Fairventures Social Forestry, a start-up working on a social forestry programme that protects biodiversity and restores degraded land while engaging the local community, has won The Liveability Challenge 2022 and secured S$1 million in project funding to catalyse its sustainability model in Southeast Asia.

Fairventures’s programme will also bring in blended finance and provide a returns strategy for impact investors who are interested in its alternative for carbon to be sequestered sustainably. Presented by Temasek Foundation and organised by Eco-Business, The Liveability Challenge is a global platform that connects investors and entrepreneurs with innovative solutions to tackle sustainability threats facing cities in the tropics in the 21st century.

Now in its fifth edition, the annual Challenge attracted over 400 applications from over 60 countries. Over seventy organisations worldwide partnered with the contest to crowdsource for the best sustainability ideas.

The Liveability Challenge 2022 focused on three themes that are key to the health and prosperity of Asia’s tropical cities – Decarbonisation, Food & Agritechnology and Nature-based Solutions.

Globally, greenhouse gas emissions need to peak within three years and rapidly fall thereafter to keep global warming to around 1.5 degrees Celsius and avoid the worst effects of climate change, according to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).

Asia Pacific is the most vulnerable region to climate calamity; increasingly heavy storms and floods have cost the region’s cities billions and disrupted millions of lives, heightening the need for climate action.

Studies have shown that creating a carbon-light economy has multiple co-benefits in protecting biodiversity, reducing climate impacts and improving the resilience of human systems.

After a four-month search for the most inspiring sustainability solutions, six teams were selected to pitch their ideas to an esteemed panel at a grand finale held today at Marina Bay Sands, in partnership with Ecosperity Week 2022 . They were provided with a month of coaching to further refine their pitches.

The finalists are from Belgium, Germany, Japan, New Zealand, Singapore and the United Kingdom.

The judges were impressed with the proven track record of Fairventures’ work. The start-up had run a 3,000-hectare pilot project in Borneo, Indonesia with 130 community members since 2018.

“We really like the fact that there is a sustainable business model, not only in working with local communities but also in thinking about revenue sources, from crops, timber and carbon credits. The project demonstrated that it could deliver off-takers and revenue,” said Mr Steve Melhuish, entrepreneur and impact investor at PlanetRise, of Fairventures’ work. Mr Melhuish was one of the judges at the finale.

“The win is fantastic for us. We have been engaging with the local community in Kalimantan for three years already. We saw for ourselves how the model works and the benefits our pilot project brought them. We will use the funding to scale up and accelerate our programme in order to maximise the positive impact in the areas of restoring degraded land, helping the local community in the long term, as well as involving blended finance,” said Mr Paul Schüller, chief financial officer of Fairventures Social Forestry.

“How to conserve and sustainably manage existing forests and restore degraded land is one of the most pressing challenges we need to address if we want to unlock the potential of nature-based solutions,” said Mr Lim Hock Chuan, Head, Programmes at Temasek Foundation.

“We are happy to support Fairventures’ system to conserve forests and restore degraded land with agroforestry plantations to provide a sustainable income to local farmers under a blended financing framework. The long-term partnership with local stakeholders will improve the livelihoods of local communities and create positive social and ecological impact. On the ground, this will translate to prevention of environmentally harmful activities, such as illegal logging or unsustainable land clearing practices,” he said.

“Fairventures joins an inspiring list of The Liveability Challenge’s winners and alumni, who over the past four years are using disruptive innovations to make a difference in tackling sustainability and climate change. Temasek Foundation thanks our partners and the larger sustainability community worldwide for crowdsourcing solutions together. We hope our efforts can build capabilities and opportunities to not just improve our liveability, but also capture sustainable growth for our communities,” Mr Lim added.

Several finalists also received investment offers from participating funds:

  • Fairventures Social Forestry received an additional S$100,000 investment by PlanetRise, as well as a S$50,000 investment by Quest Ventures.
  • ImpacFat received a S$50,000 investment by Quest Ventures to develop cell-based fat to enhance the nutrition and taste of alternative proteins.
  • GAIT received a S$100,000 investment by Amasia to measure carbon flux in real-time using sensors, satellites and artificial intelligence.
  • Wasna received a S$100,000 investment by Silverstrand Capital to develop a low-cost universal serum for cultivated meat.
  • Red Dot Analytics received a S$100,000 investment by Purpose Venture Capital to help data centres develop low-energy plans through artificial intelligence and digital twin technology.

“Breakthrough innovation is an essential enabler of climate action in tropical Asia, a fast-developing region that is resource-hungry, but is constrained in adopting costly solutions. The Liveability Challenge plays a key role in sourcing high-potential solutions and ideas, supporting them and helping them scale up quickly,” said Ms Jessica Cheam, founder and managing director of Eco-Business.

“With the passion and commitment shown by all the participants, partners and stakeholders of the Challenge this year, I am optimistic that we can bring about a net-zero or low-carbon economy in the coming decades,” she added.

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