Data

General Issues
Agriculture, Forestry, Fishing & Mining Industries
Health
Business
Specific Topics
Food & Nutrition
Sustainable Development
Economic Development
Location
Guelph
Ontario
Canada
Scope of Influence
City/Town
Links
https://harvestimpact.ca/about-harvest-impact/
Ongoing
Yes
Time Limited or Repeated?
Repeated over time
Primary Organizer/Manager
10C Shared Space
Implementers of Change
Stakeholder Organizations

CASE

Harvest Impact by 10C Seeded by Our Food Future

April 19, 2022 mcmasteribhprogram
April 13, 2022 mcmasteribhprogram
General Issues
Agriculture, Forestry, Fishing & Mining Industries
Health
Business
Specific Topics
Food & Nutrition
Sustainable Development
Economic Development
Location
Guelph
Ontario
Canada
Scope of Influence
City/Town
Links
https://harvestimpact.ca/about-harvest-impact/
Ongoing
Yes
Time Limited or Repeated?
Repeated over time
Primary Organizer/Manager
10C Shared Space
Implementers of Change
Stakeholder Organizations

Harvest Impact was created by 10C and seeded by Our food Future. Their goal is to provide access to nutritious food and promote a circular food economy through community-based lending in the Guelph-Wellington County.

Problems and Purpose

Harvest Impact is an initiative by 10 Carden Shared Space, also known as 10C, and seeded by Our Food Future in the Guelph-Wellington area.

In Guelph-Wellington, one in six families experience food insecurity, and the cost of healthy food keeps increasing. Meanwhile, between a third and a half of the food produced is thrown away. Much of that ends up in landfill, where it creates greenhouse gasses that drive climate change. Individuals in Southern Ontario have increasing levels of precarious work, income inequality, and food insecurity. Additionally, 10C found that entrepreneurs were experiencing barriers to securing financing, which was preventing them from taking risks on viable food, farm, and environmental sector businesses.

Both 10C and Our Food Future saw a growing concern regarding the imbalance between healthy food prices, food access and food waste. By working together, local organizations can support new businesses and collaborations, including not-for-profit solutions that are core engines of social, environmental and economic change. Guelph-Wellington wants to build a movement towards a circular economy. They envision a goal to build a circular economy that is 50% more food secure. This goal means that they strive to achieve a 50% increase in access to affordable nutritious food, create 50 new circular economy businesses and collaborations, and achieve a 50% increase in circular economic revenue by recognizing the value of waste. The intention of Harvest Impact is to support the larger goals of Our Food Future, and create a community-based lending institution to provide accessible financing, as well as technical and social support to food, farm, and environment sector entrepreneurs (including nonprofits and social enterprises) undertaking circular economy Initiatives. 

What Problem is Harvest Impact Working to Solve?

Harvest Impact seeks to use social financing as a tool to create meaningful opportunities in the community and increase agency for all – socially, politically, and economically. Harvest Impact sees the following problems:

  • Food waste and a simultaneous lack of access to good nutritious food characterizes our local food system.
  • Communities across Southern Ontario face growing levels of precarious work, income inequality and food insecurity. 
  • Reliance on a globalized food system presents many interconnected challenges.
  • Established and new entrepreneurs, some from barriered communities, lack the social and financial capital to take risks for viable food, farm and environmental sector business.

Harvest Impact broadens the scope of Our Food Future and leverages a network of partnerships sparked through Guelph-Wellington’s Circular Economy initiatives - to establish an impactful social investment and funding model that catalyzes local sustainable innovation and business, and benefits our community and the environment.

Background History and Context

Harvest Impact is a project that was originally seeded by Our Food Future in 2018-19 as a result of Guelph-Wellington's Smart Cities Challenge successful submission. The goal to create Canada’s first technology-enabled Circular Economy, helping the community create a circular food economy and move away from the current “take-make-dispose” system.

