Partnership Aims to Increase Diversity Among Venture Capitalists

Kirchner Fellowship HBCU Program Empowers Students to Become Ag-Tech Impact Investors

JACKSONVILLE, FLA. And WASHINGTON (March 1, 2023) – The Kirchner Impact Foundation (KIF) and the Foundation for Food & Agriculture Research (FFAR) announced today a $1 million collaboration over five-years to increase diversity within the venture capital industry by training students at historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs) to become agriculture technology venture capitalists. The partnership funds the Kirchner Fellowship HBCU Cohort, through which students invest capital in early-stage food and agriculture companies applying ground-breaking technologies to provide sustainable solutions to address global food challenges.

The Kirchner Fellowship provides high-level mentoring from networks of investors to a cohort of university students. Fellows are trained to evaluate agriculture business investments and given discretion over investment decisions for companies solving critical food and agriculture challenges. Fellows work directly with the KIF leadership team and its network of thought leaders to engage in a series of face-to-face and online educational experiences that expose them to real-world, early-stage investment opportunities. Students then evaluate investments and have the discretion over investment decisions for companies solving critical food and agriculture challenges.

“This partnership provides real-world experience to HBCU students, who are underrepresented in the venture capital space, to be the next leaders to make critical agriculture business investment decisions,” said Dr. LaKisha Odom, FFAR scientific program director. “By learning from both agriculture and venture capital thought leaders, these students are empowered to help transform global food production toward climate-smart solutions with their investment decisions.”

The program is accepting applications for 2023-2024 academic year through April 30, 2023. HBCU graduate students or undergraduate students with professional business experience are encouraged to apply. Applicants should be self-motivated, intellectually curious and passionate about the power of impact-oriented, for-profit businesses to address global food security challenges. Application information is available on the Kirchner Fellowship website. Interested applicants are encouraged to participate in an informational webinar on April 5, 2023, at 2 p.m. ET and must register to attend. A recording of the webinar will be available on the KIF and FFAR websites shortly afterwards.

“A successful Kirchner Fellow is a student who stays curious, remains a lifelong learner, self-starter and enjoys nurturing relationships with founders, investors and other stakeholders,” said 2021-2022 Fellow Martin Adu-Boahene. “This program is empowering HBCU students to become trailblazers in impact investing.”

KIF established the Kirchner Fellowship program nine years ago to strengthen impact investing networks in areas underserved by capital markets by training and empowering diverse young investors to allocate equity investments into early-stage companies. KIF launched the HBCU cohort two years ago, with support from FFAR, to foster diversity and inclusion within the food and agriculture venture capital industry. Students selected through the current application process will comprise the third HBCU cohort.

“We are immensely proud of the partnership between KIF and FFAR,” said Hattie Brown, KIF co-manager. “This new five-year engagement is a testament to the success of the last four years of collaboration. As a result of this award, we will now be able to sustain our commitment to the communities in which we work, delivering programming to dozens of students and building an alumni base that will serve as a strong network for our Fellows throughout their careers.”

FFAR has supported the Kirchner Fellowship program since 2018. To date, program alumni across all cohorts represent over 55 institutions, 14 countries, gender parity and over $350,000 of investment capital deployed. Alumni have started their own businesses and work as investors or in adjacent industries.

In addition to the Kirchner Fellowship HBCU Cohort, FFAR and KIF have agreed to provide up to an additional $1 million to establish another Kirchner Fellowship Program, the theme of which is still to be determined.

The Kirchner Fellowship is made possible through the support of the Kirchner Group, a leading values-based traditional merchant bank, FFAR and organizations like the Burroughs Wellcome Fund, as well as individual donors.

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Foundation for Food & Agriculture Research

The Foundation for Food & Agriculture Research (FFAR) builds public-private partnerships to fund bold research addressing big food and agriculture challenges. FFAR was established in the 2014 Farm Bill to increase public agriculture research investments, fill knowledge gaps and complement USDA’s research agenda. FFAR’s model matches federal funding from Congress with private funding, delivering a powerful return on taxpayer investment. Through collaboration and partnerships, FFAR advances actionable science benefiting farmers, consumers and the environment.

Connect: @FoundationFAR

Kirchner Fellowship

The mission of the Kirchner Fellowship is to strengthen impact investing ecosystems in areas underserved by capital markets through training and empowering a diverse next generation of investors to allocate equity investments into early-stage companies. Through the use of a “real world, real time, real money” model, the program has proven that it is possible for newly-formed investment teams to become effective capital allocators in a matter of months.

To learn more from the perspective of a former Fellow, see this recent blog from Martin Adu-Boahene, one of the inaugural HBCU Fellows.

The Kirchner Fellowship is an initiative of The Kirchner Impact Foundation (501 (c) (3)) one of the “returning arms” of Kirchner Group, that focuses on harnessing the positive power of enterprise to make a difference in addressing some of the most important issues of today.

Hattie Brown | Co-Manager Kirchner Impact Foundation |

Kirchner Group

Kirchner Group was founded in 1985 as a boutique firm and today operates various subsidiaries, providing advisory services (M&A, assessments, diligence) and operational support (interim management, workouts, turnarounds) as well as asset management (dedicated, portfolio optimization) – all leveraging a proprietary approach that dovetails domain and process expertise and delivered by a senior team of professionals.

Throughout the decades Kirchner Group has been internationally recognized for its unique business model centered around creating value while promoting values: “earning while returning”. The firm has also established a reputation for building and rebuilding important business and social paradigms based on its deep entrepreneurial orientation.

Kirchner Group’s clients and partners include early stage to mid-market companies, venture capital and private equity firms as well as family offices and some of the world’s largest insurance companies, commercial banks and institutional investors.

Blair Kirchner | Managing Director | Kirchner Group |