We use regenerative agroforestry to bring nature back into agriculture, restore land, secure farm resilience and tackle climate change.
I confirm that I am fully aware of the eligibility criteria and terms of the Act for Biodiversity Challenge and that I am eligible to apply.
I am 18 years old or older.
Establishing a cotton agroforestry system on degraded land in Pará, Brazil.
The story of reNature founder Felipe Villela's journey to founding the company; TEDx Amsterdam.
An aerial view of the heavily degraded 1.2ha site of our newly established agroforestry white pepper plot in Bangka, Indonesia.
The same white pepper plot in Bangka 9 months later.
Amin, one of the pepper farm managers, planting bananas
Screenshot from our client Verstegen's satellite monitoring system, showing the pepper plot in February 2020.
A member of the Abakundakawa coffee grower cooperative collecting tree seedlings from the nursery.
Farmers from the Abakundakawa cooperative establishing Mucuna pruriens in coffee plantations to conserve soil and fix nitrogen.
Mucuna plants well established in coffee plantations.
Initiative's representative name
Initiative's representative date of birth
18th December 1992
Initiative's representative gender
Headquarters location: country
Headquarters location: city
Where are you making a difference?
Global. Current project locations include:
Website or social media url(s)
Growth (have moved past the very first activities; working toward the next level of expansion)
Yearly Budget : What is your current yearly budget for the initiative?
1. Founding story: Share a story about the "Aha!" moment that led the founder(s) to get started or the story of how you saw the potential for this project to succeed.
The two founders Felipe & Marco met in 2017, at a summit about agriculture. They inspired each other with their stories of travels through degraded amazon rainforest, regenerative agroforestry and a shared vision of how communication can play a role in restoring nature.
During his time working at Ernst Götsch's iconic agroforestry farm in Brazil, Felipe became convinced of the power of regenerative agroforestry for productivity and restoration. His ambition is to prove that we can feed not only 10bn, but 16bn people 2050 using regenerative agroforestry systems.
2. The problem: What problem are you helping to solve?
Today’s industrialized farming threatens our food security. Challenges include soil & water degradation, biodiversity loss, carbon emissions, climate change vulnerability, and economic and nutritional insecurity. Rapid land conversion impacts biodiversity directly and agriculture supports few species.
Global capacity to tackle these challenges in a commercially viable way is lacking and farmers need significant resources to support transition, especially those taking risks to innovate.
3. Your solution: How are you working to solve this problem? Share your specific approach.
reNature promotes, designs and implements regenerative agroforestry to bring nature back into agriculture, restore depleted land, secure the economic resilience of farmers and tackle climate change.
Many sustainable farming programs are top-down and fail to generate change. Our approach is rooted on-site and puts farmers at the centre of change.
Our projects typically run over three stages.
Stage 1: Model farms demonstrate agroforestry practices in-situ. They provide a proof of concept, build local knowledge and are hubs where farmers can learn from each other.
Stage 2: Model schools provide hands-on capacity-building programs for larger numbers of farmers. They use model farms as learning spaces to build deep local agroforestry expertise.
Stage 3: Transition packages facilitate farmers throughout a region to adopt regenerative agroforestry. They provide both financial and technical support, building on the knowledge and infrastructure created in stages.
Marketing and communication
We are building a movement. We communicate to our 30,000+ followers on social media platforms to inspire and influence decision makers, individuals, companies and their employees.
4. Innovation: How are you innovating or using unique approaches to solve the problem?
Innovation 1: Commercial agroforestry
Agroforestry is often seen as less profitable than conventional farming. We create agroforestry systems that thrive economically, yet meet our impact goals - a key innovation for their use in commercial contexts.
Innovation 2: Context-based solutions
Scaling up agroforestry can be challenging because it is not a one-size-fits all solution. We combine science with local expertise, working with farmers to create knowledge and using peer-to-peer learning methods.
Innovation 3: Inspiration via digital media
We create solution-oriented content about how to produce enough food while fighting climate change and doing good. We inspire leaders to make rapid changes to global food systems.
5. Collaboration: How does your initiative seek to bring key players together to preserve biodiversity?
Collaboration is key to all of our work. Most importantly we collaborate with farmers to create context-specific, scalable agroforestry solutions. For example, in our Indonesian white pepper project, farmers were key to design processes, and now help train others in the area.
We align government, farmers’ and commercial parties’ goals to leverage resources to scale up agroforestry. For example, our support to farmers helps the Indonesia government meet both reforestation and sustainable ag goals.
We also connect multiple commercial parties to create value from diversity. For example, palm oil can be integrated with cocoa production. This establishes multiple income streams for the farmer and mitigates risk for the commercial buyers.
And finally, we collaborate to ensure that all our project teams have the best expertise for the job in hand, such as local agronomists & conservation experts, scientific partners for research & monitoring, and tech partners for data collection.
6. Impact: how has your project made a difference so far — in terms of both business outputs and social impact? How do you plan on measuring progress?
We will regenerate 1 million ha with agroforestry by 2030. To date we have regenerated 15ha of agricultural land in Indonesia, Brazil and Rwanda, but we select projects that can scale up: we are now developing projects on over 1,500ha.
Scientific studies show agroforestry’s benefits to soil and water resources, biodiversity, carbon sequestration and socio-economic factors. Agroforestry supports biodiversity by diversifying agricultural land, connecting ecosystems, and reducing land use change by maintaining the land productivity.
Our white pepper agroforestry project in Indonesia started on 1.2ha, supporting over 20 tree species. This plot will sequester around 480 tons carbon, increase drought resilience and diversify farm income. The system will be expanded to over 350ha and 420 farmers in the next 3 years.
We are now determining formal impact monitoring processes for our projects in partnership with ICRAF, Embrapa and research institutions (e.g. Erasmus University).
7. Growth strategies: what are your main strategies for scaling your impact?
Rapid growth is essential for achieving our goal of restoring 1 million hectares by 2030. Our strategy is to A) increase the scale of impact per project and B) increase the number of projects our organisation has the capacity to implement.
We build deep local knowledge, training capacities and other infrastructures to facilitate agroforestry adoption. In the long-term we hand over the “ownership” of knowledge to local farmers and establish regional offices/hubs in key geographical locations, to offer geographically-specialised services and build capacity in-situ.
This decentralised agroforestry capacity will be supported by “centralised” resources offered by reNature’s head office (e.g. communication and marketing).
8. Creating shared value: How does your initiative create value for society? Or different stakeholders?
Companies invest in our agroforestry solutions to fulfil a wide range of value to society, including economic stability & resilience, farm profitability, nutritional security, long-term productivity, resilience to shocks such as extreme weather, adaptation to climate change and preservation and restoration of ecosystems
Companies also realise significant commercial value. Directly, our projects enhance a company’s public image (facilitated by our communication expertise). In the longer term (3-5 years) agroforestry mitigates risks to raw materials supply by creating more resilient farming systems, and also meets other goals such as helping companies reduce emissions and sequester carbon.
9. Financial sustainability plan: can you tell us about your plan to fund your project and how that plan will be sustainable in the short, medium, and long term?
reNature combines a foundation and a for-profit company. The for-profit arm is the key financial driver, generating revenues through commercial projects. 20% of the profits are returned to the foundation for financing under-funded but high-impact projects. Our project revenues combined with seed funding are driving organic growth of our organisation, while further investments increase the speed with which we are able to grow our impact.
The Act for Biodiversity Challenge fills a key gap: financing farm transition to agroforestry while commercial interest in regenerative agroforestry matures. Non-repayable finance mitigates early-stage risk for farmers and companies, providing vital energy for regeneration at this critical stage.
10. Team: what is the current composition of your current team (types of roles, qualifications, full-time vs. part-time, board members, etc.), and how do you plan to evolve the team’s composition as the project grows?
Founding team Felipe Villela and Marco de Boer drive our communications work with youthful energy and 25 years of advertising experience.
Projects team Leandro Viecili, Tirion Keatinge and Alex Daniel combine on-farm, project management and business experience from the Americas, Europe and SE Asia for effective and client-driven agroforestry solutions.
Fernando Russo (Meraki Impact)
Patrick Worms, President of EURAF
Gregory Staehli, communications strategist
11. How did you hear about this challenge?
12. Connection to Biodiversity: How does your project directly contributes to preserving and/or restoring biodiversity? Please share data to support your answer.
Agroforestry addresses key pressures on biodiversity such as habitat destruction & fragmentation (creating a matrix of functional habitat in fragmented landscapes), over-exploitation (sustainably intensifying agricultural production, including forest products) and wider systemic pressures such as climate change (sequestering carbon).