The term circular economy represents a system that produces minimal waste or tries to mitigate its waste by utilizing it for another purpose. 10C’s Community Investment and Engagement Lead, Jess Barrie, defines the term with an analogy of an orange: when you peel an orange one can simply throw the peel into the compost bin, but thanks to technology and innovation, there are other uses for this waste. For example, companies can now turn orange peels into sustainable leathers such as bio or peel leathers. This process can similarly be done with other food waste to prevent throwing things away, ultimately creating a circular food model. Harvest Impact uses blended funding and financing models, offering a combination of program supported grants, loans, learning and mentorship to support food, farm and environmental sector entrepreneurs. This work also strives to bridge the urban-rural divide, offering support to Guelph-Wellington’s many established agricultural and food assets, cultivating innovation and sustainable new businesses, and strengthening the economies, environment and communities of our region’s cities, towns and villages. 

Harvest Impact by 10C launched in June of 2020, with the Covid-19 pandemic magnifying the lack of food access for many in Guelph-Wellington. The first project was launched in partnership with the Guelph Community Health Centre and The SEED, working to increase nutritious food access in the region as they explored their work as a social enterprise. They completed work on a 1500 square foot cooler and 750 square foot freezer with over $1.5 million of fresh food moving through their warehouse in 2021. With the support of Harvest Impact, The SEED launched Canada's first sliding-scale online grocery store - with 1250 members of all incomes, and 265 nutritious grocery items in store with over 6000 deliveries made and counting! As The SEED continues to grow and expand, Harvest Impact moved on to tackling their mission involving community-based lending.

10C was Co-Founded by Julia Grady and Annie O’Donoghue in 2008 as a way to unite change-makers and provide a space for collaboration. It is a social hub of innovative ideas and with member support successfully utilized community bonds and social financing. Harvest Impact builds upon 10C’s own social finance journey with real-estate backed community bonds, a financing model that enabled the 10C Shared Space building at 42 Carden Street to come to life. 

This model provided the team with a framework for loans to small businesses or organizations at rates that would return a profit and amounts that would make a difference. A community bond is an innovation of social finance, and these bonds allow organizations to leverage supporters to pursue a mission. After finding success, Harvest Impact wants to utilize their learning and support entrepreneurs in early and growth-stages to gain access to social and financial capital necessary to risk launching, maintaining or scaling their business while successfully managing business debt.

Organizing, Supporting, and Funding Entities

Harvest Impact by 10C was made possible through the collaboration of a handful of organizations. Primarily, this project would not have been attainable without the time and persistence from Julia Grady, the Co-Founder and Executive Director of 10C Shared Space, Barbara Swartzentruber, Executive Director of the Smart Cities Office, The City of Guelph, and over 150 people from 30 different organizations helping to bring the Smart Cities Challenge submission to life. Julia worked with Barbara to detail how Harvest Impact would be integrated into the Our Food Future vision and support their program goals. Other partners include Guelph Community Health Centre, Innovation Guelph, Provision Coalition, Wellington Dufferin Guelph Public Health, and Toward Common Ground.

Harvest Impact is currently in a pilot phase, with prototype loans being awarded in April-June 2022, through applicants to both granting and lending streams. Harvest Impact is excited about opportunities to collaborate with established and emerging social finance intermediaries in Ontario and beyond, to explore syndication on larger loans, opportunities for convertible debt, and the potential for granting as part of its core offerings. Harvest Impact will raise an initial $3 Million in risk-backed loan capital and will begin intake processes, and announce its first engaged circular food enterprises in June 2022.

Participant Recruitment and Selection

Growth looks promising, as Harvest Impact is continuously connecting with businesses and entrepreneurs. Julia Grady says that they are currently using their quiet outside voice (meaning lots of work is being done internally so the process can be tested for entrepreneurs who join in the near future) in working with entrepreneurs to help them access funding and mentorship, as well as growing the circular economy network. They are working very closely with Innovation Guelph, Our Food Future, the City of Guelph, the County of Wellington’s, all partners in the COIL Program.

