cSMART Launches First-Ever VC Fund Exclusively Dedicated to Advancing Sorghum
The Collaborative Sorghum Marketing Transformation Program (cSmart) announced the launch of the first-ever venture capital fund exclusively dedicated to attracting capital to projects, companies, and innovators that are creating opportunities for sorghum farmers and the industry.
Through this platform, cSmart will match private capital to support startups and established businesses investing in sorghum, and will facilitate a network of private investors looking to gain exposure to competitive returns in the agriculture asset class.
“The number of opportunities to add value to sorghum farmers by attracting capital to our industry is truly unprecedented,” said JB Stewart, cSmart board director and sorghum farmer from Keyes, Oklahoma.
“From San Francisco to New York, businesses across the U.S. are seeing the value in investing in agriculture, and cSmart is proud to come alongside these businesses to facilitate investment in Sorghum: The Resource Conserving Crop™.”
Initially cultivated in northeast Africa, sorghum, also called milo, was first grown in the U.S. in the mid-18th century. Today, the U.S. is the top supplier in the world, producing 373 million bushels in 2020 on 6.5 million acres in more than 12 states - but particularly in Kansas, Texas, Oklahoma, Colorado, Nebraska, and South Dakota.
Historically, the grain has been produced primarily for animal feed, and more recently biofuels, (this is true in the U.S. - on a global scale, approximately 50 percent of sorghum is consumed by humans) but its nutritional profile and resilience are positioning the crop for greater market penetration. High in vitamin B6, magnesium, niacin, and phosphorus, and with twice the levels of iron as a 3-ounce steak, sorghum thrives at a wide range of temperatures and altitudes. It also can tolerate certain soil toxicities, and is more drought tolerant than corn.
Despite its nutritional benefits, only 2 percent of annual sorghum output in the U.S. is processed into foods for human consumption (but this percentage is growing), while 30 percent is used as biomass for ethanol production, with the balance going to feed livestock.
When used as a feedstock for biofuel production, the entire plant is usable as biomass, with per-bushel ethanol production on par with that of comparable feedstocks, but needing a fraction of the water to be grown.
Leveraging its network of relationships throughout the supply chain, cSmart offers a wealth of knowledge along with financial flexibility in support of startups and investors bringing advancement and innovation to this promising crop and industry.
“Out of necessity bred by difficult growing environments, innovation is the American sorghum farmer’s most important tool,” cSmart board director and MOJO Seed president. Jerry O’Rear, board director, CSmart and president, MOJO Seed, commented, “As a reflection of this inventive spirit, the launch of cSmart is a groundbreaking step toward financing even more innovation and doing so in a way that adds maximum value to sorghum farmers.”
This work is already being done, according to John Duff, consultant to cSmart, who added, “To date, cSmart has invested in support of a container facility for specialty sorghum exports, matched private investment with funds for marketing efforts for an all-female run sorghum food startup, and facilitated networking and due diligence for an industrial sorghum starch project.”
“The diversity of these investments demonstrates the wide net cSmart intends to cast, supporting and financing innovation in American agriculture—a necessity we are proud to announce this National Ag Day.”
~ Lynda Kiernan-Stone is editor in chief with GAI Media, and is managing editor and daily contributor for Global AgInvesting’s AgInvesting Weekly News and Agtech Intel News, as well as HighQuest Group’s Unconventional Ag. She can be reached at email@example.com.
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