Producing the World’s Most Sustainable Source of Plant-Based Oil and Protein While Regenerating Farmland and the Surrounding Environment

TerViva restores depleted farmland with pongamia, a high-yielding oilseed tree that produces oil for fuel, and meal for animal feed.

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I confirm that I am fully aware of the eligibility criteria, and based on its description, I am eligible to apply to the CSV Prize 2017.

  • Yes, I'm eligible

Preferred language

  • English

Organization name

TerViva BioEnergy, Inc

Year founded


Initiative stage

  • Growth (the pilot has already launched and is starting to expand)

Annual budget in 2017 (USD)

  • $1mil - $5mil

Number of beneficiaries impacted so far

  • 100 - 250

Organization type

  • For-profit

Secondary Focus Area

  • Nutrition

Headquarters location: Country

  • United States of America

Headquarters location: City

Oakland, California

Location(s) of impact

Florida, USA: Okeechobee, Fort Pierce, St Lucie, Hardee County… Hawaii, USA: Haleiwa in Oahu, Kahului in Maui


Facebook URL

Twitter URL

Problem: What problem is this initiative trying to address?

With a growing population in a climate-constrained world, global demand for food, fuel, and fertilizer increases yearly. All the while, our farmland and production capacity is decreasing due to soil erosion, rising sea levels, drought, natural disasters, pests and disease... In Florida, a disease called citrus greening is decimating citrus orchards. In Hawaii, the sugar cane operations have been abandoned. We need to globally produce more, but formerly productive lands such as these are in decline or non-arable.

Solution Summary: What is the proposed solution? What do you see as its most promising aspects for creating shared value?

TerViva’s pongamia trees produce 10x the vegetable oil and 3x the protein per acre compared to soy, at a lower cost and more sustainably. The expansion of soy threatens some of our most sensitive global ecosystems (e.g., Brazil rainforest), and TerViva will mitigate the negative impact of soy and other oil crop alternatives. As protein and vegetable oil consumption increases in India, China, and Africa, pongamia can be grown locally in an agroforestry context, with intercropping/grazing, thereby enabling food, animal feed, and energy production on one acre without inducing more deforestation. Moreover, pongamia grows on depleted or distressed soils and in tropical climates. Pongamia thrives in Florida and Hawaii, and doesn’t need bespoke equipment to be farmed commercially.

Impact: What is the impact of the work to date? Specify both the social and the environmental impact of your work

TerViva has restored 500 acres of abandoned citrus and sugar cane land in Florida and Hawaii. 50 of those acres are soils on which phosphate mining occurred. That land was beyond degraded. We converted it into productive pongamia acreage. Planting pongamia helps suppress weedy vegetation, stabilizes the soils to prevent erosion, and helps remediate any water issues with drainage and runoff. By producing, farming and processing pongamia, TerViva has created 30 to 50 full time jobs and supported hundreds of them in Florida and Hawaii, as well as in India and Australia. TerViva also repurposed an abandoned citrus processing facility in Florida into a pongamia oilseed storage and processing facility. Our intent is to scale up to thousands of acres in Florida alone, creating hundreds of direct jobs and stimulating the economy in rural areas. This model will be duplicated in Hawaii, then across the inhabited Pacific Region, providing food, animal feed and energy in a sustainable manner.

Financial sustainability plan: How is this initiative financially supported? How will you ensure its financial sustainability long-term?

TerViva is a series-C start up. To date, TerViva has been financed at 85% from corporate contributions and at 15% from grants. TerViva raises equity to finance our growth and development.

Unique value proposition: What makes your initiative innovative? How does your project differ from other organizations working in the same field?

There are other traditional ag companies abroad working to commercialize pongamia. TerViva’s take is a transformative ag-tech approach: we utilize the latest science and emerging disruptive technologies to accelerate the advancement of our crop varieties and thereby the global industry. In only 10 years we have elite high yield varieties and extensive IP on processing to make tomorrow’s food/feed products a reality in a compressed time frame compared to traditional ag.

Founding story: Share a story about the "Aha!" moment that sparked the beginning of this initiative.

TerViva started with a phone call between 2 people in early 2009: Naveen Sikka, TerViva's current CEO, and Joe Andrew, an attorney and DC power player who had roots in agriculture. Joe asked Naveen, then a grad student at UC Berkeley, to go to India for a few days to visit pongamia tree orchards. Having worked with Joe on other "adventures", Naveen listened intently and decided to make the trip. In some of the most challenging agricultural conditions Naveen had ever witnessed, he saw pongamia trees thriving - lush and strong, and producing enormous amounts of oilseeds. The vision was clear: if high yielding pongamia trees could be grow on degraded land, and if the oilseeds could be processed for edibility, then the world would have a game- changing new crop: sustainable, capable of growing on low value agriculture land, and serving the indomitable markets for vegetable oil and protein.

Where did you hear about the Nestlé Creating Shared Value Prize?

  • Ashoka page or contact


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