With few sources of capital available to smaller players in the sector, and with an increasingly competitive marketplace, large-scale agriculture is increasingly squeezing out smaller scale regional agricultural economies. As a result, the industry has suffered from significant losses in jobs, open space and community identity.
Without information about their true cost, consumers demand cheaper agricultural products. However, consumers are painfully realizing that farms produce cheap goods at the cost of important economic, ecological and social benefits to communities. Agriculture affects not only the landscape, biodiversity, and the soil and water quality, but also regional employment and local value chains.
Regionalwert AG broadens the financial base of organic regional agriculture enterprises by defining their success not only in financial return, but also in environmental and social returns. Instead of investing in anonymous green investment portfolios with difficult to measure impacts, Christian offers investors the opportunity to invest in their own region and therefore remain closely connected to their investments.
By ensuring a balanced return the Regionalwert AG enables regional, small and medium sized farms and grocery producers to survive in a highly competitive market while also allowing local supply chains and synergies to strengthen the region's sustainable values.
With the Regionalwert AG, Christian Hiss has found a sustainable mechanism to connect citizens’ capital with local agricultural enterprises, thereby creating benefits for entire regional economies. As a leading model for shareholder participation, his idea is not only on track to grow organically, but also to spread to other regions and potentially beyond agriculture.
To date, Regionalwert has 500 investors and a capital of € 2.3 million. Christian supports 16 companies with more than 120 workers and around 30 interns or trainees.
SCALING REGIONALWERT AG TO SPAIN
Ashoka Spain in partnership with UpSocial have been supporting Regionalwert to build a local team of entrepreneurs to drive the scale-up plans for Spain. Christian’s colleague Martin Haar was in Spain in October 2014 and met various local organisations, as well as the Vice President of the Ministry of Environmental Issues in Madrid and two agricultural engineers interested in the project, as well as officials from the Government of Barcelona. Ashoka and UpSocial are now following up.
In September 2015 EcoRegio society, the local replicant of Regionalwert, was founded and in December the promoter group was created with a capital of 60,000€. In fact, the same month Ashoka Spain found a promoter who provided a small capital injection and who has been also editing the book about EcoRegio that will have a preface written by Ashoka explaining also This Works project. EcoRegio’s promoter group is led by Dynamis (local partner), who has been joined by 12 influential people – from the fields of ethical banking, business, nutrition, lawyers, etc. They all opened a call for projects, reviewed about 40 and selected the more mature ones in order to conduct trainings with them, feasibility studies, and finally raise investments. They have also made acceleration contracts with the projects and those that work will enter into a round of crowdfunding. The goal is to raise 1 million euros for 4 projects. In addition to this, the EcoRegio team has been offered to create a professorship at the University of Lleida. In June 2015 the project EcoRegio was also presented to the regional administration in Girona.
Learn more about the model here!