The Van Trump Report

“Crowdfarming” Platform Steward Offers Opportunities for Farmers and Investors

Regenerative agriculture continues to draw venture capital money with “crowdfarming” platform Steward the latest startup to benefit from the increased attention. The startup’s technology helps small and medium-sized farms raise money for sustainability improvements by letting regular people invest in them directly. Steward just raised $8.8 million in Series A funding co-led by Neglected Climate Opportunities — the VC arm of the Grantham Foundation — alongside impact investors Ponderosa Ventures and Tripple.

Steward was started in 2017 by Dan Miller, one of the brothers behind the successful real estate crowdfunding platform Fundrise. Miller says he came up with the idea while talking to younger chefs he was leasing properties to who told him how their suppliers all struggled with access to capital. Miller says he set out to tap “locavore” demand by allowing small investors to pool funds under the same regulations that allow for other crowdfunding platforms, most well known among those probably being Kickstarter. As Miller explains, “I was surprised, the demand for sustainable farm products is growing but farmers don’t have appropriate access to the capital they need to grow the farm. I wanted to link them to individuals who want to support those types of agriculture.” He initially envisioned it as a farmer tapping into their network and local community to help them grow, but the interest has proved much stronger.

Through Steward’s platform, investors can participate in secured, interest-bearing loans that support the growth of regenerative & sustainable agriculture businesses, whether in their own community or a totally different part of the country. Those pooled funds can then be tapped by farmers to grow and improve their operations. Farmers have to apply to be part of the program and must meet the selection criteria. The farms have to be regenerative and sustainable, for starters. They also look at other metrics, such as farmers who already have established products and markets. “They don’t have to be big but need to show demand is there,” says Miller.  According to Miller, Steward helped one farm raise a $50,000 operating loan in less than a week from 28 investors, without any paid advertising. “They just put out a social post.”  

Since opening to investors in 2019, Steward has provided over $7 million in farm loans from 1,200 lenders across 50 agricultural projects. Individual investments have ranged from $100 to tens of thousands of dollars. Steward offers investors 4-10% interest on the loans, depending on the collateral and cash flow. Learn more at Steward’s website HERE. (Sources: AgFunder News, Impact Alpha, SmartOysters)

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *