ESG First Fund, managed by Aavishkaar Capital and set up in partnership with KfW, a German state-owned development bank, made its first investment of ₹16 crore ($1.95 million) in INI Farms, an exporter of fruits and vegetables.

The $250-million fund is focused on iAsia and Africa with a mandate for generating superior environmental, social and governance (ESG) outcomes and financial returns alongside positive social impact, especially along the supply chains serving the European markets.

INI Farms, founded in 2009, by Purnima and Pankaj Khandelwal, exports fruit and vegetable crops through large-scale pan-India operations spanning contract farming, aggregation, and supply chain management; they serve food retailers globally. INI Farms is working closely with AgroStar, an agri-tech firm engaged with over five million farmers and a retail network of over 2,500 stores.

Purnima Khandelwal, CEO and co-founder, INI Farms, said “The agriculture story in India is poised for a multi-fold growth. We believe that large platforms providing end-to-end services to the farmers, from advisory and inputs to output off-take, are going to drive this transformation. This investment will provide us with a great opportunity to grow multi-fold with expansion into the entire agriculture output business and leveraging our strong supply chain capabilities.”

Abhishek Mittal, Partner-Credit, Aavishkaar Capital, said, “We are excited to invest in INI Farms and support it in its next phase of growth as it expands its product offering and geographical reach. INIs Farms’ continued commitment to deliver export-quality fruits and vegetables produced in an environmentally sustainable and socially inclusive manner and to exacting global standards, sets it apart to meet the growing demands of today’s conscientious consumer. INI, along with Agrostar, is well placed to meet the demands of global markets while empowering farmer at the back-end.”

Stephanie Lindemann-Kohrs, Director Global Equity and Funds, KfW, said “We at KfW are acting on behalf of the German Government in this fund-investment. Main objective of the initiation of this fund is to improve the environmental and social standards, especially the working standards upstream to the European supply chain. German and European citizens want to purchase products which are produced in fair working conditions and are adhering to good environmental and social standards. The funds investment procedure follows a proper environmental and social due diligence, which sets uplifted standards for its investees. In that way we believe INI farms will demonstrate as a beacon the positive outcome of ESG adherence with improved business opportunities with Europe.”

Reinhard Junker from the German Federal Ministry of Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) said “With the German Supply Chain Act our government has enforced fair working conditions and social and environmental responsible production methods. With the allocation of €50 million to this fund, we want to further strengthen this development and support the SME in the producing partner countries to meet our values and standards.”