a short storytelling video, pitch, and audience Q&A. Before we dive into the details, meet Cohort 5 (in order of appearance):
Watch Full Event Recording
To kick us off, the event featured a short introduction from RFSI Director, Sarah Day Levesque welcoming everyone to the second annual Regenerative Food Systems Investment Forum! She was followed by FS6 CEO Caesaré Assad, who began with a thank you to the frontline workers keeping us safe and fed through a heartbreaking fire season in California and a pandemic sweeping across our country - and encouraged everyone to reach out and find ways to support them during these times. Caesaré dove into the importance of creating a socially responsible, more equitable, and vibrant food system, and the value of building communities of support for the entrepreneurs working to make these changes possible (as witnessed by the 90% survival rate of the FS6 portfolio of entrepreneurs)!
The first entrepreneur presentation came from Jacqueline Smith, founder and CEO of Central Grazing Co. (CGC).
Jacqueline spoke about the devastation wrought by industrialization and consolidation of agriculture on midwestern communities and her efforts, through Central Grazing Co, to incentivize and support a regional, humane, regenerative agricultural economy in order to revitalize the midwestern prairies and, with them, midwestern communities. As part of this work, CGC is not only providing D2C meat nationwide, but they are building out a sustainable US-based supply chain for regenerative leather.
“Ecology and economy can intersect - caring for the earth can be a business model.”
Next up came Lindsey Lusher Shute, founder and CEO of Farm Generations Cooperative and their farmer-owned technology platform, GrownBY.
Lindsey, an industry veteran who also founded the National Young Farmers Coalition, echoed Jacqueline in addressing the challenges faced by a consolidated food system, and the ever-growing to-do list of the modern small-to midsize farmer. She addressed the importance of building farmer owned technology tools, like GrownBy, in order to retain value and make small-midsize farming operations viable competitors in the marketplace.
**In her Q&A, Lindsey addressed the unique opportunities and strategies for investing in cooperatively owned companies. Check out the full event recording to hear her answer!
Mark Keller, founder and CEO of Keller Crafted Meats (KCM), was the next in line to share his story.
Mark introduced the audience to the Keller Crafted pillars of: Stewardship of the Earth, Nourishment for All, and Fairness for Farmers - and the need for authentic connection in the regenerative agriculture conversation. Over the 20 years that they have been in business, KCM has been a first-mover on a number of important sustainability initiatives, from USDA organic, to non-GMO, to paleo/Keto, and now, to Savory Global’s Ecological Outcome Verified (EOV) certification. Mark has been a passionate proponent of the “food as medicine” lifestyle over the years and continues to shape the industry in his commitment to healing the earth and the people who inhabit it through food.
“If we want to see change, we must work on Mother Nature’s time clock.”
** This conversation also kicked off a discussion in the chat box about the role of meat-companies in fighting the climate crisis. For a deeper dive into this discussion, see the Investing in Animal Agriculture & Processing panel details below.
Anna Hammond is the co-founder and CEO of Matriark Foods, an upcycled food company selling into institutional foodservice.
Anna discussed the devastating effects of food waste - both on-farm and from value-add processors - on our communities, and the power of institutional food buyers to make a difference with their purchasing power. 50% of all meals in the US are served in schools, hospitals, and other institutional settings and an increase in sustainability mandates is providing a unique opportunity to make a big impact, quickly. Matriark’s first product is an upcycled, shelf-stable, low-sodium soup and sauce base and, after only a few months in business, they are already selling nationally through major distributors like Baldor and US Foods.
“When you see a tray of celery sticks, imagine all of the celery that’s not there.”
Revel Meat Company co-founder and CEO, James Serlin, is revitalizing regional processing in the Pacific Northwest.
James addressed the aging population of regional processing plant owners, and the lack of founder-friendly succession plans leading to the dwindling numbers of USDA certified regional processing plants across the country. In order to secure our supply chain, and to support regenerative and humane animal husbandry, we need to increase the infrastructure designed to help get those animals to market. He discussed the ways in which small-scale plants are drastically different businesses than the large-scale processors, and the essential role they play in keeping people fed and farmers in business.
“We take a holistic approach to this disjointed system... [It’s] not the prettiest work, but it’s unbelievably meaningful work.”
Last but certainly not least, Matt Kreutz of Firebrand Artisan Breads joined us to talk about people-friendly practices and employee ownership.
Firebrand is a mission-based bakery in Oakland, CA that uses an open hiring model to support formerly incarcerated and homeless individuals in building stability and community through the craft of baking. Having just closed a $9mil fundraise, Matt is seeking strategic partners to support Firebrand in this next stage of growth - as they rollout a new line of packaged bread, move into an expanded space, and build out their worker resource center.
“At Firebrand, we don’t believe you should be known for the worst thing you’ve ever done in your life. It is our job to ensure that everyone gets a fair chance to be their best selves.”
If you are interested in setting up a conversation with any of the FS6 Cohort 5 entrepreneurs, you can find their contact information and company details here:
Throughout the remainder of the week, the FS6 team and entrepreneurs joined RFSI in a few other discussions, panels, and conversations about food system investment. We will post the videos to these events in the next couple of days, so check back for more!
Investor Conversations: Investing in the Food System
Investing in Animal Agriculture & Processing
Creating Equitable Access & Impact
How to Keep Farmers Farming…and Farming Well
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FS6 is a nonprofit based in the San Francisco Bay Area whose mission is to support impact-driven entrepreneurs as they transform how we grow, produce, and distribute food. The organization runs a comprehensive accelerator program that mentors entrepreneurs by coaching them through a wide range of business and organizational needs. FS6 also works to educate stakeholders on the unique capital needs as it relates to redefining the food system.