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Farming makes an impact –
via an app

Using technology as a tool for investment doesn’t often involve environmental sustainability – until one discovers “impact farming” via an app, writes ARTHUR GOLDSTUCK

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I have become a farmer. No, I haven’t ditched the online world or the business of research and writing. But, thanks to a simple app, I am now the owner of a veritable hedge of blueberry bushes. I’ve never seen them in the purple flesh, so to speak, but I know they are being looked after by experts, and every few months I earn a few rand from their produce.

My adventure in agriculture is in reality an adventure in investment. It was made possible by a concept called “impact investment”, designed to generate social and environmental benefit along with financial returns.  It is in some ways a sub-category of “sustainable investment”, which refers to responsible investing that takes into account environmental and social impact.

An independent financial services organisation called Fedgroup has extended the concept to the farming sector, and calls it “impact farming”.

It has carefully selected categories of product that make a positive impact on the environment, that are relatively easy to manage and track if one has the right expertise on board, and that provide a regular return to investors. The three “assets” one can purchase through its app, for now, are a blueberry bush on a “smart blueberry farm”, a solar panel on an “urban solar farm” or a beehive on a “sustainable honey farm”.

Fedgroup vets the farmers according to track records, existing contracts with suppliers and ability to scale up, and has set up the app as a platform for owners, farmers and buyers to come together. One monitors returns on the app, and can cash these in as they reach specific thresholds – or just watch the investment grow.

My first return from a blueberry bush, which costs R300 to buy and own, was a handsome two rand and 64 cents. If that sounds discouraging, it’s because it is only a small part of the big picture of impact investment. Over time, the return grows, and eventually pays for itself. My approach was to buy a new bush every few months, and reinvest the income. My next pay-out was R37,42, still small, but an indication of exponential growth over time. The third payment, at R62,65, confirmed this trend.

Read more on the next page about how the app provides a teaching in both patience and investment strategy.

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