, a venture capital fund managed by Acumen Fund Advisory Services India Pvt Ltd, has invested Rs 1.3 crore ($250K) in Avani Bio Energy Pvt Ltd, a company developing pine needle gasification power projects for remote communities in northern India.
With this investment, Avani Bio Energy will be able to create 20 operational plants within five years, providing electricity for more than 58,000 people and enabling hundreds of households to move from kerosene to pine charcoal. The removal of surplus pine needles will also reduce forest fires in an area populated by 7,500 farming families.
As part of the investment, Acumen’s portfolio manager Abhay Garg will join Avani’s board as Acumen Fund’s nominee.
“Energy access in the Himalayan region is a crucial issue right now. Pine-needle gasification creates an energy option that has the potential to dramatically improve the quality of life for thousands of low-income families while enhancing the ecosystem,” said Rajnish Jain, CEO of Avani Bio Energy.
Set up by the husband-wife team Rajnish Jain and Rashmi Bharti, Avani Bio Energy is based in Pittoragarh, Uttarakhand, and is part of the non-profit organisation Avani. It was originally founded as the Kumaon chapter of the Barefoot College and now works on the development and dissemination of appropriate technologies and livelihood options. Through its gasification process, Avani Bio Energy converts hazardous pine needles into clean and affordable energy.
“Avani’s work in this region has a powerful human and environmental impact. Forest fires are rampant in the Kumaon region and proliferated by pine needles. Removal of these needles simultaneously reduces the risk of forest fires and provides the rural poor with safer and cleaner energy access,” said Sachindra Rudra, director of Acumen Fund India.
Acumen Fund provides venture capital in the form of equity and debt, and caters to small and medium companies operating across water, housing, health, energy and agriculture sectors. The fund invests between $0.3 million and $2 million in its portfolio companies. Since 2001, it has globally invested over $75 million in 69 companies.
This is the fourth investment by Acumen Fund since January 2012 – others being Edubridge Learning Pvt Ltd, Hippocampus Learning Centres Pvt Ltd and BASIX Krishi Samruddhi Ltd.
(Edited by Sanghamitra Mandal)