05 Nov From Colombia to the World: SEAF Invests in Biotech Company Ecoflora, Developer of a Natural and Safe Blue Colorant and Creator of Climate Sustainability
Medellín – Colombia, November 5, 2021—The SEAF Colombia Agribusiness Fund (SCAF) has invested in the Colombian biotech company Ecoflora, which has created one of the world’s only natural blue colorants from the region’s native jagua fruit.
Founded in 1998, Ecoflora developed and patented the biotechnology and process to produce Jagua Blue, a natural blue colorant extracted from the Jagua fruit (Genipa americana), for commercial use in the food, pet food, cosmetic, and personal care industries. Jagua grows from a native tropical tree found in South and Central American rainforests. As blue is one of the rarest colors in nature, Jagua Blue has the potential to become a global leader in natural colorant additives, with competitive advantages to currently used blue colorants, such as blue-green algae, anthocyanins, and synthetic colorants.
After ten years of rigorous research and development, Ecoflora has recently received technical approval from the Joint FAO/WHO Expert Committee on Food Additives (JECFA) for Codex Alimentarius certification, and the process for US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approval is in its last stage. These approvals will provide Ecoflora´s Jagua Blue access to significantly larger international markets and provide the world with one of the few natural and safe blue colorants.
SEAF’s investment in Ecoflora seeks returns on three fronts: the continued development of its innovative biotechnology for accelerated financial growth, social impact derived from its value chain, and the environmental impact created in the region which will combat climate change.
Ecoflora currently sources Jagua fruit from the existing Jagua trees growing in the wild in several indigenous, Afro-Colombian, and forcedly displaced rural communities within Colombia. With initially 103 hectares planted with Jagua trees under sustainable management, SEAF’s investment will allow Ecoflora to expand its production of Jagua Blue to meet growing global demand.
Expanding jagua production will create more direct and indirect jobs in the regions where jagua is produced, providing a stable income to local smallholder farmers and their families through the sales of jagua fruit and through the Payments for Conservation (PSA) program, whereby jagua suppliers are financially compensated for preventing deforestation. The Jagua tree plantations are a solution to carbon dioxide offsetting, controlling deforestation, and reducing extensive cattle breeding. The impact Ecoflora has already had in the lives of farmers who supply Jagua is profound: “Ecoflora saved our lives [during the Pandemic]”, said Don Horacio, and for another farmer Edison, “Jagua gave me the opportunity to start my life again.” Along with the social and economic benefits to the region’s communities and families, the increased planting of jagua will generate environmental benefits through the reduction of carbon dioxide emissions and the recovery of soil and land in areas affected by cattle ranching and the growing of other crops.
This image depicts a deforested area that Ecoflora is seeking to plant with Jagua trees, partially substituting extensive cattle breeding and preserving the remaining rainforest shown on top of the hill.
SEAF’s investment in Ecoflora is also supported by a portion of the U.S. International Development Finance Corporation (DFC) $20 million loan facility previously granted to SEAF, which provides additional funding to small- and medium-sized enterprises in developing countries that are struggling with the economic impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic. SEAF’s support of Ecoflora also advances DFC’s flagship 2X Women’s Initiative through which the agency seeks to unlock the economic potential of women in emerging economies. With DFC support, SEAF’s investment in Ecoflora advances gender equality as a qualified client under SEAF’s Gender Equality Scorecard.
When asked about why she partnered with SEAF, Ecoflora’s CEO Sandra Zapata said, “We fit perfectly…it is not only the investment, because we are going to have a lot of profitability…but because we can make a positive impact on the world. So I believe that an investor who is aligned with the company’s dreams, with the dreams of its partners, is the key to achieving it.” Mauricio Samper, Managing Director of SEAF’s Colombia Agribusiness Fund described Ecoflora as “a marvelous example of the type of companies SEAF´s fund seeks to invest in. It´s a woman-lead, highly innovative organization, with high growth potential in both domestic and exports markets, and clear social and environmental impact opportunities to achieve our commitment to SDG goals. With Ecoflora, we will do well while doing good.”
The SEAF Colombia Agribusiness Fund (SCAF) promotes rural economic growth in marginalized areas of Colombia. The Activity was formed through a partnership between the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and SEAF. As only two percent of Colombia’s foreign direct investment goes into agriculture, the country’s agricultural sector has the weakest growth in Latin America. However, a quarter of Colombia’s population resides in rural communities, and an improved agriculture sector is key to advancing peace, stability, and equitable development. SCAF improves the lives of people in the rural Colombian regions by fostering employment and improving income, investing in fast-growing, small and medium-sized enterprises. SCAF´s investment in Ecoflora comprises funds from Colombian investors, a US $5.3 million grant from USAID – with which SEAF has a long-standing global partnership, and DFA financing facilities.
U.S. International Development Finance Corporation (DFC) is America’s development bank. DFC partners with the private sector to finance solutions to the most critical challenges facing the developing world today, investing across sectors such as energy, healthcare, critical infrastructure, and technology. DFC also provides financing for small businesses and women entrepreneurs in order to create jobs in emerging markets. DFC investments adhere to high standards and respect the environment, human rights, and workers’ rights.
SEAF is an SEC-registered global impact investment management company located in Washington, D.C, with 15 offices in Central and Eastern Europe, Latin America, the Caribbean, Asia, the Middle East, North Africa, and Sub-Saharan Africa. Utilizing an ESG+ investment approach, SEAF selectively makes structured debt and equity investments in locally-owned small and medium enterprises in emerging markets that have high growth potential, focusing on the key impact themes of climate resilience, food security, and inclusion. Over the past three decades, SEAF has managed more than 40 Funds with over 400 investments across 33 countries.