NEW ORLEANS, LA and NORCO, LA--(Marketwired - October 06, 2016) - Today Valmiki 504, a New Orleans-based venture capital firm, announced that its food incubator Ceres 504 has entered into a partnership with the New Orleans Food & Farm Network (NOFFN). The initiative will operate through Food & Farm Works (FFW), a new services company focusing on supporting and accelerating farm-to-table businesses in the Gulf Coast and run by Sanjay Kharod. Mr. Kharod, a pioneer in the Louisiana urban farming and food economy and the Executive Director at NOFFN, will add leadership at FFW to his current responsibilities. In addition to FFW, Valmiki also announced the launch of NOLA Food Holdings Inc., a holding company that will provide funding to local food brands as well as provide local investors with an opportunity to invest in a collection of small-scale Louisiana food startups alongside institutional capital from the Valmiki funds.
Food & Farm Works will work with food and farming entrepreneurs in Greater New Orleans to build sustainable businesses, innovate in production and distribution, and to increase sourcing from regional growers. FFW will work primarily with businesses connected to Edible Enterprises, a licensed commercial incubator kitchen in Norco, LA. There are currently twenty food businesses in the kitchen, with about twenty more expected to be added by the end of the year. NOFFN operates Edible Enterprises in collaboration with St. Charles Parish, helping startup food businesses get their food creations onto store shelves. FFW will help these businesses scale to achieve greater success.
Sanjay Kharod has worked on building a just food system for over 20 years from New York City and Louisiana. Prior to becoming Executive Director of New Orleans Food & Farm Network in 2010, he worked as an Urban Planner, Food Systems Partnership Developer, Community Organizer, Environmental Scientist, and an Adjunct Professor of Geography. He serves on several Boards including Recirculating Farm Coalition (Board President), Our Garden, and Atlanta Food & Farm.
Mr. Kharod said in a statement -- "We need a food economy that connects farm to fork. To do this requires collaboration and innovation all along the value chain, from growers to distributors, and everyone in between. While NOFFN has laid the ground work of creating a non-profit based ecosystem for the food industry, the infusion of capital and professional business management through Valmiki Capital and Food & Farm Works will help these companies truly scale and get more real food to more people."
Peggy Babin, CEO of Valmiki 504, said, "Within a month of its launch, we are very pleased to announce a significant initiative for Ceres 504. These operational and capital investments show our substantial commitment to the Louisiana economy and demonstrate the speed and efficiency with which we can move to have an economic impact. St. Charles Parish has been a great partner to NOFFN and this private partnership will take NOFFN's current client companies to the next level of sustainable growth."
NOFFN is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization that fills gaps in the local food system. The robust farming landscape in New Orleans today is the result of the foundational work of NOFFN. Since 2002, NOFFN has provided support, capacity-building, and technical assistance to a wide range of emerging agricultural projects including: Our School at Blair Grocery, Hollygrove Market and Farm, Growing Local NOLA, Grow Dat Youth Farm, NOLA Fruit Tree Project, Capstone 118, and an array of market farms.
Valmiki 504 LLC is a New Orleans-based venture capital firm which recently launched two venture funds serving the Louisiana startup ecosystem and local investors. It is a subsidiary of Valmiki Capital Management LP, a New York-based asset management company which invests in industry verticals through partnerships with industry incubators/accelerators. Valmiki's current investments are run through incubators in enterprise software, consumer brands/personal care, food/agritech, wearables/IoT and energy efficiency/renewable energy. Valmiki 504 and its funds are bringing this global expertise to work together with local Louisiana startups and university technology spin-outs to develop businesses with global scale and reach.