For example, our white pepper plot in Indonesia creates varied species niches within commercial production. Trees include the locally important Tristaniopsis obovata and the over-exploited Eusideroxylon zwageri. The plot is close to the 50ha “Pelawan” forest park. The next stage of the project will extend agroforestry to other local farmers, creating a matrix of functional habitat.
As mentioned in Q.6, we are still developing rigorous monitoring processes. Our partnerships include Embrapa, Erasmus and Wageningen University, 52Impact and local institutions.
An attached paper outlines some key benefits of agroforestry for biodiversity.
13. Example: Please walk us through one or two concrete examples that show how your solution will solve the problem you’re trying to address.
We are now developing a 1,200ha silvopasture project on the edge of the Amazon rainforest, Mato Grosso. Degradation of agricultural land and environmental changes are destroying both habitats and the viability of farm enterprises. The project will regenerate soils, diversify pasture ecology, provide a timber crop and sequester carbon. Currently in the initial phase, the project will implement multiple agroforestry pasture systems for different land types within the plot.
Partners include Embrapa and a global clothing brand. Project benefits extend through positive impacts on the rural economy, ecosystem services, supply chain sustainability etc..
However, the main beneficiaries are the farmers, who are partners in the process. They support research, co-design systems, and will implement and profit from the changes. They will become part of protecting one of the world’s most sensitive biomes by maintaining and intensifying pastureland production, rather than expanding it.
14. Marketplace: Who else is addressing this problem in your environment? How does your proposed project differ from these other approaches?
There is a growing number of innovative and energetic organisations promoting regenerative agriculture and agroforestry. reNature fills a key niche in this ecosystem of innovators. We see ourselves as collaborators building a movement, rather than competitors. This is one of our strengths. However, we differentiate ourselves through:
Connecting agroforestry to commercial markets and commercial funding. Commodity supply chains are a leading cause of global agricultural challenges, but also hold the resources for rapid change. We bring companies to the table to rapidly scale up great projects (like many included in this competition).
Our access to world-leading agroforestry knowledge. We have exclusive partnerships with the world’s top agroforestry experts.
Our powerful digital media presence & strong communication skills. We reach and inspire large numbers of people, and commercial partners value our ability to create content demonstrating their sustainability credentials.
15. Awards & Recognitions: What awards or recognitions, if any, has the project received so far?
To date we have been selected for the following competitive programs and events:
Impact Hub Amsterdam: Food Chain Accelerator 2020
TEDx Amsterdam: 2019
Red Bull Amaphiko Accelerator: 2019
Thought for Food: Academy 2018
Additionally, founder Felipe Villela has recently been selected as a regular contributor to the World Economic Forum website.
16. Financial Sustainability – funding breakdown: Please list a quick breakdown of your funding, indicating an estimated percentage that comes from each source.
As mentioned above, reNature is a “hybrid” organisation. We combine a for-profit social enterprise with a legally separate, but closely associated foundation. The company is the primary financial driver at the current stage. The foundation exists as a financial mechanism for encouraging early adoption of agroforestry practices, as detailed in Q.17. It does not currently account for a significant portion of our income.
The company’s current funding streams can currently be summarised as follows:
Revenue/earned income = 64%
Seed finance = 31%
Corporate contributions = 4.5%
Individual donations = 0.5%
17. How do you plan to influence your field of work if you are a winner of the Act for Biodiversity Challenge? How would you invest the prize money to leverage your work?
Commercial interest in agroforestry is growing fast. Some leading companies like our clients Verstegen and Veja are investing and seeing benefits. However, willingness to invest is not mature yet, with many companies reluctant to risk capital up front. Many potentially high-impact projects do not happen because of a lack of transition funding.
At this early stage, non-repayable funds will catalyse commercial investment. For example, our Mato Grosso project (see Q.13) was only partially funded by the commercial offtaker, with the rest funded by other partners. In this early stage, easing the financial risk of project development is often the crucial starting point to build commercial investment in change. Blended finance models such as the Landscape Degradation Neutrality fund are in high demand and are not yet enough to drive the scale of change needed.
We are inspiring a movement of global leaders. This funding will help us to translate inspiration into positive action, fast.
18. Pitch-video (finalists only)