Methods and Tools Used

As Harvest Impact is a program of 10C and a partner of Our Food Future, they have the ability to share information with several organizations. All partners work together to set measurement indicators and track outcomes. They also work closely with Toward Common Ground, an organization that helps collect data in Guelph-Wellington at a local level to share with partners. This access to information allows each organization in the region to have a greater breadth of knowledge, ultimately making them more effective. A remarkable tool for Harvest Impact has been their relationships and connections.

In terms of sharing information , they utilize social channels. Harvest Impact uses LinkedIn and Twitter [hyperlink: https://twitter.com/HarvestImpactGW] as their main outreach tools and these platforms are more business focused. Promotion also occurs in the form of partnerships, with Harvest Impact participating in the first cohort of the 2022 SDG Cities Academy and appearing in a segment with the University of Guelph in April 2022 at the Anita Stewart Food Lab discussing the circular economy with 10C’s Nourish kitchen.

What Went On: Process, Interaction, and Participation

Influence, Outcomes, and Effects

Through collaboration, both Our Food Future and Harvest Impact are working to support entrepreneurs on the possibilities beyond waste and look for ways to upcycle or reuse. There are clear, visible steps towards increasing access to nutritious food in the Guelph-Wellington community, like launching a Fresh Food Prescription, cooking over 5000 meals in the Upcycle Kitchen, and expanding staff and volunteers. At the end of 2021, Harvest Impact raised $53,643 through community donations to support food security.


While 10C is leading the program elements of Harvest Impact, the fund itself will incorporate as a separate entity, and is being designed as a share capital co-operative: Harvest Impact Fund Cooperative Inc. with 10C as a lead investing member. Its membership will be its investors and investees, will include established and emerging sector leaders, and its governance will be founded in the seven cooperative principles. Harvest Impact Fund will work with a social-first mandate and will be purpose-built to ensure that investee companies whether preserving farmland, inventing new food processing solutions, or creating opportunities for new farmers to enter the sector, are all working toward measurable social, economic, and ecological benefit balanced with sustainable business fundamentals.

The social finance landscape is evolving quickly as investors at all levels strive to align their investments with their values. Harvest Impact will challenge language, gender and racial barriers and create openings for more people and enterprises to participate in social enterprise and social finance.

Analysis and Lessons Learned

Social finance is a new concept, but growing in popularity. Companies are slowly learning how a linear business model can be changed to be more circular. The practice of making investments intended to create social or environmental impact in addition to financial returns is what social financing is all about. Some businesses are doing this already, but they could do much more. Non-profits also need to rethink how their work can become more enterprising. Harvest Impact by 10C intends to share a number of case studies on businesses and nonprofits they fund in the future, and hope this provides learning opportunities for entrepreneurs and consumers. More government policy and incentives need to be in place to require businesses to adopt circular business practices. 10C Shared Space is a member of the Catalyst Community Finance network, and it is their hope this collective group of social finance partners will help scale up the community finance and social finance ecosystem so that it becomes more common.

Harvest Impact is playing an important role as lenders for small to mid-sized businesses. They are challenging language, gender, and racial barriers, while also creating opportunities for more people and enterprises to access financing.

References

Grady, J. (2018). Envisioning a Circular Food Economy, Funding and Financing Ecosystem. Retrieved April 13, 2022, from Creating Canada's first circular food economy (10carden.ca)

Harvest Impact, Our Food Future. (2020). Guelph-Wellington Urban Agriculture Challenge. Retrieved April 13, 2022, from Guelph-Wellington-Urban-Agriculture-Challenge_Program_Guide-1.pdf (harvestimpact.ca)

External Links

Notes

Written by Christina Hall as a part of McMaster University's Integrated Business and Humanities program in collaboration with 10C.