Funds will be dispersed to as many as six businesses in year one, with the goals of creating jobs and addressing the specific capital needs of both agricultural businesses and the innovative food, agriculture, and horticulture startups that serve them. With repayment, it is expected that participating businesses will generate monies that will then be recycled back into the fund. The revolving loan fund pilot program is being supported with a grant from the Richard King Mellon Foundation.
Idea Foundry, a Pittsburgh-based economic development organization founded in 2002, is a regional pioneer in technology transfer and commercialization, having helped launch over 170 companies that have created close to a billion dollars in regional economic impact. Over the past 13 years, over a dozen of the new business ventures Idea Foundry has supported have been endeavors that are working to increase local food production, consumption, and sustainability. Examples include Farm Truck Foods, a mobile farm-to-consumer grocer focused on delivering fresh, nutrient-dense, and locally produced foods to residents in food-insecure areas, PittMoss, which provides a superior, sustainable alternative to peat moss, and Optimus Technologies, which retrofits on-farm and other heavy-duty vehicles to run on food waste and other biodiesels.
Idea Foundry’s aim for the pilot is to create jobs that support local-food-systems-innovation in Western Pennsylvania, by enabling participants who are working to make our local food economy more viable to expand and grow. Idea Foundry’s involvement in bolstering the local food economy stems from the acknowledgement of the capital-intensive nature of both farming and agriculture technology startups. For example, farms require investment in the proper land, equipment, inputs, and labor, while startups need capital to build the technologies and innovations that will be implemented on the farm and throughout the supply chain. The revolving loan fund will directly address the financial needs of food and agriculture startups and innovative regional farms required to generate profits that contribute back into both the loan fund and the local economy.
Idea Foundry’s focus on strengthening local food systems is a sub-focus of their work supporting local social enterprise companies: for-profit ventures that are driven by a social or environmental mission, and that deliver sustainable social, environmental, and economic benefits to stakeholders all across the value chain. Created in 2012 and designed to address the burgeoning local interest in the growing global economic trend of for-profit social enterprise, Idea Foundry’s social enterprise accelerator InterSector is the region’s first and only program supporting early stage triple-bottom-line companies via investment and business development assistance. InterSector meets the unique needs of young social enterprise companies by providing them with the resources needed to thrive. InterSector is supported by The Heinz Endowments, The Richard King Mellon Foundation, and other local foundations.